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It’s Worth What Someone Will Pay For It

May 21, 2020

I own two sets of noise cancelling headphones. One of them cost $400. The other cost $65. Which one is more valuable?

Are you sure?

I had a friend one time that was getting ready to move out of a neighborhood where I was building a house. It wasn’t going well.

I don’t get it Rodney. I’m having trouble selling the house.

It’s a great looking house. What seems to be the trouble?

I just can’t get anyone to offer me what it’s worth.

I don’t remember if I laughed out loud, or if that came later. My friend’s problem was a common one. He assumed the value of something was tied to how much he paid for it.

But, really, the worth of his house wasn’t determined by what it said on his mortgage note. Or the appraisal. Or even, the country tax records. The worth of his house was whatever someone was willing to pay for it.

There’s a parable that Jesus tells in the Bible that I’ve always enjoyed. It involves a vinyard. It’s time to harvest. The Lord of the vinyard goes out in the morning and hires people to harvest his vinyard and offers to pay them a penny for the day.

Noontime comes and the work isn’t progressing as fast as the master would like. He goes out and hires some more workers. He offers them a penny for the day.

As the day is drawing to a close there is still a lot of work to do. The owner goes out and hires even more workers and offers them a penny to finish out the last hour of the day.

He then pays them in reverse order. The guys that worked an hour got paid their wages of a penny. Next, the guys hired at noon got paid a penny for their work. By now, the first group is thinking,

If they got paid a penny for working less than half a day, we should be getting nearly twice that.

But, when the owner paid them their wages, it was a penny. They were upset. They pointed out that they worked twice as long as the noon-workers and many hours longer than the end-of-day crowd.

Here was the important lesson,

Didn’t we sign a contract? And am I not honoring the contract and paying you what I promised?

The spiritual lesson is that it doesn’t matter when we come to God. We all receive a Heavenly reward.

But, I like this story for the practical application to business. The Seattle Sonics basketball team was pretty good in the 1990s. Their two superstars were Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Both were getting nearly the maximum salary amount. Then Seattle management made a huge mistake. They signed a guy named Jim McIlvaine. He was a good player, but not really a superstar. They paid him more than they were paying Shawn Kemp. It didn’t end well.

But, should it have? Didn’t Seattle honor the contract that they’d signed with him? He couldn’t handle getting less money than his teammate. Even though he was happy with his contract before the Sonics added McIlvaine.

Jobs are worth what people will accept to do them.

Employees are worth what they can earn.

One of my favorite movies is the original Magnificant Seven. At one point, Chris, played by Yul Brenner is trying to hire an out of work gun fighter played by Charles Bronson.

We heard you got that Salinas thing cleaned up in five weeks.

They paid me $800 for that one.

And Johnson County in four weeks.

They paid me $500 for that one.

You cost a lot.

Yeah, I cost a lot.

The pay is $20.

Twenty dollars? Right now, that’s a lot.

I once made $250 per hour. And it was fulltime temporary work. I’ve also delivered papers as an adult making barely enough to pay for gas.

What am I worth? What is the “right” amount for me to get paid?

There isn’t one. For some jobs I’m worth $500,000 per year. (Although the job was only for a summer.) For some jobs I’m worth less than minimum wage. I’m worth whatever someone will pay me.

Oh, thos headphones? I hate the $400 pair. They don’t fit well and I’m not fond of some of the features. The $65 pair? I bought them used on Craigslist and they are my favorite of all time.

Which one is worth more?

Don’t let the amount you get paid confuse you about what’s really worthwhile or not.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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