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.
Scott Harmer said…
I really appreciated this post and not just because it meant not writing an essay. So much of our society is built on comparison which, as we learn from the scriptures, is "the thief of joy." My favorite line from this post is, "numbers only have value when you compare it to another number." Of course, it's natural to identify ourselves relative to those around us, but I wholeheartedly agree that this is not what God intended. He sees us for our true potential. We each have our own individual strengths and talents - the things that shape our personality. We can't compare our chapter three to someone else's chapter twenty. We just have to do our personal best and be ourselves.
kayla funk said…
The message in this article was exactly what I needed to hear. It is so easy to compare ourselves to others (which is something I am guilty of). Your story was inspiring and taught the importance of seeing ourselves as God sees us. Learning about the divine gifts we have each been given will help us realize our worth. It is okay to not have a 4.0 GPA or not have the highest I.Q., because we are not defined by a number.
Elizabeth Wheatley said…
Thank you so much for this! I'm so glad I was able to be a part of your class, and I'm grateful you put this as an alternate option. What a great way to end the semester!
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Hannah Southwick said…
This post kind of gave me chills! Thank you for making this an assignment not only because it's not another essay but also because the end of a college semester deals with a lot of perceptions of grade-based worth. It's such a great reminder to have the perspective that we are not defined by any numbers in what really truly matters. It's easy to look at a test score average and feel of less worth because there are people who were better or smarter but comparison really is the thief of joy. For me, there is a lot of joy available in the feeling of accomplishment. I am happy for the end of this class because it was hard at times but I did it! Thank you Professor Pack!
Emily Hynst said…
Professor Pack, thank you so much. I love this lesson about our individual worth, and I think it is amazing that you have helped me see that through a "Communications in Organizational Settings" class. I came to find so much confidence in myself and my abilities, instead of the numbers they produced. Don't get me wrong, I like an A as much as the next person. However, at the beginning of the semester, my husband gave me a blessing and told me I would "find I had organizational skills I didn't know I had." I not only found I had skills that literally applied in an organization, but that I finally learned how to balance my schedule and feel successful in ways that actually matter. I am still struggling to let go of all the numbers. I often stress about weights and timelines and other things that I know my Heavenly Father inevitably won't care about. Regardless, I have gotten much better at understanding my worth, and I am so grateful for the role you played in helping me see that. Thank you for the confidence you placed in me and helped me learn to place in myself.
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Quentin Hynst said…
Thanks for this, Professor Pack! I just watched a lecture by a homebuilder and owner of his company, and the advice he gave was the same as yours. Think quality of life, not numbers. Speak learning in college and working with uplifting people in your career. It's not about the grades or the number of figures in your salary. Life's about becoming, and it's about being happy.
Joshua Beacham said…
This was a really inspiring message, Professor Pack. Thank you for sharing it and thank you for being such a wonderful instructor this semester. -- Joshua Beacham
I love that even at the end, you didn't list out what your worth was in WORDS, either. You did it in pictures — which are worth 1,000 words. What a beautiful way to drive in the point that we are worth more than numbers and words can ever outline! Thank you, Professor Pack!
Taylor Child said…
Professor Pack,

This is the perfect way to end a pretty tough semester! I fall into the pit of misunderstanding my own worth, especially as a student. It is comforting to read your experience with very real feelings that I feel so often. As I approach my own undergrad graduation, feeling unsure what I have actually learned at my time at BYU I know for certain that I will remember your class not only for the skills, but for this experience that you shared.

Thank you so much for ending the semester strong Professor Pack.

Your Student – Taylor Child
Anonymous said…
I'm definitely glad I chose this for the assignment, and not just because it's shorter. I'd like to think I have an easy time understanding other people have immeasurable worth and that God loves them, but it seems so much harder to believe about myself. Others' mistakes seem so pardonable while mine seem so inexcusable, but every so often I get a reminder from someone like you that those I care most to please don't place value based on performance; they openly and freely cherish everyone, including me, regardless of who I am or am not.
Especially not being a business mind (to be honest I kind of despise the business stuff), I felt numerous times this semester that I was in way over my head with this class, but I appreciate the encouragement that you so readily and sincerely offered. I doubt I did anything to be memorable as a student, but I hope my thanks can at least be remembered as part of a much larger whole of lives you have been willing to touch. Thank you for putting up with me, and thank you for teaching how to gather light and not just numbers and facts.
Anonymous said…
Professor Pack,
I could not think of a better way to end the semester than with this short "assignment." With finals coming up and final projects due soon, taking a second to read this article you wrote about how numbers not defining you allowed me to take a deep breath and remember what is important in life. We are more than just our grades, our gpa, our weight, etc. We are complex and unique individuals that all have something so great to offer. God gave each and every one of us talents that make us who we are, not what grades we get on our transcript.
Matthew said…
This article reminds me of my individual worth. Thank you so much for writing it and sharing it with us. I feel like life can be filled with positives rather than negatives that occur when I compare myself to others. I love to know that Heavenly Father sees us with our divine potential in mind, and that's something we should be doing for ourselves.
Gabrielle Fuller said…
Professor Pack,
Thank you so much for this reminder. With all the stress of grades and tests that are coming up as the semester ends, I tend to forget that my grades don't define who I am. I am reassured knowing that before I am a student, I am a person, a sister, a daughter, and a friend whose worth is not defined by points, scores, or scales.
This post reminds me of the story of Punchinello. The story takes place in a city of puppets who are defined by the number of dots or stars they are given by each other. Our grades, heights, and records can be these dots or stars that we allow ourselves or others to label us with. Eventually, in the story, the puppet Punchinello learns how to remove these labels; he must remember his maker and forget the judgments and comparisons made by others and himself. And that is some great advice.
Alma Schoenfeld said…
I really appreciate this message! I wish that I was able to participate live and in person to feel the whole effect fo the experience. Nonetheless, it is a great message, thank you for sharing it. I, unfortunately, fall into the trap of comparison deeply. I am a highly competitive person so in reality I am thinking about my grades, my weight, my financial status, my workouts, anything I can compare. I will tell you, it is quite exhausting. I needed this, especially around this time of finals. Thank you again for the message of worth, reality, and hope!
Jared Brockbank said…
Thank you for this beautifully concise yet profound message. To be honest, I often become so worried about assignments and grades that I forget why I am attending school. The purpose of education, in my opinion, is to learn, grow, and become better people. As you powerfully wrote, our worth is not determined by numbers. Our Heavenly Parents love us for who we are as individuals. They care about our hopes, worries, and desires--not our course grades. Thank you again for this uplifting message.
Caroline Reeser said…
Thank you for your message! I, like many other BYU students, often find myself measuring my individual success through my grades, and when I don't do as well as other students, I start to compare myself to them. Your post was a great reminder to me (especially as we approach finals) that I am more than my grades. Your post also reminded me that our timelines don't have to match everyone else's. We can still take up opportunities to branch out and stretch ourselves no matter how old we are. Thank you!
Tanner Overstreet said…
I don't have any kind of profound response to this post, but your words really do mean a lot. It is also a great reminder that is very prevalent right now.
Tayson Meanea said…
This post helped me understand something about myself. I don't necessarily base my self worth on the numbers that relate to me, but I do sometimes base it on how other people will think of me based on my numbers. I worry if they'll think I'm smart, a hard worker, or worthy of praise. I sometimes let that go so far as to reach for a number just to prove to others that I'm worth something. That I matter. But it's nice to remember that I never have to prove my worth to anyone. I can always feel loved and like I belong.
Unknown said…
Professor Pack, you inspire me. I will never forget the challenge you gave me in our first meeting over Zoom. You told me to fail on at least one assignment. Failure has never been an option for me. As a result, I have a lot of anxiety and a somewhat-pretty GPA. Reading this put my life back into perspective. Besides my GPA, what makes me, me? I hope I can one day look back at my college experience and have more memories than just stressing out about grades. Thanks for giving me more perspective and putting the pep back into my step this semester. I would've never guessed that you once felt like the dumbest person in the room. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us to make us better communicators and students. Again, you inspire me.
Katja Johnson said…
I really loved this perspective. I think it is so easy to get tangled up in all these seemingly important measurements. These things can be great motivators at times. However, their worth is not long-term. When people talk about an eternal perspective, they often mean that we should just remember that things will be better in the long run. This is not a definition that I love. When I understand an eternal perspective, it includes all of eternity. This means that eternity includes right now. I do not want to waste my eternity on things that do not matter. Life is full of true meaning, not just numbers that we can calculate to "define" ourselves. These numbers don't determine our worth. "The worth of souls is great in the sight of God." Thankfully, He is the one who determines our worth.
Ben Hayden said…
Thank you for this wonderful message Sister Pack. There is so much comparison in this world that I see and feel myself, and it can have so many negative effects. Thank you for reminding us how The Lord sees us, because that is the only thing that will matter in the eternities. Thanks for the great semester!
-Ben Hayden
Chris Isaac said…

Thank you for your inspiring message and the reminder to us all that our GPA, or any number for that matter, doesn't determine our worth. When this message comes from a BYU professor, the meaning and impact are so much more profound. Thank you for all your support and help this semester. You have made MCOMM an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Katie Callister said…
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Professor Pack. I have always loved end of the semester thoughts from the professors that I have had. I love the moment of connection that it gives us. The pursuit of knowledge is such a wonderful gift that we've been given by our Heavenly Father, I have often easily lost sight of what matters most, while reaching for numerical achievements. I am grateful for a knowledge that although those numbers are important, our worth is ultimately more valuable than we can estimate. Our ability to become is so much greater than the numbers that we achieve. Thank you once again for your stories, help and class. I hope you and your family enjoy the holidays.
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Dallin McDougal said…
I love this a lot!
I really appreciate the reminder to focus on the way the Savior values me. Focusing on how the savior sees me helps me to better see my own value and my own potential. Thank you so much for this Professor Pack!
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Suzannah Ibarra said…
Thank you! I needed this :)
Lauryn Ohai said…
Thanks for sharing, Professor Pack. This is such a great reminder of our worth and what's most important in life!
Thank you for this simple, powerful message! It is so easy to get caught up in the numbers and think that is where we find value. But the truth is that God sees us as his children. This week I have been finalizing my portfolio for advertising and I have thought a lot about comparison. This post reminded me that comparison is the thief of joy and God sees us as something far greater than we could ever see ourselves. Thanks for making this class enjoyable and teaching us useful skills!
Unknown said…
Thank you for this wonderful reminder. I am guilty of getting way too caught up in numbers and comparing myself to others, especially as finals week rolls around. I love that you ended the semester on this note, because to me, that is truly what makes BYU the university that it is. I appreciate that you were able to effectively teach us the curriculum and help us develop important skills, but also were able to share your testimony of the Savior and His love. Being able to receive all of that in one class is why BYU is the best university in the country, and thank you for a great class and semester!
Ethan Hymas said…
I really liked what you wrote. I have had those very same feelings of inadequacy here at BYU. Sometimes it seems like everyone is so much smarter, attractive, and talented than I am or will ever be. It is comforting to know that I do not need to compare myself to others and that Heavenly Father loves me despite my shortcomings. Thank you professor! This was a wonderful class and a great semester.
Heidi Boyer said…
The first thing that came to my mind while reading this was that more people need to see this. I struggle so much with comparing myself to others. This message was simple, yet profound. I am grateful for your example, not just in this blog post, but throughout the whole semester. I have felt that you truly inspire students to help them realize they can be amazing and spread light. Thank you for your example and the light you spread.
Darcy Zacchilli said…
This is totally a hard lesson for people to learn! Its hard to not think about numbers when our society revolves around them. We are constantly being measured and evaluated. There are so many other things that are better measures of our worth and value. We need to be reminded that accomplishments and grades don't give us value, but our eternal identity gives us infinite worth not because what we've done but because of who we are. Thank you for this reminder!
Rebekkah Good said…
Thank you so much for this reminder. I feel like in the competitive environment we live in, it is very easy to forget that numbers do not matter and that we have more worth than what the numbers say. God loves all of us and everyone has their own talents and it is important to remember this daily.
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Ellie Hughes said…
I appreciate the concept that people are not defined by their numbers. There is no way to explain the scope of a person with a statistic. Something that a friend of mine once said when I was feeling particularly sad was, “your body is the least interesting thing about you.” There is so much more value to a person beyond the basic numbers that identify them, especially when we see ourselves through the Savior’s eyes.

Ellie Hughes
Mary Maycock said…
Thanks for this, Professor Pack. Life really does seem to be reduced to numbers most of the time. It's difficult to rework your brain into remembering that divine worth isn't measured by man.
Abby Carn said…
I love this! I think especially while in school it's so easy to look at the influx of grades and numbers that are used to determine your "value" to the school and get sucked up in that. Sometimes it's hard to remember to take a second and reflect on the experiences I'm having, not just the grades I'm getting. If I wanted to feel like the smartest person in school I would've gone to a college that gave me a full ride scholarship and had a 100% acceptance rate. I chose to be here because I believe in the environment and the learning experiences I can get inside and outside of class, and this was a great reminder of just that.
I definitely feel bogged down by all of the comparisons and statistics that students are asked to live up to sometimes and it is good to have a reminder that my GPA won't determine my happiness or success in life. Experiences and character and potential are important too and that's what God really cares about. It's so crazy that we read that today because I was discussing this topic earlier in a similar context and said, "God doesn't number his sheep, he calls them by name. I am not spirit child 147, I am just his daughter, Abbey." I don't think that was a coincidence. That you for the reminder Professor Pack and thanks for teaching such a great class.
Kyle Bowman said…
Honestly, it's really hard to realize that almost all the numbers in our lives are basically meaningless in the overall scheme of things. Heavenly Father is not going to care what my height or weight was my senior year. Heavenly Father is not going to care about my GPA in college. Heavenly Father is not going to care how much I make a year or how many promotions I get. All that Heavenly Father cares about is that I am His son, and that he loves me. And while that may take a while to digest, it is the most true statement there is.
Thank you for this class and for this final lesson.
Finn-Christian Sigurd Baker said…
I really appreciate the way that you look at life. I really wish that we had the opportunity to cover something like this at length. It is crazy to think about how important the numbers are in our lives, but they do not always seem to give an accurate depiction of who we are and what our abilities might be. I know plenty of people who had extremely poor grades throughout high school and college but would later outperform most people who got perfect grades when it came to dealing with real-world situations and life in general. No matter what your own numbers might be and how they stack up to whatever they are being compared to, you are almost always going to be far better than any statistic that might be placed over your head. It is obvious that these statistics can be good markers of what your strengths and weaknesses are, but it does not truly describe who you are and what your abilities are. Personally, I have only ever received only one B throughout all 2.5 years in college. This year is different, as I have been dealing with living and working over 600 miles from the BYU campus all semester long. I will also be in the same position next semester as well. It has been tough, but I have been able to manage. It has taken a great toll on my overall performance here at BYU, but I am learning to adapt to everything from poor internet, wildfires, power outages, stay-at-home orders, and so on. I know that there are plenty of people out there in the same position me, as well as many more who are facing even tougher challenges, but we all manage to find our ways of getting things done. We might fail along the way and seem to be lagging far behind... more so than usual, but we always seem to find a way to come out on top again. Overall, I loved the class and I think that this blog post of yours is fantastic and that we can all learn from it, especially when we are facing issues in our lives.
Unknown said…
This is surprisingly reassuring. I feel that I’m going into a profession that exists on the basis of comparison. “He’s a better singer than you.” “He dances better.” “I believed his performance more.” And with hundreds of people competing for each role, it can be discouraging to experience rejection after rejection. I’ve been a pretty average student in college, and this semester I most decidedly proved to be less-than-the-best. I’m working through that, and though not every professor has been as understanding, I take comfort in your belief in the value of a soul over the value of a grade. Thanks for a meaningful semester, Professor!