People have told me many times that to make it to the top you must be cut throat and be an asshole. I was against taking that advice because I don’t believe in stepping over others to get ahead. So I usually tell those people to STFU because I’m always right.
But, I started to doubt that belief after encountering jerks at the various jobs I have had because coincidentally, they also happen to be partners or CEO’s of the company. Being stubborn, I told myself I’m still always right and never stopped believing that being nice to people is the better way to reach the top. One person I met at my last job reinforced this belief.
His name was Jim Paratore. I only talked to him twice in my life. I met him when he traveled from California to New York. Before even introducing myself to him, I was told by my colleagues that he was the “boss of our big boss” at Thirty Mile Zone. That day, Jim, my boss, and my colleagues had breakfast together. Jim and I didn’t talk but despite the limited amount of interaction we had, I had a very good impression of him.
The second time I saw him was a month later. That day was a typical afternoon in New York City. I was sitting in my office rapping to one of Jay-Z’s songs, smoking weed, drinking a glass of Jameson while calling my friends to brag about my perfect work life.
Someone knocked on my door. Before I could say, “come in,” that person opened it and walked in. I was like W-T-F. There was a reason I kept my office door closed. I saw that it was my boss’s boss. I instantly wanted to jump out of my office window because I just instilled eye drops and was frantically wondering if that caused any eye boogers to emerge. I was also in the middle of picking my nose, naked.
Why was he in New York?! He worked mainly in California and he was just here a month ago! His presence made me shocked, surprised and nervous. My anxiety increased as he walked towards me to shake my hand and said, “Good seeing you again, Tiffany.” At that point, I was ready to jump. I was embarrassed because I completely forgot what his name was and just mumbled some nonsense back to him. His appearance made me completely off guard that I didn’t even get up from my chair to shake his hand. I started to question my chances of getting promoted.
In an attempt to cover up my embarrassment and awkwardness, I blurted out “WHY ARE YOU HERE?” Being rude was my strategy to hide my humiliation. “I’m here for some business deals,” he answered. “When are you leaving?” which sounded as if I wanted him to rapidly vanish. Hoping to gain control and hide my embarrassment, I started asking him a ton of questions.
Soon, we began a half hour conversation about everything: my life, education, China, the economy, America, and the government. I felt like I could tell him anything because he was so personable, approachable, humble and such a great listener. We talked a lot about China and the difference between the media industry in America and China. Jim told me he had traveled around China with his wife for about three months. He went biking in Li Jiang; one of the cities that I had only heard spectacular things about but never had the opportunity to visit. I knew from the grape vine that Jim successfully produced many television shows. So I was curious if he liked the creative side or the money side. To my surprise, he said he preferred the creative side more. But, when people pitch ideas for shows, he would still be realistic on how they can generate money for the shows. Jim also said that money is one factor (but not the only) that reflected how well you’re doing.
After he left, I frantically texted my colleague to ask him what Jim’s name was. After researching about him on the internet to learn more about him, I was not only impressed by how much he has accomplished in the television industry but more importantly how humble he was. I was flattered that he spent time to talk to me and had a genuine interest in what I had to say. Later, my colleague told me all the celebrities kissed his ass because they would be nothing without him. You’d think someone as powerful as him would be an arrogant jerk but he was not anything close to being one. He was so personable and despite only talking to him for half an hour, I was mesmerized by him. Jim, thank you for showing me that you don’t have to be an asshole to make it to the top. You are an awesome guy that I look up to dearly and am incredibly fond of. RIP.