Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Unpleasant Side-Effect of Being the Boss

Nothing in particular has elicited this post; it's just something that I've been thinking about for years and I want to get it out there so it no longer has to take up space in my intellectual attic.

When I worked in the video production department of a small but notorious publishing company, the department had a staff of two: the Video Production Manager and me.  My job title changed depending on the mood of the manager: sometimes I was a Video Production Associate, sometimes a Video Producer.

Sometimes something unprintable.

We worked closely with many authors to develop video projects.  With a staff of two, we did everything: contracting, set design, lighting, sound, camerawork, video editing, marketing, still photography.  We shot video in the studio and on-location across the country (and sometimes in Canada; remind me to tell you about the Canadian carnet).  I enjoyed the work.  We went to all sorts of places and met all kinds of incredible people with remarkable skills.

Eventually I became the Video Production Manager.  My workload increased tenfold, but I still enjoyed it, and it showed in increased sales and production quality.  I wasn't a parent at the time, so the travel and longer hours weren't so much a problem.  (If you're reading this, my beloved wife, I did miss you on those on-location shoots!)  There's no such thing as having a bad day on a limited-budget video shoot: you have to be 100% mentally and physically all day long and into the night.  Great stuff.  I learned that any limits I had were entirely self-imposed, a lesson that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

However, there was one troubling aspect to the job: it changed my relationship with certain people, and not for the better.  Some of the authors whom I'd worked with as a Video Production Associate were markedly nicer and more friendly once I became Video Production Manager.  Not all, but some.  To some extent, this is natural: you want to be close to people who can do more things for you.  Still, I had worked closely with these people through production and post-production and thought that I'd had them figured out.

I noticed this difference of attitude early on, made a note of it, and didn't let it affect my decision-making.  But it did teach me another very valuable lesson: determine who your real friends are.  It's a thing you have to experience for yourself.  Learn how to separate people into categories, as unpleasant as that sounds.  A real friend is someone who doesn't want anything from you except your presence in his life.  The others, the ones who will call you friend but just want things from you, they'll fool you.  It takes time and life experience to determine the difference.  Some people never do.

I still retain some very good friends from my time in publishing, men and women I'm honored to know and speak with.  So I have no complaints.  And I make new friends in my new endeavors all the time.  I'm very fortunate.

Is this cynicism, or experience?

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