Nice guys always finish last?
Not according to Tim Gunn in his book “Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons For Making It Work.” Gunn’s latest work is a melting pot: part etiquette guide, part behind the scenes glimpses into the fashion world and his personal life. But his overarching rule is simple: be nice.
To Tim Gunn, “make it work,” his infamous catchphrase on “Project Runway,” isn’t just a catchy quip, it’s his life philosophy. “What ‘make it work’ means is that you should use what you have on hand to transform your situation.” And it has worked – for Gunn at least.
The book is composed of 18 “golden rules” for living a successful and happy life. He seems to have been partially driven by his frustration with a modern society that cares more about money, power and success than respect, social grace and basic manners. Gunn succeeded and he was nice almost the whole way up. He is a testament to his own philosophy.
Gunn is shy by nature; so shy in fact that he threw up on his first day of teaching. Still he insists, “You have to learn how to engage. If I did, anyone can.” He forced himself out of his shell as a child and with every job he has taken since. “Treating others nicely is such an easy thing to do, and it makes other people so happy.”
He also advises that success in a creative field requires “patience, innovation, and diligence.” He admonishes that inspiration isn’t always easy; sometimes you have to get up and go find it. “Look out the window. Go for a walk. Go to a museum. Go see a show. Read a book. Go to the library. Take the Circle Line. Have a conversation.”
For those who have seen Gunn on “Project Runway” or giving interviews, you’ll recognize his voice in the book immediately. It is warm, inviting and completely endearing. The writing is clean and simple. The anecdotes tie seamlessly into each other.
As the narrative develops and Gunn delves more into his personal life (the devastating death of his father, the resemblance of his mother to Queen Elizabeth and the crushing breakup that led him to a life of celibacy) the book begins to feel like a conversation with the author. His language and complete vulnerability and willingness to share his life create a feeling of connection. There is at least one story in this book that everyone can relate to.
And then there are the more salacious glimpses into the fashion world: Andre Leon Talley being fed grapes by an assistant, Anna Wintour being carried to her car by two bodyguards after a fashion show and drama on the set of “Project Runway.” There is not a dull moment in the whole book.
For Gunn, etiquette puts order in the world. It helps him understand the “way things are, with the place we find ourselves in, whatever that is.” His etiquette guide is a snapshot of him and how he has lived his life. The lessons are smart and applicable for anyone who wants to know how to “make it work” at work and in everyday life.Contact Amy Desselle.