You just spent an hour shoveling the driveway. The snow was 2 feet high and heavy, so every shovelful was a challenge. You’re sweaty, tired, and your back hurts. That was hard work, right? Something you don’t want to do. Something that’s nasty, and Something that, if possible, you want to avoid. What if there was a different way to look at this scenario.
Your driveway is covered in snow. Both you and your wife will have to use the driveway several times in the next day. When you shovel, you are making your driveway much easier to use. You are doing something that will make your own life and your wife’s more pleasant in the future. You are doing something that helps someone you care about, and that has a real impact on how easy it is to come and go from your own home, something that you must do often. When you shovel the snow, you are creating true value. Something positive, that you want to do often, because it leads to an easier and happier life, even if it is often unpleasant in the moment.
Think of creating true value as adding a kind of useful, ordered structure to the world. Structure that makes life, in some small or large way, easier for you or for someone else in the future. When you shovel the driveway, you are taking the snow, and removing it from specific areas that you frequently use. This process of moving snow from specific areas, and adding it to others adds is a process of structuring the snow in a way that makes your environment more friendly to navigate. Doing this almost guarantees that you have an easier time getting around in the future.
What are some other examples of creating true value? Doing dishes is a process of cleaning and organizing dishes so that they are objectively easier and faster to access in the future. Exercise is a process of keeping your body healthy and limber, making navigating the world, dealing with challenges, and living in your own body a more pleasant experience. Practicing a skill is a process that adds structure to your body and mind, in a way that allows you to do something more effectively. All of these kinds of activities make the world a better and more pleasant place to live in a real way.
What about when you go to work? While shoveling the driveway may be creating true value for you, when you work you should be creating true value for others in society. Doing something that makes the lives of others easier or better in some way. Working is just a continuation of the process of creating true value, only this time exclusively for others in a society, and not yourself. When you get paid for work, your money allows you to access the true value that others in your society have created. The food that other people have grown, picked, and cooked. The useful and fun technologies that others have designed and built. The skills and services provided by others. These things represent true value, or useful ordered structure that someone else has created, ultimately for your benefit. If nobody else was making any true value in our society, there would be nothing for money to buy. In this way, money can be thought of as an exchange between the true value you have created for society, and the true value someone else has created.
Thinking about creating true value focuses on the positive aspects of necessary tasks, while the concepts of “work” or “chores”, focuses on the negative aspects. If you can view the everyday tasks you need to do at home and at work not as burdensome labor, but as your own small contribution to a better world and better future for yourself and others, then these tasks become something to strive for, something to be proud of. True value is a way of viewing often physically unpleasant tasks in a positive, pragmatic light, and in a way that reflects their real benefit. Making a habit of creating true value is a habit that ensures that your own life and the lives of others are objectively better than they would otherwise be.