Today's fortune: Your principles mean more to you than any money or success.
I can think of two explicit examples here, both of which I share with a hint of pride.
I wrote a novel a couple years ago. It hasn't ever been published and I don't have any prospects for publication (but after the new year I may re-double my efforts to polish it up and send it off to literary agents).
After I finished it, a friend asked my if I was considering self-publishing. I said no.
"Why not?" he asked. "You could make money that way by publishing it yourself and selling it yourself. There's no shame in self-publishing."
"I agree, on both counts," I said. "But I didn't write the book to make money."
My friend couldn't understand that. "You've told me you're trying to write for a living. So how can you say you didn't write the book to make money?"
In a way, he was right, and I didn't have a good comeback for him. It became something he could poke fun at for quite some time to follow, and I good-naturedly allowed him to do so. The explanation, I guess, is that I did write the book to start a career in which I would make money, but I believe the best way to do that is to have my first novel published by an actual publishing house. In other words, I want the validation of having the book acknowledged as "publishable" by "the industry." That's worth more to me than the quick buck or two I might make from self publishing, not that there's anything wrong with authors who choose that route.
The second example is more cut and dry. My last journalism job ended a couple weeks after Christmas a few years back when the idiotic ownership company chose to convert the newspaper I worked for to online-only publication. They also fired almost the entire staff, including me and my wife, who worked as a receptionist.
In one fell swoop, we were both unemployed.
The company offered me a two-week severance package to pay me back for my years of service. To get the extra paycheck, I had to sign a convoluted non-disclosure agreement. I had a lawyer friend take a look at the agreement to make sure I wouldn't be relinquishing any rights, especially the right to refer to the company as "idiotic," and the lawyer assured me it did not.
But I still didn't sign it. I didn't accept the severance package. That probably sounds stupid. It was free money, an extra paycheck in a time when Jamie and I needed it.
My reasoning was simple. It was a principle thing. I didn't want any more of that company's goddamned money.
Here's the epilogue to the story. Last winter, I stumbled upon a beautiful softsided leather briefcase embroidered with the idiotic company's logo. It was a gift from a seminar I had attended once, and to my knowledge it was the only thing in my house with the company's logo on it. I'm not a briefcase expert, but this one probably cost a hundred bucks or more. At this point I was unemployed again, and my prospects for re-employment were slim. A nice briefcase would have helped me in upcoming interviews.
Instead of using it, I walked out to the garage and threw the thing into the garbage.
Maybe the bag was cursed. Within a month, I received a job offer from Acme Co., and in a little over a week I will celebrate my one-year anniversary at Acme.