The self-help industry is a fraud. You are not exceptional, you can’t have it all, the money won’t follow just because you do what you love. Anyone who tells you something different is lying. Too many people are helpless today because they don’t know why they need help. They flock to self-help gurus because they don’t know any better.
Sam LaCrosse’s approach to living a rich and fulfilling life does not involve cookie-cutter slogans or self-esteem dogma. The path to a good life lies in discovering and honoring your own core values. In Value Economics: The Study of Identity, Sam cuts through all the BS and shows you the way forward with kickass lessons from personal anecdotes, popular culture, history, current events, and sound economic theory.
Forget self-help, ignore the feel-good experts. This book will lead you to true self-discovery. This is The Author Hour Podcast, and I’m your host, Frank Garza. Today, I’m joined by Sam LaCrosse, author of a brand-new book, Value Economics: The Study of Identity.
Sam, welcome to the show.
Sam LaCrosse: Frank, thanks for having me, my man. I appreciate you guys having me on.
Frank Garza: So to start, I just love to hear a little bit about your background and how that led to you writing this book.
Sam LaCrosse: Yeah, for sure. I grew up in a suburb outside of Cleveland Ohio, two parents, two siblings, a dog most of the time, just grew up in a typical middle-class suburban area outside of Cleveland, and grew up with very, very great parents. I was very fortunate in that regard. Very big, I would say, family ecosystem. Both my parent’s parents lived very, very close to us so and a lot of my dad’s siblings, my mom’s siblings, both lived in the vicinity for the most part, in nearby areas.
We always wanted to get together and have that really good and supportive ecosystem, which is a very luxurious thing now that I’m out in the world and I’m realizing that not a lot of people have that. That was a huge blessing. Grew up, just did the normal kid thing, played sports. I was very close to my family, I’m still very close to my parents, very close to my grandparents, and went to Ohio State in the fall of 2016.
I graduated during the middle — I was in the COVID class of 2020, so I graduated there and then moved to Boston, Massachusetts to take an entry-level job in technology sales out there and then, moved out to Austin, Texas to take a promotion (thankfully) up here with the same company. Along the way, in the early part of 2020, I believe slightly before 2020, I had an idea for a blog based on a couple of people that I had really looked up to.
Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, probably the biggest inspiration for that, and I love writing. I wrote competitively as a kid, I always had an idea too, so I wanted to start and use it as my therapeutic relief valve, as it were. So, [I] wanted to do things, to write about things I was interested about. I got feedback that, even though my posts were good, they were really long for most people’s consumption. So, I got the recommendation to start a podcast.
Started that in the start of 2021, almost exactly a year after the blog started. So, at this point, right now, as we’re recording this in June of 2022, been doing the blog for two and a half years, the podcast for a year and a half, and then had the book (or the idea rather, for my book) Value Economics: The Study of Identity back in October of 2019. Been working on it basically ever since, and it comes out on June 28th, which is yesterday. So that’s how I’m here.
Frank Garza: Awesome. So congratulations on the blog and the podcast. I’m curious, do you remember your very first blog post?
Sam LaCrosse: I do. It was funny because I had two at the start of it. So, it was basically the first one was like hey, hello, I have a blog now, type of thing, so it’s like, “Hello my friends, world” Whatever you want to call it. The title of the post was You’re Now About to Witness the Strength of Street Knowledge, which is the opening line of an NWA song. I always liked that introduction because it was, I think yeah, it was the first opening track of the song, Straight Out of Compton, which opens the album Straight Out of Compton. I wanted to come in with that same energy and really take the door down, verbally, in my own way.
So, wanted to go down with that but it was just a very milk toast introduction like, “Hey, this is what the blog is going to be about, this is why I’m choosing to do this.” All this other thing — and actually the post that accompany with it because I just didn’t want to say like, “Hey, I have a blog now.” All that kind of stuff was actually what turned out to be chapter four of Value Economics. So, it started out with what was, then Value Economics chapter one, the value of sacrifice tradeoff, which eventually turned into chapter four of this book when I started endocrinology, which is interesting looking back on it. So, it was kind of a twofer, but those are the two I remember first.
Frank Garza: I got a little bit of a chuckle when I read through your bio that was handed to me. There’s the same style as in the intro of your book when you introduce yourself. I’m not going to read it all but just to give people a flavor for it, just a part of it, this is you introducing yourself:
“My name is Sam Lacrosse and I am a nobody, wannabe Internet blogger who wanted to try his hand at becoming a nobody, wannabe author.” So, this nobody, wannabe type of theme was in the bio too. Talk to me about why you introduce yourself like that?
Sam LaCrosse: Yeah and actually, I had a conversation like this with my mom yesterday because my mom was getting upset at me, because I was putting myself down a little bit and whatever. Even in that playful fashion, she was like, “You know what? I don’t want you talking like this all the time” or whatever. And I don’t.
I think very highly of myself and what I’ve done. Not in a prideful fashion, I don’t think. But I do understand that I have done a lot of things that I should be proud of, and I’ve conducted myself I think in a very favorable fashion. But the reality of the situation that I see myself in is, what I said even when you read all that out Frank, is that I really am all those things.
Like, none of what you just said in terms of the broader public and the publishing world and the book-reading world and the audiobooks soon-to-be listening world knowing is that — or listening and reading I should say, is that they don’t know who I am. I basically say, I open the book with the dedication of, to those who tell the truth and I’m a very, very big fan of telling the truth and throughout the book, hopefully, is a very, very raw, honest, interpretation of who I am, where I’m coming from.
People who read books of people that they know, and they’re famous people usually, and people with really, really cool ideas. I have a really cool idea, I think and the book is a very, very interesting idea, and I’ve heard that from everyone who has read the book so far, including all of my endorsers on my back cover. I didn’t really tell anybody up until the release of the book.
But everyone who either listen to the announcement podcast or read the blog post on my blog about when I launched everything with the book said it was very interesting, and they’re all looking forward to reading it and all those kind of things. But the reality is, I wanted a creative and competitive niche to come in.
So, why not embody the underdog? The person who no one’s ever heard of, the walk on a football team, the whole thing who comes in and, hopefully, lights it up with something really cool and something that can really help people. I’m not afraid of saying who I am and really shouting it from the rooftops, because I think people in this day and age are starving for that kind of an authenticity.
I think that I’ve kept myself humble, and this is where I’ve gotten to in life, by saying that there’s always more work to be done. I have a chip on my shoulder and I want to go out and prove myself. If the book is going to do well, and I’m hoping that it does, then it will be because of my own merit and people believing in me, and that’s why I wanted to do it. So, I want to come from a place of both honesty and authenticity, which I don’t think we have enough of, especially with the demography I’m trying to serve with this book.
The Generation of Missing Values
Frank Garza: Yeah, thank you for that, Sam. I found it very refreshing. So yeah, just appreciate you giving a little bit more, put a little more words behind it. So, tell me about the target audience of the book. As you wrote this book, who did you write it for?
Sam LaCrosse: This is a very interesting question because I think a lot of people could benefit from the message of the book. To give a background on that, I have to go back to my parents particularly, my father. My dad is the person I look up to most in the entire world, he’s my hero, I’ve looked up to him my whole life. I never wanted to be Tom Brady, I never wanted to be LeBron, even though I grew up like 45 minutes from the guy, never wanted to be near those guys.
I wanted to be my dad because my dad was a really successful husband, a really successful father, had a house, had a stable job, didn’t really want much more out of life other than that, other than take care of his family and to live a decent life. The one thing that was consistent about my father throughout all of my childhood, and he would mention this at least probably once a day, is the concept of values and the concept of these are our values, this is the concept of everything and this is what you need to have all of the things that I have.
So, naturally, it was ingrained in me that values were a very, very big part of my life and that they were very big focal point for my family’s life. As I grew older and got exposed more and gotten taken out, particularly in later high school and college, and now actually in the young professional workforce, I went out into the world and realized that the topic of values really didn’t come up very much with a lot of people.
People would talk about it in abstract, I would say, but they wouldn’t really talk about it in terms of it being a central tenant of their lives and what they base their lives around. Obviously, I’m not speaking for every single person and all people in this regard because I know a lot of very accomplished people, a lot of people that I enjoy spending my time with, enjoyed learning from, that do talk about these things a lot.
I think that our whole generation, so I’m talking specifically about Gen Z here, which is I think the people who are going to get the most and have the potential to get the most out of this book, we really don’t know who we are as individual people or as a generation because, obviously, a group is made up of a series of individuals. So, I believe you had to start at the individual level to tackle group problems.
I think going down from our parents, from our grandparents, everybody else, they all had something that was holding them together. Now, I just don’t think that that’s the case. I can get more into that later but I think that now, the concept of values has been erased from a lot of our consciousness, and we don’t really think about these things, which I think is very, very intriguing and troubling, because you have to think about these things because what you value, in my estimation you are going to make throughout the course of the book, is that your values are what give you your identity as an individual.
What is important to you will ultimately become the center of your universe and what orbits around it will automatically be a derivative of that. I think that it’s just become so lost among our generation that we don’t really even know what the concept is named after anymore. We don’t know how to define these things. I started from that sense, about not knowing how to define them myself. So, I went out to solve that problem for both myself and the people around me that I saw were struggling with the similar things that I did. So, it’s for Gen Z but I think a lot of people can really take to heart the message of the book, and I hope that they do, because I think it can serve everybody.
Frank Garza: The title of the book, Value Economics, talk to me about why you landed on that?
Sam LaCrosse: Sure, and I remember this—actually, early before I started the book. So I alluded to earlier, I had the idea for the—what’s going to become the first chapter and the fourth chapter later in the book of the value sacrifice tradeoff. I had that idea, I think in July of 2019, and I was just thinking, abstract, leave this early as I usually do. For some reason, I was drifting off into space and La-la land and whatever, I somehow ended up on this.
I ended up on the relationship between value and sacrifice and it made sense to me. So I said, the more you value something, the more you will have to sacrifice to get that something and the less you value something, the less you will sacrifice eternally to get that something. So I said, “Okay, this is a cool relationship between two things” and that was about the end of it. And so, in my economics class in college, I believe, in around—this is my senior year college, I had to take one advanced economics course to graduate and we were doing basic graphs, and supply and demand for it came up.
I had an “Oh shit” epiphany moment where I said, “Okay, wait a second, this is a relationship between two things.” This is a relationship between two things, between supply and demand or quantity in price and whatever, and then value and sacrifice is correlated in my estimation roughly the same way. So I had the idea for the blog at this point and the podcast, the was to come later obviously and the book was to come later, obviously, but I wanted to come up with a unique idea and unique concept.
So, I basically said, “Okay, this is a relationship between two things that works. This is a relationship between two things that works. What if I could maybe quantifiably and quantitatively put this together to make a visual aspect for a person to follow, to make them understand this and make this important connection as I have?” That involved in terms of just a simple relationship between two things. A straight line.
I did that from the first post in early 2020 and it worked well and so I said, “Well that was kind of fun, that was kind of interesting.” I’d never done something like that before, was abstract connecting two things together that don’t really have any obvious relation at all, and so I just said, “Okay, I did chapter one in January, let’s do chapter two in February” and so, I kept doing that for about, I believe, six or seven post or six or seven months in a row and that was when the idea for the book began to formulate.
I was like, “Holy shit, I might have something here for this.” I believe we all follow models in life, whether that’s a person, like I said, about my father. My father and my mother were really big models in my life and we all follow models. We all follow trends, we all follow patterns and I believe one of the biggest ways to know what your values are and how to track your progress throughout all of them is by modeling them, and so I said, “Okay, this could be a cool concept.”
You quantitatively and qualitatively measure out your value system and how you’re doing and how you should be able to map out your values, and that evolved into whole looping in a bunch of economic principles, financial principles together and using them to explain how to one, create an individual system of values and two, principles of rules that I believe are modeled by economics that can be modeled in your life to enact those values in the world.
So again, a looping, I would say, road to getting to where we were, but I think that was the genesis in how it ended up becoming what it became.
Polarization Is An Inevitability
Frank Garza: Yeah. In the first chapter of the book, one of the things you mentioned is that one thing that will immediately happen once you adopt your own set of values and live honestly through them is polarization. Tell me about why that is?
Sam LaCrosse: I think it’s an interesting to understand because polarization is such a triggering word for a lot of people, because we hear all the time that things are getting polarized in one direction. You hear that our politics are polarized, our companies are polarized, our nation is polarized in a lot of sense, and I think it’s similar in a regard by saying that once you definitely put a stake in the ground about one thing or another, then you are going to automatically alienate other people who think opposite of you.
So, for example, let’s just say my favorite color is black and your favorite color is white. We come and talk about our favorite colors and you say, “Well, I think white is the best color” and I say, “Well no, I think black is the best color” and we go back and forth and back and forth and those two things cannot coexist to one other thing. You have a favorite, I have a favorite and that is okay that we have different favorites, but it’s naturally going to polarize just as same as the opposite sides of the spectrum of what your favorite color is and what my favorite color is.
So, values are obviously more significant in that because colors are, I don’t want to say they’re trivial because they are very beautiful and they can be used to do a lot of different things, but I would say that your values, whether you think about or how you think about what you should do with your life, what you should do with your career, how you should interact with your wife, how you should interact with your children, how you should carry yourself in a day-to-day fashion, those things tend to polarize people more because that almost is a direct attack on how another person who thinks the exact opposite are slightly differentiated than you think.
They can get really, really riled up from that, especially with some of the issues that we’re dealing within our culture and our society now. So, I just want to say, as a warning to people, that once you do adopt the system of values, not everyone is going to agree with that system of values. I think a big problem to generation Z’s identities crisis at this point, and I get into this at the introduction of the book called, “What Came Before,” is that we are afraid and I would say terrified of polarizing anybody because we are so afraid of what other people are going to say.
Either they might call us mean names on social media, they might ostracize us socially, they might do all of these other things. I think that we become so petrified into standing for something that we stand for nothing and therefore, we don’t know who we are as people. So, I wanted to put that out there as a little bit of a disclaimer by saying this is going to be a good thing for you, but you cannot be all things to all people.
A man who values everything values nothing, and if you value everything or if you value nothing, you value the same thing. Being in the middle is where you should strive to be in terms of you don’t want to be all things to all people but you have to be some things to some people, and it comes back to that idea of importance and what you define as being important with people is what is going to define your life.
But the reality is, it’s not going to define everyone else’s life, and that’s okay. I wanted to put that in there to let people know that that is most likely what is going to happen if you really, really do this correctly, in my estimation.
Values in Value Economics
Frank Garza: Yeah, that discussion really resonated with me because I sometimes can see myself being a people pleaser and taking neutral ground not to offend anybody, not to be polarizing, but I can see how when you do that, you are choosing nothing and that has it’s huge negatives as well. So, talking about values, in chapter three you list what some of your most important values are.
I was wondering if you could just pick one of those and share ones, not top of mind, I’ll tell you the one that kind of resonated with me the most. I am just hoping you could share one of those.
Sam LaCrosse: Yeah, so I think the most important value a person can poses, and again, this isn’t my opinion and I list this actually, this is in the first chapter, the factors of value production, excuse me, is self-awareness. I think being aware of who you are as a person and that really ties in with the theme of the book is incredibly valuable.
It is the most valuable thing you can be because if you don’t know what is going on with your personality, who you are, all of these other stuff, then really, all of your decisions that you base off of that, they could be right but they could be wrong a lot of the time. Again, if you don’t know what’s important to you, if you don’t know yourself and what your identity is, how can you make any productive decisions about your life?
I think it’s very, very important to be self-aware both of the good things and of the bad things about yourself. If you have certain flaws, if you have certain improvements that you need to be made, if you have certain things that you’re insecure about or that other people are insecure about over you or something other or something that involves that, I think that self-awareness, everything trickles down from self-awareness.
The people that are not self-aware about how they act in front of people and who they are, you can point those people out, in my opinion very, very quickly, and it’s usually not very fun to do that because they’re generally the loud obnoxious guy at the bar that’s hitting on the girl too aggressively and everything and she does not know when to, “Okay, enough is enough” move on to your next victim or whatever that might be.
Or it could be just someone at work who is really, really an asshole or abrasive or something, and he doesn’t know it or she doesn’t know it but they are, and so, it determines, and that eventually has a waterfall effect onto everything and everyone that they interact within their life. I think that it can be very, very detrimental to a person’s wellbeing if they really don’t understand that.
So, I think everything flows from self-awareness. It’s why I put an essay factor of value production in the first chapter, and I think that it’s the most important trait a person can posses. But you know, Frank, I’d love to hear what your takeaway from that was and what your value that you chose was, if it wasn’t that one.
Frank Garza: Yeah, one that really resonated with me was stability, which probably sounds like the most boring value you can have, but I found it to be something, as I’ve gotten older, that I valued more and more. It is required for me to appreciate life, is just really focusing on stability first. Why did you choose that one?
Sam LaCrosse: So, I think, and I get into this in the introduction of the book into what came before, but I think people really undervalue stability. I mean, especially people my age. They’re saying, like a lot of people, I would say, “Oh, I want to go on this wild crazy spontaneous trip every month” or “I want to do this” or “I want to do…” whatever. And I’m like, “You know, go out and do this crazy concept or crazy binge” or whatever.
All of that is fine in moderation and when you are living in your value, as I say in chapter two. But I think a lot of people underrate the stable things in life like your routine, what you do every day, the group of people you associate with daily, and they overvalue spontaneity. I say it in the first chapter, it’s like we all have routines. We all follow a model, just like I said before. We all have things that we do on a day-to-day basis.
The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Okay, why do we do these things?” We do these things because they work and because we give them value, whether we acknowledge we give them value or not. I think the ability to be set and stable in a set of values and the set of routines that really reinforces your lifestyle and how you want to live your life is a very, very key thing, and that involves having discipline.
That involves having a routine. That involves getting a constant stream of contact in with the people who you really care about, and it’s not necessarily going with the most novel thing. It is not going with the most fun thing all the time, it is going with the thing that gives you a lot of stable fulfillment over time. I think a lot of discontentment comes with chasing novelty all the time and chasing novel values.
Going out in the world and saying that, “The grass might be greener if I just do this” and I think there is a lot of manifestations of that in our modern culture, but a lot of it really isn’t true when you look at it, and that causes a lot of disappointment, that causes a lot of expectations to not be met. I think the key is really getting comfortable with what is providing that stable source of value and getting you that sense of stability.
Because human beings, I frankly don’t think we’re not really good at being at an unstable environment a lot of times. Some people are, but the vast majority of the time, we like to be around the people we’re around most of the time. We like to do most of the things we like to do, and we just like to live that life. I think that people really underrate that. I think that’s a mistake, and I wanted to raise that because I really, really do value it.
I value my routine, I value the people who I talk with and that I spend the most of my time with, and I do things with and it is not a lot of people. It is not a terrible amount of people but, again, I think the allure of novelty is very strong in a lot of ways, and for different people in different ways, but I think that stability outweighs that, a good portion of it, if you are being honest with yourself.
Frank Garza: Well, writing a book is such a feat. Congratulations, I know we’ve only touched on just a small portion of all of the great content that it’s in your book. Before we wrap up, is there anything else about you or the book that you want to make sure our listeners know?
Sam LaCrosse: I just want to say a couple — I would say a quick thank you to everybody that’s helped work on the book. I do a really, really extensive job or at least I think I do in the acknowledgment section in the back of my book, particularly my family, my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my close friends by the end of the book. The team at Scribe Media, everyone, Miles Rote, Elise Pool, Rebecca Lowe, my cover designer.
All of those other guys, they were really, really helped just be such an advocate for me, and again, like we said earlier, I am a nobody. The amount of low expectation I had with coming to I think a major up-and-coming publisher, writing or in picking up a book and giving a book deal to a 24-year-old kid with an idea about connecting individual value systems and economic principles that have been around for 500 years, seemed like bat shit nuts to me.
I think that all the people that have really stuck with me and the people that have known about this for a long time, I just can’t thank them enough. I really can’t. I’m incredibly grateful for my support system. So I wanted to say thank you for and thank you to the people who are actually listening to this right now. Thank you to the people who are going to pick up a copy of the book.
Hopefully, you’re listening to the audiobook or ebook or anything like that, we’re running some great deals on opening week. I would say, if you are on the fence about it, take a chance and see what you think because I truly believe that this book has changed me for the better and hopefully it will do the same for some of you, if you guys choose to pick it up. And thanks to you Frank. I had a great time today.
Frank Garza: Oh, thank you, Sam. This has been a real pleasure. Thank you for putting this book out into the world. The book is called, Value Economics: The Study of Identity. Besides checking out the book, where can people find you?
Sam LaCrosse: Yes, so I am on LinkedIn. It’s actually been the best surprisingly, it shows how much of a nerd I am. I’m on LinkedIn, so Sam LaCrosse, spelled and said just like the sport and I am on Instagram @realsamlax and just keep looking out for more content from me in the future. My blog is dontreadthisblog.com and my podcast is Don’t Listen to This Podcast and basically, I think it’s funny and apparently you think it’s funny, so we got two people.
Yes, so that is all kind of the stuff that I do, and I also want to shout out a couple other things I am involved with. I am an investor for a nonprofit called RallyCap Sports. So we play team sports with special needs kids in local areas, particularly around college campuses. So I am an ambassador for that organization, I want to shout them out.
Also for the Thrive Living Corporation, a nonprofit run by my mother, and I am on the board for that, which basically is a company designed to give assisted living and respite care to young adults with special needs. My younger sister is autistic, and we’re kind of in that phase in our lives where we want to kind of make sure that she transitions out into the world properly and it’s a big problem.
So Thrive Living Corporation, I will have more sites into that as we kind of go moving forward. We’re in the early stages now, but I want to give a shoutout to the amazing men and women, most and particularly my mom and my dad. My dad is also on the board of the company and all the people that are involved in that for doing a really, really good thing.
So @realsamlax on Instagram, Sam LaCrosse on LinkedIn, dontreadthisblog.com, Don’t Listen to This Podcast, and I am an ambassador for RallyCap Sports and a board member on Thrive Living. They are very, very important to me.
Frank Garza: Thank you, Sam.
Sam LaCrosse: Awesome, thank you, Frank. I appreciate it, man.