I was recently down in Orange County catching up with a friend from college. It was great seeing her. Even better to remember she isn’t just another internet friend, but an actual human being that I can interact with in the real world. I’m thrilled to say we are both doing well artistically. We celebrated each other’s triumphs and swapped war stories. It was great!
Afterwards we got to talking about our classmates and fellow alums. Where are they now? How are they doing? What is everyone up to?
One thing resonated with the both of us above all else. All the classmates who were cruel, cutthroat, selfish, or actively tried to undermine other students were the same people who weren’t doing so well. Sure, they may have had some success here and there but it was fleeting. No solid success, nothing sustained. Of course none of this came as a shock to me. Bad behaviors may get you places in the short term, but eventually do more harm in the long run.
While not being a raging dickbag may seem like common sense, a lot of artists feel that in such a competitive field, you need to destroy whomever it takes to survive. Its a weird mix of social darwinism, Ayn Rand brand narcissism, and mental gymnastics that would make the US women’s Olympic team jealous to justify downright awful behavior.
The kicker? All those awful behaviors aren’t even necessary. Anyone who understands the phrase, “You catch more flies with honey” knows that. It really is true. Being kind, polite, helpful, supportive, and easy to work with will get you much farther in any than bad behavior ever will.
From a purely practical, non-moral standpoint, you never really know who you are going to meet. Meaning, your best bet is to be kind and polite to everyone. That gal you met at the bar could know someone who is besties with the director of that new animated show you would just die to work on. Or maybe that dude you ran into at the comicbook shop used to work for the art director of that high end ad agency you just applied to work at. Living here in LA, much stranger things have happened. (Like sharing drinks with a friend at a goth club and arguing over which Depeche Mode album is the definitive best album for months only to find out he’s a producer who’s worked in the industry for years. True story!)
This goes double when dealing with your fellow artists. Its much better to be the supportive friend than the cutthroat competitor. Why? One word: recommendations. What happens when another artist is approached to do a project they are either too busy for or can’t do themselves? They throw it over to one of their friends. They give it to someone who has supported them, someone who helped them out. They give it to someone they feel is on their side.
Hand on a stack of holy books, I truly feel that one of the reasons I’ve had the success I’ve achieved is because I do always try my hardest to treat everyone well. I really believe in the principle of solidarity. I do my best to support my fellow artists. Fundamentally in my core, I know that we really are all in this together. More so than that, I understand that we are stronger together than we are when we’re apart. These guiding principles have taken me farther in my career than any marketing efforts ever have or will.
So while it may be tempting to put another artist down to make yourself feel better about your work or you’re tempted to badmouth another artist in order to get a job you’re both after, don’t do it. Step back and check yourself before you wreck yourself. There is absolutely no reason to act like an asshole. You don’t need to hurt other people to survive or be successful, I promise you.
Just remember the immortal lyrics of The Smiths. “Its so easy to laugh its so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind.”
Stay strong, everyone!