As the orange orb of the sun slid down behind English mountain, splashing the sky with rose, vermillion and mauve, the day’s heat began to wane. The air started to move; a cool caress of their faces as they sat in their rockers on the porch before it drifted off to play among the trees. The rustling leaves were like soft music.
The breeze wafted first from the south, then paused, and resumed again from the northwest, paused and swung back again as though it were playing a game. “I wonder what makes the wind change like that.” She sighed.
His mind filled with images of weather charts and thermal differential flows; warm air rising, pulling cooler air in from all around, mobile low pressure cells. He turned to deliver the dialogue that was forming. She sat there, eyes closed, head against the tall chair back, as she lolled gently to and fro. His nose wrinkled in thought, then he leaned back in his chair and resumed a slow rocking.
“Oh, it’s just playful I reckon.”
The sky deepened through the shades of purple into silver-specked black as the Chuck-will’s Widow added his melody to the concert of nature.
* * * * *
An on-line friend and I spoke on the phone yesterday. She sought advice concerning an opportunity which the winds of fate had blown in her direction. She too is a writer. She too is trying to produce income from her work.
A popular and successful businessman had offered to help promote her work through collaborative efforts between them. He preferred an informal approach; no contracts or lawyers. This made her uneasy, though she could not say exactly why.
After our discussion I thought about her situation as I worked, for this day was spent doing things that allowed time for contemplation while my hands did what they needed to do. I pondered the phenomenon of people helping people – and people taking advantage of one another.
In this world there are certainly many people who reach out to others not so much out of a desire to help those others, but out of a desire to help themselves. Some do so in deceitful ways that will end up hurting, or at least disappointing, the other participants; some do so in ways that may benefit both. But, there are also those who recognize that they have gotten where they are through the intervention of others and wish to “pay forward” the kindness and good fortune that has put them where they are. How do you tell the difference? How do you separate con men from Saints from savvy businessmen? I did not have a definitive answer for her.
I myself spend a part of each day trying to encourage and promote other writers. And I admit that I do so in the hope that they will reciprocate by recommending me to their friends. But I also know that 90% of them will not. Some will thank me and move on with what they were doing, others never respond at all. And that’s OK; it’s just their nature.
I have been taken advantage of. I’ve done jobs where the client was demanding, imposed unrealistic deadlines, changed the specs in mid-project, and then tried to weasel out of payment when the job was done. Most of the time these people did not seem treacherous during the negotiations.
On the rare occasion I have also been presented with an opportunity that seemed incredible. Not on the scale of what my friend has been offered, but something pretty good. In one case a three-way collaboration resulted in a business that not only benefited the three of us as principles but over 50 others who stepped up to be a part of the venture we managed. In time the third principle got greedy and demanded more than her due, and a declining economy doused the enthusiasm for the venture, but for over five years we did well and everyone benefited through cooperative efforts.
There are probably those who feel that I took advantage of a situation. I’m not perfect either.
Like the evening breeze, good fortune can be fickle. When something seems to be blowing fair and steady, how can you be sure it is what it seems? I don’t have the answer; I don’t know that there is an answer. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut; if it feels wrong, step back and look it over carefully. Sometimes something that seems too good to be true – is. But sometimes… sometimes, the offer is genuine.
Now, I’m not talking about when the widow of a former African President wants to deposit five million dollars into your bank account because you’re a swell guy, but when someone in a position to help offers to do so, take a good look at the offer before rejecting it out of hand. Specifically look at what they are expecting from you. Weigh your required involvement against your expected gains, account for your time and effort as well as financial involvement. Do some homework; check out the potential partner. Are they who they say they are? Do they have a history of tossing partners under the bus? Have they helped others?
If a formal agreement or contract is offered, read it carefully. If it is at all unclear to you, have a lawyer examine it before you make any decision. If no contract is offered, you are guaranteed nothing, but you also have the option of bowing out if you become uncomfortable with the arrangement.
Has the wind of opportunity brought you something tempting? How did you handle it and how did that work out for you?