It occurred to me while reading an email from Forbes about its annual list of the world’s billionaires that organizations like Forbes sure do spend a lot of money to make lists about how much money other people have accumulated.
Clearly people find it interesting or Forbes wouldn’t pay 100 journalists around the world to help curate the list, but I’m not sure the rankings add much real value to anyone who wasn’t paid to help create it. While it’s fascinating to see how Elon Musk’s fortune has skyrocketed in the last decade or to know there are now 2,668 billionaires roaming the planet, having that information has very little impact on my life – other than giving me a line for this article.
Whenever I see such lists, however, it does prompt me to consider a different take on the question of measuring net worth: What happens when you take money out of the equation?
This is not to suggest that money doesn’t matter. As George Bailey said in It’s A Wonderful Life when the angel Clarence reminds him they don’t use money in heaven, “Oh yeah, that’s right. I keep forgetting. Comes in pretty handy down here, bub!” But most of us know that our true worth can’t be measured in dollars, francs, euros, dinars, rials, bitcoins, or any other form of earthly currency.
Since that’s the case, how should we measure our personal net worth – as leaders, fathers, mothers, spouses, friends, co-workers, global citizens, or any other role we play? And if we could measure such things, how much would that type of net worth actually be worth?
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It would take far more than 100 journalists to identify and quantify the people who might top a list created by answering those questions, but that, too, would be a waste of time and money, because no human being is worth more than any other human being. The real value from this approach to personal net worth comes from each of us evaluating our own sense of self-worth and then looking for ways to live a more meaningful life.
Allow me to give you some questions to consider:
- How true are you to the values you say you believe in?
- What’s your reputation among the people whose opinions of you matter?
- How generous are you with your time?
- How generous are you with your money?
- To what degree do you find your identity in your achievements?
- How much are you doing today that will benefit others even after you are gone?
- Do you typically give your best effort regardless of the task?
- When you fail or come up short of your expectations, how long does it take for you to own it?
- When you’ve owned such failures, how long does it take for you to forgive yourself?
If you are all about scores, create a scale of 1-10 to rate your answers on those questions with 10 being the goal of where you’d aspire to be. But whatever you do, don’t start ranking yourself against others. The real point is to recognize your ultimate value can’t be defined or measured, but the value you add to the world around you can grow each day. So, grow that value until you become a billionaire.