“Everybody has a price” – but, what if…
Many people benchmark their career progress based purely on income and position. Whether it’s purely ego driven or a more intellectually honest attempt to measure progress --more often, a combination of the two since they’re usually intertwined -- this ignores a key underlying factor: an individual’s relationship with money.
While we can observe various aspects of this, I’m addressing two basic elements only:
- Is money your god? Are you willing to sacrifice everything, including your principles, in its pursuit? I’m not addressing god in a religious sense as such, just as a concept of something worshiped, particularly at the expense of other things.
- Do you have “money boundaries”? To function and be at peace, parameters must be established.
I decided early in my first career as a psychotherapist what my parameters were, trusting that my ambition would keep me earning within this structure. I decided I would treat patients who were ages 12 and up who were sufficiently verbal to engage with me; pretty much any personality/character disorder or symptom neurosis, thereby including most anxiety and depressive disorders; since I didn’t have hospital privileges, I wouldn’t treat psychotic disorders such as the schizophrenics or bipolar.
Based on these parameters, I continued my education after my master’s degree. Even as I was building my practice, I would decline cases that didn’t fall within my guidelines since I didn’t feel qualified to treat them. Later on, when I joined a group practice, they tried to push me to accept bipolar patients, saying, “Just read a couple of articles.” Nope.
I didn’t work that way then, and well into my second career, I still won’t. Why?
I decided early on that despite my ambitions, money would never be my god. This eliminates anyone’s ability to manipulate me by dangling a shiny coin, usually one that can never be truly attained, since the cost to integrity and well-being is greater than the benefit.
I’ve used this to adjust K2’s pricing and business policies over the years. Early on, we were routinely subjected to the, “Do this on the cheap, then next time…” Of course, next time never came, regardless of the level of success attained. For these people, “cheap” was paramount, even at the expense of credibility and future success, and they would just move on to the next vendor.
There were even the more audacious perpetrators who, hearing our American accents, thought for some reason they had us over a barrel and asked us to do a project for free! Of course, they had no leverage except for vague promises written by their narcissism, so it was easy to walk away.
A basic rule: The Price is the Price. When you present your minimum monthly or project fee, hold to it. A client who was in one of the priciest locations in Tel Aviv tried to manipulate about our minimum fee, even trying to say they were financially strapped. We didn’t lower the fee, they signed. This happens more often than not. Standing your ground breeds respect. Earlier on, when we’d agreed to go outside our parameters, 80% of those clients became management problems, demanding extras with the manipulation/threat that they’d cancel. I don’t respond particularly well to bullying, so we actually learned to cancel their contracts.
Bullies are always shocked when they receive a letter saying, “Given your concerns about our signed agreement and the contracted deliverables, we are hereby giving you 30-days’ notice…”
Another basic rule: We Do What We Do, for Whom We Choose to Do It. There are basically infinite shades of grey; we all have to find the range of tones in which we can work. If you’re not comfortable with something or someone, listen to your gut.
Last year, a woman called us about “a potentially very lucrative account,” except it was for a country with, to be polite, a spotty human-rights record. We said we’d need to take some time to look into this, and she immediately started to press for a decision. This type of pressure to go outside your boundaries -- we specified what our concerns were to her -- should be all the warning you need that someone is trying to capitalize on your greed/ambition/financial need.
We said we’d need a week or so to research, and she repeatedly called during that time, pressing for an answer. We sped up the process, just said, “No thank you,” and never looked back.
Don’t allow a raw figure to be the definition of your success. If you made it in a way that’s at variance with your core values, you’ll always feel compromised and weakened. Refine your relationship with money, set your parameters, and you can still laugh your way to the bank, just with a clearer conscience and greater peace of mind.