MONEY STORIES | How Can We Enjoy Our Money & Honor Our Values?


At Modernist, we try to infuse our values into every aspect of our work, from job descriptions and the structure of staff meetings, to our philanthropic giving and client communications.

The best values are action verbs that provide clear direction for living our values in our every action. They point directly to behaviors we can incorporate into our daily work lives, instead of abstract concepts like integrity or excellence. How does one do excellence?

Here are Modernist’s actionable core values:

Invite & Include

Invest in People

Innovate & Iterate

Do Good Work & Do It Well

For last month’s Modernist Money Stories gathering, we invited our guests to identify their actionable values, and then apply them to their own lives (specifically, financial lives).

So we organized our discussion around this question:


Then we followed this arch of questions to guide the conversation:

  • List 5 people who enjoy their money in a way you admire.
  • List 5 people that honor their values in a way that you admire.
  • Next to each name, write an action verb that describes the behavior you admire for each person.
  • Now, connect any verbs that are similar or related, combining them into categories.
  • Use the verb list you’ve created to imagine a world where these actions symbiotically coexist . What does this world look and feel like? How is this world different than the one you currently live in? What are some common rituals in this world?
  • What is one small step you could take today to move your community or culture closer to this ideal world?
  • What did you most appreciate about this conversation?
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As expected, our discussion brought out some great insights from the group. Some of the action verbs that came up for the group were: learn, evolve, love, sacrifice, give, eat, offer, retreat, listen, employ, preserve, decide, play, resist, declare, and enjoy and share.

Our guests’ ideal world visions varied from the local and personal to grand and global. We discussed what it would be like if everyone had the ability to travel as well as regularly welcomed travelers in their homes. We envisioned an abundance of beauty and meaning. We wondered what it would mean to operate with a community-based mindset on a large scale. We touched on the differences between equity and equality and the importance of equitable access to civic debate. We reflected on the importance of intention in how we spend our time, of having space to retreat, and of making time to enjoy and relax. We also considered what it could mean to abolish inheritance in our country.

I was particularly excited about the steps our guests outlined for moving closer to their ideal visions. One is going to research alternative compensation systems to implement in their law firm. Another will model living with an abundance mentality by taking an artist’s retreat this fall. A third is planning to join Big Brother/Big Sister this year. Others are going to educate themselves on the local affordable housing bond proposals, encourage their employees to take vacation, and talk to their families about building intention around spending time and money.

Personally, I am exploring the idea of holding a Nonviolent Communication training for my team as a way to foster a resilient and collaborative company culture. One that lives up to our values of Invite & Include and Invest in People.

I am excited to hear from our guests as they work on further integrating their values into their lives. I would love it if you’d consider the questions above and join us on this journey. As always, I can’t wait to hear about what you discover!