“What is offered for free is dangerous-it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price—there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.”Robert Greene, 48 Laws of Power
It was the first time I’d been at this side of town. My eyes were glazed on the look out for street signs to help me get my bearings. A bit of walking here and a turn there I located the correct side street, a lavish road filled with outside lights and high end restaurants
This was the place, so I continued the journey strolling down the street looking at the ritzy buildings, studying the signs to make sure I found the right place. I came to a place consumed with darkened glass, a red carpet leading to a lumbering black door, flanked by glitzy flame lamps around the entrance
Before making my way in, an uneasiness cramped up in my stomach, wondering how out of place I was about to be.
I was only here because of a big cyber security project. I had no knowledge of the subject matter, and even though I was just the project manager, that still made me anxious. You could say it’s a control thing, but I always like being able to speak the language of the people I work with whether they are techies or nurses.
My team didn’t want to pay for any training, so I sourced this free workshop in the other part of town, and now my gut was telling me nothing comes for free without expectations of something in return.
Pushing through the heavy black door, to find what secrets sat inside, I was immediately greeted by the host, all animated and firm handshakes in his mannerism.
He walked me up to the bar, making small talk that resembled the uncomfortable probing smarm of a used car sales man. He took the lead, snapping his fingers to get the attention of the girl behind the bar.
She was well dressed, but looked unenthusiastic to be there – a student I assumed, lethargic from stuffy corporate events, with pervy men in suits of a middling age looking at her breasts and talking IT.
The host voiced the words “open bar”, and that uneasiness began rising to my chest. Fresh off reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, the 40th Law came to mind – despise the free lunch.
Eager to ensure I reduced that feeling I was about to be in someone’s debt, I ordered half a pint of diet coke, a firm difference from all the fancy craft ale options other attendees were opting for.
The bartenders lips strained slightly, in what I assumed was an attempt to resemble a smile as she poured.
I went to take my seat.
The room greeted me with a mouth-watering aroma, and taking the central attraction was the most plentiful buffet I’d ever seen put on by something that was “free”.
Salmon, burgers, chicken wings – when compared to the useful English buffet fare of sausage rolls, vol au vents and scrambled egg sandwiches this seemed luxury and was the most high end buffet to grace my presence.
The host floated around guests, and although I was mindful this generosity came with a condition, I did not want to insult him, so grabbed a small portion to sustain me through lunch time and parked myself on my seat to avoid attention.
Across me one of the attendees sat down with a sky scrapper plate high full of friend chicken, which he gulped down, every so often stopping to lick his fingers.
The cyber security “workshop” was one part training session, nine parts sales pitch for some security software.
Afterwards the host approached me to express his enthusiasm for my attendance, and what an opportunity it would be to provide services for my organisation.
And there came the catch I’d been expecting since arrival…
He had no idea I was no cyber security expert, nor did I have no influence in making purchasing decisions.
I made my excuses and left.
Despise the free lunch
The lesson behind despise the free lunch is a warning that nothing comes for free. Whether it’s a:
- Corporate event with free bar and buffet.
- Free ebook.
- A favour being given.
Always take care what is being expected in return – do you have the time, resources, comfort, expertise, desire to commit?
It’s a powerful tactic to coerce someone to do what you want by giving free stuff – the obliging and people pleasers get caught in this as they they have to return the favour.
My approach to life is to give without expecting anything in return, and there is nothing wrong with being altruistic. But because of those who offer the “free lunch”, you may find people are careful to accept your selflessness.
You might find some cynicism to this, but I think it’s always good to have a healthy distrust to question what someone is expecting back.
Wishing you the best in your success.
James @Perfect Manifesto.
Copyright © 2023 James M.Lane perfectmanifesto.com
Copyright © 2022 James M.Lane perfectmanifesto.com