5) Understand Value and How to Create It
In spite of the descending order, these ideas are presented from the most foundational. If readers do not understand value and how to create it, the rest of this list will do them little good.
Let’s be honest. Upward mobility is a euphemism for making more money. There is no shame in that, and we shouldn’t gloss it over. Contrary to the cliché, money can buy happiness. While maintenance of long-term happiness requires more than money, try staying happy without it.
Consider why money is essential to happiness. All living things act to stay alive and improve life’s quality, to survive and thrive. That which we act to obtain and keep is the essence of value. Plants value sunlight, minerals, carbon dioxide, and water. They act, albeit slowly, to obtain those values. Animals likewise seek after the necessities and comforts of life. Man, the rational animal, is unique in his ability to transcend instinct and conceive of new values which did not previously exist. A sharper, lighter spear; a stronger, tighter basket; a way to harness fire or travel over water — such inventions and innovations are values which build upon one another to enable a quality of life theretofore unimaginable.
Since none of us are born innately aware of how to produce the many conceived values enhancing our lives, we come to benefit from them through trade. Can’t make a spear to save your life, but crank out gathering baskets by the dozen? You’ve got a trade. Money is our medium of exchange, something easily portable and generally expected to hold its value. In short, money is the stand-in for any conceivable value we may obtain through trade.
Understanding this helps us dispense with the sophomoric notion that money is the root of all evil, or that we ought to shy away from accumulating it or apologize for having it. It is through the production of value that we “make money.” Dad was right when he said it doesn’t grow on trees. Nevertheless, it can grow if properly cultivated. By identifying what value we are adept at creating, we position ourselves to take the first step toward rising from poverty, earning an income.
Granted, if you are poor, it may be that the value you are capable of producing does not command much in the market. Even so, the most menial of productive tasks can be the seed from which upward mobility springs, provided you embrace the rest of our presented ideas.