If you have a print copy of any of the self-published editions of the WOOL series, you may have noticed something strange on page 99 of each book. Doesn’t matter which book in the series, they all have as the page number: 99%. That’s the rest of us. Of course, another writer pointed out to me while we were crafting this open letter that he and I are now in the 1%, but I don’t think that’s true. We get to choose which side we stand on; our income doesn’t decide for us.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve come across two articles that mention the one percent of wealthy folks and the remaining 99 percent of us (yes, I am definitely among the lower 99).
The first article wasn’t about the top one percent, in specific, but it is where the Howey quote above originated. I like the idea of choosing where you stand. There’s an entire industry of self help books that discuss how important choices are in life. Only, the more desperate one is (as is too often the case with people struggling to survive economically), the harder it is to see the available options. The choices the desperate see most readily tend to be at the extremes, rather than the middle. This leads me to the other article I saw. In it, Nick Hanauer, a billionaire, expressed concern over a coming revolution where the rich would be pitchforked.
Pitchforks and revolutions? Yikes. I do hope Hanauer is wrong about the eventual outcome, but I think his article and Howey’s quote express a similar sentiment: choosing to do the right thing, even if it seems to temporarily put you at a disadvantage, is generally the right thing to do in the long run. For those who didn’t click through, Hanauer is a proponent of a higher minimum wage ($15), believing that when workers have more money to spend, they can support business. He believes a healthy middle class is the cause of a thriving economy, rather than the result of it.
I found Hanauer’s article interesting in light of the recent Amazon-Hachette negotiations as well. (Here’s some info on the dispute, if you’re not familiar). Traditionally published authors have generally placed blame for the negotiation failure at Amazon’s door, and self pubbed heavy-hitter Joe Konrath has criticized these authors, saying they’re basically in it for themselves. He contends they’re trying to preserve the status quo so they can keep their big advances and favorable contract terms, even though most new writers and midlisters get horrendous contracts and can’t make a living wage.
Konrath and Hauer’s views are eerily similar. This is probably a bad thing, if people in different industries are getting the same vibe — a revolution vibe. Revolutions are never easy, especially if they involve pitchforks.
And this brings me back to choices. Not about choosing sides. But, about choosing how we react. That’s the other thing about self help books. They ultimately understand what anyone who’s been down on their luck knows: we rarely choose the exact circumstances of our life, but we do choose how we react to those circumstances. Yes, choices lead you to where you are, but if where you are isn’t where you want to be, how you choose to react to that is going to determine where you go moving forward. (Or as the rapper Drake says in one of his songs: “No matter how dirty your past is, your future is still spotless.”)
I think in business–whether publishing or some other facet–we should choose to value people’s worth, and give them the same consideration we would want them to give us regarding our worth. Choosing to minimize the worth of another in order to inflate one’s own worth is a recipe for disaster. And while I’m sure no one in a position of power cares, I do think I plan to practice this from now on. Too often, I’ve looked for a bargain that devalued the worth of someone else, and that’s not sustainable. Not when it comes to sustaining people’s souls or the economy.
P.S. I still think it’s OK to enjoy a good bargain, but there’s a difference between that and devaluing others’ worth. Want to give a quick shout out to Natalie McNeal, aka The Frugalista, as I originally saw the Hanauer article on her personal Facebook page. Her book, the Frugalista Files, is a great example of how she made choices that changed her life. It’s a quick read, and quite interesting.