How the World Gets It Wrong: When A Person Is Devalued

My children, friends, and teammates have often heard me state that there are only three things of value in this world – time, talent, and treasure. Time is paramount; it is fleeting and irreplenishable. Talent refers not merely to the capabilities of a person but the essence of the individual himself. Treasure, the most tangible of the trio, often refers to monetary assets or other forms of currency, depending on the context.

So, what unfolds when another individual disregards or undervalues your talent, and thereby, your essence? I recently pondered this question during a discussion with two acquaintances (not forum!). Each person in this conversation has achieved tremendous success, be it familial, personal, or professional. One individual offered his time and advice about a specific issue.

One individual offered his time and advice about a specific issue. Regrettably, the advice proved not only unhelpful but bordering on detrimental. The experience left the recipient feeling diminished and undervalued.

How did this encounter veer off course? How did a person who gave his invaluable resources of time and talent end up missing the mark so profoundly? How can someone (or anything) intrinsically valuable be perceived as having minimal or no value, especially when past and current evidence suggests the contrary?

Several factors come into play:

  1. Wrong Context: The value of a person’s talent can be misconstrued when taken out of its rightful context. A fish, when judged by its ability to climb a tree, might seem out of place. Similarly, a person’s true worth may not be evident in a setting unsuited to their strengths. Such a mismatch can create an impression that their talent is not of value, even if it might be invaluable elsewhere.
  2. Missing Information: Judgments made with incomplete information can lead to skewed perceptions. If one is unaware of the breadth of another’s experiences, they might undervalue their talent. For instance, in software development, judging a developer’s ability based on a single project, without considering their vast experience, is misleading.
  3. Projection: At times, how one values another’s talent mirrors their own insecurities or biases more than an objective assessment. When someone feels insecure about their abilities, they might diminish the value of others. Recognizing such biases is essential to understand if the judgment is truly about the talent or a projection of one’s feelings.

“Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone else’s inability to see your worth.”

Zig Ziglar

Finding Your True Worth

One of the most pivotal steps in recognizing one’s value is finding the right environment (or company, marketplace, community) that truly appreciates it. Much like a product, the value of talent can vary significantly based on where it is offered.

Consider the simple example of a soda. At a convenience store, it might cost a mere $1. However, in the magical realms of Disney World, that same soda commands a price tag of $12. Why? The context and the environment change the perceived value. At Disney World, amidst the enchantment and excitement, visitors are willing to pay a premium for the convenience and experience. The soda has not changed, but its value has soared due to the setting and the people judging via thirst or a child wanting it.

Similarly, individuals might find themselves undervalued in one environment (work, community, social/friends), but in another – one that truly recognizes their unique skills and contributions – they can shine and be appreciated for their true worth.

(Companies should be thinking about their talent in this manner. Is that C-player in the wrong environment whereas they would be an A-player in a different team?)

In conclusion, while time is finite and treasure quantifiable, the value of talent remains subjective. It is essential for individuals to recognize their worth and remain impervious to external perceptions.

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