Justin Bieber looking cocky on TMZ

Career lessons from Justin Bieber

Written by Elizabeth Bromstein
Posted on March 13, 2014

Earlier this week, Canadian pop star Justin Beiber made headlines when celebrity gossip site TMZ posted a video. It’s of the 20 year old copping attitude and sneering at lawyers during a deposition related to a lawsuit in which his bodyguard is accused of assaulting a paparazzo.

The video is painful to watch. The Bieb makes a complete idiot of himself, scoffing at the prosecuting attorney, preening for the camera, winking, and looking like a caricature of a snot-nosed teen.

So, naturally, the media and the public have had a field day.

“This is what human garbage looks like,” one acquaintance wrote on social media, posting the video. This is someone who would be absolutely shocked if someone were to call him mean, and yet he, a grown man, is perfectly comfortable calling someone “human garbage.”

Let’s take a quick look at Justin Bieber, shall we? A kid from Stratford, Ontario who wanted to sing, he was discovered at age 12 and found himself in the limelight at age 13. A 13-year-old is a child by pretty much anyone’s standards, but that didn’t stop the grown men and women, who should know better, in both the official and social media from immediately labelling him the “worst thing ever to happen to music,” (He was 12 years old when he recorded his first pop song. If you’re over 18 you’re not his intended audience) and calling for his head, with many suggesting regularly that he should be “shot” or killed in some other manner. That kid had taken more insult and derision by age 14 than you will in your lifetime, no matter how unpopular you may be.

At the other end of the spectrum are screaming tween and teen girls – easily the most annoying demographic in the western hemisphere – who will do anything to get near him and get a glimpse of him. Following him everywhere, waiting, screaming, screaming, screaming.

This kid’s psyche has suffered the sort of onslaught of attention, little of it positive – adulation is not “positive” – you can’t even dream of. Of course he’s a mess. Also, he’s 20. It’s natural to have a problem with authority at 20. Put these two things together and you’re going to get the display seen in the TMZ video. I can’t imagine him turning out any other way.

The Bieb needs to get out of the spotlight and reevaluate his life path, with someone who can help. I don’t know his parents so I can’t make any accurate judgment calls, though I suspect it might not come from them. It could happen.

In the meantime, here are a few unfortunately negative career lessons you can learn from his experience.

    1. Not everyone wants to see you succeed. People can be angry and petty and if you don’t believe me just read the anonymous comments on any blog post or internet article. They might be nice to your face, since they are also cowards, but they will turn around and say horrible things about you behind your back, and even worse things when anonymous. Not all people, of course, but some people, and this group can be pretty vocal.

    2. The world is a fickle place. Just because someone is your friend now doesn’t mean they’ll be your friend later. See these two articles from E! Online, the first of which (from Feb. 21, 2014) is all gushy wushy over Bieber while the second ( from three weeks later, March 13, 2014) compares him to a (fictional) sadistic murderer. Similarly, you might be a boss or co-worker’s favourite person one day and inexplicably fall out of favour the next. We’ve all had this happen to us or seen it happen to someone else.

    3. It’s not always good to be the centre of attention. Some people already understand this. There are those who are content to sit on the sidelines and observe, but others feel the need to have a constant audience. People find this second type exhausting, and if you’re going to demand attention, some of it will invariable be negative. There are times when it’s better to fly under the radar. Bieber topped Forbes’ list of overexposed celebrities this week, not for nothing.

    4. People will always pay more attention to the bad than the good. There are plenty of items out there about the Bieb spending time with underprivileged or terminally ill children. Remember this Huffington Post story about him spending time with 6-year-old Avalanna Routh, who later died of brain cancer? Maybe not, since it only has 220 Facebook shares and 0 likes. (See more pictures here. This story breaks my heart.) The deposition video on Huffpo, by contrast, got 2.3 thousand likes and 443 shares. The Bieb is acting like a jerk, for sure, but he’s not always a jerk. Try not to give people anything negative to say about you. It will overshadow everything good you do.

    There may or may not be hope for Justin Bieber. He might manage to gain some perspective.

    In the meantime, he makes a good cautionary tale. We might as well learn something.