While toiling in the retail pet care trade as a young man, it sometimes seemed that the industry at large reeked of cat urine enmeshed in the living room rug. My initial take was that there were many players within this curious and emergent business sphere who were not especially high on the ethical totem pole. But gradually, I discovered that the pet biz was no better or worse than countless other commercial sectors. Most of the entrepreneurs, salespeople, et al, whom I met in my extended travels therein, were hunky dory in my book—so much so that I co-wrote a book encouraging others to join the fun. It’s just that when we are in the trenches—in whatever line of work—the worms in the inevitable bad apples appear especially slimy. To paraphrase from a highly regarded twelve-step recovery program: “The worst problem in the room is yours, because it’s happening to you.”
The good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity are lurking in all the career and occupational bushes. When I chance upon the writing and publishing discussion boards every now and then, I cannot help but notice the multi-layers of discontent among the scribbling class. Surprise, surprise, surprise…railing against the publishing realm is rather routine. Complaints about acts of treachery, unfairness, and hard-hearted bottom-line mentalities abound. Where have I heard this before? Individuals regularly regale readers with their personal horror stories in the trade in which they ply, and extrapolate that rampant unprofessionalism and exploitation are the rules rather than the exceptions.
Wherever one forages for dollars and/or a lick of recognition, ups and downs are par for the course. Granted, some of us experience more downs than ups. Still, the folks whom I’ve worked with in recent years have been completely professional and totally upfront with me. And, besides, no one held a gun to my head and made me sign on any dotted line. Speaking of holding a guns to one's head: In The Godfather II, aging and ailing gangster Hyman Roth reflects on his career path to Michael Corleone. “And I said to myself...this is the business we’ve chosen,” Roth exclaims with weary conviction. And, really, this celluloid hooligan’s epiphany can be applied to our own lives. That is, when we choose to play on a certain field, it’s best to both understand and make peace with the game’s rules beforehand.