Brian Tracy tells the story of a company that needed a repair person to come in and help them diagnose a problem they were having with some of their equipment. The man came in, spent a day going over everything, then the next day came in and put a big "X" on a gauge. He said if they repaired or replaced what was there, the problem would be solved. They did that, everything worked, and they were happy.

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Until two weeks later when they received an invoice for $10,000. The manager was aghast, so he wrote the man asking for an explanation. The response was simple: "It's $1 for the X and $9,999 for knowing what the problem was."

Back in September 2008 I first broached this subject of worth in a post titled Let's Discuss Worth, Shall We? In that post I talked about my figuring out what I felt I was worth to a particular client that I'd helped find more than $750 million in annual revenue versus what I was getting paid, and how if all things were equal I would have been valued for what I'd done instead of paid as a, well, glorified employee.

Three years later and thought processes aren't all that much different, although reasons are. Back then I felt that I deserved more because of what I'd done. The way I should have been thinking was "look at my experience; I should ask for what I want up front as the beginning of a negotiating process and then see where it takes me." The results possibly would have been the same in that case as the client was in the verge of going bankrupt and there was no guarantee that I would have found as much money as I did, but it's still a major learning lesson.

I tend to believe that most of us believe we're worth what we're told we're worth at other times. I remember talking to a couple of different life coaches about the subject of deciding what they were going to charge clients. The one guy was charging close to $500 an hour for his services, which I found incredible at the time. The lady was charging $35 an hour for her services, which I also found incredible.

Their reasons for charging what they did were much different as well. The lady felt that, one, people wouldn't be able to afford anything much higher than that and two, that she wouldn't get any work if she charged more. The guy felt that if he charged more then whatever clients he got would take what he was offering them seriously and would work harder, which in the long run helped them more than they could know until they got where they wanted to.

It's a strange dichotomy when one looks at these two examples. How one judges their worth seems to be a personal journey that's hard to figure out. On the other side though, I tend to believe that anyone being truthful with themselves has a concept of what it would take for them to live independently, worry free for life, with no money worries regardless of what they wanted to do with their money... within some reason of course.

I tend to believe that for most of us there's a major connection between worth and independence. I set my independence figure at $10 million; not that it's all I'd love to accumulate in cash but that's my independence figure. At my age and that much money I know I never have to work again, even if I have to buy a new car every few years and I actually get to build the house I really want. I don't have extravagant tastes, and I know that after I get my big ticket items I'm not going to spend more than $100,000 a year; not even close. So my $10 million figure is my independence peak.

What does that say about my worth? Well, when I was an employee my goal was to be making my age in thousands every year at the very least. Once I got there, then surpassed it, I wondered if that was all there was. Could I do better; would I do better?

I have come to realize that we get to judge our worth based on two principles. The first is what people are willing to pay us for what we do. If someone is willing to pay me $150 an hour for something then I'm worth that. If I only ask $30 an hour then that's what I'm worth. If I work enough hours that $150 an hour could help me reach that $10 million pretty quickly; actually, at my age now I still wouldn't hit it, but I'd get more than halfway. At $30 an hour I'm never going to get there unless I hit the lottery. So, it behooves me to shoot for the highest figure I can get.

The second is how much I think I could work to attain bigger dollars and what am I willing to do to get there. Could I sustain a lifestyle that had me working 16 - 20 hours 7 days a week but make that kind of money? I think not. Can I only work 10 hours a week at a slightly higher rate and get to my goal? No way. So, I have to be willing to be somewhere in the middle, have a quality of life while still striving to get to where I want to be.

And if I don't make it, or if you don't make it? As long as you're pushing forward, as long as you're figuring out your worth and striving for it, life will be pretty good. And who knows, maybe we'll all learn that we can be independent at a lesser amount that we can still reach. Wouldn't that be wonderful?