Your value-add is variable

Business people often see their value as what they can get, or what they will be able to get in the future; after-which it becomes this immutable, inscrutable thing. If you raise several million in equity, who's to argue with you that you're net-worth is greater than that number.

The truth about value as I understand it is that all people have an innate value, and the additional value you can receive is or should be less than you add to cover the innate value. Unlocking more value-add is simply everything you bring above the average.

It's not all financial

Of course it's easy to quantify the financial as it's inherently tied to rather practical numbers. I have a particular love of numbers because of the ease and comfort they bring. I know they are intangible, based on trust, a series of things I dislike, but for some reason, the outcomes of positive finance help to motivate me.

Money is certainly no overriding well of happiness. Finding like-minded people, helping others, being in love, working on interesting things, advancing knowledge and understanding are at least as important. It's not a one or the other, but a careful mixture I'm not sure I've ever perfected.

Money is also a tool which is or should be used to do things. It's not an ends, it's a means. The person who starts a business and earns over $100/hr is not doing to to pile up money. They will be spending a great deal of that income on others, helping deliver value and enable wider participation in hopefully happy life.

It changes over time

Until around 2010 what made me most happy was autonomy, and being able to invent new things and learn what I liked. The value of most-others was largely tied to their utility to facilitate what I'd decided I wanted to do. I built really cool tech, I had amazing experiences, I could easily go for 72 hours straight with no sleep, no need to change, even for the weather.

Nearly 10 years on, I'm married, I have a much more nuanced view of the world. I'll quite often do things I wouldn't choose to do for the benefit of others, I have more empathy and the self-serving side of my life is an order of magnitude smaller.

On balance I'd say I'm happier than I've ever been, and I earn a lot more, have different kinds of fun. Relationships have more longevity because when it doesn't suit my needs I look to fill the value vacuum, rather than run away. I feel like people would say nicer things about me and that I help the world more now.

Looking to the future

I'm considering rather large life changes once more. One of these has already happened. I'm not a full-time entrepreneur right now and have not been for a year now. It's not the change I thought it would be, and that is probably a good thing. Part of that was that the financial success peak I'd achieved wasn't bringing me enough other value.

My change to become an employee has definitely been a net loss to me. There is no way I've found to look at it other than a loss to me, but I hope it has been of value to others. Being pragmatic it needs to change as I don't feel it is sustainable, unless my sole goal was to become a salary man...

I've met fascinating people, learned new technologies which I can point to the value add delivery of, and value gained from; but it's been rather illuminating how poorly conceived power-structures and benefits even at a relatively pedestrian startup with a reasonable salary can be. There is no time, one of the most productive people I work with said today "I've been here two years, nothing is going to change". What a sad, awful way to feel.

Part of the problems likely to come up with addressing this value imbalance is that I don't have the visibility or authority to say exactly what that impact is. In the past I've built systems to show me the literaly revenue enablement, which makes for an interesting conversation businesses can deal with, it's totally financially-centric.

I've also demanded, much like a toddler that I'm given authority and agency to make decisions. To some extent I've sat down and stretched out in my job. I can remember interviewing for other positions and the shock and disbelief when I'd say "No this isn't the right setup for me." or "I don't see what value either of us get from {X}". It's never rooted in pomp, if you put someone in a box, it's predicated on you being right, and that is not how team-work best operates.

In my current position there is a lot more finger-in-the-air how does everyone feel. I won't diminish people's feelings, but they are a lot harder to translate into a deal that benefits both sides, or produces action-oriented outcomes, and as much as I've lost a lot of ego-centricity, seeking a mutually beneficial deal is still of paramount importance.

My view of life

I view time as a literal hourglass. It's finite, limited and we cannot get more. If I feel you've wasted my time, then I can never get that back. This past year of my life is optimistically 1% of my life if I live to 100. 21 years were at least mostly wasted fitting into a mould.

People for all their wonder and happiness, the experiences they have, they joy they bring are a little like batteries that interact. I have a very utilitarian nature, which the concept of value seems to fit very neatly with. If you waste someone's time and energy on useless things, like obsessing over fitting in, anxiety, painting your nails, you're wasting value.

I think there can be no greater purpose than to lead a valuable life. One of my grandfathers raised a minature business empire. He was very conservative, very frugal. He was able to carve out comforts from a less than idyllic background. One of my other grandfathers was a Horticulturalist, an outgoing and loving man that had a different value. In-fact they didn't see eye to eye and would probably both shape the world entirely differently. I think both were wonderful, both lead valuable lives which even in their absence resonates through many others.

I'm fine with wasting value, I'm not an extremist and think there is a value in procrastination and relaxation. Water that shapes mountains often starts as a drip before it can form a torrent. My point here is that time is finite and because of that it affects value delivery. I am ever conscious of this.

Future focuses

I've hidden a lot behind the title of pragmatist, but the truth seems a little more sinister. Truth be told some decisions have been rooted in fear, isolationism, even ignorance which has been wrongly rewarded. I'm not sure how I'd measure up to my grandfathers, I know in ways I'd make them both proud and this is profoundly important to me. In other ways I can't help but feel like I've done less, added less value.

  • I've never been to a mass-protest
  • I've been very risk focused and lost a lot of adventure
  • I actively avoid uncomfortable and upsetting situations

Action points

I've always considered myself as an environmentalist so the climate marches are of interest. I recently missed the September 20th global climate strike rather than pull a sick day because I deferred asking for time off. I wish I'd taken part in that as some of my friends have.

I've expanded the meat free alternatives I'm aware of and have tried, and found some which are less awful than my initial experiences. Some of this may be psychological.

I've already begun trying to help and be there for others more.

As well as minding my language, trying to be conscious of my privilege and adjust communications, I'm trying to work on being more positive.

I've been being more outspoken about defending the rights and needs of others, and I will continue to look into that.

I'm going to travel more, try to read with an agenda or opinion less.

I'd like to try to learn some more human languages.

I'd like to go even further with systems designs to make them inclusive and accessible to those without access to the latest hardware, expanding on my retro, embedded and SBC efforts.

I've a talk scheduled for a local club and I've recently resumed attendance of my local LUG and several meetups.

I've recently re-organised my home with my wife. I hope to continue to improve our garden, giving back to a curated nature. I hope to plant some of our trees with my wife, and to be able to visit them over our years together.

Wrapping up

This is mostly about me getting this off my chest. Refining my ideas through writing. It's a self-centred post because to frame progress in a wider context, I am an over-privileged, relatively care-free person that is likely to be inconsequential on a historical scale. I hope some can relate to this, maybe gain from it, but I also hope to reflect back and feel positive about progress.

Most of all I hope that I can increase my value add in life, and help others to do the same