Providing Value

In my previous post College is Unnecessary I briefly touched on the topic of value, but I feel that going a bit more in depth on this topic may be helpful for many of you.

What is Value?

Value is something’s subjective level of usefulness.  In simpler terms, value is something that helps someone solve a problem, or benefits them in some other way.  Value is a product or service you provide that helps enhance someone else’s life.

If you write a book about eating healthy and it helps someone improve their diet, you’ve provided them with value.  If you make a video about investing in real estate and it educates someone, or helps them make better investments, you’ve also provided them with value.

How To Provide Value

In the broadest sense there are two ways to provide people with value.  Provide them with something that adds pleasure to their life, or provide them with something that helps them remove pain.

When I first became interested in personal development, pain and depression were a regular part of my life.  I spent years searching for things I could do to remove the constant feeling of sorrow from my life, mostly unsuccessfully, but when I finally discovered the field of personal development, it was able to provide my life with tremendous value.

Similarly, if you want to increase your income you need to provide some service or product that delivers tremendous value to others.  Personally, I make juggling videos and write about personal development, but there’s lots of ways you can go about providing value.

Perhaps the most common (and least intelligent) way to provide value is to sell your time for money.  Whether that means getting a job or independent contracting they’re both unintelligent ways to deliver value because once you stop working the value stops being delivered (and you stop getting paid).

A more intelligent approach to delivering value is to create something that will provide value long after you’ve stopped working on it.  Recently I went to a museum and I saw paintings that were still delivering value to people hundreds of years after their painters had passed away.

Of course, there are also infinitely many other methods to providing long lasting value for the less artistically inclined.  One example would be books.  It may take a lot of effort up front to write one, but they have the potential to earn the author royalties years after they’ve been written.

Another example is music.  A band may take months to create an album, but that album has the potential to continue providing value (and income) for years after it’s been recorded.

It doesn’t matter what your interests are, you can make a product that will deliver long lasting value.  Interested in fitness?  Create a home exercise program.  P90X continues to sell thousands of dvd’s per year almost a decade after it’s original release.

Interested in personal development?  Start up a blog.   That’s what I did.  It’s not as difficult as you think.  All it takes is $10 for a domain name and another $5-10 per month for a basic hosting plan.  If you’re not willing to make that much of an investment I’m not sure how you could expect to be successful at anything.

The articles I’m writing today are going to continue providing value and bringing readers to my website for years after they’ve been written so investing a little bit of time and resources up front makes a lot of sense. And eventually… dollars.

Delivering Value

It sounds obvious, but once you decide how you’re going to provide value, you need to actually deliver it. If your goal is to make one million dollars you need to deliver one million dollars worth of value.  You could choose to deliver one million dollars worth of value to one person or one dollar worth of value to a million people.

Regardless, In the beginning you’re probably going to suck at delivering value.  Almost every beginner does.  Just look at my first juggling video.  I spent a whole week working on it and it was still terrible.  That video provided value to no one.

My camera man was standing so far away you couldn’t even see the juggling.  We knew the camera quality was going to be bad because we were recording with an iPod, but we didn’t even know which way to hold the iPod while recording.  Because of that when we uploaded the video to youtube it only took up a small portion of the youtube player and was basically impossible to watch.

But you know what? It got me moving. The most important thing is to begin creating because once you get going, you can only get better.  Aiming for perfection from the beginning never works because it only leads to procrastination.

My second juggling video wasn’t great either, but for the most part it was viewable.  My camcorder was more properly positioned and even though I never thought to consider lighting, I recorded with the camcorder properly oriented and formatted the video to ensure it would take up the whole youtube player. The lighting may not have been the greatest, but it was infinitely better than my first video and I learned to consider background lighting for my future videos.

I’ve also noticed the same type of improvement with my writing, though it’s not as noticeable to the public because I’ve written about a hundred pages of personal development material before ever starting this blog.  But even looking at some of the articles I’ve written from just a few months ago I laugh at how bad they are, and in a few months I’ll probably laugh at this post in the same way.

Right now my youtube videos and blog are probably providing weak value at best.  That’s why neither is getting significant traffic, but by continually making new videos and writing new articles I’m going to improve at providing value over time.  Constant improvement should be your goal from the beginning, not perfection.

Providing value isn’t rocket science.  All you need to do is think of a way to enhance others’ lives and then begin developing the skills to do so.  In the beginning you’re probably going to be providing weak value, but as long as you’re doing something you’re a success. As time passes you’ll constantly be improving the level of value you deliver.  The only way to fail is to do nothing.

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