Why Anyone Does Anything

What separates a homeless person from an ultra successful CEO? Why is your girl friend or wife acting a certain way? Why despite your greatest efforts are you failing?

The answer to all of the above is we are all seeking to be valuable. How valuable you become to both yourself or society is based on your personal discrimination of value. Value is not restricted to simply money, it can be fame, power, or the greater good. Even the greatest act of charity is a selfish act, because you wish to make the world better for yourself in order to increase your value.

Even the person who appears to do nothing, watches TV all day, and by everyone’s standards is a complete failure is in a process of attempting to increase their value. In the case of what appears to be complete failure, it is because their discrimination of value is so skewed that they believe their incorrect choices are the ones capable of bringing them the most value. For instance when faced with watching TV or doing work, a person might choose to watch TV because they believe the happiness they will derive from that is far greater then the happiness they will get from doing work, the value proposition is incorrect in most cases because doing work could lead to more freedom down the road which in turn would lead to more value then simply watching TV.

“What a successful person will be doing tomorrow is much less predictable then what a failure will be doing tomorrow.”

To determine why anyone does anything you must first figure out what a person finds value in or the immediate value they are seeking. This can often be a complex and daunting task, but sometimes it is very simple. In fact the more incorrect the discrimination of value is, the easier it is to determine. The reason for this is that failure is more common then success, and success requires one to change their discrimination of value regularly based on changing circumstances. So what a successful person will be doing tomorrow is much less predictable then what a failure will be doing tomorrow.

Having spent time with very successful people, the common trait I have discovered among them all is that they change regularly. The world is constantly changing, and the choices they make to bring value to themselves change regularly. It doesn’t stop at business decisions, they will even modify their ideals of how the world functions in order to be successful. If you’re having a hard time bringing value to yourself it is because what ever you believe had value no longer does. The horse whip maker who continued to make horse whips after the car came out would of eventually lost all their value if they decided to be immovable in their value discrimination.


5 thoughts on “Why Anyone Does Anything

  1. godseek

    This is a great explanation of a concept. Mis-assignment of value is where addictions are born, when one begins by believing a sudden gratification is as good as it gets.

  2. The Setta

    I didn’t quite get your statement “In fact the more incorrect the discrimination of value is, the easier it is to determine.” Would you mind expounding?

    1. Jonathan Wagner Post author

      To rephrase, when trying to figure out why someone is doing anything, if they don’t correctly know the value of things it is simpler to predict their actions.

      It is easier to predict failure then it is success because failure is so much more common. I will give a real-life example.

      About 6-7 years ago I worked with a lot of independent bands in my area. They all had the same dream and none of them achieved it. Why? Most artists incorrectly value their own talent and they also incorrectly value bands in general. Humans generally disregard the common story of failure in place of the huge success. No one wants to hear about the band that tried for 15 years and never broke out; they want to hear about the 14 year old who got discovered and became a big success. In my experience most people assume they are the minority and this incorrect assessment is usually what makes sure people will stay in the majority.

      1. The Setta

        Have you used this idea anywhere and is the converse also true? That when people know the value of things it is much arder to predict their actions.

      2. Jonathan Wagner Post author

        Yes, but generally in predicting general outcomes and as a way of figuring out people to avoid. If someone pitches me an idea and they are filled with an unexpected amount of optimism, or talking about how anything is a “sure” thing, I won’t work with them.

        Generally, and I should clarify, that I am talking about longer time frames, not necessarily what a person will be doing tomorrow. Also, I am generally referring to successful entrepreneurs more then anything. For instance if someone is a career lawyer their life might be very predictable and most would consider them a success. My criteria for a successful life is one that has impact, and in my opinion if you don’t have impact you not successful in my eyes, but are by no means a failure; Not everyone in life is supposed to have an impact.

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