Why Ferriss Bueller is Cool Part 1: The Role of Value in Successful Relationships

Hey everyone! With the launch of my newsletter last week, I took a break from posting on my blog. It feels good to be back.

I recently had the pleasure of re-watching a classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In a nutshell, it’s about a boy faking sick so he can skip school and spend the day running around the city with his best friend and girlfriend. It’s an oldie (1986) but definitely worth watching.

Ferris Bueller is the prototypical old school cool. He’s popular, witty, and has a rebellious streak. He does what he wants, when he wants, and without caring what anybody thinks. When he fakes being sick, he feeds the local rumor mill until most of the town believes he needs a new kidney. Ferris is so universally liked that the town starts a fundraising campaign to raise money to replace his “failing kidney.”

There are dozens of reasons why Ferris is cool. I mentioned a couple of them above. But today, I want to focus on the what the fundraising student said to Ferris’ sister: “What if you need a favor from Ferris Bueller one day? Then where will you be, huh? You heartless wench!”

That line contains what I think is the core of Ferris’ coolness. The student’s exclamation implies that Ferris is generous with his favors, and helps the people around him. One of the biggest plot points of the story (spoiler alert) is Ferris’ efforts to drag his best friend out of self-imposed misery. He gives value to the people around him, and giving value is one of the key components of building successful relationships.

What is Value?

Value isn’t some new-agey, esoteric concept. It’s exactly what it sounds like it is: importance, worth, or usefulness. Value is something that we deal with everyday. There are things that have an innate value, like food, water, shelter, and companionship; and there are things that we attribute value to, like brand name clothes and accessories, college degrees, and paper money.

Innate Value is usually found in things that have a usefulness in and of itself. For example, food has innate value because we need it eat it to survive. The same goes for water. Cars have innate value because they enable us to move from place to place faster than we would be able to without them. A nice car like a Ferrari or Lamborghini has value because they have tangible advantages to lesser models – like increased horsepower.

Items that have Attributed Value are different because they only have value because a majority of people agree that they have value. A designer handbag has a lot of value beyond that of its utility of holding things or craftsmanship. The same goes for money. A dollar is merely a piece of paper, but because there is an implicit agreement in society about its value, we can trade enough of those pieces of paper for food, or shelter, or a nice car.

We deal with value every day. We trade money for the things that we want and need. We may perform tasks that are valuable to our employers who return that value back to us in capital. When we earn or purchase an object of high attributed value, other people perceive our own value as to be higher as well. Value, and the exchange of value are significant parts of life.

But when we’re talking about relationships, both innate and attributed value come secondary to a third, more important type of value – Intangible Value.

The Third Type of Value

Another way to think about value is that it represents something that we either want or need. Thinking in this manner helps illustrate that value can be present in the intangibles. Things like confidence, love, energy, mastery of a skill, and passion are all examples of things with Intangible Value.

This variety of value – the intangibles, are the most important type of value with regard to our relationships. This is because intangible value is the only kind of value that is sourced from within people.  The very nature of relationships is that they happen between people. As such, it’s only logical that the most important type of value in relationships is the kind that’s found inside of us. Attributed and innate value are only applied to physical objects; and while objects can be important parts of relationships, they can never replace actual interpersonal exchange.

Showering your children with toys does not replace being present as they grow up. If you court your partner solely through the material gifts that you give them, the foundation of your relationship will be built on the feelings you evoked through material possessions, instead of love and mutual connection. Most likely, if this is your dating strategy, you’ll find yourself surrounded by men and women who society affectionately calls “gold diggers.”

What does it mean to Give Value?

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.” – Martin J. Ashton

The bolded part of this quote captures the essence of giving value. Giving value means that you are a source of positive energy for the people around you. It’s about caring about other people. Who are they? What do they yearn for? How are they feeling? How are you making them feel? It’s about building people up instead of tearing them down. It’s the recognition that when you elevate the people around you, you are also elevating yourself.

To illustrate what this concept looks like in real life, I’ve listed some of the most basic ways that we can give value to others below. As you’re reading through these, remember: intention absolutely matters when you give value. It’s not just about doing nice things for people. It’s crucial that there is no ulterior motive behind the acts of generosity.

You give value when you greet someone with a smile, or ask them how their day was.

You give value when you hold the door open for someone.

You give value when you take the time to listen to someone.

You give value when you stop complaining and start encouraging.

You give value when you introduce people to each other, or invite them into your life by introducing yourself.

You give value not only when you teach other people a skill that you have mastered, but also when you acknowledge their own mastery by becoming a student.

When Ashton urges us to look for the best in people, he shows that understands that you give value when you recognize the value of other people. This is at the core of every single example that I’ve included in this post. However, it’s important to note that you can only truly begin to see the value of others when you can see value in yourself. That’s easier said than done though. It’s often hard to see the value in ourselves – it’s even actively discouraged in some cultures in the name of “humility.”

Don’t let that stop you though. Even if you can’t see the value in others or yourself yet, you can still practice acts of generosity. The amazing thing about giving value is, once you start doing it, you’ll start to see more and more of the value that is within yourself. The more you give, the more you grow.

What are some ways that you can give more value? Let me know in the comments below or email me at josebbaikblog@gmail.com.

Til’ Next Time

Joe Baik