Will we ever stop dragging our knuckles?

Update March 1, 2018: I wrote this post seven years ago. It’s every bit as applicable today as it was then – maybe more so. That said, the appearance of the #NEVERAGAIN movement gives me hope, especially in young people who I always had faith in. The young organizers of this movement from Parkland, Florida exemplify the spirit of this piece.



Yesterday I commented on a provocative blog post by my friend Greg Rader, “The Future of Status – Conspicuous Production.”

Imagine if there was no money and no things to buy. How would you show the world your worth? Or how would you show yourself?

Would your value lie in the number of friends you have – physical or electronic? Would it lie in the quality and depth or your relationships with these friends (kind of three-dimensional assessment)? Maybe it would lie in the number pieces of art you produced, or books and articles you’ve written.

Or better yet … what about the number of karma points you’ve accumulated by doing random acts of good? Haven’t we reached a point on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where we can at least flirt with self actualization?

Over your last couple posts, I think you’ve been us leading to this. It’s obvious, the standard societal measurement of wealth and worth just isn’t cutting it for you. I join you brother.

Maybe this is the first step – discontent. Only then we can find our own “store of value.” and from there truly maximize it’s worth. Maybe this is what mean when I talk about “On the Road to Your Perfect World.” Thanks for pointing me the way 🙂


I viewed the focus of Greg’s piece as: “Isn’t there a way of presenting our value to world other than just through the money we make and our consumption habits?” As you can tell from my comment above – it’s a topic that’s been on my mind also.

Recently, in light of the sky-high valuations of several dotcom 2.0 stocks, such as Facebook, Groupon and Twitter, this matter seems to be especially relevant. Recent investments have Facebook worth $52 billion and Twitter at $10 billion, while Groupon recently turned a $6 billion offer from Google.

But I ask you … on what are the values based. In the first two it’s their ability to act as an advertising platforms and Groupon is worth what it can take as a cut of the pie. Isn’t there more though … more than just money advertising, more than just a vehicle to accommodate more and more consumption. God I hope so.

Let’s put Groupon aside, they are what they are – a group buying coupon service … nothing more, nothing less. Eventually they will fall prey to another ‘new and improved’ version of the same.

But Facebook and Twitter are different. To label then as just advertising platforms is to vastly understate what they really are – what they’re really worth. One needs to look no further back than one month. Only thirty days ago the political environment in the Middle East was much the same as it’s been for the last thirty years. No longer. Tunisia is liberated. Egypt is liberated. Lybia will be in a matter a days, and whoever is next is anyone’s guess.

While Facebook and Twitter didn’t overthrow these dictatorships … they played an integral role. They facilitated strategic and tactical communication that was on the level of a sophisticated military sorte, only performed primarily by young civilians. These social networks provided something that wasn’t there before … coordination. The results to this point have been the liberation tens of billions of dollars and ten millions of people, people who now have the prospect of governing themselves and having a say in their future.

What’s that worth?

How can you put a monetary value on person’s freedom? How can you say in dollars and cents what it’s worth to know you have something to get up for in the morning, to know that just maybe your children might just have a better life than you … a life you could only dream of.

Why does everything have to be based on money and what we spend it on. Just because you drive a Mercedes 450SL and I drive a Ford Taurus – does that make you worth more than me. I could make a case on the contrary. We focus so much on our children making sure they go to college and get a job that pays a lot of money. How many us even discuss any other options – any other means of worth? This valuation system seems Neanderthal in the light of what’s happening in the world these days.

I have been there and done it. I’ve had the nice car, the apartment on the water, the original art on walls. But it sure wasn’t “the be all end all.” The car’s gone, the apartment gone and my daughter has the art. The memories are good, but now it time to move on.

It’s like the pursuit of possessions had put me in a cloud. I had other pursuits, but the almighty dollar reigned supreme. No longer.

My valuation lies not in my financial net worth, but rather in what Greg says, “my conspicuous production” and what results from it. Production can be anything. It could this blog post. It could be the comments that result from it. And as I said in my comment above it could be in the karma points I accumulate by doing good things. So here it is, here is my definition of “my value:”

My value is the sum total of all positive synaptic connections I have a role in creating, both in myself and in others. In other words, the more I can get people thinking in ways they wouldn’t otherwise think in – and correspondingly act in ways that benefit themselves and others … the more I’m worth.

There you have it.

Now it’s time to pick up my hands … my knuckles are bloody.


A successful blog post is when the comment flow provides more insight than the post itself. Please comment and add to the flow.

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11 thoughts on “Will we ever stop dragging our knuckles?

  1. You boiled it down to its very essence:

    “My value is the sum total of all positive synaptic connections I have a role in creating, both in myself and in others. In other words, the more I can get people thinking in ways they wouldn’t otherwise think in – and correspondingly act in ways that benefit themselves and others … the more I’m worth.”

    Great Job!

    Now the task is for each of us as individuals to believe and take action by letting go of our habitual comparison of what we currently have to the next person.

  2. I cannot take credit for this quote, but I think it sums it up:

    “Your value is not in what you have, but what you give.”

    I interpret these gifts as, simply, positive experiences.

  3. Asdvertisers took control of the new media in the early 20th century and turned it into a device to promote consumption. Don’t think for a moment they wont try to do it to the new media.

  4. Hope you can hear my applause from across the miles. In truth we each choose the measures of our value, and how we define achievement and success. Many people are waking up from the “default settings” of money, titles, cars and now use as their yardstick creativity, community or something we pull from our souls. Hope your post inspires others to choose a new measure of their worth.

  5. Really like your reflections on this. I am hopeful that we are at long last beginning to realize that the way we have defined “wealth” has very little to do with true prosperity. Until we bring intangible and human interactions into our business and economic thinking we will miss the real fundamentals of how value is created.

  6. Maybe the question should not be loaded, Clay,if business today would not be so much in need for rehumanizing…

    As for communication, a thought will not be picked up if not communicated properly. But what do we see today? Most companies communicate in facts and figures only. Most attemts to communicate with more inspiration result in smooth -often untrusted- sales and marketing messages. Furthermore, it is not so much what you communicate that is important. It is what people repeat, and how people act upon what has been communicated. And finally, no communities without some form of deeper and engaging connections between people. Which brings me back to communication.
    You say; “This cascade will become larger and and more impactful if it is energized along the way with each person’s unique personal account.”
    I think this cascade will not happen with regular communication of thoughts. It will only happen through communicating with emotion, engagement and authenticity. This is where stories come in. Always has been like this. I am not saying something new here, do I?
    I believe the new “trade” -and a new meaningful world without money- is about “trading” stories, finding meaningful storynetworks around you and act upon them.
    Or something like that 🙂 I am thinking out loud here.

  7. Inspiring post Clay. The big point I am trying to convey, and that you have picked up here, is that conspicuous production and scalable karma are now possible…they are now viable options.

    I don’t believe in sowing discontent for its own sake. Rousing Egyptian citizens would be rather sadistic if their protests were doomed to be futile. The big change we are witnessing is that their protests are no longer futile. Likewise, maintaining your integrity no longer sentences you to be a starving artist.

    You no longer need money or titles or an authoritarian position in the hierarchy in order to have influence and make an impact. In other words, you no longer need (as much) money to achieve self actualization. If that is true, then chasing money after you have advanced past the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy is itself futile.

  8. Hello Clay, Great thoughts. Let me share mine and let me start be asking you something:
    what do you believe is the role of “stories” in all of this?

    I’ll try to explain my question. I think stories are key in all of this. You say: “Imagine if there was no money and no things to buy. How would you show the world your worth? Or how would you show yourself?”

    Well, maybe just by sharing our stories. And looking for connection and engagement by doing so. And trying to link our story to that of our peers. Their is value “an sich” in linking our stories, in making a storynetwork and story economy.
    And “the big why” of why story networks have value?

    Mmmm I would say the more I can get people sharing their stories, have their story connected to other people, get them engaged and have them think and act in new and meanigful ways – and correspondingly act in ways, the more we can make this world a better place.
    I don’t know, it is just a thought.

    1. Thanks for the comment Raf, good to here from you again. Concerning stories … aren’t stories the basis of virtually all communication. And as I alluded to in my “value” statement, my worth is dependent upon my ability to communicate and provoke original thought … thought that will cascade into positive action. This cascade will become larger and and more impactful if it is energized along the way with each person’s unique personal account.

      Raf, my friend, you gave me a loaded question.

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