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Episodes: Hold the door open


Emily VanDerWerff

Jan 19 2016

4 min read



Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend, who was expressing irritation with how a professional colleague/competitor seemed to be making my friend's life much more difficult. And, to be sure, some of this was just pure competitive spirit, which is usually fine. (I doubt my friend would be upset about that.) But some of it was territory protecting, making sure that the boundaries were impermeable. And that's just a jerk move.

That got me to thinking. The vast majority of successful people I've known in my life, including some who have real reputations as being tyrants in the media, have, when push came to shove, been more ready to hold the door open for someone coming up than to slam it in their face. They don't view younger competitors as people coming to steal their jobs; they view them as people worth training up in the way they should go.

I am where I am because people held the door open for me. Specifically, Matt Zoller Seitz found my old, amateur blog and asked me to contribute to his much-better-read one, and then, Keith Phipps took a huge chance on me in the middle of a gigantic recession, not only giving me freelance assignments but also letting me (again, a freelancer!) start making assignments in the A.V. Club's then very young TV section. I've tried to model my own career off both men, both consciously and unconsciously, and that's why I believe firmly in holding the door open.

Note that I don't mean to do this indiscriminately. You have your own work to do, and sometimes, you have to walk through the door yourself. But in general, I think, you'll be happier and more successful if you are tilted toward doing your best to help others get inside the building. And in so doing, you'll be building a network of people who were helped by you and will be willing to help you back when the time comes.

And the more you can, look to hold the door open for people who are different from you. Find people who don't look like you, who don't think like you, who don't act like you. Find people whose ideas genuinely challenge you. Look around for anything that will burst the bubble you live your life in. If someone's argument makes you viscerally angry, because you fear deep down that it might be right, there's probably something there worth considering. At the very least, they're a writer worth paying attention to.

There's a lot of meanness, resentment, and pointless competition in the media (okay, in humanity). And I realize it's easy for me, someone who is in a position of relative comfort, to say this. But look around for those who could use a hand up, even if you're at the lowest rung of the ladder. They're out there, and the second we all start trying to pull each other up, the better off we'll be.

(Please note that I don't mean to literally hold doors. Well, you should do that, but exercise good judgment, folks. Don't make things creepy or awkward for others out there. Hold the door when you get there first, and somebody else is a few steps behind. Don't hold it for hours on end while you wait for others to make their way in, unless you are in a monster movie, and you are the only thing between them and certain death. Which could happen.)


TCA is over tomorrow! Expect a resumption of somewhat normal business hours afterward.


Episodes is published daily, Monday through Friday, unless I don't feel like it. It is mostly about television, except when it's not. Suggest topics for future installments via email or on Twitter. Read more of my work at Vox Dot Com.

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