Old People From The Future

Recently, one of the “Shower Thoughts” in The Hustle was, “We are all dressed like old people from the future.” Well, maybe a few of us are dressed like old people from now, but the point is that what we are doing, thinking, and even wearing today will be replaced by other things and other people sooner than we imagine.

Over dinner with the Executive Director of The Kimmell Foundation, a futurist, and the head of a large wealth management group, the concept of value drift came up. After some disagreement around the semantics of the word “value,” we focused on the reality that what is important to people does and will shift over time. 

What people value either binds them together or pushes them apart. What people value determines where they are willing to expend their energy and resources. What people value determines the strength of a community or organization.

In our personal lives and in our communities and organizations, it is helpful to be clear about the difference between core beliefs (values) and strategies. A core belief or value is something that doesn’t change. I know, I just said that what people value changes over time, but that was the point of our argument over semantics. We use the term value to mean both things that are core to our personhood and to define the things that are important to us—things we value.

Things that are important to us can shift rapidly and change many times over the course of our lives. I have had a thousand hobbies in my lifetime. In every instance, the current obsession was intensely important to me. I spent my time, my money, and my effort on learning and perfecting that skill. Bee keeping, model trains, pyrotechnics, macrame (I know…), numerous collections, archery, shooting, skiing, electronics, and the list goes on and on. I am a serial hobbyist.

As I have learned more about myself through the passing of time and a lot of therapy, I found I don’t value hobbies and certainly not any single one of the many. I value learning and experiences. It took me a while to figure that out, but once I did, it changed how I approach life. 

Before, I felt bad (often with the help of people around me who chided me for not sticking with a single thing) about hopping from thing to thing. The detritus and dust covered remains of so many different ventures haunted me. I kept all that stuff because I didn’t want to admit I had moved on, but I had. Now, I know I just want to experience things, painting, sculpting, hot air ballooning, food, art, architecture, places, and on and on. If it is most expedient to buy all the stuff and try it myself, I do. If it is better to find someone to teach me using their tools and space, I do that.

When we apply this to our communities, we see that the things people value most can be received or experienced in many ways. In the moment, the way seems important, but the thing that is valued is what is critical. 

So, what do people value? People value being valued. 

When a teenager claims they will die if they don’t get the latest pair of whatever sneakers are the current rage, they aren’t saying they value the sneakers. They value being noticed and appreciated by their peers, if only for a moment and if only for something as surface as their choice of footwear.

When team members ask for perks, benefits, or additional pay, they don’t value the things as much as they value what those things represent and communicate. They value being acknowledged for the contribution they bring to the team. They value being recognized for their unique skills, experience, and viewpoint. They value being cared about more than the bottom line.

Our organizations and communities are all different, and they are constantly changing. The tangible reflections of what we want from our time and effort will change with the seasons and the fads. What won’t change is the hunger in the human soul to be recognized for its intrinsic value and equally cared for within the community. When leaders genuinely value every member in their community, the many ways they confirm that value become less important and more easily adjusted.

I am grateful to be part of a community that holds the core belief that everyone is intrinsically and equally valuable. Today, we confirm that value in ways that interest the people we serve, but soon those ways will become old as they are replaced by the new ways of the future. What will not change is that we value each other, and that is the Bison Way.