Judd Apatow on the Character Flaw That Can Really Hurt Your Career

By all means, be great at what you do. But also, be a decent human being.

Photo by Sonia Recchia.  

Judd Apatow has some advice for aspiring comedians and filmmakers.

The producer, writer and director sat down with LinkedIn Editor-In-Chief Daniel Roth and spoke about what he’d say to someone who “wants to be Judd Apatow.” His advice? Be mindful of your relationship with others, and how your own behavior impacts those around you.

“If people don’t want you in the room, it’s all over already,” he said. “There’s always one person and you’re like, ‘I wish I could remove that person from the room. I cannot be in this room because that person is in the room.’” He added that “that person” usually “does disappear,” which suggests that, over time, there can be career consequences for those who don’t play well with others.

While Apatow was talking specifically about sitcom writers rooms, his comments apply to any work environment. And they come at a time when leaders in pretty much every industry are emphasizing the importance of culture. Thrive Global Founder and CEO Arianna Huffington has said we need to get rid of the “brilliant jerks” and “expand our performance evaluations to include embodying cultural principles — like empathy and inclusivity.” Similarly, CBS This Morning co-anchor Gayle King — who, like Apatow, is working at a high level in a notoriously competitive industry  has spoken about not being threatened by others, saying “If you're on a team, and your teammates are good, it only makes you look good too.”

Apatow added that being solutions-oriented, especially when offering criticism, is key for being well-liked (not to mention, successful) at work.

“We talk a lot about people who criticize, but don’t pitch fixes, that’s always a problem,” he said. “You hate the person that tells you what’s wrong, without then pitching ‘what if we did this, what if we did that?’”

Apatow has long been outspoken about Hollywood's failure to root out its unpleasant (and in several cases, violent) personalities.

As the LA Times notes, Apatow was one of the first in his industry to publicly denounce Bill Cosby in the wake of his allegations. “I found it shocking how few people in show business spoke out against Cosby,” he said. “And to this day, there’s an enormous part of our industry that still hasn’t. And that does not speak well of our community.”

At a time when groundbreaking conversations are being had about broken cultures in Hollywood and beyond, Apatow’s comments may be one small step in the right direction.

Watch the full interview here

Success, Career Advice

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