What’s your currency?

Gary Lester

… and here we are… Words and phrases seem to come into popularity out of nowhere. Recent ones are “It’s a thing.” and “… and here we are.” The most recent one that caught my ear after whizzing by it several times, I suspect, is “…your currency…” This last one suggests that we each have some kind of personal unit in some kind of bigger monetary system.

This currency thing got me to thinking about how such things ever got started in the first place. Chachink, the cagey caveman financial whiz of his day must have said something like: “Dupe, you take shiny rock, give me chicken. You give rock to Dum, he give you wolf pelt.” And pretty soon, shiny rocks were the currency and one could wheel and deal whether they had anything of value or not. There is evidence that beads and other trinkets became currency and eventually different sized rocks and beads could be engraved with different symbols and suddenly some were worth more than others. Makes you wonder how the penny-nickel-dime size ratio became a thing, doesn’t it? (See, I used another of those new phrases right there…)

Then, at some point, just jotting something down on paper became currency. Checks are basically IOU’s and we are all willing to accept that a “Benjamin” is worth 20 times what a “fin” is worth even though they’re the same size and look very similar. Don’t get me started on stocks and bonds.

The more I think about this, the more I wonder why this works and if it will continue to do so. If somebody takes a close look at this currency thing, it could all unravel, I think. I’m not even sure what to convert my assets into to be safe. Maybe it’s chickens and wolf pelts…

The newer use of “currency” is similar but it’s different. You could say an athlete’s currency is strength and agility. An artist’s currency is creativity. A model’s currency is physical appearance. This is what they use to “sell” themselves. There are denominations, I guess. A lot more people get college scholarships for athletics than get pro sports contracts. I guess that’s similar to fins and Benjamins.

Right now, I’m hoping my “creativity” currency will be working and I’ll be able to finish this column and maybe take a few neat photos later today. I’ll trade those assets for comments, favorable or unfavorable, about my work. Favorable ones are the goal, but unfavorable ones offer helpful input too. Sometimes I need to be told my currency appears to be counterfeit lest I try to keep passing it off. No way that can end well.

Think about your “currency.” What do you have of value that you can trade for other things of value? I was talking to a contractor about a project the other day. His currency includes a solid reputation, excellent carpentry skills, fair deals, affability…. I’ll trade some of my more formal currency, a few Benjamins, for what he has to offer.

Some people have currencies that are problematic. A bully deals in fear and violence. A politician’s stock in trade is empty promises exchanged for votes. A drug dealer trades his dangerous product supply for Benjamins. A young woman trades her beauty for shiny rocks and some phony sense of security.

What’s your currency? What are you selling or trading to get what you want? Is it working? The critical thing, I think, is being sure you’re using a solid currency, one you can believe in and one you’ve got lots of.

Gary Lester is a lifetime area resident, a former photographer for the Times Observer, former market manager for WhirleyDrinkworks, retired Executive Director of Family Services of Warren County, and current Director of Leadership Warren County. He is a life-long student and commentator on human behavior.

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