Choose your fuck-up
Some years ago I was approached by a person to work on a project. This person wanted to hire me to shoot something on their client’s site. They told me how much they would pay me for the job. It was not very appealing. So they told me a story to go with it—“The client is on a tight budget. I’m desperate to get this done. It’s a quick job. I can pay you x. I’m keeping myself a tiny sum to cover my own overheads.”
This might seem like a typical negotiation. You don’t believe such unverifiable stories. Here’s the thing about trust—you cannot break someone’s trust without having it in the first place. So someone has to put the first foot forward and take a risk. I chose to trust this story, because we had a relationship.
The entire deal was stupid right from the outset because it was not forthcoming—I didn’t say, “My fee is so-and-so.” Or they didn't say “I can only pay so-and-so.”
This mundane event got exciting when the person’s colleague, who was going to accompany me to the site, mucked up and forwarded me an entire email thread while trying to share a tiny detail. This email trail contained details of how much the client was actually paying for the work. It was almost 6x.
Luckily, I had spent only a few hours prepping up for the work ahead. So I sent an email that said something to the effect 'I'm out of this. Find someone else'. There were desperate attempts to damage-control.
I told the person to never call me for work again and embarrass themselves in this manner. That we could be cordial and friendly, but would no longer engage professionally. And I went about my day.
'Lying' can be a lot of things—unethical, immoral, disgraceful, disgusting, necessary; your morals, your adjective. But it is undeniably a waste of time. And that is the worst of all things.
All three people involved had fucked up; I hadn’t trusted my gut and believed a nonsensical story; the person sending me the email had made a terrible oversight; and of course, the person who intended to hire me was lying through their teeth.
No matter how hard we try not to, we will fuck up at some point. We must ‘choose’ our fuck ups wisely. The closer we are to being honest, the less severe our fuck ups will be. Also, it saves so much time and forges only genuine relationships.
Honesty is the best strategy.
But the true moral of the story is: set up ‘unsend’ on email