The safe box


Imagine you are a technician. Someone hired you to repair a locked safe box for a fixed price of 100$. You agreed.

You open a safe and see 1,000,000$ in it. A person who hired you is wealthy.

A poor logic that burned some people I know is the following:

The safe holds 1,000,000$. You opened it for 100$. It’s only 0.01% of the wealth it holds. “I work for *nothing* compared to how valuable the safe and its content are. I want a bigger cut”.

Abu in the cave of Wonders

Clouded by greed, you’re overestimating and mispricing your services because you adjust pricing not based on *your work* but on *how wealthy someone else is*. This is a broken and short-sighted thinking model that won’t take you far.

So you go:

— Now I want 200$ for that job! I won’t do it for less.

At this point, you’re shooting yourself in the foot, because:

  • You’re counting and trying to appropriate the money that is not yours.
  • You’re using elements of chantage (pay me more, otherwise…)
  • You’re attempting to break the agreement changing the rule of the game in the middle of the game.

This is a lose-lose strategy because:

  • You won’t get 200$ (or the customer doesn’t understand the power of the agreement, which I doubt, because he is wealthy)
  • You’re risking being said “bye” and not getting even the original 100$ because paying you means supporting unethical practices and not paying someone else who’s more ethical and hence deserves it more.
  • You’ll never get another call. Stories spread, and that’s how reputation is built – good or not.

Outcome: High probability of getting nothing (0$). Limited and low upside (100$). No business in the future. Reputational damage. Higher cost of acquisition.

✅ Ok, what would be a win-win scenario?

— You fix the safe, meet or beat expectations, and thank the customer for using your services. You also note that annual preventive maintenance of the safe would ensure it never breaks again. Before leaving, you mention that in addition to service A, you also offer B, C, and D, ask if there is anything else you can help with now, leave your business card, and say goodbye. As a result, and with a very high likelihood:

  • The customer will invite you again for service A. You’ve turned a one-off deal into a recurring business. 100$ becomes 100$ x N.
  • The customer will invite you to do services B, C, or D. For these services, you can charge more.
  • The customer will recommend your services A, B, C, and D to others. Every new happy customer will bring more.
  • Next time, and also as demand increases, you can consider charging more $.

Outcome: The “worst” case is 100$. More business in the future. Word of the month works for you. Lower cost of acquisition. Unlimited upside.

💡 Less obvious: luck is when preparation meets opportunity. By doing a great job, you’re preparing yourself for opportunities that are hard to imagine. For example, a friend of a friend of your customer is running or building a company and looking for an ethical, reliable, skilled professional and now wants to talk to you. Are you lucky? No. You prepared yourself for luck. Conversely, doing a disservice to your customers closes many doors you don’t even know exist.

Remember: if you’re playing a long-term game, you should think and act long-term. Always keep in mind that in the long term, what’s good for your customer is also good for you. What’s bad for your customer is not good for you. I am talking about the long-term.

And even if fixing safe boxes and behaving ethically doesn’t guarantee wealth and success (however you define it), taking shortcuts or working unethically – is a recipe for staying poor forever.

📚 To make this post more practical, I want to recommend a few books on the topic:

  • The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Kiyosaki)
  • The Richest Man in Babylon (Clason)

Hope you learned something.