What’s of value? | Editors Letter Fall 2017

By Kailash Maharaj and Shivana Maharaj
November 30, 2017

Lazy summer inevitably turns to the frantic pulse of school runs, extracurricular activities and work, hallmarks of fall. What had been improvised becomes scheduled, long days suddenly contract with withering daylight, carelessness gives way to an intense focus on grades and performance. When, not so long ago, calendars were dominated by agricultural rhythms, this was a time of harvest, work reaching an arduous denouement. Thus, it is not surprising that our thoughts too turn from the frivolous to the serious.

Scrolling through a website, I happened upon an interview with someone on the ascendant in a field I was keen to break into. What caught my attention was her answer to a question about the best business advice she had received. “Never do anything for free. If what you’re doing has value, people will pay you for it,” she responded.

Her thinking, like that of many others, is that if you do something for free it sets up a false expectation that your work is not worth paying for and that if, at some point, someone pays you, you may as well get that sum from the beginning.

I bristled at the remark, not sure as to exactly why. It seemed in some fashion coarse and crude. Here though, was someone with the resume to attest to her advice. I softened my position and silently acquiesced. Someone who had made it seemed like the exact person to heed. Perhaps she was correct – money is power, money is the measure of things in modern life. Doing things for money is healthy, sane and productive. Hard work should be given its due. It seemed reasonable, logical even, in an economically oriented society, tasks are ascribed a dollar amount.

Beneath the logic though, reservations still percolated and they seemed to be assuaged when I heard someone speak of integrity as the thing that would remain when his life expired. Another time someone sighed, lamenting that there is no sense of doing things for their own sake anymore. 

What is of value? What is of most value? What work should receive the highest compensation? It’s not for me or anyone else for that matter, to decide. No, that is a deeply personal question. Your life, the choices you make, reveal your values.