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A lot of traditional business advice would have you believe that greed will beat generosity in terms of making money and making a lasting impact.

However, that’s not necessarily true…

I wanted to build on the post I shared last week, about the moral of the folk tale, “Toads and Diamonds.”

If you didn’t read it, please do before you continue on, otherwise this may not make much sense because I tend to speak in parables sometimes.

Right now, I’m reading “Give and Take” by Adam M. Grant; and in it, Adam discusses how we interact with others and how that influences one’s success and reputation.

Adam’s conclusions completely support what I was saying last week about the difference between coming to the well for the water (Givers) or for the Jewels (Takers).

Counterintuitive though it may be, Adam’s research statistics found that both types can be successful, but it’s the way people feel after working with someone that stands out most significantly — as well as the longevity of that person’s success.

The people who come to the well for the water leave people feeling great and build a tribe based on the appreciation of how much they’ve given freely and generously.

They’re not necessarily looking for huge accolades or rewards, but they tend to get them anyway because of the effect they have on others.

People love how you make them feel, when you come to the well for the water.

They feel like they matter, like you appreciate them, like you’re invested in their experience even more than you are in your own.

In my concert and event producing days, I always loved working with true pros — the artists and thought leaders who could keep it in perspective on a show day that, although the people in the audience bought the ticket to see them, and they were getting paid the “big bucks” to go out on that stage, they still were working for my client — and me — not the other way around.

They were never demanding and they never acted like a diva.

They were gracious to me and to my client.

They treated everyone in their entourage with respect, and kept everything moving forward, even if snags came up during sound check or load in.

Murphy’s Law is inevitable, but it’s how they reacted to Murphy that distinguished them in my eyes, and my clients’ eyes.

They were either like, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” or they acted all uppity and complained about everything.

I even had one guy threaten that he was going to walk out on the whole gig if I couldn’t get the sound check started on time, even though he was the one who had arrived to load-in 3 hours late, so it was totally his fault that we were running behind.

I’ve worked with plenty of those uppity types, too. People with outlandish requests on their riders like purple limousines, Cristal champagne, white leather couches with leopard print pillows, swimming pools filled with mud and girls in bikinis, and believe it or not — someone once asked me for a monkey. In his catering requests. (Weird…)

But those types are few and far between, much fewer than you might expect — especially in this business.

I’ve also worked with many clients who “got it” and were happy to provide a few of the creature comforts that the talent requested, so the talent would feel appreciated and valued.

Those clients kept it in perspective that a lot of these artists and thought leaders spend a great deal of their time on the road, and a delicious meal or a glass of nice wine can help make them feel “at home” — even though they’re in a bland dressing room that looks like every other one they’ve been in for the past 6 months and they probably didn’t remember what city they were in when they woke up that morning.

That’s what life on the road can truly be like: disorienting, lonely, filled with vanilla hotel rooms and lots of bad food. So for the clients who went the extra mile to treat the talent right, the talent felt so gracious because of all the little things — and it showed in how they related to each other.

Appreciation is a two-way street, and if both parties are giving, then it just feels that much greater all-around, and shows tend to run more smoothly when everyone is in the right frame of mind.

On the flip side…

If you look at the others, those who come to the well for the jewels, the gimme-gimme-gimme types, there are actually as many of those behind the scenes as there are on the stage.

Many people have seen movies like Jerry Maguire or shows like Entourage, and that’s as close to a talent agent as they’ll ever get.

That stereotype of the agent as a money-hungry maniac who would sell you out just as quickly as he’d be your best friend is just that. A stereotype.

Most agents wear jeans and t-shirts — not suits — to work every day, and  they clock more hours in a day than the average workday should allow. They’re hard-working types who are there to get the job done.

But there’s a bad apple in every bunch…

I know of one incident where an agent charged his client a 42% commission on a gig.


By industry standards, commissions on bookings can range anywhere from 10% to 20% on average, depending on whether it’s a public performance or a private event for a corporate client, as restricted by various entertainment union and guild agreements.

Suffice it to say, he was WAY overcharging his client.

And that client found out about it…

The person in charge flat-out told everyone else on their planning committee, “Do NOT work with [that agent]!”

They full-on blacklisted him!

And can you blame them?

But that’s the best case study ever for why being the type of person who’s in it for the jewels and not the water can hurt you in the end.

Burn your clients, burn your bridges.

If you operate your business like that, you’re operating from a scarcity mentality, not an abundance mentality.

Whereas if you keep things above-board and strike your deals with integrity, that will shine through to your clients and your reputation will build rather than burn out.

It’s much better to operate from a mindset that trusts in the future possibilities that your honest, generous work can yield than to try to squeeze everything you can out of one deal.

In the end, generosity will defeat greed, even though greed at first glance seems so much more vicious.