My son participates in value debate. The competitors take either the affirmative or negative stance on a resolution and argue for or against it based on a value. The judge determines which side best upholds their value.
I’ve served as a judge for these debates many times, and the more I listen to these clashes, the more I’ve come to realize we make decisions based on personal values all the time in our everyday lives.
Just as an example, I’ve talked with the kids about this, and let’s say they’ve gotten an invitation to a quiet gathering with close friends where they’ll just hang out and chat. But then they receive another invitation on the very same night to a fun activity, like a concert, with people they don’t know as well.
How do they choose?
They can decide based on what they value more: time with close friends doing something quiet or a chance to attend a concert. Which is the higher value at that time in their lives?
Personal values form the core of our decisions and are critical to determining our ROI.
A Writer’s Values
As writers, we could take on countless tasks and sign up for numerous activities, all of which bring various results.
So we bring in the idea of our return on investment, or ROI. If we invest something of ourselves—time, money, resources, energy—what are we getting back from it? What’s the result—the return—on that investment?
Our values are behind it all, at the core of our choices. Whether we realize it or not, we inevitably return to our values to determine our ROI.
Does any given activity and the investment it requires fit with what we value most?
Know Your Values
We all have deep-seated values, whether we’re aware of them or not and whether we’ve ever identified them or articulated them or not.
They may be high-level, ethical values—like not hurting someone else in your pursuits.
Or they may be smaller, personal values, like carving out time each day to exercise.
In part one of A Writer’s Guide to ROI, I shared how Crystal Paine determined if her time devoted to a task or activity was worth it. For her, the time invested must result in money and helping people—that’s how she knows it’s worth devoting time to a project or task. She’s come to value that as a business owner.
What Are Your Values as a Writer?
As you see, one of her values is helping people.
You may share that value. As a writer, you may long to help people with your ideas and solutions.
You may have other values, as well. You may value the satisfaction of producing something creative or taking the risk to delve into a personal struggle so you can share it with others so they might find hope.
You may value storytelling as an art form and strive to write beautiful narratives.
You may value poetry and commit to daily practice regardless of whether your final versions end up in a literary magazine.
Knowing your values helps determine the ROI of an activity.
When Values Are Revealed
But sometimes your personal values may not be easy to identify. You may not have articulated them.
Our values have a way of revealing themselves as we take action.
You get to a certain level of success or achievement and realize, wait, this isn’t what you thought it was going to require or feel like.
This isn’t aligning with your values.
This isn’t what you want.
Jeff Goins’ Story
For years as a blogger, Jeff created content about writing, publishing, and creativity. Over time, he decided to build this part-time pursuit into a business, and it grew. He hired employees and farmed out some of the articles he used to write to other freelancers.
But he was stressed out with the work of managing it all. He reached out to Seth Godin, who reminded Jeff that he didn’t have to do this—he didn’t have to build a business. But if he wanted to build a business, he had to commit to that work.
Jeff then reached out to business coach Casey Graham, who helped him see at a practical level what it would take to make the business succeed, and the plan was intense.
The next day, I was making breakfast for my kids, flipping pancakes in our kitchen, thinking about my schedule for the day. I didn’t have any commitments until 11:30. It was 8:30.
I looked at my daughter and my son who were 6 months and four years old respectively. I thought about spending the next two years of their lives trying to scale a business, which felt like precious time to spend on something I didn’t intend to do for the rest of my life.
I don’t want to run a business, I thought.1
He realized his values and made changes to align with those values.
He scaled back his business. He did what he does best. He figured out what he valued most, so that the time he would invest in his work was worth it in the end.
While he thought that owning a successful business was the ideal goal, the pursuit of that goal revealed his highest values.
Now he can determine the ROI of an activity based on what he values most.
Have You Discovered Your Values?
You may think you want something and you go for it, only to realize it’s not what you thought it was or it’s not what you want after all, like Jeff did.
He realized he didn’t want to work the crazy hours necessary to build his business. And he didn’t want to miss those moments.
But he didn’t realize that until he had already started building it, investing time, energy, and resources.
So sometimes we have to move toward goals to reveal our values. And that’s when we can really start to measure our ROI.
What we thought we wanted turns out to be something else—and sometimes it’s something we had all along.
Stay tuned for more on A Writer’s Guide to ROI.
- “I Once Talked To Seth Godin On The Phone: Here’s How It Changed My Life and Business” (Jeff Goins article about scaling back his business)
- A Writer’s Guide to ROI series
- Write to Discover series
- All podcast episodes
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- Goins, Jeff. “I Once Talked To Seth Godin On The Phone: Here’s How It Changed My Life and Business.” Medium. https://medium.com/the-mission/i-once-talked-to-seth-godin-on-the-phone-heres-how-it-changed-my-life-and-business-76be836fa74