Integrity 101

by seanlow on February 18, 2015

When life is good, the tank full, bank account brimming over, integrity is easy.  Why?  You can tell yourself your creative business does not need to compromise.  So you do not.  Sure, you can become a diva or, worse, an a—hole, but mostly you can create the art you and your creative business were meant to create, the best way you know how.  Even more, if you had compromised in the past, a full belly gives you courage to say no now.

Sounds great doesn’t it?  Get busy and you will be able to have your creative business finally, finally act as you intend.  Except it does not work that way.

The path to success for any creative business is through intention, a series of purposeful steps, with deep awareness of each step’s message and meaning.  We all have to stake our claim to the truth that resonates with us, our art and our creative business.  If you need $10 to do the work, $5 will not cut it.  Period.  Then again, if you cannot articulate why you need $10, why should anyone pay you?  Defining value means you have to live (and die) there.  If the idea is everything, what does it cost?  If your contract says your client has ten days to pay, what do you do on the eleventh?  If you need a contract to get started, will you actually start without it?  Simple if money does not flow, but what if it does?

Compromise is not flexibility.  Compromise is a willingness to do what you do not.  It is a non-starter if there ever was one.  Flexibility, on the other hand, is a willingness to adapt what you do to a situation without ever changing the underlying value you offer.  If it takes you typically a year to go from initial conversation to finished project, you can definitely complete one in 30 days.  An accordion may look different stretched as compacted but the instrument is the same regardless.  You creative business is no different.  Your process, your value, your choice.

Integrity does not mean blinders on, stay the course no matter the circumstance.  That is delusional.  No, integrity means believing in your gift and those who most desire for you to share it.  If you have been fortunate enough to have found those clients, build your creative business around them.  Ignore the rest.  And if those clients have not yet appeared, consider that you are hiding from them.  Getting rejected by those who do not value what you do is your escape hatch.  They do not get you or your creative business anyway so no need to care.  Rejection from the client that matters though, that beyond sucks and it should.  However, facing the pain that could come the right client’s rejection is what should drive you to risk everything.  Success is a wholehearted embrace for the art you and your creative business want to create, not just an okay, let’s do it.

So before Spring has sprung, when the bank account is low, when the phone has not yet rung, ask yourself what will happen when it does.  Who will you be then?  Will you be willing to say yes, but only on your terms?  Expansive to those that matter, intolerant of those that do not?  Does it really matter where you are in your creative business, feast or famine?  Will you stay true to yourself, your art, your artistry?

Believe every step is purposeful.  There is no, “when I get there, I will….”  There is here no matter the circumstance.  If your compass and that of your creative business will be your own, the rest will be easy.  Integrity 101.

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by seanlow on February 2, 2015

What if you were the only one?  And customers had to have (or really really needed) what you were selling.  Say cold water at the beach where there was no other water allowed.  With limited supplies.  The ultimate monopolist.  How would you behave?

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely says John Dalberg-Acton.  Would you look to soak everyone you can.  Charge $50 for each bottle of water at the beach?  Or would you be fair?  Maybe not the $1 when water is everywhere, but a premium to reflect what it took to be the only one, say $5.  What does that look like?  Will you sell more water, less water?  Do you care if you are going to sell out anyway?

Now imagine that there was one more competitor.  Each of you has limited supply as in the first case, but now more than enough to fill the need (i.e., you will NOT both sell out).  How do you go about your business?  Still reach for the nosebleed prices?  No matter what, even if you had some product left over, you would still make a tidy profit at nosebleed prices.  If you charged a fair price, you would probably sell everything but maybe make less money depending on how many you sold at nosebleed.

Third scenario – there are many competitors and much more product than buyers.  Now what do you do?  If you price at nosebleed, no one will buy anything from you.  Price too low though and you will not make enough to survive.  Likely is you will price to eke out a living, no more no less.

Here is the thing.  EVERY creative business lives in the first scenario.  You are in the company of one.  Period.  Your actions, however, can make scenarios two and three become your reality.  Think about that – whether you live in a hyper-competitive or non-competitive market is YOUR choice.  Make it about process and what your creative business needs to do the work it does and you will find connection and relevance to your art and your clients.  Translation:  you will live in scenario one for a long, long time.

Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.  If you think you are just that good or that you have to do everything relative to your competition (by definition living in an external shadow), you will experience the pain of the market.  The best way to delude yourself here is to keep on focusing on the end result.  Your art is a function of your creative business’ artistry, not the other way around.  Unless you wholeheartedly believe that only you and your creative business do what you do, someone will always be willing to do what you do cheaper.  You get paid for what is between your ears and earn a living with what is between your hands.

It costs $35 to get a marriage license in New York City. Add a few dollars for a rose or two and you can go get married.  Hmmmm. The average cost of a wedding in NYC is $86,916.  That is $86,879 DISCRETIONARY dollars.  Nobody needs what you do.  Nobody.

When all that you do is a want, you have to understand the power you wield.  Yours is about base expression – to reach in to your client and fulfill their vision for moments they yearn for.  Pretty is nice, emotion and connection the point.  So live there.  Own your category of one with fairness defined only by your own integrity.  Faith that receiving what you need to do the work will be its own upward spiraling and long-lasting cycle.  Or you can just try to beat the next guy.  Up to you.


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