Monetarily speaking, each human is worth about $10 million dollars. You can google the question if you want.
I was thinking more in terms of “remembrance”.
Calculating our Life Value
My first thought was … longer people remember you, greater your value.
More I thought about it, I discovered that is not fully accurate. The answer really lies in a three-part equation.
- How many people think of me after my death?
- How long will I be remembered for after I am dead?
- What will people remember me for?
The first two questions can be answered numerically. Answer to the third question is either positive or negative.
Let me give you two examples.
Let’s go through the questions for good ole’ Abe.
First question … How many people thought of Abe after his death? The entire nation did, and many other people around the world did too.
Second question … How long will Abe be remembered for after his death?
Lincoln died in 1865. We continue to remember him today, and I think it would be safe to say people will still talk about him for next several centuries.
Third question … What will people remember Abe for?
Good things. Positive things.
So, where does Abraham Lincoln fit on the value scale … towards the very top.
Now let’s look at the second example.
While Hitler undoubtedly gives a tough competition to Abraham Lincoln in the first two question, it’s the third question where he falters.
History will forever see Adolf Hitler as a murderer.
The third question permanently fixed his place on the value scale – at the very bottom.
If the average human is worth $10 million, Hitler would be worth $0, while Abraham Lincoln would be worth billions or maybe even trillions.
Back to Life Value Equation
So, the first question really is about “Reach”. How many people will think about you when they learn of your death. Will they care? Will they not?
The second question is the sustainability of your legacy. But it heavily depends on your answers to the first and third question. Think Shakespeare, or Voltaire, or Confucius, or even Jesus.
The last question is about impact. How large of an impact have you made, and on how many lives? This is what really ought to be the true definition of success. Number of people that are better off because you lived. Larger the number, greater your success.
While the above three questions are good to calculate “value”, they ought to be re-written for personal assessment.
- What impact have I made?
- How many people has it directly affected?
- How long will the impact be sustainable?
Not everyone has to be the next Rosa Parks, or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Things of lesser impact done consistently over long periods of time also add up to build your life value. Here are some examples:
- See someone seeking alms on the street corner, buy them a meal.
- See a parent frustrated over the support their child receives at school, advocate for the parents and the child.
- Volunteer at shelters
- Visit senior citizens at nursing homes
- Help a colleague get through overwhelm
- Volunteer as an aid for special needs person
As I think about my legacy in life, I wonder what value would I put on it? $10 million? More? Less?
I don’t know. I need to honestly answer the three questions for myself. If I don’t like the answers, I should change some things in my life so in due time, I start liking my answers.