One of the more memorable quotes from a talk I’ve been to was one in my first week of graduate school. We had the CEO of Beam speak to us about some of the decisions he had to make as CEO. He spoke of a famous decision about a formulation which they had to reverse because their customers were upset by the decision. That reversal cost them a lot of money. But, as he remarked then, “Values cost money. It isn’t a value if it doesn’t cost you money.”
It is easy to observe this in practice – do the companies you work for actually spend money or resources on things they consider important? If they don’t, the value is just a word on a wall.
But, easy as it is to point our fingers to organizations, this is applicable in our lives too. Fresh after reading “How Will You Measure Your Life?” and “The Honest Truth about Dishonesty” in 2013, I had decided that I wasn’t going to be the media pirate that I had been for 7 years or so. I used to (and continue to) write about topics like honesty, integrity and the like on this blog. And, writing about ideas I don’t put into practice felt like the worst form of hypocrisy. I remember how painful the reversal was. I told myself that I’d buy all or most of the media I’d pirated as a way of purging my history and starting fresh. That initial upfront investment cost close to $2,000. But, I felt clean – it is hard to explain how beautiful it felt without that pressure.
That’s the beauty about committing to values you care about. If you don’t live by them, you feel a pressure to do so. If the pressure doesn’t come from within, it likely comes from things you do or from people around you. A spouse or partner who tell you to stop working and demonstrate how much you care about the family by investing time into your relationships – that’s an example of values pressure.
And, if you do live by them, values cost money.