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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Lemon

Greed is Good...if You Are an Easy Mark

"The twin killers of success are impatience and greed."

Jim Rohn


Edison and Tesla

In 1883, Nikola Tesla was hired by Thomas Edison. Tesla had offered to redesign the primitive "Edison Dynamos". Edison felt this was an impossible task but, said, "There's fifty thousand dollars in it for you - if you can do it."

Having worked round the clock for a year, Nikola presented a much-improved version of the dynamo. After presenting the work to Edison, and asking for the $50,000 he was promised, Edison responded, "Tesla, you don't understand our American humor!", and countered with an offer to raise his wage by $10.

The Failure of the Powerful

Every artist in history has been faced with the same situation as Mr. Tesla: you had what you thought was a clear and basic agreement when the other party suddenly "moves the goalposts". Most people think this applies only to the financial aspects of a deal. However, this can happen at any point of a partnership.

There might be one reason above all why this happens in the arts more often than in any other industry. Showbiz is an industry that doesn't provide business schooling for the artist, other than on-the-job experience. Without this basic education, gatekeepers can create a system where talent either struggles to pay the rent or (more likely) they leave the industry altogether.

Withstand Greed by Being Patient

The reason why "move the goalposts" work so well is because it's designed to make the other side feel weak so the "mover" can control the situation. It's a psychological maneuver that plays on a person's "let's collaborate" tendencies.

There are two ways to handle this without needing to resort to being aggressive:

1. Be patient: While this is hard, most people who try to "move" you will actually back down from their tactic once they know you are someone who is willing to do tactic number two.

2. Walk away: If you have the belief that no deal is better than a bad deal, the other side should feel it. And if they can't, is that a person you would really want to do business with?

Require More from a Partnership

Creatives need to be willing to demand more from who they collaborate with on projects. This doesn't mean that it's a creative's fault for the way the other side approaches the deal. But you need to teach others that your skills deserve to be respected. And how "respect" is defined is ultimately up to the individual. Whether it's money, food breaks, publicity, etc., there's no one definition of creative respect.

So go you talented creative! Be daring in what you create. But also dare for the stars when it comes to requiring more from your partners.

"When you ask for a living wage, run away from those who call you selfish."

Nicholas Lemon



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