What Drives Human Behavior? (Pt.I)

Phrenology: Where your courage can easily outweigh your parental love
I used to be depressive and negative.

I used to think that talking about happy fluff was a pointless activity when we should talk about heavier, more meaningful - but horribly depressing - topics. I used to think things like "When did people stop caring about what was true, or correct, and become mentally lazy?"

Take a guess at how popular I was.

Looking back, I'm surprised people put up with me as much as they did. I even had a girlfriend who was out of my league, but somehow neither of us seemed to know it.

People did occasionally avoid me, however. I was lazy, I was a downer, and I was selfish. I have a label for people like younger me, but I'll get to that later.

Putting it off

I've been intending to do this post for a long time. It's something we all should know about. Why have I put it off if it's so important? Because it's going to be difficult to explain thoroughly, yet concisely, and in an order that makes sense.

I've literally come up with parts of this post while half asleep, sometimes in dreams, and am putting it off, even at this moment, to build the suspense and make sure the reveal leaves as much of an impact as I can muster. Everyone needs to understand this idea. Everyone.

Just to beat this dead horse a tiny bit more before I reveal what this magical concept is that drives all human behaviour, I will say that this should be taught to every kid in every school in every state in every country on every...

Without further delay, I will reveal the concept that should have been explained to you every year you've been on this planet, but is hardly mentioned in detail. What is it?


Hear me out here. This may seem like I'm stating the obvious, but indulge me: try to come 
up with a definition of what "Value" means. We hear commercials spout off about "Great Value!" and we know that value is a good thing, but what is it, exactly?

I've thought about it a long time and learned about it from some of the strangest places. There have been many books* written on this topic, but I have yet to read any that directly assess and defines it, other than in a purely monetary sense.

Take a look at these:
Decent Starting Points
Do these encapsulate everything that is value? Well, from a business sense, maybe, but lets expand upon it, shant we?

A Working Definition

Here's the definition I came up with:
"Value is anything desirable to the beholder, whether it be of form or function; concrete or abstract; emotional, intellectual, social, entertainment, or physical. It is something desired.
At it's core: Value is anything you want."
As it says up there, it's not just monetary or physical things. People will seek out value of all kinds. We always try to maximize the value we get out of every exchange, and never trade down or for equal amounts. I'll get to that point in a moment. But first:

Wish I had that much value wizzing about...

Money as Value Placeholder

Money has only as much value as we give it.

It has no inherent value - it's only fancy paper and coins. It only has value because we all agree that it does. Put another way, if I gave you $1 mil in monopoly money, you wouldn't be all that happy. In fact, you might be annoyed at the inconvenience of having to suddenly handle all this trash. Monopoly money has hardly any value, unless your life somehow revolves around backdoor monopoly dealings.

Let's imagine that all real currency is suddenly worth nothing, and Monopoly money is the new standard. NOW you're probably quite pleased with yourself. It's a social contract, nothing more, and it makes sense to do it this way.

The alternative, being the barter system, is just too inconvenient. Carting your goats around with you whenever you wanted to buy some new cloths isn't all that cool. Therefore we agreed that these small, portable materials are equal to the value of various objects. Trinkets that are imbued with value are transmogrified into money. Magic.

But just like money can be imbued with inherent value, so can almost anything. Value is intangible, it is what we want. In other words:
Money is flexible value. It is value in liquid form.**
Money is an easy way for us to transfer value from one person to another, but it is not the only form of it.

Now that we have that rudimentary introduction to money cleared up, let's move back to...

Always Trading UP

By this, I mean that whenever we go into a deal, we expect to receive greater value than we are giving. This is subjective, not objective, and assumes the absence of trickery or scams.

"That can't be true", I hear some of you saying, "sometimes we make bad trades or purposely sacrifice our resources. I sure as hell didn't get anything out of my niece's dance recital!" I disagree.

The guy above did trade some of his time to watch what may have been a terrible dance recital. I'm not arguing the quality here. But what he did get was the value of being a supportive family figure, feeling good, and maintaining a good relationship with his sibling (niece's parent). This is presuming he wasn't pressured into the deal by his sister, the girl's mother, but even if he was: it was greater value for him to go than to deal with more fighting and the aftermath of it - not to mention the effects on the relationship. If he really didn't want to go, and there was more value (to him) in fighting, he would have done that.

Let's take a look at another example:
Carol has no food, but she does have pots and pans. She decides, out of desperation, to sell them for cash. In the deal, she will get less than they may be worth (retail), and certainly less than she paid for them. 
In this deal, it may appear as though Carol is trading down. The cookware is worth more than she's trading, and they're losing both money and function in the deal, right? They can't cook as much, and they're getting less money. BUT they're getting food - which has more value at that time than cookware - and cash - liquid value.

In other words, the cash she got out of the cookware is worth more to her than continuing to own the items themselves. The cash and food have more value to her at this time. Therefore, even though it's a worse trade on paper, it's a worthwhile trade for Carol.

Wrap Up

This concludes the end of part one of a multi-part series.
  • What happens to our depressive hero?
  • Do we really always trade up?!
  • Will Carol ever be able to afford both food and cookware?!!?
All these and more when you tune in for the second and third parts of this absolutely riveting series!

Editing Music: Pink Lemonade - The Wombats

*Business books, I suspect.
**Liquid in the sense of "flowing freely"

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