Be nice to those you meet on the way up.  They’re the same folks you’ll meet on the way down.”  ~Walter Winchell, 1932

Back when I was a young freelance writer, looking to break into the wonderful world of live-action television, I wrote a spec script for a young teen series.  It was an unsolicited submission (one of those things every industry professional advises against), a shot in the dark – but it had been fun to write and at worst, I figured, I could always use it as a writing sample.  Well, about a week after sending it off, I received a call from one of the show’s producer.  He’d read my script and loved it.  Only problem was they had just a couple of slots left to fill for that season.  Following a brief conversation on the script’s strengths and weaknesses, he suggested that, if I didn’t hear back from him soon, I should touch base before the weekend.  He stressed the importance of this: my getting in touch with him BEFORE THE WEEKEND.  Any later and I risked missing the boat. And so, after a couple of days went by and I hadn’t heard from him, and with the weekend fast-approaching, I gave him a call.  He wasn’t in and so I left a message on his answering machine.  A day passed.  Then another.  It was Friday morning and I still hadn’t heard back!  Was it possible he’d inadvertently erased my message?  It wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.  I’d done it myself countless times.  To be on the safe side, I picked up the phone and tried him again.  And, again, I went straight to voice mail.  I left another message and then went about my day, assuming he would no doubt call me back.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  I started to stew.  Here was my big break, slipping through my fingers, and all because I wasn’t able to honor a simple request to get in touch with him BEFORE THE WEEKEND.  Well, with the minute hand ticking past six p.m., I decided to try one last time, leave a final message.  If nothing else, at least he would know I’d made every attempt to honor that request.  So I called.  He picked up on the third ring – and then proceeded to berate me for pestering him. Needless to say, that opportunity didn’t pan out.

Fast-forward to several years later.  I’d established myself as a writer, a story editor, and a director of development for one of North America’s premiere animation studios.  Part of my duties of the latter position required me to take show pitches from various producers and freelancers.  One day, I walked into the board room and was introduced to the individual I’d be taking a pitch from that day.  Turned out he’d developed a popular teen show but, since it had gone off the air, hadn’t done much of anything.  As I took my seat at the conference room table and this disheveled, desperate-looking guy started pitching his series idea, I started flipping through his resume and suddenly realized who he was: ole “get in touch with me BEFORE THE WEEKEND”.  He obviously hadn’t made the connection.  But I did.

Oh, I did.

“I want to mention one of the obvious symptoms [of a sick culture]: Violence. Muggings. Sniping. Arson. Bombing. Terrorism of any sort. Riots of course–but I suspect that little incidents of violence, pecking away at people day after day, damage a culture even more than riots that flare up and then die down. I guess that’s all for now. Oh, conscription and slavery and arbitrary compulsion of all sorts and imprisonment without bail and without speedy trial–but those things are obvious; all the histories list them.”
“Friday, I think you have missed the most alarming symptom of all.”
“I have? Are you going to tell me? Or am I going to have to grope around in the dark for it?”
“Mmm. This once I shall tell you. But go back and search for it. Examine it. Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named… but a dying culture invariable exhibits personal rudness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”
“Really?”
“Pfui. I should have forced you to dig it out yourself; then you would know it. This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength.” – Robert A. Heinlein, Friday

It’s been my experience working in this industry that you CAN succeed without being a complete and utter asshole.  Sure, you hear stories about those who have back-stabbed and blind-sided their way to the top, but every so often karma rears her beautiful head and these same individuals suddenly find themselves at the not-so-tender mercies of those they’ve wronged, ridiculed, or forced to go out and pick up their dry-cleaning or drain their dog’s anal glands.  I personally know of two former executives who had no compunction about bullying and belittling those beneath them back when they were at the top of the heap, only to have fortune turn for them in a nasty way.  Their eventual falls from glory were all the more spectacular for the number of former associates who went out of their way to ensure they not only went down hard but stayed down for the count.  Neither has really worked since.

It’s not that hard to avoid their fate.  It doesn’t take any extra effort to be nice to someone whoever they may be, from the established director to the humble driver. They are, in the end, people just trying to make a living.  It doesn’t kill you to show them respect.  That production assistant you diss today could some day hold your career in their hand. Remember, Michael Ovitz once worked the mail room at William Morris and before she struck it big, Madonna Louise Ciccone served up tasty treats at Dunkin Doughnuts.  Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger started off as a bricklayer while Matthew McConaughey once shoveled chicken manure to make ends meet.  Colin Powell worked at a baby furniture store, Stephen King was a high school janitor, Ralph Lauren sold gloves, and Larry King drove a truck for UPS.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people.  And some bad ones as well.  Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to tell you about the former (like, say, Chris Vance, The Transporter’s Frank Martin – a great actor, hard worker, and one hell of a genuinely good-hearted guy who is simply adored by those he works with).  And nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see the latter receive their occasional karmic comeuppance.

If I ever pass you along in life again and you were laying there, dying of thirst, I would not give you a drink of water. I would let the vultures take you and do whatever the want with you with no ill regrets. I plead to the jury tonight to think a little bit about the island that we have been on. This island is pretty much full of only two things – snakes and rats. And in the end of Mother Nature, we have Richard the snake, who knowingly went after prey and Kelly who turned into the rat that ran around like the rats do on this island, trying to run from the snake. I feel we owe it to the island’s spirits that we have learned to come to know to let it be in the end the way Mother Nature intended it to be – for the snake to eat the rat.” – Susan Hawk, Survivor: Borneo

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Sg1efc
Sg1efc

Quote Joseph Mallozzi:
“but every so often karma rears her beautiful head and these same individuals suddenly find themselves at the not-so-tender mercies of those they’ve wronged, ridiculed, or forced to go out and pick up their dry-cleaning or drain their dog’s anal glands.”

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”, is said to be a Klingon proverb and was quoted by Khan Noonian Singh. smile

sylvia
sylvia

Powerful message, sir!

archersangel

to Sg1efc

i was thinking of the same klingon proverb grin

Deni
Deni

Huh? Where’d all this come from? smile

John
John

also by Sheldon Cooper smile

jamietracey

All the best, Joe.

sorrykb
sorrykb

Hear hear.

I remember once I was helping my karate instructor organize an event involving a number of senior martial artists from various systems. The martial arts community has a number of outstanding leaders, but also more than its share of egos. Anyway, one of my responsibilities for this event was helping to coordinate the activities of these big name folks on the day. I remember a few of them were considerably less than courteous to little ol’ nobody me (and my little ol’ nobody fellow volunteers), but when they spoke to my instructor, they were very polite. And unfortunately, what I brought back from this experience is that these men will treat someone well only if they think that person was important and powerful enough to give them something in return. On the other hand, there was one martial arts leader I met through this event who (aside from being a highly skilled practitioner) treated everyone he met, regardless of their rank, with courtesy, and taking the time to greet and thank me and the other event volunteers. He left this event having earned our respect.

This may sound naive, but people tend to respond positively to be treated nicely. Sure, sometimes you can get results by threats and bullying and scaring people, but it’s been my experience that you’ll get far better results from treating people with courtesy. In a work environment, this means: Yell at people, and they might do the minimum required by their job. Earn their respect, and they’ll go above and beyond the call of duty to assist you.

Plus there’s that whole karma thing. wink

– KB

Airelle
Airelle

Oh Yeah!!

Sg1efc
Sg1efc

@archersangel:
Does that mean we’re “trekkies”? sad

I’d rather be known as a “Gatie”. smile

@ John:
Yep, LoL. smile

Nola
Nola

Perhaps last week is working it’s way out?

Everyone should know the name of the custodian who cleans their office (or in my case, classroom) and treat them with the same respect that they treat their boss. Bravo on your post this evening! I’ve rarely heard it put so neatly.

Michael A. Burstein

Wow. That is an amazing story.

If you’re interested, look up the story of how Pfizer treated Isaac Asimov when he applied for a job as a young man, and how they got their comeuppance years later when they wanted him, a famous writer, to come speak. It will seem familiar to you.

gforce
gforce

I’ve always said that obnoxious people are their own worst enemy. I also firmly believe that whatever you put out there in the Universe always comes back to you at some point. I had an experience this weekend where someone did me a HUGE (unsolicited) favour, telling me that I was always reliable and they know I would do the same. It was greatly appreciated and was once again an example of how you live your life winds up coming back to you.

Anyway, great post, Joe.

Sparrow_hawk

Walter Winchell was a wise man and so are you, Joe. I often give the same advice to young techs and physicians I meet. Be nice to people – like your business, medicine is a small world. Good karma is nothing to be sneezed at and bad karma is a bitch.

That Heinlein quote is really excellent. Especially “This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength.” Sad, but oh so true.

I hope things are getting better in your world. Thanks for the excellent blog tonight!

@pbmom: Get well soon.

Fred
Fred

Sparky Anderson (the baseball manager and famous nice guy) frequently quoted his father as saying, ”Being nice to people is the only thing in life that will never cost you a dime. Treat them nice and they’ll treat you the same.” Words he lived by.

for the love of Beckett
for the love of Beckett

Hear, hear! Very philosophical. smile

Okay, you know we’re dyin’ to know… where is the story you didn’t tell us tonight? What situation are you gloating over? Was this the same person who made you mightily peeved a couple weeks ago?

dioxholster

But isnt James Cameron notorious for his temperaments? I’ve meet some sick individuals who were complete a-holes because of their position, the types that would make even a pacifist want to punch them in the face, yet I can see where they’re coming from. They just got too much on their hands and I’m just a no body to them sad Actually I think can be an a-hole too! I will work so hard now to get to the same respected place as them and elevate my status just so I can treat people like trash all day!! yay!

seriously though, someone thought it would be just grand to sadistically out of no where explain me to me how much an idiot he thought I was in everyway just because I was 3 minutes late to this one meeting. He even said I was 3 minutes late as if that was blasphemy. long story short, i went to amazon gave him a terrible review. And thats just one example, most of them dont have anything on amazon that i can review.

Ponytail
Ponytail

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 19:11

Bailey
Bailey

Karma’s a bitch

Duptiang.
Duptiang.

Interesting monolog. I guess a recent event has pulled this from the vast depths of your seared memory. I did not watch the Borneo Surviver addition nor any for that matter. They did have a series on Koh Doradao. My co workers asked me if I was going to watch it, but said know since I had already been there. I lived in the south for 3years and frequently revisit Thailand.
I just finished watching Desperate Measures, Season 5, and loved liked the camera work. There is alway room for redemption if willing to take the risk. Guess that was not the case in your story above.

michaelscholarjr
michaelscholarjr

Hey Joe,
When I was touring a show across Canada, I had an potential presenter tell me to “bug her” for a letter of intent before a looming granting deadline. The deadline approached but she wasn’t returning my calls. As the deadline got closer, my calls got more frequent. Once a day in the final few days. Eventually she answered the phone and told me never to call her again because of my persistence. Too bad. The show did amazingly well all across the country for all of our presenters. But we never did get to go my hometown, where she still runs the local regional theatre. Your story reminded me of this one.
thanks for that.
Cheers,
Michael

dasndanger

” Their eventual falls from glory were all the more spectacular for the number of former associates who went out of their way to ensure they not only went down hard but stayed down for the count.”

I think your industry is unique in this, Joe. Recently there was a study which showed that nice guys finish last, at least salary-wise. And it does seem that those who walk on other people to get to the top – especially the corporate and political types – are far more common than those who show even the least bit of kindness. However, the entertainment business seems to buck this trend. For instance, blackballing seems far more common and you often hear of the difficult actor who can’t get a decent role despite their good looks or talent, while others – despite their eccentricities – keep getting work because they’re such nice guys (e.g. Depp). Sure, ‘Hollywood’ can be forgiving and accept a former outcast back into the fold, and there are certainly many good people who – for whatever reason – just never make it to the top, but as a rule it seems you’re career is over if you step on the wrong toes in the entertainment industry.

“Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named… but a dying culture invariable exhibits personal rudness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

Just a quick comment on this. For some reason people today think good manners are bad, and that being nice is a sign of weakness. Some say good manners just hide what a person really is underneath, but that’s probably because they can’t comprehend that some people in this world are truly genuine and nice. Shame we’re such a cynical bunch that we’re suspicious of a friendly smile, or feel disrespected if someone dares hold the door for us. A dying society, for sure.

Totally unrelated: Joe, do you watch Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart?

Also, can someone get female tennis players to tone it down on the court, please. They sound totally ridiculous.

das

jojo
jojo

My grandmother always told me to never burn your bridges cause you never know when you might need to go back across it. I was working at a very small office for over 2 years when they hired a new bookkeeper. She was so incapable of doing her job, and blamed me for her problems. She wanted me to do her job and mine and I refused. Eventually the problems between us became a workplace problem and I was fired. I wanted to make a big scene, scream at the boss who had made this bad decision and sue for wrongful termination. Instead I thanked him for the opprotunity to work there, accepted the 2 months severance pay, and went out and got an even better job. Fast forward 2 years and I had moved to a new state and applying for a job at a large national company. I was sent to interview with the head of HR at the home office who would have to sign off on my selection as a local office manager. I came face to face with my old boss who had moved and changed jobs to head this HR department. He acknowledged my strengths, and the personal conflicts between me and the other girl. He said that it was such a small office he felt it was best I leave. Then he approved my job application and I got the new job.

Greg
Greg

So who told you off Joe ? razz

I also believe in Karma. It may take awhile but eventually it comes around. Where I used to work the guy who ran my crew was the managers son. He used to snort coke, smoke up, and drink on weekend night shifts. He used to send me to one of the other buildings because I never participated or he felt like I was going to rat him out. He got away with things that anyone else would get fired for.

Being on salary I’d just go straight home. One day they got busy and called for me to come back and the guys at the other building told them I wasn’t even there and had never gone. So the next day he starts bitching me out saying he was going to get me fired. I replied go ahead and tell on me with a smile. Suffice to day he did nothing.

Later on I asked to get switched to another crew. About a year later apparently one night shift the president of the company happened to be driving by while coming back from some event and decided to stop by and bring coffee’s. When he came in there was nobody around, the line wasn’t running, nobody was in the office. He walked around looking for people and walked out to the line.

There he saw the three guys, one was snorting a line, one was standing with joint and beer in his hand and another was asleep. Not only were the three not there the next week, but neither was the manager father and I was placed in charge of a crew razz

Thornyrose
Thornyrose

Wow. Very intriguing story, though you’re driving me crazy by not finishing off the tale. My suspicion is that as you continued to politely talk with the man, all sorts of little fantasies ran through your mind. And then you put aside any petty vengences to do your job as objectively as humanly possible. Now sure how many people would be able to resist the temptation for some easy payback for a long-ago slight, but I’d like to think you and most of the readers are the type to mount that resistance.
Like the quotes, and thanks to Mr. Burnstein for the suggestion on the Asimov tale. One of my biggest regrets was never getting to meet, or at least see, the Good Doctor before he passed on. I will love seeing how he handled the situation.

max
max

Geez, i hope i never offend Joe by accident – he sounds like a mean hardass :O