"Be Nice to Assistants"
The old Hollywood mantra and a story about who you should actually be nice to.
There's a mantra in Hollywood. "Be nice to assistants" -- because they could one day rise up to be powerful executives and influential leaders.
It's not a myth. The assistant-to-VP track is REAL. I have many friends and colleagues -- assistants back when my creative agency was two guys and a dream. They're now the heads of marketing at major movie studios. Brands you know and subscribe to. People who got me coffee. People who I joked with at their bullpen desks that now have corner offices. I don't need to @tag them. They know who they are.
But. And there is a big but.
Being nice to someone simply because they can one day help you is some self-serving BS. It's not enough. The best reason to be nice to assistants is because life is long and careers are hard. It’s wonderful to grow alongside friends. Like you’re on the same track team. I was genuinely excited for my friends when they got promotions or a killer new job. And they were excited for me when I got my wins, too.
There's joy in the journey when you're not alone.
Be nice, not just because it's the "right thing" to do.
Be nice because the world is small.
Be nice because life's a heist. Be Danny Ocean, assembling a team to pull it off.
Forget being nice to assistants. Be nice to everyone. You never know how your lives will intertwine.
One of my favorite writers is, who writes Both are True. I started following Alex because he was highlighted in an interview as "one of the top comedy voices on Substack."
Reading Alex's daily dispatches about fatherhood and leading a creative life is like riding to your therapist's office in a clown car. Sure, there are easier ways to get there, but it's loud, fun, unhinged, and prepares you for vulnerability.
One day, in the Substack app, I accidentally copied and pasted a joke I wrote into his followers' private chat area. Instead of embarrassingly deleting it, I left it in and enjoyed the handful of comments it got.
Then Alex himself entered the chat.
"Is this Alec from Space Shank Media?? I emailed you in 2009."
What the what? Please, God, please tell me I was nice to this guy.
Flashback to 2009…
I'd spent the last two years writing, producing, and posting web series on this new website YouTube.com. I interviewed rising online stars for Script Magazine, the official publication of Final Draft. I was becoming known as "the web series guy" in town.
And so a young, impressionable Alex, then a college student at Brown, emailed me to check out his web series. He was filming it at the liquor store where he worked, after closing time. He was, like me, someone using the tools he had to make something worth following.
Not only was I "nice" to him, but I gave him advice that I’d give MYSELF today.
Snap back to today:
We traded some notes and met a few weeks ago over Zoom. We traded stories about the 14 years since that email exchange. We had much more overlap than I would have expected. We both worked in film marketing. We both chased acting and comedy and marketing… and now, writing.
Nope. We didn't become best friends.
But we're allies.
I don't know how Alex could help me, but I know he would. And I'd do the same for him. More than anything, I'm just glad that he's crushing it on his journey, and find it fun to be a blip in his story.
And hey, Alex, when I have a big heist lined up, I'll have you on speed dial.
Don't just be nice to assistants. Be nice to everyone.
Follow Alex at Both Are True:
What do you think? Be nice to assistants or nah? Oh, you’re like that? Tear them down to build them up? I see how you are.
Got any stories like this that prove or disprove the rule?
Maybe you were once an assistant and someone who was nice to you, and you’re WAITING to return the favor? Today’s the day.
I write these every Tuesday and Thursday, and if you’re nice, I’ll send you a funny anecdote over the weekend. If you haven’t already, please hit subscribe or even better, send to a friend. Heck, I’d take an enemy.