Experience, value, worth, profit, and the true currency of the world
What is something worth?
It’s not its price tag. Its price tag is how much someone took from you in order for you to have it. That’s not its worth. If a watch costs five dollars, is it worth five dollars? Hardly. Five dollars is what you had to give up in order to get it. But is that its worth? Conventional wisdom says yes. Of course the answer is no.
What you had to give up to get something is not its worth. Its worth is what it does for you. Its worth is how it makes you feel. Its worth is how much it contributes to your life. Its worth is how much it contributes to your bliss.
Consider love, sex, orgasm. It may cost you nothing, but may be worth very much to you in terms of the life it gives you..in terms of its contribution to your bliss. Or it may literally cost you hundreds of dollars and contribute very little to your bliss (if, say, you have a mediocre experience with a prostitute). Is worth determined by cost in this case? No it is not. They say the best things in life are free. They are right.
I might climb to the top of a mountain for free. At the top of this mountain, I may see views, I may be privy to vistas which change my life and my perspective forever. The cost is nothing. The value is everything.
I am not saying buying a Lotus will not change my life. I am not saying that the fact of spending money on something makes it worthless.
I am saying that what a thing does for you, what you get out of it, the relationship you have with it, and how that thing changes your life is closer to its worth than is its cost.
A $1000 laptop that lasts five years costs $200 a year. I might use that laptop to play 20,000 games of solitaire. I might use it to write 20 books. Its worth is very different in both cases, even though its cost is the same. A thing’s worth has basically nothing to do with its cost. Like I said at the beginning, cost is just what someone took from you in order to have the thing. Worth is something else entirely.
What is up with the phrase net worth? In truth, this is one of the most disgusting and meaningless phrases and concepts I have ever encountered. Net worth is not a measure of worth. It is not a measure of value. It is a measure of how much you have taken from the world. Is that worth? No it is not.
Consider Linus Torvalds. I don’t see him on Forbes’ list of The World’s Billionaires. According to one source, 97% of the top 1,000,000 internet servers run Linux, which Torvalds created and gives away for free. 2% of those servers run Windows, which Bill Gates’ Microsoft sells. Yet Bill Gates is listed as the #1 richest billionaire on Forbes’ list—the person in the world with the most “net worth.”
How can this be?
Torvalds’ creation powers virtually the entire internet, while Gates’ powers almost none. Of the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world, 99% run Linux. 0% run Windows. So why is Torvalds’ net worth so low, while Gates’ is so high, when Torvalds has, in these critical domains, created vastly more value than Gates?
It’s because net worth has nothing to do with value.
Net worth is not how much you have given. It is how much you have taken. How is what you have taken a measure of the value you have given?
Simply, it is not.
How much money you have “made” is not a measure of the value you have created. It is a measure of how much you have held back in order to release that value. Profit, therefore, is a carving out of, a carving into, the value that you have created. It is what you have kept for yourself. And what you have kept for yourself is not value you have created. It is value you have withheld.
Bill Gates is lauded as being one of the most generous philanthropists in the world. He gives away his money to good causes. This is true; he does. But who is the greater philanthropist? A man who withholds 75 billion dollars while giving away a moderate portion of that, or Linus Torvalds, who gives away perhaps the most valuable piece of software in the world, powering most of the internet and every supercomputer worth mentioning, and withholds nothing?
Net worth is nothing to be proud of. It is a mark, plainly, of stinginess. It is a mark of fear.
It is not what I keep that creates value. It is what I give.
“Net worth” is just a measure of hoarding. It is a measure of taking.
Taking doesn’t create value.
The thing is, we are living in a world of fear. We are afraid that we won’t have enough. We are afraid that someone else’s success will take away from our own. This is why all the hoarding.
We live in a world with enough food to feed everyone, enough housing to house everyone. Yet, there are still starving people and homeless people.
There are people who own two houses, one of which sits empty, while homeless people walk by the empty house on the sidewalk and sleep on the sidewalk in front of the empty house. All because of fear. Fear that the resources will run out and I will have nothing. Fear of unfairness: that someone else will be able to enjoy life without having done as much work as I have done in order to be able to enjoy life.
Imagine if Linus Torvalds had had that fear. The fear that others would be able to utilize his product without having done the work that he had done to create it, or else paid him enough money to prove that they were worthy to use his work. It would have vastly crippled the development of the internet. We would have a vastly inferior internet. It would have literally changed the recent course of humanity, given how dependent we all are on this worldwide network built primarily on servers running an operating system given to the world for free.
There is more than enough to go around. We live in a world of incomprehensible possibilities, incredible abundance, and essentially infinite physical resources.
Imagine the entire universe.
Now imagine our tiny blue ball.
Now tell me that there is a situation of lack.
Far from it. We find ourselves in a situation of unbelievable abundance, yet our fear causes us to do things like extract as much as possible from another person, a member of our own species even, as we transfer something of value to them.
This is incredibly immature.
Profit is dead.
Net worth is exposed as ridiculous.
The only real value is the experience of bliss. If you can create the experience of bliss for someone, there you have value. To hold back money in exchange for this gift is silly to the point of being infantile. You are measured by your gifts, not what you take. Forbes’ list is a list of people who have taken the most. That is not a measure of people who have created value. It is a measure of people who have withheld value. That is not worth. Frankly it’s the opposite.
Worth, in a nutshell, is not the price tag on the car, but the feeling of the wind in your hair as you drive it.