We Don’t Know The Terms of Other People’s Deals

In the entertainment business, it’s common to hear the announcements for big new projects by colleagues and competitors. It’s true in sports and in Silicon Valley and many other industries too: So and so just raised _______. So and so just sold their next book for ______. So and so just negotiated a package worth ____. Which inevitably prompts concerned writers, athletes and executives to rush to their agents or representatives and complain: How did they get that?!?! Why didn’t I get that?!?!

A good agent will remind them of this simple fact: We don’t know the actual terms. The deal could have impossible earnouts. There could be almost no upfront money. The contract terms could be incredibly onerous. The sale might look compelling but the person might actually be losing money on it.

This is a truth that can be applied to all walks of life: We really have no idea about the terms of other people’s deals. We don’t know what went into them. We don’t know the conditions they’re on. We don’t even know if they are happy with what they got or if it was a bitter defeat.

So we shouldn’t judge—positive or negative. The Stoics would remind us that what other people get or earn is not in our control and therefore none of our business. They would remind us, as Seneca did, that “slavery often resides beneath marble and gold.” (that is, success and money isn’t always the gift it appears to be). Try to live your life with this in mind: What other people are getting—or what the media is claiming they got—is misleading and distracting. Don’t focus on it. You don’t know the terms of anyone else’s deal. You only know yours—and that’s all that should matter.

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