This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
A friend of mine participated in a game a couple of years ago that I really find fascinating. While on the surface the game seems quite simple, underneath, and why I find it so fascinating, the game ultimately was a meditation on the concept of “value.”
The game itself was straightforward: Each of the players (something like 40 of them) had to select something they had to offer or give. It could be something physical, like golf clubs or a blender, it could be something they could do, like massage or kung fu lessons, or it could be something both physical and transitory, like a 2 week stay in a timeshare in Maui. There were no baselines, limits, or restrictions placed on what they could offer. They just had to offer it.
From that starting point, the next 90 minutes they were to to walk around, talk with each other, and trade offers until – and this is the important part – they all got something they really wanted.
That was it.
And indeed, by the end of the game, each person had something they thoroughly enjoyed and wanted and were excited to have.
The nifty part of the game wasn’t the acquiring, though. What was nifty was that through the actions and all those acts of exchange it got the players thinking more and more in terms of personal value. That is, it had them examine and be aware of what was something worth to them – once again here is the important part – completely separate from the or any dollar amount attached to said thing/item/class/event/location/etc.
It had the players confront the degree to which the “absolute/real” $$ amount that was assigned to something had pervaded their thoughts and their choices. It had them confront how much of themselves they had shoved out of the picture and how much they were letting the pervasive voices of the economic numbers guide the show.
They had to stop thinking only about “am I ‘getting a good deal’ here?” and instead remind themselves who this ultimately was for… and who it always is for, in the end. “What’s the value to me?” was the question to begin, and continue, asking. “Do I want this?”
The more time they spent within that space, the more free they were, the more trades went, and thus the outcome of at the end where they found themselves all beaming with excitement. It didn’t matter if they had, perhaps, exchanged a high-pricetag item for something that might be considered low-pricetag. What mattered was that they got something that they, themselves, authentically wanted.
We get all kinds of funny weird when it comes to money. It’s all so easy to strategize and stalk this competitive field and get sucked into this zero-sum game where we absolutely must come out with the highest number value. We can all to readily slide into a soulless mindset inside of which we so easily end up short changing ourselves.
But that question “what is this really worth to me?” can be such a switcheroo.* It frees us to value things for ourselves, and allows us to choose where and how to spend those $$s we’ve worked to get in ways that light us up the most. Without the filter of the so-called true “price” of something, we get the chance to guide ourselves towards what will give us the best experience and quality of our individual lives.
This can unfold even further… more next week.
* – This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited about the Kickstarter and Patreon models. There’s no fixed cost… I can think and then pay exactly what something is worth to me rather than paying “what it is sitting there on the shelf.” It offer the potential for a nice, unexpected, and hidden philosophical twist on our usual commerce model. “This is a game/art/widget/etc that I reealllllly want to see in the world, I would be happy to pay $1000 to have it come to fruition.” Not everyone approaches it this way I’m sure, especially with all the backer levels and extra perks for higher investments. But it’s there, available (perhaps more so with Patreon than Kickstarter), and just allowing different levels of investment, and the more personal connection to the creators, I think begins to crack open the nut of returning our focus to “what is this worth to me.”