What are You Worth?

starting a business

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What are you worth?

Did you feel awkward reading that question? Did you cringe or did you think of a dollar amount?

The question really only has one answer, even though I know you don’t believe me. And so, I have a story. The story shares an insight into what our value actually is and how we assign it.

And it starts, with a Nazi.

Hermann Wilhelm Goering was a scumbag. He went by the aka “Blue Max.”  He had a hand in the atrocities committed against the Jewish people, and he openly admitted to organizing the murder of at least 85 German soldiers. Hitler himself admitted that act was “entirely illegal“.ghetto-67736_640

But Goering had two sides. He, like many of the Nazis, following the lead of Hitler, had a love of art. Goering desperately wanted to rival the collection of his leader, and there was one piece that could make it happen.

It was a Vermeer.

Johannes Vermeer was an acclaimed Dutch painter, who today is recognized as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Today only 34 paintings can be attributed to him, but there was one that changed history.

The Woman Taken in Adultery is the painting in question. It is an image stolen from a story in the Bible. A painting that the criminal, Goering wanted, and Han van Meegeren had. Goering offered a trade for 200 original Dutch paintings which had been taken by the Nazis at the beginning of the war. He would give them all for this one piece that would raise his status as an art collector to that of the fuhrer. HIs contribution equaled millions of dollars and a treasure of original Dutch art considered lost. It was a perfect trade and the end of the story.

Except. . .

Both men were arrested and tried, with the possible sentence of death, Goering for his immeasurable atrocities to human kind, and van Meegeren for treason, due to interacting in business with the enemy.

At one point, Goering valued the painting at millions of dollars, but at his trial it was merely a tool by which to take down van Meegeren.

During the same time, van Meegeren valued the painting at millions of dollars, but at the trial it was worth more than his life.

Until . . .

Truth appeared in the form of a lie. Van Meegeren admitted that the painting was a forgery that he himself had painted. He explained that, he was not treasonous, but he was a hero because he had traded a worthless canvas, to an atrocious Nazi for some of his homelands prized art considered gone forever. He explained that if he was given a brush, a canvas, paint, alcohol and morphine he could replicate the painting, which he did. The Nazi was sentenced to death and the forger was set free.

And the truth about value is forever carved in history.

The value of the painting changed depending on what it could do. At one point it was worthless canvas covered in the paint of a novice. At another, a multi-million dollar missing prize, and at yet another, a lifesaver.

So value is a story.

It is what people think while they drink expensive wine, not the true flavor of the wine. It is the comfort of an old shirt, not the price of it. It is how hard we will work, in order to go on vacation. Value is not fact or fiction. It is not true or false. It is a story,

and stories are contagious.

Your story spreads to those around you. What you do for others tells the story of who you are. Who you become frames the value you give yourself and the value others see. If value is a story, then you are the author. Which makes the question at the beginning much easier to answer.

How much are you worth?

As much as you choose.

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