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Through brutal honesty and concrete advice, the Reluctant Genius effectively helps you manage all aspects of your job and career. With 18 years of experience in Hollywood, the RG has figured out how to make it to the top AND SURVIVE, somewhat unscathed.

Available for consulting services and speaking engagements. Write to: info@thereluctantgenius.com


Manufactured Stress+Pepcid+Xanax

In the creative fields there’s a type of stress that is experienced often, but rarely, if ever, is called out for what it really is. It’s MANUFACTURED STRESS and its sole purpose is to feed egos and breed paranoia. It’s pure bullshit and, if you’re not careful, it’ll suck you up like a Hoover in a windstorm and before you know it, you won’t be able to ingest enough Pepcid and Xanax to save your soul or your stomach.

There’s always enough natural anxiety and stress in any workplace (particularly entertainment!) to keep us in a perfect state of panic, why would any sane creature create even more? There’s the key word: Sane. Someone who manufactures stress isn’t sane. So welcome to the world of entertainment and unbridled creativity! Sanity is not a pre-requisite here! In fact, it’s often one’s downfall.

A friend of mine, who is incredibly talented and has a boatload of fabulous TV credits was recently told that he didn’t get hired for a job because he’s “too nice.” I’m not kidding. Can you imagine hearing, “You’re talented, your references were fantastic and you have the perfect experience for this show, but unfortunately you’re too nice?” These people want someone who will join their ranks and MANUFACTURE enough stress to (as they believe) keep everyone unstable. They would never be able to articulate this because they’re oblivious to their own insanity. Their goal is to hire someone who will buy into their bullshit and continue the pattern they’ve been taught: Make everyone panic at all times to (ostensibly) increase productivity. My friend didn’t get the job because it’s clear he won’t play their in their effed up sandbox.

“Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.”
-Richard Carlson

I’ve paid for enough therapy for the right to break it down: People who insist on manufacturing stress are not the most introspective, because if they were, they might discover some history that shows them WHY they behave this way -- and then they would be able to change it. Say you were raised in a chaotic family where a constant undercurrent of anxiety rippled through the household; unless you work through it, and realize what that was about, you’re going to carry it on into your adulthood and inflict that same sense of anxiety onto those who work under you. That’s just one obvious example of many, but, suffice it to say, you’re dealing with a bunch of people with unresolved issues that they’re gleefully passing on to you so you can become as sick as they are.

Years ago when I worked on an ABC show, we had an executive producer who created so much MANUFACTURED STRESS that I’m surprised we ALL weren’t hospitalized for PTSD. He was the type who would drill you with questions that had NOTHING to do with the content you were about to put on the air, but God help you if you didn’t know the answer. The more experienced producers taught us neophyte producers to just make up an answer without missing a beat. The running example was: “If Wally* asks you what color car your guest drives, you answer BLUE.” Seriously, he would ask questions like that and if you didn’t know the answer you would be verbally terrorized and the entire piece you’d been working on for days would be destroyed.

You must remember that MANUFACTURED STRESS IS FALSE STRESS. It’s creating a false sense of anxiety and YOU DON’T NEED IT to do your job well and, in fact, you must avoid it like the plague so you CAN do your job well.

When you sense someone over you is MANUFACTURING STRESS:

1. Stay calm and DON’T react. Just nod and say, “OK I’ve got it.”
2. Make them think you’re taking everything they say seriously.
3. Stop and think to yourself: Is that something I REALLY need to think about? Stress about? Or is it just their own neurosis?
4. How can I let them feel like I’m addressing their insanity without actually stressing out over it?

These people need to believe that you are TAKING THEM SERIOUSLY, and often they just need to believe that you’ve got it all under control. You have to learn to give off the appearance that “you’ve got ‘em covered” while not actually ABSORBING their neurosis. When we’re barreling through our already stressful workday, we can easily fall into their trap and believe that what they are telling us is true and that’s when we start chompin’ the Rolaids. We buy into the FALSE ANXIETY they are pushing on us. We start to believe that it really does matter what color car our talk show guest is driving. Now, c’mon. Am I a crappy producer because I don’t know that answer? NO! Who in the hell cares!

Whatever you do, though, don’t try to persuade them that their stress is over-the-top. It’s your job to be calm and grown-up and say, “Yup. I’ve got it.” If they’re dumping way too much on your plate and it’s just ridiculous, then you say, “No problem. Can you help me prioritize some of these things you want done? Which would you rather know right away? What color her car is or what her viewpoint is on capital punishment?” Sometimes, right before your very eyes, they’ll relent and say, “Never mind about the car. Just make sure she arrives on time for the show.”

If all of this fails, take one Pepcid and one Xanax and write me in the morning. tmazuer@gmail.com


P.S. If you're in TV, you've gotta watch the Laura Ingram video I posted below. If you're not in TV, watch it anyway and see what we go through. (I think it might be safe to say, though, that her staff might bear a little responsibility.)

LAURA INGRAM -- "DON'T COME IN MY EAR" -- This sums up life in TV



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Connecting Reality - Wednesday, 29 October 2008
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