A Great Conversation To Start

I recently had a great conversation with my daughter Caroline (age 12) and my son Michael (age 10) that I’d like to share with you.

I asked them a few questions that I suggest you ask anyone you have a relationship with. I promise that it will be a fantastic conversation starter!

Here’s how our conversation started:

Take a look around you for a minute and tell me everything you see. Absolutely everything!

Assuming for a moment that you were all standing in a room with windows, here are some replies you might hear from anyone:

  • Carpet
  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Computer
  • Chair
  • Electrical outlet
  • Window
  • Car
  • Steering wheel
  • Tire
  • Road
  • Bicycle
  • Basketball
  • Clock
  • Extension cord
  • Calculator
  • Ipod
  • Cell phone
  • Photo
  • Lampshade
  • Light switch
  • Book
  • Newspaper
  • Magazine
  • Candle
  • Shutters
  • Boat
  • Roofing shingles
  • Magnetic white board
  • Printer
  • Fork
  • Granola bar
  • Glass of Water

After receiving this extensive list, here’s a follow-up question to ask:

What role did you personally play in the idea, the creation, the design, the manufacturing, or the distribution of any of the items you listed?

Most common answer: “absolutely nothing”!

Follow-up Question:

Given your answer, how often do you pause, take a step back, and have an enormous sense of appreciation for everything you have at your disposal without you having had to contribute in any way, shape, matter, or form to creating or developing it?

How’s that for changing someone’s state?

It really is a great question. You can’t help but conclude: “what an unbelievable world we live in!”

It’s certainly stops any whiner who has an entitlement attitude dead in their tracks.

The Trader Principle

My conversation with Caroline and Michael continued from there about the “trader principle” which is something that I believe everyone needs to revisit on a regular basis.

The trader principle states that it’s immoral to use any form of force or fraud to obtain anything in life, i.e. like anything on the list above.

Instead, in order to obtain what you want, you must offer up and “trade” value. And, each party to the transaction is free to arrive at the decision to part with some value they bring to the table in exchange for another value they have a greater desire for.

So, for example, if Caroline and Michael set up a lemonade stand at the end of our driveway on a hot day and offered up large glasses of cold lemonade (a value), it’s completely moral for a visitor to offer up 50 cents(value to Michael and Caroline) in exchange for that cold glass of lemonade.

Each party arrived at the transaction with a value to offer and they made a mutually beneficial exchange.

In contrast, had someone come by and forced Caroline and Michael to provide them with a cold glass of lemonade without offering up something of value in exchange acceptable to them, it would be immoral and wrong.

And, if they lobbied a third party to somehow extract the cold glass of lemonade for no value in return, that would also be immoral.

The Trader Principle Lesson

First, begin by having an enormous sense of appreciation for everything that has been created by others that makes your life better.

And, don’t stop with obvious technological advances. Just look at that random list above.

Second, understand that in order to obtain the value that others have produced, you have to produce some sort of value in order to freely exchange it with them. Just because you claim to have a want or a need doesn’t obligate anyone to provide it.

And, just as you’re free to decide not to exchange value with them, they are free to exchange value with you or not. No force or fraud is allowed to get what you want.

Third, given this principle, you have to constantly focus your energy on how to be of greater, and greater, and greater value. And, recognize that the level of value is not decided by you or any other third party. It’s decided by the individual you’re asking to part with money (or some other value you desire) in exchange for it.

Finally, soak up the fact that you live in a country where, for the most part, you’re free to pursue whatever it is that you value as long as you don’t use force or fraud to prevent someone else from doing the same.

Both Caroline and Michael agreed that they like living in THAT world. Especially after I described the alternative like the 13th century world portrayed in the classic novel Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

In that world, the freedoms required in order to exercise the Trader Principle did not exist. Everything was obtained using force or fraud.

A little contrast goes a long way.