This one cropped up while I was in a conversation with my boss about what values meant and why people desire to have values. As we went back and forth, I realised that the word “Value” could mean two different, but interconnected things. Namely:
- Value, in strictly commercial terms (I specialise in Brand Strategy for Commercial Properties), is a financial sum attributed to an asset. It could be a building, a product or even a person.
- Value, within a person, is a principle or standard of behaviour, a judgement call on what a person stands for.
We can’t do without both. Here’s why.
Values determine Value
It’s interesting to note that the value of honesty can so often determine the financial value of things in this world. The 2009 sub-prime crisis is a painful lesson in how personal values were lost, in the pursuit of empty financial value.
The crisis, in simple terms, was caused by the collective greed of both lenders and buyers. Credit was given to people who couldn’t actually afford it, and people were spending beyond their means. Lenders were being greedy, and borrowers were over-ambitious in their quest for more green.
If you want to know more, here’s a video that explains everything in detail.
In the end though, everyone suffered.
How much? Well, one (very authoritative) credit expert estimated our collective loss to be $15 Trillion. That’s a lot of money, but to place it in clearer terms for you:
- As of March 2014, Official Foreign Reserves managed by MAS was $343 billion.
- As of March 2014, the size of Temasek’s portfolio was $223 billion.
- So we could estimate our an approximate $566 Billion. This is not including the funds that GIC manages.
- The world lost approximately 27 times the value of Singapore’s known reserves.
As a nation, we took 50 years to accumulate that value. It only took the world a few years to actually lose 27 times that amount of money, all because some of us didn’t stand for the value of prudence.
What does it mean for us?
Well, for starters, it means a constant mindfulness is required. While we may never be in a position to gain or lose 27 times the values of Singapore’s known reserves, we stand to lose a lot personally.
I think everyone of us, regardless of station in life, has to ask an important question: “What do I stand for?”
It’s going to yield a gamut of answers that shift from time to time. As we grow older, we’ll stand for different things, people and ideas. When we ask that question, nothing is too low or too lofty. After all, no one has to know what you think.
Look, if your values are to extract as much money from a place, or sell a lot of stuff, that’s totally fine. I’m not saying you’re wrong. Everyone needs to get by somehow. However, your values are a compass, sort of a guide to how you behave individually and treat others. Your values will determine what you do and who remembers it.
In the end, that’s going to determine the value ascribed to you.