What Are You Worth?


When I taught at BYU, on the last day of class I gave the students a pop quiz.

What year were you born?                                                          
What number are you in your family?                                          
What was your high school GPA?                                               
What is your current GPA?                                                         
How tall are you in inches?                                                          
Estimate your I.Q.                                                                        
What year did you graduate from high school?                            
What year will you graduate from college?                                  
How old are you in months?
How many countries have you visited?
How much money do you expect to earn in your lifetime? 
How many part-time jobs have you had?                                    
How many people tell you they love you?                                  
How fast can you run a mile?                                                      
How many minutes do you exercise a week?                              
How much are you worth?                              

Almost immediately I start to get questions.

"Is it okay if I just estimate?  I don't know exactly how tall I am."

"What is the average I.Q.?  I'll just put that because I have no idea what mine is."

"Do you mean just me, or how much money I think my husband will make in a lifetime as well?"

"Do I really have to report how many people love me, or can I just say 'many'?"

My answers are frustratingly vague.

"Just do your best."

"Whatever you think it should be."

It usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes for them to realize that it isn't actually a quiz.

After they've had time to complete the quiz, I have them fold the paper in half lengthwise so that only the answers are showing.

"Now I'm not going to do this, but imagine if I were to collect all these papers, mix them up, and then pass them back.  Your job would be to return the paper you receive to its rightful owner by only looking at the numbers.  Could you do it?"

The students always shake their heads.

And then I ask them an important question.  "Why?"

Why are we not able to identify each other purely by numbers?  Here are typical responses:

"Because I don't know what other people's GPAs are."

"These numbers don't mean anything if I don't know what the units are."

"When I look at other people, I don't think of them in these terms."

And that's when I tell them about scales and rulers.

Numbers only have value when you compare it to another number.  

Are you short?  Are you tall?  It depends on what the average height is.

Are you dumb? Are you smart?  It depends on what colleges are asking for in their college applications.

During the high school and college years, we tend to get so used to being compared to each other using numerical values.  We stress about our GPA, ACT, scores at the last game, and scores at our last competition.  What did we rank?  What was the average?  Did we win?  Did we lose?  Were we good enough?

And that's when I remind them of an important fact that is so easy to forget.  God and His Son don't see us as a number.  They don't rank us.  They don't rate us.  They don't compare us to each other.  They just love us.

Then I write a number on the white board.  Here's the number.


I ask them to guess what that number is.  Most are able to figure out that it's a GPA but that's all.  And then I tell them.

It is a GPA.  My undergraduate GPA.  

That's right, I graduated with barely a 3.0 from college.  I tell them when I walked across that stage to get my diploma, I thought I was a dumb student.  I didn't see myself as one of the smart ones.  I wanted to go to graduate school, but graduate schools don't accept dumb students like me.

But Heavenly Father didn't see me that way.  He just saw a person who was His daughter, and He loved me.    It took some time, but slowly I was able to start to see a glimpse of that person too.

Seventeen years later,  I was accepted into graduate school.

At first I felt like I was the stupidest person in the room because I was sure I had the lowest undergraduate GPA.

Over time I came to realize that I had just as much to offer as anyone else in the program.

Dressing up with the women in the program
Visiting an orphanage in Ghana

Meeting one of the first LDS members in Ghana

My favorite study group

Social Venture Competition Team

I began to see what I am really worth.

And it isn't a number.



Susan said…
Love this, Heather--way to end the semester!
Thank you for your thoughts. I sometimes feel the stress of being in a competitive environment where it seems that so many other students are smarter or more hardworking than I am. From this article, though, I was reminded that I have unique skills and talents to offer that may not be quantifiable.