“I’d rather look around me (and) compose a better song,” Anderson sings, “Because that’s the honest measure of my worth.”
“The honest measure of my worth” – to compose a better song than I composed last time. To tell a better story – and to tell it better. To improve the quality of my work, the work I give or sell to you. To make my work something of greater value than the work I produced last time.
TV and film creator Joss Whedon said it like this: “I have a contract with my audience – that I will do better, that I will give them a reason to come in again that is more than the reason we gave them last time.”
My goal is to produce the best work that I can, to contribute my unique gift to the world, and to do it better each time. It is up to others to decide if it has value to them; my responsibility is to provide more value than I did the last time.
If I have set my goal to make widgets, the widgets I make today must/should be better than the first widget I ever made. (Or if the goal is to produce identical widgets, they must/should be more identical today than they were the first time I attempted the work.)
Did I do better? Did I give more than last time? That is “the honest measure of my worth.”
Does my work have greater value than others’ work? That’s not for me to say. In a very real sense, it’s not for me to care. All I can control is my own work, my own effort. The only comparison that makes practical sense is apples-to-apples: my work today to my work in the past. It’s up to others – people making decisions in the marketplace – to decide the quality of my work compared to others’ work.
The main purpose is to create something useful for you, something of quality, something of value, something better than I gave you last time – all of which has everything to do with your needs and desires and nothing to do with competition (except in the sense that “competitors” provide other examples of what is possible). When we all give you value, then your world is a bigger place, and we all benefit.