David Olney
14 November, 2022

After writing my recent blog post, “Status and value: how much of each do we need?”, I listened to Joe Polish’s new book, “What’s in It for Them?”. I had heard of Joe Polish before buying his book, but I didn’t appreciate how insightful a listen it was going to be. In particular, I was struck by what he has to say about being useful, grateful, and valuable, which has motivated me to write this blog post to supplement my earlier piece on status and value.


Joe Polish is a highly capable marketer, and he writes very clearly and engagingly. When I listened to him arguing that we should aim to be useful, grateful, and valuable in situations, I initially struggled with why he sandwiched grateful between useful and valuable. When I wrote about value in my blog post, in terms of adding value and being valued, I considered useful and valuable in my own way, but I didn’t think to add grateful into the mix.

Ironically, I am grateful every day: I am grateful that Richard Jacobs and Steve Davis believe in me in my new career, I am grateful that my wife is so supportive of everything I do, and I am grateful that my friends keep listening to me prattle on about all of the new things I am learning. And yet, I wrote about value and status without writing about being grateful.

I think I have worked out why I didn’t write about being grateful, and why Joe Polish is right that we should keep it in mind when we are thinking about being useful and valuable.

I originally trained as a Political Philosopher, which meant years of arguing and writing in as rational and unemotional a way as possible. Part of the reason I moved away from Political Philosophy to teach Strategic Culture, International Security, and Complex Problem Solving was because I decided that rationality alone cannot answer complex human questions, or solve apparently intractable human problems. My recent move to study Strategic Communication and work in Marketing marks my end point of wholeheartedly embracing emotions as being more important than reason, and recognising that emotional experience should always be acknowledged and inform reasoned argument.

When I write blog posts, I still sometimes fall back into old habits of focusing on the rational to the exclusion of the emotional, which is not good enough, nor acceptable to me anymore.

In every situation in which we can be useful, add value, or be valued, there is an emotional aspect to what is going on: we can feel good about being useful, grateful for being able to help, grateful for the opportunity to be involved, and grateful to have added value to whatever is going on. In short, we are always acting and reacting in an emotional way, and it is much better to acknowledge the emotional aspect of our behaviour, as it is the part of us that is vital to building long-term, healthy relationships with other people. Without strong, emotional relationships, how can we flourish in such a complex world?

When I think back to the positive value I created and experienced as a lecturer at University, it was associated with the relationships and emotional connections I built with students, while the status I had as a part of the institution led to frustration, anger, and stress. Any time we are adding value, being valued, or chasing/gaining status, there are always emotions involved in what we are doing, as well as in what we get back from our actions and the outcomes to which they contribute.

Status, in my experience, is rooted in far fewer positive emotions than value, and being grateful for status is certainly not the same thing as being grateful for being able to be useful and valuable.

Now that I am a Business Development Specialist and a Marketing Strategist, I use my emotional intelligence every day to solve problems and build relationships. I do this without a second thought, but I am going to try to give a second thought to saying how emotions contribute to what I do and what I achieve.

If you can, avoid my mistake of not including gratefulness when you think about value, because Joe Polish is definitely correct that being useful, grateful, and valuable go together. If we can remember to be useful, grateful, and valuable in situations, then we are more likely to get the positive relationships we need, along with the value we want.

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