As some of you may know, through fortunate circumstances and a fair bit of short-sightedness by a certain woman (my wife), I’m currently living in Lima, Peru.
And as often happens when you’re a foreigner roaming around a touristy location, you quickly get approached by locals trying to lure you into their restaurant or buy something from their shop. Sometimes this works, but often times you’ve already been to 6 different versions of the same shop, so you’d rather keep moving along.
My personal favourite, is the “friendly guy” approach. This character typically has a solid grasp of the English language and has memorized something relevant to discuss with each type of passing person. He will start off simple by asking you where you’re from, and when you say, “Canada”, he will respond with, “Oh yes, Justin Bieber, you look just like him.”
I mean, I’m flattered but we all know that’s not true.
So, the other day it just so happened that I ran into a fellow like this. He was friendly and very polite. He knew a couple things about Canada and did a great job of establishing a connection.
He then proceeded to hand me a coin. Which really threw me off. Why would someone hustling on the street give me money? I knew there had to be a catch.
It turns out the coin he gave me was an old Peruvian coin that is no longer in circulation. In fact, it has no monetary value in Peru. It’s simply a keepsake at this point.
After handing over the “gift” with a smile, he asked me, and my wife, about Canadian coins. He said, “In Canada, you have a Loonie and a Toonie, correct?” I said yes. He then proceeded to explain that we should trade coins. And because he gave me a Peruvian coin, I should give him a Canadian coin in exchange.
Feeling generous and slightly naïve, we would have gladly given him a Loonie, if we had one. But alas, we did not. So, I said sorry but I don’t have anything and started to walk away.
Immediately after that, his demeanor changed. He quickly became frustrated and wanted nothing to do with us. We had wasted his time and now he had just lost a “valuable” coin.
I still have that coin and whenever I see it, I can’t help but think about the concept of “value”.
Where does value come from?
Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about values. Specifically, my own values – but also those of my family, my friends, and even those of the random people I meet on the street.
In a world that is so vastly populated with different cultures, experiences, and beliefs – people are bound to hold a number of different values; and from that diversity, conflict is sure to arise.
And I think the problem that many people face these days is that they either don’t know what their values are, so they fall into the trap of just going with the popular opinion, or they hold so strongly to their values that they don’t consider the validity of anyone else’s, and thus run into major conflict.
“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
– Peter Marshall
The only issue with sticking to your guns (and never sympathizing with others) is that sometimes you run into something known as the false-consensus effect. And of the many cognitive biases that we are prone to, this one causes us to overestimate the extent to which our opinions, beliefs, preferences, values, and habits are normal and typical with those of others. In other words, we assume more people think like us than is actually true.
Because of this bias, we tend to develop a perception towards a general consensus that does not actually exist, a “false consensus”. But since we are not aware of this bias, we never question whether our values and beliefs are even that common.
We just go with it.
This is often why cults are so powerful and difficult to leave. If you never communicate with other people or learn about the world outside of your little bubble, you will just assume that everyone else is living and thinking the same way.
It’s not until someone accidentally gains access to the internet via a Kindle or a messenger from the outside world infiltrates the walls of a cult, that people on the inside begin to question their own reality.
Having your own set of beliefs and values is great. In fact, I would highly encourage it. However, in taking up these values, you must understand that you’re also going to encounter other people who hold a slight variation of your value or values that are entirely different from your own. And when you encounter such people in the real world you are going to be faced with two choices:
- Immediately assume this person is wrong, mean, stupid, ignorant, arrogant, and should not be respected because they don’t believe what you believe.
- Consider the possibility that this person thinks, acts, and lives differently simply because they were brought up in a different family, with different circumstances, and had an entirely different life from you. But you should still respect their ideas and opinions because you would think the exact same way if you were in their shoes.
Values in Athletics
As has become more apparent in the past decade, the conflict between values is most evident on the political landscape. But it’s also abundantly apparent in the realm of athletics, especially in team sports.
On one side, you might have an athlete or a coach who values winning and nothing else. Whatever it takes to get the W, they will do it; even if it means bending a couple rules or being extra selfish. On the other side, you have those who care only about teamwork and unity. Therefore, anything or anyone who attempts to throw off the cohesion of the group needs to fall in line or get out.
These two examples are extreme, but they do exist. I’ve seen both of them acted out, and neither one of them ends well. And despite the purest intention, either side may have, they have made a common blunder.
An innocent one. But none the less, a mistake.
Because they didn’t want to sink to the popular opinion and just be “average”, they chose a set of values that they believed in. This was a smart move and a necessary step.
However, having a value is entirely different from holding a value so tightly that you won’t let it go – no matter what happens.
And this is a tough issue. Because from birth we are trained to stick up for ourselves and not let other people tell us we are wrong. We are told to believe in ourselves. To stick up for what is right.
And somewhere along the way, self-belief got all tied in together with values. So much so that anyone who ever questioned your values is also considered to be questioning your abilities.
The reason I think it’s so hard to divorce our values from ourselves is that we have spent so much time with them. They have become part of our character and our very way of being. We’ve held these values for so long that we hardly have to think about them. All we know is that when someone or something goes against them, it sets us off. Our moral compass starts to go haywire and we immediately object to whatever we’re hearing.
But there’s just one problem with that…
What if you’re wrong?
What if your values have flaws?
What if someone else’s opposing values are just as valid?
And, are your values even opposing or do you just act them out differently?
Back to the Coin 💰
I’d like to come back to my original story for a moment. And I’d like to ask you some simple questions:
Did the coin have any value…
…to the Peruvian government? Nope
…to the grocery store around the corner? Nada
…to me? Zero
…to the friendly hustler? Absolutely!
Are you starting to see the moral of the story now?
Value is determined by the beholder. Just because you don’t value something, doesn’t mean that nobody values it. And when we neglect the significance of another person’s values, we are giving them permission to do the same to us.
And the moment you write someone off as just crazy or delusional for holding a certain value, you limit your ability to grow and to understand. If you treat others like they are below you, they will do the same to you.
And here’s the thing…when you stop to ask yourself, why does that person think that way? You might actually begin to understand who they are and possibly see another way of doing things. You might even learn a thing or two.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to change your values or never hold to them. What I’m trying to say boils down to 4 simple ideas or steps if you will:
Actually, take the time to know what you value.
Choose values that are tied to your goals, not your self-worth.
Always consider the possibility that another person’s values have some merit.
Be willing to adapt your values so that you can work effectively with others.
“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
― Albert Einstein
The Practicality of Values
At the end of the day, values matter. They are the match that lights the fire, the compass that keeps you on course, and they define the overall theme of your movie.
Without values, your goals would have no structure and no soul. They would just be empty, hollow achievements that bare very little meaning.
Without values, your daily actions are no longer defined by any sort of moral compass. Each action would just be a half-hearted attempt to exist.
Without values, you stand for nothing, and subsequently, will fall for anything.
And just like your values hold enormous meaning to you, so to do the values of others.
So, whether you are an athlete working within a team or a tourist roaming a new city, you should always be considerate to the possibility that someone else’s values are just as important as your own. And that you might actually have something in common…
The value you place on values. And the fact that you both stand for something, rather than living for nothing.