Money Isn't the Only Currency

In the summer of 2016 I was fortunate to be able to do some solo traveling throughout Thailand for a month. During this time I learned a lot about myself and about the staggering differences between western and eastern cultures. I’d be lying if I told you Bangkok was not intimidating when I first landed.

Though, as time went on, I started to adjust. I learned to accept and appreciate the differences. Among many other variances, it was incredible to see how the price of common items and services fluctuate throughout the city, throughout the north and south of the country, and how they compare to prices back home in Toronto.

That’s where I learned an important lesson: value is very different from price.

Value vs. Price

When we talk about something’s worth we often use the words value and price interchangeably, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Value is the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance or usefulness of something.

Price is how much something costs; and that’s decided by the market or by how much someone is willing to pay for it.

Here’s an example:

On the second largest of the three major islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Phangan, a 1-liter bottle of water costs 15 Baht. That’s approximately 60 cents Canadian. In Canada, a 1-liter bottle of water will cost you at least $2.50. What blows my mind is that fresh water in Canada is 4 TIMES more expensive than the fresh water on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. And Canada has one of the largest fresh water reserves in the world!

I’m sure there’s a reason for this dramatic discrepancy, but the point here is that this is just one of many differences in price that I experienced during my travels, and it really reinforced the idea that value does not equal price.

All too often we focus on the numerical rate of an experience, service, or product.

You hear it all the time when people boast about their new raise and how much money they’ll be making in a year, or how expensive their new TV was. You see it in the school system too when students are graded based on percentage and GPA.

It’s an easy method of comparison and, in the simple minds of those with the blinders on, it becomes the main focus of their efforts. But for what?

Instead they should focus on the value of their surroundings and learning how to produce the highest return on investment based on ALL metrics.

But it’s not so easy to see it that way sometimes. In a society which places such high value on logical, tangible, and numerical factors it’s difficult to learn to see the world through a different lens. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others based on the numbers which surround us, and instead ask ourselves, “What is the value I get from doing/being/having something?”

Here are some often over-looked currencies which are equally (if not, more) important:

1. Time

Time is the one currency which you can never get back; you can spend it, but you’ll never own it.

With this in mind, you need to ask yourself if what you’re doing with your time is really worth it. Is your return on investment high enough? Sure you could be making lots of money, but when you look back will it be time well spent?

Remember: it’s not how much money you make, it’s how you make your money.

2. Experience

Experience is the way in which we interpret our surroundings as we spend our time. We have good and bad experiences and that’s what shapes us into who we are. If we can learn from them regardless of the outcome, we will be better off than when we started. This is a crucial step to moving forward and achieving your dreams; experience as much as you can, but make sure you’re learning while you do it.

Ask yourself, “What would I like to experience in my life?” then go out and do it.

3. Lessons Learned

Lessons are what we extrapolate from our experiences over time. This occurs individually and through the interaction with our mentors. Lessons can be as small as learning to properly tie a tie, and as big as learning how to run a company. As you encounter new challenges, you’ll be able to draw from your previous experience and lessons learned, strengthening the foundation upon which your success is built.

After each new experience ask yourself, “What did I learn?”

4. Mentorship

Mentorship is the guidance, support, and shared experience we receive from an individual whom we admire. This could be someone in our family, our boss at work, or someone we read about in a book. It matters little where you find your mentors, but what you gain from them could be priceless. They should constantly be ten steps ahead of you and inspire you to catch up. They can lend their experiences, save you the time of making simple mistakes, and open your mind to a whole range of views you never knew existed. Though I’m a firm believer that the best lessons are learned on your own, there are obviously some which should be shared.

These concepts are rarely thought of as currency, yet each one of these can be shared, bought, and sold. It’s important to consider all of these factors and decide what each of them means to you, because these are the things which really allow us to develop as a person.

Sure, money is important, but what many fail to realize is that the way to effectively make money and develop a meaningful career is to invest in personal development through the channels of mentorship, experience, and time.