Over the years and then again recently, I have been thinking a lot about net worth and self-worth. Each has its value but I think the difference is “worth” noting.
So much attention is given to net worth. In the world of business, net worth is the metric that measures success. For many, the size of the bank account, the CEO compensation, the number of homes, private planes, art collected and more is the value of the person, if you believe the press.
We have so many examples in this land of abundant capital and wildly successful capitalists. We praise them, laud them and hold them high for all to emulate. Nothing wrong with that at all. We’ve had them over the centuries and in recent decades, from the Rockefellers, Roosevelts, Carnegies, Fords, to the Packards, Buffets, Gates, Jobs, Brins, Pages, Whitmans and Zuckerbergs. They deserve our admiration.
What is their self-worth? Much harder to measure, but I maintain it has the highest value. According to the Wikipedia popular definition, “Self-worth is what enables us to believe that we are capable of doing our best with our talents, of contributing well in our society, and that we deserve to lead a fulfilling life…” What is the cost of human capital and how is it deployed? Many of these men and women have contributed to societal endeavors. Where would NYC be without the vision for Rockefeller Center, the world of poverty without the Gates Foundation, the American people without the Theodore Roosevelt vision for the National Parks?
The rise of social entrepreneurs gives me food for thought. We have evidence that we Americans, successful as we are in capitalism, are beginning to realize that social entrepreneurship is changing the way we look at solving our everyday challenges.
Some wonderful social entrepreneurs have emerged. They have acted and are making a difference. Wendy Kopp at Teach for America, Becca Robison, Founder of Astrotots Space Camps, Matt Flannery and Premal Shah at Kiva, John Wood at a Room to Read, Blake Mycoskie Founder of Tom’s Shoes, and Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farms.
These people measure their success, yes, by having sustainable business models, but also by the impact they have on society. They have substantial net worth, and they have a strong sense of self-worth. Both are important, but on my score card self-worth is by far the most valuable. What is your self-worth?