This post came about because Amanda Palmer posted an article about Lauren Hill – and also referenced Neil Gaiman’s post about how “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch”.
Both of these articles, and Amanda’s accompanying commentary, are about the complex relationship between the artist and their fans.
And everyone involved in these respective pieces is 100% right – artists don’t owe you anything.
If you buy a book from them, they don’t owe you another book – they don’t even owe you a sense of enjoyment from the book you’ve already bought.
Same goes for musicians, visual artists, performers (which Word wants me to change to “perfumers” – so what the hell, perfumers also!) – anyone.
The Customer Is NOT Always Right
But this also goes for businesses.
It’s something I notice often – how clients think that, because they’ve bought something from a business, that business owes them.
Now, there’s a level at which that is kind of true.
In return for your money, you can expect to receive what was agreed upon. The product or service. That’s the transaction – that’s fair.
But you don’t get to dictate the format in which you receive it, and you certainly don’t get to dictate who the person who created the product or provided the service is, what they believe, how they speak, or anything to do with their lives.
You don’t own other people just because you bought something from them.
I guess this area becomes grey for people when they’re buying mentoring or consulting – they seem to believe they’re buying the trainer.
Sorry, but no.
A few years back, I had a run in with a then-client.
She was saying some pretty horrendous things along the lines of,
“Only stupid, lazy people are fat.”
“Eat a God damn salad instead of junk food!”
Given that she was about to spend eight days at an in-house, live-in personal development event I was running, and that another client in attendance and I had both struggled with our weight for years, I decided to confront the issue head-on. Kindly, but firmly.
This woman refused to back down and own that perhaps she was being unnecessarily judgemental. She sent me an email about how she couldn’t learn from me because of my weight and how that indicated a total lack of discipline and personal development (odd, because when she’d bought this event, she’d already met me multiple times – my weight wasn’t a revelation), justifying it, as people who fat-shame do, on presumptions about my health and dropped out of the event.
Of course, the issue here wasn’t really about my weight. It never is.
And it certainly wasn’t about my health – no one who cares about another person’s health would ever attempt to use shame as a weapon.
The issue here was that she believed, that by giving me money, she had earned the right to insult me with impunity.
And she was honestly shocked when it didn’t work out that way.
She really thought she could call me lazy and stupid and that, because she’d given me money, I would take it.
This is not, by any means, the only example of this in my life and business – it’s not even the most extreme. I think it is one of the most illustrative, though.
No matter how much money you pay me, you don’t get control over my thoughts, my feelings or my self-respect.
My identity – who I am – is not for sale at any price.
My self-respect, particularly, is not up for negotiation.
When you buy from me, you are renting my time and my knowledge. That’s it. Depending on the level at which you’re paying me, you’re renting knowledge which I’ve recorded – via books, videos, audios. At a higher level, you’ve rented my brain thinking about your specific problems for a set amount of time and helping you come up with answers.
But you don’t own me.
Not for any amount of money on the planet.
Over the last decade, I’ve been exposed to the best and the worst of human nature. I consider that a blessing – I’ve seen phenomenal people doing amazing things. And I’ve seen people do some really terrible things.
I’ve noticed a lot of common threads, but the relevant one to this situation is simply this:
People try to control you in the same way in which they could best be controlled.
In other words,
The ways in which people try to manipulate you are a direct reflection of how other people can manipulate them.
Now, I’m not saying you should try to manipulate or control others – I always tell people that Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but my definition of insanity is thinking you have any control over another human being.
What I am saying though is that, when you remove yourself from the emotion of a situation, people tell you a lot about who they are by the ways in which they treat and project onto you.
The lady in the story above tried to control me with money. She decided that by giving me a certain amount of money, she earned my tolerance of her insults.
But anyone who knows me – and she’d be around our community for some time at this point, had come to several events – knows that’s blatantly untrue.
Rather, she was using on me what would work on her.
She was telling me that she believed that money was more important than self-respect.
I did give her that feedback, but I suspect it got lost in her righteous indignation at how she was entitled to tell me how lazy and stupid I was, and to critique my eating habits (of which she knew nothing) because fat people are unhealthy and a drain on the medical system.
You Are Not Entitled – I Am Not Your Bitch
Coming back to where we started – giving another human being money does not entitle you to anything beyond the product you paid for.
This epidemic of entitlement is out of control.
As a human being, you have control only of yourself. Not your money, nor your words, nor your perceived superiority and attempts at shame give you the right to demand that other people subvert their identities and self-respect to you.
And if you are being that entitled person – you need to ask yourself:
Where are you allowing this to be done to you?
Because you are projecting the same abuse that you accept.
And that kind of behaviour doesn’t make the world a better place.
I mean, let’s face it, it doesn’t even make you happy.
It might give you a momentary thrill of power – but it also leaves you feeling empty.
Because real fulfilment comes from connection with others, not from control of them.
Surrender Control – Embrace Responsibility
Stop trying to control everyone and everything around you and understand that literally the only thing you have any control over is you.
There is no law of attraction. You can’t make people and situations do or be anything with the power of your thoughts. Sometimes bad things are going to happen that have nothing to do with you, but affect you all the same. Sometimes, people are going to be horrible, because hurt people, hurt people.
You can only take full responsibility for who you are, how you behave and your reactions to the world and the people around you.
And honestly? When you surrender you’ll find it such a relief.
Control of every thing and one on the planet is too much pressure for any one person.
Surrender control of others. Embrace responsibility for yourself.
That responsibility includes not forfeiting your self-respect for money. Not allowing other people to control you, while also not trying to control other people.
I always laugh when people tell me they want to change an industry – because, without fail, what they mean is they want to be in control of the industry.
I always laugh when people tell me they want world domination – because, without fail, what they really mean is that they need to dominate themselves.
You don’t own me. You can’t control me. And you don’t want to. That would be a great deal of responsibility – and it’s hard enough being a person and controlling yourself!