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December 20, 2019

The Importance of Being Nice!

by Chris

“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” – Dwayne Johnson

Yep, I just started this with a quote from The Rock. This is one of my favorites because I believe it’s one of the most important things in life. We all strive to do things, to achieve goals, build relationships. What all of those things have in common is that they require opportunity. In order to do anything really, you need to start in a place where its possible to succeed. The best way to get there, in my opinion, is to be the kind of person that people want to associate with. It’s hard to be the life of the party if you’re not invited.

But wait, aren’t you supposed to be a good person because…you’re supposed to? Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Being good for the sake of good is as noble an endeavor as any. But we already know that. Just in case you need any extra reason to not be a piece of garbage (not you of course, but we all see those people…the ones who leave their shopping carts in the middle of a parking spot or use their phone during a movie), there are plenty of selfish reasons too. And not selfish in a “to hell with everyone else” kind of way, but in a way that I think benefits everyone.

Human beings thrive on systems of mutual benefaction. Go too far in either direction – only giving or only taking – and the balance gets out of whack. The social contract works best when everyone treats those around them how they want to be treated, and rightfully expects the same in return. So it’s not wrong to have some self interest involved in being nice to other people, because what goes around comes around, and it works both ways.

How does this relate to the animation industry? I’d argue that being a good person goes at least as far as artistic talent in terms of career success. It doesn’t matter how good you are if no one wants to work with you! It’s sad to see, but I’ve seen and heard of many candidates being turned down because of a negative reputation. It’s that whole Invisible Resume thing I’ve talked about before. The way you treat others has a direct influence on whether you’re sought out for a job or blacklisted from it.

This can be hard for a student or a new animator who is scared to say the wrong thing or unintentionally offend someone higher-up. Peer pressure to include yourself in social activities especially can be a recipe for disaster. I don’t tell you this to paralyze you with fear about every interaction you’ve ever had. I’ve had my share of other bad first impressions and coworkers who I didn’t gel with. I was very socially awkward early in my career, especially in positions of high stress, and really have only recently come out of my shell and become a person that I’m somewhat happy being. And since making kindness a priority in my life, I’ve been amazed at the number of opportunities, personally and professionally, that have opened up! This was not my goal, and I would never expect or require anything in return for a warm smile or a helping hand. But I’ve found that the more of those I give away, the more I get back. Life sure is a lot more pleasant, too.

I’ve been writing this while traveling from California to Indiana to be with family for the holidays, and actually just had an experience that illustrates my point. The last leg of my flight was cancelled, and I was unable to make standby on the next one. I was supposed to get home around 5 PM, but now it was 11 PM and I was still at the airport. When I finally got up to the customer service counter, the guy helping me was surprised that I wasn’t freaking out like everyone else. Really, by the way the other passengers were acting, you’d think the damn sky was falling. He remarked that I seemed to be in an unusually good mood, and I told him that getting upset wasn’t going to change anything, so why bother? I could tell how much he appreciated that attitude, and he proceeded to hook me up with all kinds of vouchers, a hotel room, and helped plan what I could do next to get to my destination. Now I’m sure some of this was standard procedure, but what wasn’t standard was how friendly we were to each other. It’s a shame that it was so unusual for him to have a pleasant encounter with a customer, because he doesn’t deserve to be someone else’s punching bag.

It’s my goal to always make those around me as comfortable as possible, regardless of who they are. Imagine if everyone did that! Each one of us has a direct impact on our environment and the culture of the team we are on. Taking the time to really engage with your coworkers and respect them as people does wonders for building camaraderie and good will, and that stuff spreads like wildfire. Ask people how they’re doing, and mean it. Hold doors open, say good morning and goodnight, and make eye contact. Practice good hygiene and carry a handkerchief in case someone else needs it. Offer constructive feedback and show you trust them by asking for it in return. If you see someone stressing out or having a bad day, offer to go for coffee and a walk. If you’re stressing out or having a bad day, ask someone else to walk with you! You get the idea.

That’s it for today. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and that you find joy in the people around you.

Chris

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