It Can’t Always Be About the Money

Outside of Claire Danes and Damian Lewis’ wins for the outstanding show Homeland, the double Emmy win for comedian Louis CK were my favorite moments of last week’s Emmy Award Show. Louis CK has been in the game for quite awhile as a writer for the Chris Rock show, as a successful comedian and also as an actor. When the opportunity for his show, the now critically acclaimed Louie, first manifested itself, he was approached by huge networks like HBO that offered him quite a bit of money but also wanted quite a bit of control. In the end, Louie went with FX. Though FX did not offer him nearly as much money, they gave him 100% control of Louie. Louis CK writes, produces, stars in and sometimes edits the now Emmy award winning program. As I saw Louis CK accept both his awards, and finally the recognition his talent and intelligence deserves, I thought to myself, it can’t always be about the money.

Currently, I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s amazing memoir Joseph Anton. In it, Rushdie (writing of himself in the 3rd person as Joseph Anton, a pseudonym taken from the two names of his favorite authors, gives a portion of the publication background of his (in)famous novel The Satanic Verses:

“The Highest offer for the English-language rights to publish The Satanic Verses was not made by Viking Penguin. Another offer was a full $100,000 higher, but Andrew and Gillon both advised him strongly against accepting it. He was not accustomed to figures of this size, much less with turning them down, and he asked Andrew, ‘Could you just explain again why I should not agree to receive an extra one hundred thousand dollars?’ Andrew was adamant. ‘They would be the wrong publishers for you.’ Later, after the storm broke, an interview with Mr. Rupert Murdoch was printed in The New Yorker, in which he stated emphatically, ‘I think you should not give offense to people’s religious beliefs. For instance, I hope that our people would never have published the Salman Rushdie book.’ It was possible that Rupert Murdoch didn’t know that some of ‘his people’ had been so enthusiastic about the novel that they had outbid the opposition by a considerable distance, but it seemed probable, in the light of this New Yorker profile, that had Murdoch found himself in the position of being the publisher of The Satanic Verses he would have withdrawn the book the moment the trouble began. Andrew Wylie’s advice had been unusually prescient. Murdoch was indeed the wrong publisher for the book.”

It was a godsend that money didn’t drive Rushdie’s decision about where to publish his book. There are countless examples of celebrities who have walked away from extremely lucrative deals — see: Dave Chappelle and Mariah Carey. It may be hard for some to imagine turning down millions of dollar to do something you’re great at and love to do. But money can’t alone drive a deal that could impact your professional and personal future. Its important to have a wide and long view that takes money into consideration but isn’t completely driven by it.

A couple of months ago, the New York Times published a piece about the troubles facing famed shoe designers Kari Sigerson and Miranda Morrison of Sigerson Morrison. The once A list shoe designers had entered into a lucrative deal with Marc Fisher Footwear’s Marc Fisher. Soon after the papers were signed, the deal went south and now the women are engaged in a rather contentious legal battle that is poised to be a long and arduous journey. Their story is significant, a cautionary tale.

Recently, there was an article published at the Wall Street Journal about lessons entrepreneurs can take from the career of musician Bob Dylan. One of those lessons was to “See the big picture at all times and avoid the trap of the quick buck.” Sagacious advice for anyone. Slow down. Identify your goals (short and long term). And consider always consider your value system.



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