Troy Hazard drew an XY coordinate diagram on the flip chart in bold, black Magic Marker. He pointed to the lines as he explained the concept of value exchange. Troy was showing his audience of potential public speakers how to price their services and successfully negotiate for professional fees.

“You can do all this,” the keynote said in his Australian accent, “or you can simply decide what matters most to you.”

Troy switched to a personal story to explain what he meant.

“Here's my equation: If I'm out of town working with clients, I'm not on the beach. And if I'm not on the beach, I'm not building sandcastles with my three girls.” (Troy's adorable daughters are five and eight-years old. I don't know how old his wife is.)

“So each time a client wants to negotiate my fee down from my initial proposal, my wife and I simply ask ourselves, ‘Is the amount we're going to earn from the gig worth a sandcastle?' If it's not, I don't do the job. Simple as that.”

Besides having the world's greatest crime-fighting superhero (especially when said with his charming Aussie pronunciation: “Hazard. Troy Hazard.”) Troy has created the perfect Rosetta's Stone you can use for translating value. Simply put: Figure out exactly what your time is worth to you.

And here's a hint: it doesn't have to be money.

What Do You Value?

Some people do value money above all else. Some people value experiences. Some people value the time to pursue passions or provide community service or spend time with their loved ones. Some people value being left alone. Some people value doing as much as time will allow. Some people value doing as little as possible.

What do you value? What do you care about? How do you decide what's worth doing and what's worth turning down?

Make no mistake. Regardless of whether or not you've set your own personal price, you're always going to make the decision to do something in return for something else. You're going to say “yes” or “no” to most every you're offered.

It's important to understand that the real question is not whether you're going to say “yes” or “no.”  It's whether you're going to say “yes” or “no” based on a life strategy that you've thought through and planned. Or, will you make the decision based on your momentary situation or emotions?

By the way, there's nothing wrong with making the choice based on momentary needs. After all, that is why most of us work. Sometimes you need the extra cash regardless of how little it is or what else you're giving up. Sometimes you might need something the deal provides even if it's not congruent with your longer-term strategies. Being honest with yourself about your true motivations is the first step to properly evaluating the offers and opportunities you receive. But the real trick is to know exactly what you're getting and what you're giving up and then making the decision based on whatever it is you want.

The Key to Effective Work

Throughout their lives, my parents were always socially-conscious activists. My mom and dad were responsible for the first anti-segregation in the American south. Despite what the Institute says, the first sit-ins took place in , Florida in 1959, not in Greensboro, in 1961. (You can watch more HERE).

Together my mom and dad spearheaded Miami's CORE (the Congress Of Racial Equality) chapter and organized protests against nuclear proliferation in the sixties. My dad built low-income housing until just a few years before his death. And my mom still sponsors programs in inner city schools in Miami. Clearly they are both experts in non-profit activities and management.

I tell you this to brag about my folks, of course. But also to establish their bona fides and add gravitas to one of my dad's favorite sayings: “Work for as many pro bono clients as you like. Just make sure the decision for the work to be pro bono is up to you and not your clients.”

So what is it you value?

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