The Art Of Knowing Your Currency

I want to talk about the concept of “knowing your currency”. My sister Jax (Flint Eastwood) and I talked about this one time when she was mentoring me about where I want my music career to go.

“You know RV, you gotta know your currency.” she said.

She continually gives me nuggets of wisdom, but that one in particular stuck with me.

 I talked about this topic at  Startup Week Detroit ! If that's what brought you here, welcome new friends!

I talked about this topic at Startup Week Detroit! If that's what brought you here, welcome new friends!

“Figure out your currency” I wrote in my notebook.

I underlined it to punctuate it.  I mean...I got it but I didn’t. Either way I knew it was important.

Only a couple years later did I realize that this concept would be the capstone to almost every successful project I pursued. Taking the time to understand it has become my compass to finding projects and collaborations I wanted to get involved with. It’s pushed me to be upfront with myself and my needs. Most importantly, it’s kept me from becoming resentful about the outcomes of my choices.

I hope it can do the same for you.

When I’m talking about the word “currency”, I’m referring to to something more than just your monetary value.

You pickin up what I’m laying down?

Your currency is what you bring to the table. It’s your holistic value. You bring with it your unique set of experiences. Your currency carries your talents, your faults and everything in between.

Taking time to know your currency, is taking time to know yourself.

And if you don’t know yourself, how in the HEYL you gonna know somebody else?

What Happens If I Don’t Know My Currency?

Terrible things.

I love lists. Let me make a list for you.

Here are the kind of things that happen if you don’t take the time to understand your currency:

  • Misunderstandings - For most things to be successful in life, it will involve working with other people. If you don’t understand yourself, you will not understand other people. Confusion will happen and anger usually arises, which usually lead to...

  • Ineffective Use of Talents - If you don’t take time to learn about each other’s specialties, people end up being assigned takes that aren’t in their wheelhouse. People involved will get extremely demotivated and forget what they were doing the project in the first place. If things get to that place, that means you’re...

  • Losing Vision - You work and work and work and then suddenly you realize that you’re heading towards a road that you never wanted to take in the first place. You need to know where you are to understand where you are going. If you continue down this path you start making…

  • Unhappy Compromises - You feel like you’ve gone too far in your project and there’s no turning back. You’ve put too much time and effort to go to turn around, so you start making compromises that make you unhappy. You ended up saying things to yourself like, “I didn’t sign up for this” and you won’t even comprehend how resentful you’ve become until you’re out of it. 

And then...moment by moment...

YOU BECOME BITTER.

And nobody likes a bitter old queen.

It’s not a fun place. It’s a place of desperation. Anger. Disappointment.  It brings you to a place where you’re setting people up to fail with your expectations.

Unmet expectations is bitterness waiting to happen.

“But RV HOW?! I don’t want to be a bitter old queen!”

Aw don’t worry bby. I gotchu(jang). Follow me.

Figure Out Your Currency in 3 Steps

1. Know What You’re Good At

Have a clear inventory of what you bring to the table. Take time to understand your skills and your abilities. Make those things known to the people you will be working with.

I like to use the metaphor of imagining projects like a painting. A painting that will require a lot of different colors.

You’re the color purple. For it to be successful, you need to understand what shade of purple you are, and work to become the best shade of that purple you can be.

When it comes time for Bob Ross to paint some majestic purple mountains, you are gonna understand what dimensions you'll bring to the mountain range. 

If you know what you bring and are clear about it, it will be obvious to you and others when it’s time for you to shine.

2. Know What You’re Not Good At

Understand your weaknesses, and be honest about your shortcomings. Communicate this with your team and find people that can stand in between the gaps. Nothing much to say here. It’s tough to be vulnerable, but it’ll be easier in the long run.

Don't be like this kid. Acknowledge that some jugs of milk are just too hard to lift by yourself.

3. Know Your Boundaries

In the game of hustle, there are some things we’re gonna have to do that we don’t like. Flexibility is an admirable trait, but no one can be infinitely nimble. Understand where you’re willing to flex, and where you’re not. Establish your outer limits and be vocal with your teammates about them. Enforcing those boundaries without shame is the key to keeping yourself from further bitterness. If you don’t know where you’re willing to flex, you will be brought to your breaking point frequently, and you will become bitter without realizing how far you’ve gone.

Stop that cycle. 


Bonus Tool: Get The Tea From Your Teammates

Y’all are finding out all my secrets right now. You’re welcome.

I ask this question with almost every person I collaborate with or interview for hire.

“At your most selfish, what do you want out of this experience?”

I ask this question a lot. I use it as a way to find out someone's core motivator of action.

Once you figure out what makes someone do what they do, you can further understand if how you work meshes with how they work.

This is a pretty intense question, so if you expect a good answer, be willing to be vulnerable and share first.

If their most selfish matches with YOUR most selfish, then it’s a pretty good indication that you’re on the same page.

Example:

Me as a front-end web developer: "At my most selfish, I want to pay off my student loans as fast as possible, and I want the freedom to pursue my other interests outside of work."

Employer: "We want this company to be an iconic business in Detroit, and we want to scale this business to make billions of dollars. We want to become THE definitive solution in our industry."

Parallels: We both want to make money. If they make hella fundz, then I make hella fundz. We both want to be involved in the Detroit Community. Good vibes so far. Let's keep talking.


So there you have it. Know your currency. Believe in yourself, and enforce your boundaries without shame. I’m still practicing, but with each collaboration or partnership, I get closer and close to becoming the B.A.B I’ve always wanted to become.

Go on and pursue your passions with fervor. When you know you're good at something, make sure they pay you too, babe.

Find Your True North:

  • What is your currency? What do you bring to the table?
  • What are the currencies of other people in your life?
  • What can you do about your current situations now that can help you stop accumulating bitterness?
  • What projects have strayed too far? When is it time for you to cut your losses?