Getting Screwed is a Compliment

Obviously, Steve and I are not Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. We’re just average Joes with average business acumen. So sometimes we get short-sticked.

Snidely Whiplash working on laptop

Someone reaches out to one of us and we like the Chutzpah and ideas presented so we pull the other one into the hare-brained scheme. Now one of the principles that Black Irish Books was founded on, I think the only one, is that we will dissolve the whole kit and caboodle the second one of us isn’t having any fun. I don’t me “whoohoo” fun. I mean “you know this is pretty cool coming up with an idea, having the other guy tweak it, creating something inspired by it, and then sharing it at a reasonable price with others” kind of fun. Once it becomes a chore or we find ourselves trying to maximize our return on investment by doing a deep dive into our online analytics, we’re going to run for the hills.

So because we’re susceptible to enthusiasms (we started this whole thing out of enthusiasm), sometimes we embrace an “opportunity” that comes in over the transom. Something happens, our partner/s fail to live up to their promises, we ask them to explain, they give us a reasonably good excuse, we give them another chance, the same thing happens, and then before you know it we’re out some money.

Now we’re not patsies. As Stanley Kowalski would say, we both have lawyer acquaintances who know how to intervene and work out settlements. But it still stings when you feel like you’ve been used.

I used to really get bummed out about this, especially when it was my idea to get into business with the disappointing party in the first place. And then the last time I was in LA bitching about getting screwed by those so and sos to Steve, he said something simple.

“Hey, we should be thrilled that we’re getting enough traction to get screwed. If nobody cared or supported what we were doing, we’d never make a bad business decision. Because we wouldn’t have a business. If we’re not open to new ideas from people who probably have the best of intentions if not all the skills to make them happen, then we might as well sell Black Irish to Acme Incorporated. No question it sucks when things go south, but look at all the other things that have gone north! Forget about it!”

I haven’t forgotten, but I have forgiven myself for going out on a limb. Sometimes you fall out of the tree, but like my four year old does, you cry, dust yourself off and climb back up again. The view’s better up there.

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  1. Jeremy Brown on May 3, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Good stuff Shawn. I recently parted ways with a manager/agent who, I feel, was in it just to make money off me. First I was pissed, then I realized, “Hey, this guy thinks I’m going to make money.”

    Like you said, a compliment.

  2. Kathy Ostman-Magnusen on May 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    The weird thing about getting screwed, is being the last to know. It is “weird” because you usually have a gut feeling, but dismiss it, holding out for best hopes and a basic belief that people are good. Next thing you know it is glaringly understood, some are not good, or at least can do some pretty crappy stuff. We want to hope for the best in people.

  3. Kathy Ostman-Magnusen on May 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Oh gosh.. I meant to explain the link. It is a little Squidoo lens I made in honor of Steven Pressfield’s books and how much they have affected me.

    Why is it titled, “Living With the Chronically Ill” then? Well t’was a bump in the road, the link got attached to the text and so I had to intertwine the 2 subjects, doing the work of art, and caring for the chronically ill.

    It is more about “The War of Art” though, but does touch on the difficulties of caring for my husband, a Vietnam Vet who suffers from the affects of Agent Orange.

    One gets lost in being defined as a caretaker, no longer a lover, no longer a free spirit, no longer an anything.

    As an artist Mr Pressfield’s books continue to bring me hope and a kick in the pants. They remind me that I am not just a caretaker, that I am too a lover and free spirit, through my art. I do too have purpose.

    So I made that lens the other day in honor of those emotions and my calling and the gift of life given to me in my war with art.

    Thank you Mr Pressfield,


  4. Camille on May 3, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Shawn: Thanks for this post, especially today of all days. I am taking on a new project and my gut tells me I might get screwed on this one. Last night I listened to a ted talk by Ben Zander and he said give everyone an “A”. He said to celebrate your mistakes. Then I read your article today and I now I know getting screwed is okay. I will be okay and I might learn something in the process. Thanks! I am stepping into the unknown again.

  5. Basilis on May 4, 2013 at 5:50 am


    The kid is right!

    And some times a 1000 times more right than an adult 🙂

  6. gary on May 5, 2013 at 3:05 am

    It is my experience that there are no unsettled debts in the universe. Those who gain by unfair exchange eg: screwer / rapist end up being the ones who get “f%&#@d” over in the long run.

    Those by contrast … who play the victim (instead of learning from the lesson) will end up repeating the lesson over and over (getting screwed) until they finally cop onto themselves.

    Life is fair and just. We are the authors of our own destiny … sometimes it takes a lot re writes to get our story straight!

    Love this stuff

    Thanks Shawn!!


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