How is net worth truly measured?

Roland Dickey Sr.

“Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted.” -William Bruce Cameron

When describing net worth, it’s simple to calculate it with hard numbers, data and assumptions surrounding financial performance. But I get caught on that word “worth” – isn’t there more to it than that? Shouldn’t personal values be figured into a person’s worth as well?

In the strictest terms, net worth is defined as everything you own of significance minus what you owe in debts. But who determines what is “significant”? Who says gross profit is more significant than charitable giving or enjoying the sunset in Key West?  My wife, Laura, and I try to consider a more inclusive idea of “net worth” when we face a decision. To us, true net worth includes:  


Knowledge can’t always be measured, but there is a wealth in knowledge that’s crucial to fulfillment in life. The possibility of education surrounds us, whether from a classroom, from your parents or from your work. I had the opportunity to learn by watching my dad run a business, and now that I’m the one running it, I try to keep an open mind to the opportunities around me to learn and improve. Away from work, I’m committed to learning as I read about the historical greats of our time. Someone else’s life challenges and successes can be a treasure trove of insight and new perspectives.  


When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by planes and aviation. I now get to travel quite a bit, and I love how this life-long passion is a regular part of my career. But it’s shown me something else – the value of perspective. Just as my view from a plane makes small details vanish and a larger vista emerge, taking a broader view allows me to freshly consider everything from large business decisions to where we might go on our next long weekend getaway. I try not to let the many details of the decisions we need to make every day cloud my vision of the bigger picture.

Charity Work

It has been so rewarding to me to devote time and energy into giving to others, particularly our own charity, The Dickey Foundation. What a feeling to know that, due to the hard work of our foundation and the generosity of the Dallas community, we’ve helped the Dallas Police Department be safer as they keep us safe: we’ve helped provide them top-of-the-line ballistic armor. Our foundation has given each Dickey’s Barbecue Pit a way to add even more worth to their communities by giving back to their first responders.


A tremendous value throughout my life has been how family and business overlap for me. I know it’s a rare gift to be able to say that my most revered business mentors are my own father and grandfather. Working with them – and being trained and trusted to lead the family business – has meant a great deal to me. And if I thought I appreciated them before, the time when I didn’t work with them really made me see how fortunate I had been when we were side by side. Family can be blood relatives or your closest confidants; whatever you consider family, cherish them. Otherwise, your accomplishments mean little.


As important as these topics are, they are only a handful of what I believe totals to genuine net worth. And I know that formula is going to be different for each person. I encourage you to take a little time to reflect on what adds up to your own net worth. I offer my list to give you a start.