We all seem to have a natural talent for knowing what things are worth, and what we will in fact be willing to pay for them. Historically, however, it has been well documented that this process can go awry. “Tulipmania” was coined when a “rare” bulb had the equivalent value of 12 acres of land in Holland (a very small country) in 1637. Some of us are content to drive a Subaru, others must drive a Range Rover. Value is in the eye, wallet, and “self-esteem system” of the beholder.The Mississippi Scheme-Bubble  (John Law, 1719), and Tulipmania are among the first and the most studied “bubbles” in (relatively) modern global finance.

In our culture it is easy to get caught up in and be seduced by trends and bubbles. If one is a collector and an enthusiast, and if you’ve ever been to at auction at Sothebys or Christies then you know full well what ‘auction fever’ can be. The excitement builds and ‘value’ is created when the hammer drops, and you’ve paid a hefty price for an object that you have fallen in love with, and which you must have.

For further study, perusal of Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1852) is highly suggested.



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Many young people (and people of all ages frankly) frequently correlate their self-worth and value as a person with their portfolio size and/or net worth. In our money driven culture one can  almost not help it. However, at the center of self-esteem is an inherent evaluative/appraisal process. The interactions between self esteem and money can be profound. Literally one can “feel like a million bucks” at certain life junctures.

Self esteem refers to a person’s overall sense of self-worth and value. Self-esteem is generally enduring, and often considered a personality trait. It consists of beliefs about oneself, one’s appearance, values, behavior and emotions. In essence, self-esteem is the cluster of the human fiber and substance of what makes us who we feel we are, and how we perceive and think of ourselves. If we see ourselves as prosperous and successful, and we earn a substantial living with the prospect of huge bonuses, then making significant money can be integral to our self-esteem. This of course is fine if it is balanced and integrated within our personality structure and value/belief systems.

Emotional traps lurk when we make money the most important and singular source of our self-esteem, and we neglect our feelings, principles, integrity, beliefs and dignity. At those junctures many surrender to their impulses and obsessions, and get into psychological trouble. Again, balance in all matters of human experience! The Greeks really had something there. They lived well, but they were willing to sacrifice greatly for their ideals, and their freedom.




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Determining what is important and what has meaning, and value, for you as an individual is critical. Especially when it comes to money. There’s only so much that goes around (for most of us). John D. Rockefeller kept a “book” on each of his children. They all had weekly chores, and they received an allowance based on production and task complexity. He wanted to teach them “the value of a dollar.” According to Forbes he is still considered America’s richest man relative to inflation and cost-of-living indices.

The key is to balance financial priorities and emotional priorities. Ideally, if you love what you do for a living, you will do it well and consequently you will earn a reasonable, good living. An essential task for a young people involves the delicate balancing of emotional, physical, and intellectual needs and demands. Being able to prioritize, establish goals, and delay gratification are all part of the process. “First things first.” Priorities are things we give special attention. If we take ourselves seriously, we are must likely to prioritize, and set goals and missions accordingly. Priorities are quite personal and we need to own them. Pleasing others, especially authority figures, usually runs out of steam. One must be true to oneself, and set their priorities accordingly.




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Practical Solutions

Budgeting, revenue generation, maintaining a strong credit rating (FICO score), and protecting your identity are all essential. Mastering the painful art and science of saving is very important. Contrary to “popular opinion,” and our rich fantasy lives, money does not grow on trees. Even very wealthy people have to budget if they want to avoid obstacles, and achieve their goals and missions relatively smoothly.

Choosing a career path that matches your passions and skill sets is paramount. One does not have to focus only on the accumulation of money. In life, if you are really good at what you do, and committed, you will make enough money. How much is enough is another issue. There is nothing inherently wrong with making money, and accumulating wealth. Perspective is quite important, as well as comprehending what money is, what it can do, and being aware of its limitations. Of course, having an adequate, if not substantial income, is important as money can provide freedom, security, and an increased sense of well being. Being impoverished is not a solution to one’s personal ills, or the ills of society.

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Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is the influence and power one’s peer group has in order to encourage or persuade a person to change their attitudes, their thinking and belief systems, their values, and even their deep inner feelings in order to conform to the group norm or ethic. It is an incredibly powerful force. There are reports of people asserting that they actually “surrendered” themselves to the group in order to be liked, approved of, and accepted. Very few of us have the wherewithal and/or courage to stand alone. Peers impact taste, likes/dislikes, one’s thinking and emotions, one’s values and beliefs, and even our spending habits!

Renown psychologist Stanley Milgram ingeniously demonstrated in novel experimental paradigms, conducted at Yale in the 1960s, how vulnerable average young people are to authoritarian attitudes and peer pressure. A human being’s capacity to demonstrate moral courage is the exception, not the rule.

Well functioning peer groups can contribute loyalty, friendship, emotional support, warmth and affection, guidance, inspiration, and positive structure to a young person’s life. And impact their choices in healthy ways. We are all truly known by the company we keep!



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Life Goals


It’s your life and they’re your goals, or they should be. You walk/run/jog in your own Nikes, Pumas, or Jordans. If you want to make money a huge part of your life, then so be it. Money is not inherently bad; money is the backstory of history. Money created civilization, and democracy. Niall Ferguson’s book The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World poignantly documents these concepts.  Money can provide freedom, security, safety, flexibility, and a sense of well-being. But money needs to be put into perspective in terms of your value and self-worth systems. Money does not warranty dignity, honor, self respect, kindness or empathy. These are human traits and characteristics which make people genuine and authentic. Young people, if encouraged, guided, and inspired properly can achieve nearly anything.



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Image, from the Latin, is an artifact that has some similar appearance to a subject. The important point here is that by definition image is not truly real, but we are led to, trained to, and persuaded to think and believe image is real! We become so finely conditioned that we think perception and image are absolute realities.

People project all kinds of images in different situations and at different points in time, and at different points in their life as a function of a myriad of factors. Being authentic and genuine is what is truly indicated. Then one can really “look in the mirror” without pain and with confidence.

Being real and true to yourself and others will position you more effectively to make money if that is your goal. Being in synch with yourself can only help you achieve your aspirations. Maintain any image you want, or need, as long as you have enough integrity and self awareness to know that image is just that: image, an artifact that some similar appearance to a subject.

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Financial Inventory

People are very curious and very interested in money, especially in what others have and where they stand in comparison.  In our culture people are frequently evaluated by their portfolio size (or what others deem the ‘size’ to be). Image can be everything regardless of the underlying realities and facts of life. People brag about thier gains, and they brag about their loses. They often need to feel like they are “players.” We live in a competitive, status conscious culture where one is tempted and seduced by external forces on a nearly constant basis.

Maintaining one’s bearings is key. Our advice is to take your own inventory. Be true to yourself. March to your own drummer. Also understand that happiness really does come from within. We have been conditioned to admire great wealth, often at the expense of other virtues and talents. How does one monetize or quantify loyalty, empathy, warmth, kindness, or affection. Aristotle advocated the accumulation of wealth, not as an end to itself, but in the context of attaining a more fulfilling life experience. Money was seen as a conduit to pursue pleasure, specifically righteous pleasure that was attuned to morality. These are aspects of what Aristotle referred to as “The Good Life,” or Eudemonia. You are the most important asset in your inventory.





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Desires vs. Needs

We live in a culture where we’ve been conditioned to want ‘stuff and things’ we don’t really need. The marketing language of persuasion is very powerful in the media and throughout society. Edward Bernays is considered to be the father of public relations. His work on the engineering of consent and crystallizing public opinion is widely recognized. He was instrumental in helping to create a culture of desires rather than needs. And we’ve been trained to think we need luxury items beyond the call of human comprehension in order to feel like worthy, happy, superior people. Interestingly, Bernay’s most famous work is entitled Propaganda. It was published in 1928!  Am I a better, superior and more valuable and popular person if I wear “7s” vs. Wranglers? Young people are particularly vulnerable to these types of messages. The selling of innumerable products fuels and permeates our culture on a 24/7 basis. And these values are absorbed by people of all ages.

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Criterion Behavior

Criterion behavior focuses on what you (the individual person) bring to the table. Your imagination, inventiveness, communication skills, cognitive skills, productivity, work ethic, character, personality, courage, self-respect and respect for other people are paramount for life success. This, ultimately, is much more important than what your father does for a living, your zipcode, or the ‘reputation/rating’ of your college. These factors can be very important in terms of networking opportunities, and social connections. But when the ‘pedal hits the metal,’ we all have to ultimately drive on our own.

In essence, what you actually do defines your value. Criterion behavior allows us to stand on our own, be self sufficient, and own responsibility for our actions. It places the control of our life in our hands.

Lionel Logue is a brilliant example of the criterion behavior model. In The King’s Speech he restores England’s King George VI’s confidence and courage to lead his people during World War II. Morale is such a critical factor in war, both in terms of actual combat and in terms of surviving the perils and anguish of armed conflict. Logue was not University trained, nor was he a certified speech therapist. Hailing from Australia where he was a professional actor and elocutionist, he innovated many original techniques to help returning World War I veterans overcome shell shock and literally restore their voice so they could function in society. He emigrated to London in the 1920s and ‘set up shop’ on Harley Street. King George’s wife found Logue, and subsequently his original and very creative treatment techniques restored the King’s voice. The rest is history!

In line with this, Steve Jobs (1955-2011) is one of the greatest examples of 21st Century criterion behavior. He left Reed College after one semester, and founded Apple Computer with Steve Wozniak when he was 21 years old. Jobs had a burning desire to create and achieve. He was clearly on another dimension. He was born in San Francisco. He was adopted at birth and moved to Silicon Valley when he was 5 years old. His father was a machinist, and his mother was a payroll clerk. His birth parents were graduate students at the University of Wisconsin. His father was Syrian, and his mother was an American of German descent. The rest is history!

Keep in mind, Mark Twain (1835-1910) stated: “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Formal education is very important; passions are critical. They should be encouraged and supported. Passions are the emotional drivers for a sound and expansive education. Passions are the true stuff of dreams.

Young people need to be inspired, supported, and encouraged to think independently and bring their own unique skill sets, aspirations, and talents to the table.







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