What do Coca-Cola, Barack Obama and Mila Kunis have in common?

by George P.H. on March 15, 2013

incommon

What’s do world’s most popular soda, most powerful man and most desirable woman* have in common?

* - according to every “sexiest 100 women” list, anyway

The answer is very, very simple. Value.

It’s the reason we pay two dollars for five cents’ worth of water and sugar. It’s the reason we follow powerful people. It’s the reason millions of guys would do anything with a woman who is – well – pretty much like any other woman.

Value is what makes everything work. Understanding it means understanding everything. By learning to maximize your personal value, you can maximize the amount of stuff in return for you and the things you do.

What Is Value?

Humans have two primary functions: survival and procreation. Both require limited resources like food, water and shelter. This is why humans naturally look out for themselves; the question we’re all constantly asking is “what’s in it for me?”

The answer to this question is measured in – you guessed it – value. Anything that makes you more likely to survive and have healthy children is valuable.

(This is why women find powerful men with money naturally attractive. It’s also why men find beautiful, healthy women naturally attractive. We instinctively want to mate with people who will give our offspring the best survival chances.)

It’s important to note that there’s a big difference between real value and perceived value. Subconsciously, we understand this.

That’s why we share nice stories about ourselves with people we want to impress. Doing this doesn’t change our real value, but it does change the perceived value we have in someone’s eyes – and that’s good enough.

The art of marketing is all about perceived value. A Gillette blade costs pennies to produce, but the company adds a 1,000%+ mark-up to the retail price. And where does the money go?

Well, largely into advertising. Why? So Gillette can increase their razors’ perceived value and make sure we keep buying them at a ridiculous price.

See, although having David Beckham use a Gillette razor does nothing to add to their real value, it adds a lot to its perceived value. And that’s what allows companies to charge us dozens of dollars for something that costs cents to make.

(In other words, we’re giving Gillette money so they can keep persuading us to buy their products.)

By learning to differentiate between real and perceived value, you can peel away all the bullshit and see things – brands, products, people – for what they’re really worth. That’s one consequence of understanding value.

Another consequence is learning maximizing your own value (whether real or perceived). This can help you find better opportunities in your career, personal life and day-to-day flow.

Since value is what makes people do the things they do, every little transaction and interaction is based on it. Understanding value on a deep level is like being in the Matrix. Here are some examples of value at work in real life.

Investment Generates Perceived Value

Why do people stay in shitty relationships with people who clearly aren’t right for them? Why do they keep working jobs they hate and living in countries they want to leave?

Because they’re deeply invested into these things.

Studies conducted on chimps reveal that primates view things they have as more valuable. In other words, a monkey thinks her cup is better – or more valuable – than an identical cup she doesn’t own.

We’re the exact same way. We instinctively like the things we have: this includes relationships, careers, entire lives. And the more we invest ourselves into these things the more important they seem to us.

In a related phenomenon, we find the things we pay a heavy price for valuable. In economics this is called the Veblen effect which states that demand for a luxury product goes up when its price increases.

(i.e. The high price and exclusivity of some products – Mercedes Benz cars, caviar, truffles – is what makes them so desirable. If everyone could have these things we’d probably stop caring about them.)

The same rules apply to relationships. The more work we have to put in to be with someone, the more valuable we think they are. This explains why wonderful guys and girls stay with partners who treat them like shit for.

Which leads me to the next point…

The Value Exchange Rate

In relationships, we view the things we do for one another as transactions. If you’re used to investing X time/effort to get Y time/effort back from someone else, that’s the value exchange rate you’ve set up between you.

Now imagine that X is much greater than Y – i.e. one person has to do a lot of work to get just a little bit back from someone else.

Once this “exchange rate” has stabilized, doing most of the work will start to seem normal to person X. This is another reason people stay in relationships where they do most of the work.

Keep this in mind with everyone – romantic partners, workmates and friends. It’s great to be nice but you’ve got to demand things back if you want to have happy relationships.Ask for more and you’ll never have people walking all over you, no matter how nice you are.

What Else Is Valuable?

Physical appearance is one thing that creates perceived value. If someone looks good, we subconsciously think of them as a valuable romantic interest/social group member.

A recent study revealed that people with crooked teeth are viewed as unsuccessful by 78% of Americans. That’s because looks are one thing that creates perceived value. Here’s a checklist of other traits that increase perceived value:

  1. Familiarity – research shows we’re attracted to people who are similar to us. This means having similar interests, looks, backgrounds, etc.
  2. Confidence – people subconsciously assume that confident individuals have a reason to be cocky.
  3. Material wealth – we’re drawn to people who have power and resources.
  4. Charisma.
  5. The support of other people – i.e. popular individuals are inherently attractive.
  6. Positivity – as with confidence, we assume that people are positive for a reason and therefore successful in some way.
  7. Dominance (in men).
  8. Honesty.
  9. Interest – i.e. we’re attracted to people who are interested in us because this increases their reliability.

The list goes on and on. Physical objects have another set of traits – things like exclusivity, desirability, usability, etc.

So long as you get the overall message you can find value everywhere. After all, our minds naturally judge things as valuable (or not valuable) all the time!

How To Be More Valuable

Here a few simple ways to appear more valuable to other people (without being a manipulative sociopath).

1. Ask Hard Questions

Remember the saying, “Beggars can’t be choosers”? It’s very true. If you don’t have choices you’re likely to accept whatever you get.

So if you appear too enthusiastic – about a girl, a new person, an opportunity – people will assume you’ve got no options. This is unattractive because it implies you have no resources; no value.

When becoming familiar with new people and situations, ask hard questions; see what’s in it for you, make sure the terms are good enough for you, etc. Have standards and expect others to rise to them. Perform due diligence before committing to anything (or anyone).

By being picky, you’ll come across like someone who has multiple choices. People respect that (which is why it’s a great way to increase perceived value).

2. Ask For Stuff

Many years ago, I read a study that said we like people we do favors for. This seemed strange at the time. After all, shouldn’t we be into people who do stuff for us – not vice versa?

Well, not quite. When we invest in someone by doing a favor for them, that person becomes more “valuable” (as explained above) – and more attractive.

So if you want people to think you’re valuable, get them to invest in you. It costs you nothing and is a great way to build fair relationships.

3. Want More Value? Display It

One way to display value is by working with what you’ve got. Talk about your accomplishments, share stories that make you look good, maybe even flash your car keys. It’s not very subtle but hey – it works.

4. Want Even More Value? Don’t Display It

You’ve probably heard about negs; backhanded compliment designed to attract women. “Oh, I loved dresses like yours when they just started being popular!”

The idea is, a pretty girl is so used to being hit on she blows everyone off. But since you’re not complimenting her like everyone else, she’ll be curious and actually talk to you.

And no matter how weird scripted lines might be, negs really work. When you’re not trying to win a girl over, she assumes your value is equal to – or higher – than hers.

Everyone else is just the same. If you act modestly and let others do all the bragging, they’ll assume you don’t care about their approval – and therefore have high value (and confidence).

5. Be Self-Sufficient

Going back to beggars and choosers – the easiest way to really have high value is by never being a beggar. Never let yourself feel like you need another person, job, car, house, etc.

This’ll boost your relative value and give you more “buying power” in relationships and life situations.

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The concept of value may seem hard to grasp at first but it really isn’t. Our minds automatically seek and measure value throughout our lives – you’re just making the process conscious.

Looking at social relationships as transactions based on value is a great way to understand why people do certain things. Doing the same with cash purchases reveals funny and unexpected things about human nature.

Either way, understanding and using your value creates a world of endless possibility. Have fun.

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