So Katherine Heigl is in the news again. This time she was flat-out asked if she thinks she and her mom/manager are difficult to work with. To which Heigl answered, “I certainly don’t see myself as being difficult. I would never intend to be difficult. I don’t think my mother sees herself as being difficult. I think it’s important to everybody to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully and kindly, so if I’ve ever disappointed somebody, it was never intentional.”
Every time Heigl is in the news for her on-set antics, people seem to divide into two categories: The “Back Off, You Wouldn’t Say She’s Difficult if She Were a Man” group, and the “She’s the Devil” group. Actually, this isn’t exclusive to Heigl. Anytime any woman is in the news for being pushy or difficult in business, the same debate comes up. Would you say the same thing if she was a man? No, probably not. But what I want to know, however, is why is that kind of behavior advocated for any gender? Why is it even acceptable for anyone (man, woman, or child) to be difficult or overbearing in their jobs?
For some reason people think that, in order to get ahead in business, you must be a shark. It’s what so many of us are taught, in this competitive world we live in. So few jobs, so many hardworking people willing to do anything to get them, and keep them. Take Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, for example. O’Leary says you have to be tough, even brutal, to make it in business. “…I’m the only shark that tells the truth. I don’t care about your feelings. I care about your money.”
Really? You have to be brutal and care only for money, not the feelings of others, in order to get ahead? Am I the only one who thinks this is absurd? Oh, I know a few people who might agree with me! Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Jennifer Lawrence, Ryan Gosling, Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Kimmel, George Takei, Drew Barrymore, Keanu Reeves, Steve Buscemi, and Russell Brand to name just a few wildly successful people known to be grounded, down-to-earth, easy to work with — and charitable whether the cameras are running or not. Being a nice guy in business does not make you soft, it makes you a decent human being. You do not have to step on others in order to lift yourself up.
I think most Americans define success by the amount of money, fame, and power one has. I don’t think being able to buy a lot of stuff makes one successful. It just means you have a lot of stuff. My definition of success is a little different. I personally like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s take on success: “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”
And as a parent, I make sure my kids know this and they have a model to follow. Sure, I’d like to see my kids land jobs that net them a nice salary. But way more importantly, I’d like to see my kids be happy, well-loved and respected, able to laugh and not take themselves too seriously, have integrity, have the ability to show compassion to everyone around them, and be able to look in the mirror every day and like what they see inside and out. If they focus on themselves and their performance, do what’s right, and show compassion instead of being ruthless and brutal, and belittling others, they’ll excel at whatever they choose to do. Now that’s success.