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14 Campy Facts About Ed Wood

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It may not have been a huge box office success, but Tim Burton’s Ed Wood did win two Academy Awards and a chorus of rave reviews following its release in 1994. Pretty impressive for a biopic about a man who has largely been labeled “the worst director of all time.” Throw on an angora sweater and let’s take a look.

1. IT’S THE BRAINCHILD OF FORMER COLLEGE ROOMMATES.

In 1981, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski—both freshmen at the USC School of Cinema-Television—met each other in a cafeteria line, hit it off immediately, and arranged to become roommates. During their senior year, the duo began joining forces on an assortment of screenwriting projects, kicking off a partnership that continues to this day. Together, they have co-written Problem Child (1990), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Man on the Moon (1999), and Big Eyes (2014). On the small screen, they also developed the hit FX series American Crime Story, which recently completed its first season with The People v. O. J. Simpson.

Before graduating from USC in 1985, Alexander and Karaszewski briefly considered making a documentary on history’s most enigmatic director, Edward D. Wood, Jr. Although this project went unrealized, they eventually returned to the subject. In 1992, author Rudolph Grey published Ed Wood: Nightmare of Ecstasy (The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.), a thoroughly researched oral biography of Wood and his work. The book inspired Alexander and Karaszewski to pen a 10-page story treatment for a new biopic about the eccentric, cross-dressing auteur.

2. THE ORIGINAL PLAN WAS TO BRING ON TIM BURTON AS A PRODUCER.

Karaszewski said that, at the onset, he and Alexander “envisioned Ed Wood as more of an indie style picture.” Obviously, it would need a director, so the scribes presented their treatment to their former USC classmate Michael Lehmann, who’s best known for directing the low-budget cult comedy Heathers (1988). Lehmann loved the concept and agreed to sit in the director’s chair. Then the scriptwriters contacted Tim Burton.

“We weren’t even asking Tim to work on Ed Wood, just to put his name to it,” Alexander recalled. “We said, ‘Would you mind coming on as a producer or a presenter, just to help us raise our financing?’ This was so we could say ‘Tim Burton Presents [Ed Wood].’” Having grown up with Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), Burton was a lifelong Ed Wood fan. Excited by the treatment, he told Alexander and Karaszewski that he’d like to direct the film.

Not only did the material seem tailor-made for Burton’s unique style but, as Karaszewski pointed out, everyone involved knew that, “The film would have a much better chance of being made if Tim agreed to direct.” Even Lehmann was excited about the possibility and agreed to “step aside” should Burton choose to assume directing duty. (Lehmann later became one of Ed Wood’s producers.)

There was just one problem: Tri-Star had already asked Burton to helm Mary Reilly, an upcoming drama about Dr. Jekyll’s housekeeper. In order to secure his services, Alexander and Karaszewski knew they’d need to give him a full-length script—and fast!

“Tim had six weeks to decide whether he was going to make Mary Reilly or not,” Karaszewski explained, “… so Scott and I locked ourselves in a room and quickly did a first draft, which ended up too long at about 140 pages. We got it to Tim on a Friday and then we got a call [that] Sunday saying Tim had dropped out of the other movie and was going our movie. Tim had no notes at all, and his intention was to simply shoot our first draft, which is exactly what he did. We were very lucky. Not much got changed.”

3. COLUMBIA PICTURES DROPPED THE FILM AFTER BURTON INSISTED ON SHOOTING IT IN BLACK AND WHITE.

One month before production began, Ed Wood hit a snag. Burton was fortunate enough to hire his first choice for the role of Bela Lugosi, actor Martin Landau, and makeup artist Rick Baker made Landau look uncannily similar to the Hungarian movie star. Nevertheless, after watching the first color tests, something felt a bit off. That’s when everyone realized that they’d only ever seen black-and-white photographs of Lugosi. Immediately, Burton decided that Ed Wood couldn’t be filmed in color.

The movie was being developed by Columbia Pictures, whose higher-ups disagreed with Burton’s decision to shoot in black and white. “They were saying, ‘Look, we can’t get our cable money, we can’t get our foreign video money, we won’t be able to exploit the movie in a lot of markets if it’s in black-and-white,” Alexander recalled. Still, Burton held firm. Realizing he wouldn’t budge, Columbia abandoned the picture. Fortunately, Disney was there to pick it up—and allowed Burton to follow his creative instincts.

4. MARTIN LANDAU PREPARED FOR HIS ROLE BY STUDYING HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE TAPES.

In order to imitate Lugosi's voice and mannerisms, Landau watched some 35 Lugosi movies and purchased Hungarian language tapes. With the latter, he would “literally practice the language and see where the tongue would go.” Doing his homework really paid off, as the performance earned Landau an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1995. When Hungarian-born director Peter Medak saw Ed Wood, he called Landau to praise him; Medak said that Landau’s accent sounded spot-on because, “You are not an actor trying to do a Hungarian accent, you’re a character trying not to do [one].”

5. BURTON HAS LIKENED THE ON-SCREEN BOND BETWEEN WOOD AND LUGOSI TO HIS OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH VINCENT PRICE.

Following the release of his 1953 mega-hit House of Wax, Vincent Price became one of Hollywood's biggest stars. And Tim Burton, who grew up watching and rewatching the actor’s acclaimed Edgar Allan Poe films, was one of Price's biggest fans.

“There was an energy he had; it was evident in everything.” Burton said. “I liked believing Vincent Price, I believed him.” In 1982, Burton gave Price’s career a boost by casting him as the narrator of Vincent, a short film. The two became friends and worked together again on Edward Scissorhands (1990), as well as a Price-centered documentary called Conversations With Vincent.

When Burton read Alexander and Karaszewski’s script for Ed Wood, he couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. “There was an aspect of Wood’s relationship with Bela Lugosi that I liked,” Burton said. “He befriended him at the end of his life, and … I connected with it on the level that I did with Vincent Price, in terms of how I felt about him. Meeting Vincent had an incredible impact on me, the same impact Ed must have felt meeting and working with his idol.”

6. JOHNNY DEPP’S ED WOOD VOICE WAS A COMBINATION OF RONALD REAGAN, CASEY KASEM, AND THE TIN MAN FROM THE WIZARD OF OZ.

In interviews, Johnny Depp has said that to capture the voice of Wood, he tried to merge Ronald Reagan’s “blind optimism” with the “vocal attack” of Casey Kasem, the long-serving disc jockey who voiced Shaggy on the original Scooby-Doo cartoon series. Further inspiration was drawn from Jack Haley’s performance as the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (1939).

7. BUNNY’S ROLE WAS EXPANDED AFTER BILL MURRAY SIGNED ON.

Actor and drag queen John Campbell “Bunny” Breckinridge was a major player in Plan 9 From Outer Space. Despite this, the original Ed Wood script gave the character very little dialogue. But when Bill Murray signed on to play the part, Alexander and Karaszewski decided to beef up the role. “When Bill got cast, it didn’t make sense to just have him standing in the background!” Karaszewski said.

8. THE REAL ED WOOD PROBABLY DIDN’T KIDNAP AN OCTOPUS.

The movie shows Wood stealing a motorized giant octopus from Paramount so that he can shoot the climactic scene for Bride of the Monster (1955). However, the jury’s still out on whether this actually happened or not. Many years after the fact, Wood himself boasted that he illegally lifted the prop and Dolores Fuller later said as much in a conversation with film historian Tom Weaver. Yet Alex Gordon, the movie’s screenwriter, claimed it was rented.

9. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE’S LEADING MAN IS IN IT.

Although he appeared in more than 30 movies and worked with visionaries like Steven Spielberg and John Ford, Gregory Walcott is chiefly remembered for playing the main character in Plan 9 From Outer Space. “It’s enough to drive a puritan to drink!” Walcott vented in 1998. Regardless, when Tim Burton’s Ed Wood came around, he made a quick cameo as a prospective investor in one scene. The film marked Walcott’s final film appearance; the actor passed away in 2015.

10. DEPP DEVELOPED A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ANGORA SWEATERS.

“I learned too much about women’s clothing,” Depp said of Ed Wood, while promoting the movie in an MTV interview. “The first thing I learned is that angora feels amazing on someone else, [but] not on you.” Alas, the fuzzy material does have an annoying habit of shedding profusely; Depp joked that in certain scenes, he may have “inhaled more angora than oxygen.”

11. IT WAS THE FIRST BURTON-DIRECTED MOVIE THAT DANNY ELFMAN DIDN’T SCORE.

Burton and Danny Elfman first collaborated on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985), which marked Burton’s feature directorial debut and Elfman’s first major movie score. It was a match made in heaven. Following Pee-wee, Elfman provided the music for Burton’s next four pictures: Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Batman Returns (1992). But due to a temporary falling out between the two artists, Elfman did not lend his talents to Ed Wood, which was scored by Howard Shore instead. The dynamic duo would later bury the hatchet after filming began on Mars Attacks! (1996).

12. BELA LUGOSI JR. ISN’T A FAN.

Although Ed Wood was showered with positive reviews after its release, the picture didn’t win everybody over. Bela Lugosi Jr., for one, was outraged by the film’s “distorted” portrayal of his late father’s drug rehabilitation process. “The truth, in this case, is actually more dramatic than fiction, but it doesn’t star Ed Wood,” the younger Lugosi told the Los Angeles Times. “My dad, who had a medically induced addiction to morphine, turned himself in—with no Mr. Wood accompanying him, contrary to what the film shows—to Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk.”

Furthermore, Lugosi Jr. says that his father never would have made “certain references to Vampira’s anatomy or … scatological remarks regarding Boris Karloff.” (In fact, Lugosi Sr. greatly respected Karloff, and vice versa.)

13. DOLORES FULLER DIDN’T LIKE SARAH JESSICA PARKER’S PORTRAYAL OF HER.

Overall, Wood’s longtime girlfriend enjoyed the movie. Before her death in 2011, Fuller called Landau’s performance “magnificent” and said that Depp did a “beautiful” job in the lead role. “Eddy wasn’t always that up, he had his heartbreaks too,” Fuller allowed, “… but oh what a great actor [Depp] is and I just loved the portrayal.” But she didn’t feel that the film treated her fairly.

“That was the only thing I didn’t like about the movie,” Fuller said. “Sarah Jessica Parker smoked all the time and I would never smoke. And she didn’t contact me. Here she’s playing my life and she didn’t bother to do any research.” Also, she pointed out that her relationship with Wood was a lot warmer than the movie might have you believe. “They portrayed me as an actress out to get all I can get, but I contributed.” Indeed, she did: Among many other things, Fuller (willingly) provided Wood with a number of costumes that were used in his films. She’d also help her then-boyfriend entertain Bela Lugosi during the Dracula star’s regular visits to their home.

14. PEOPLE WERE MISTAKING GEORGE STEELE FOR TOR JOHNSON LONG BEFORE ED WOOD CAME OUT.

A professional wrestler himself, George Steele looks like Tor Johnson—who appeared in several of Wood’s movies—reincarnated. Noting their physical similarities, Burton asked Steele to submit an audition tape and cast him as Johnson shortly thereafter. In Steele’s autobiography, he reveals that he “knew nothing about” Wood before Burton contacted him. “While I had never seen Plan 9 From Outer Space,” Steele wrote, “people had told me that they’d seen me in this monster movie. I had no clue at the time what they were talking about. Later on, I learned it was an Ed Wood movie featuring Tor Johnson. Apparently, Tim Burton was not the only one who saw some resemblance between me and ol’ Tor.”

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Flurry Road: 5 Tips for Safe Driving on Winter Roads
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For drivers in the Upper Midwest, traveling during the winter can range from slightly unsettling to deadly. Between 2011 and 2015, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Auto Insurance Center, an average of 800 fatalities occurred annually as a result of weather-related accidents. Icy roads, poor visibility, and other factors can make cold-weather commuting a dicey proposition.

While we can’t control the weather (yet), we can increase our odds of navigating slush-filled roadways successfully. Mental Floss spoke with American Automobile Association (AAA) driving education expert William Van Tassel, Ph.D., for some key tips on how to get your winter driving in gear.

1. GATHER SUPPLIES.

Before you even start your car up for a trip through inclement weather, Van Tassel recommends you pack a worst-case scenario trunk full of supplies. “In case of emergency, you want things on board like water, a blanket, a flashlight, gloves, and kitty litter,” he says. (That last one is for traction in case you get stuck in a snowbank.) You should also have road flares, a shovel, an ice scraper, and a fully-charged cell phone to call for assistance if needed.

2. SLOW DOWN.

Posted speed limit signs assume you’re driving on clear and clean roadways. If snow or ice has accumulated, you need to adjust your speed accordingly. “In slick conditions, tires lose a lot of traction,” Van Tassel says. “You should be cutting your speed down by half or more.” Unfortunately, a lot of people learn this the hard way. “After a snowstorm, we’ll see more crashes on day one than days two or three.”

Van Tassel also cautions to avoid becoming overconfident on snow tires. While they provide better traction in bad weather, it’s not license to speed up.

3. MAINTAIN A SAFE DISTANCE FROM OTHER CARS.

You should be doing this regardless, but bad weather makes it even more crucial. Keep your vehicle at a safe distance from cars behind, in front, and off to the sides, as well as away from pedestrians or cyclists. If you need to brake suddenly, you need time—and space—to avoid a collision. “You really want more space in front,” Van Tassel says. Try to stay between seven and 10 seconds behind the vehicle ahead. That means seeing a landmark and then counting down until you pass the same marker. If you’re only a few seconds behind, you’re too close.

4. DON’T STEER INTO SKIDS.

“That was an old rule of thumb,” Van Tassel says. “The problem is, by the time I remember to steer into a skid, I’m already in a ditch.” If you feel your vehicle sliding, it’s better to steer in the direction you want to go. “You’ll drive where you look, so don’t look at a telephone pole.”

To help maintain control of the car, you want to focus on doing one thing at a time. “If you’re going through a turn, brake, finish braking, then turn. Don’t brake and turn at the same time.”

5. KEEP YOUR HEADLIGHTS ON.

Yep, even in broad daylight. Bad weather limits visibility, and headlights allow both you and your fellow drivers to orient a vehicle. “You’re twice as visible to other drivers that way,” Van Tassel says. “When people can see you, they can avoid you.”

Van Tassel also recommends that drivers avoid relying on fancy car technology to keep them safe. While blind spot monitoring and lane changing sensors are useful, they’re not there so you can zone out. “The tech is there to back you up if you need it. Drive the car, but don’t rely on those things,” he says.

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25 Polite Compliments You Can Pay a Coworker
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January 24 is National Compliment Day, and a great way to celebrate is by making a concerted effort to praise the people you work with. Be sure to consider when an appropriate time and place for a compliment would be (for instance, shy people would rather be commended on their stellar presentation in private rather than in front of a crowd), but know that whether a coworker is a longtime friend or more of an acquaintance, lauding their work performance and letting them know you appreciate their skills could really make their day.

1. "YOU HAVE A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOR."

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Every office has one person who knows how to ease tensions at work by cracking a quick joke or sharing a funny link. If this person's sense of humor makes your job a little more enjoyable, make sure to let them know.

2. "NICE JOB ON THAT PRESENTATION."

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Public speaking is intimidating, especially to someone who's new to their job and not used to giving presentations. Notice your coworker is nervous before a big meeting? Seek them out afterwards. Letting them know you enjoyed and learned from what they said will hopefully make them feel more confident next time.

3. "YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHEN TO LEND A HAND."

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You probably know someone who's always willing to help out with a project when you need it most, and odds are they rarely receive the recognition they deserve. Next time a coworker offers some relief when you're feeling overwhelmed, don't let it go unnoticed. Set aside time to tell them you see the great work they're doing and you appreciate it.

4. "YOU'RE A SAVVY PROBLEM-SOLVER."

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Being able to see problems differently is a valuable skill in the workplace. It can open up a team to new ideas and save precious time and resources. Sometimes you may be the person to spot the way out of a problem, and other times it's a coworker who points out the solution that was right in front of your face. If you're grateful for their point of view, they deserve to hear it.

5. "YOU'RE A GREAT COMMUNICATOR."

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Without communication, collaborating with the people in your workplace would be impossible. A great communicator knows how to understand other people's perspectives, explain their own, and make sure they're never keeping anyone in the dark. They're also not above receiving a compliment every now and then.

6. "I LOVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM."

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For some people, getting up and going to work each day is easy: They're personally invested in the company they work for and enjoy helping it succeed. Maybe you're not there yet, but you might see this level of passion and enthusiasm in at least one person you work with. Don't let that inspiring attitude go unrecognized.

7. "I APPRECIATE YOUR TRUST."

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Effective management is just as much about offering guidance and support as knowing when to back off. Sometimes leaving employees room to breathe is the best thing managers can do to encourage growth and creativity. It's also a thankless move that often goes unrewarded. Expressing your appreciation to your manager can make a big difference in their day.

8. "WHAT A FUN PARTY (LUNCH/HAPPY HOUR/ETC.)."

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People take certain work events for granted without stopping to consider the employees who make them possible. Birthday cakes don't magically appear and after-work happy hours don't plan themselves. Behind every fun break you get from your day-to-day duties, there's a coworker who took the initiative to make it happen, and they would like to hear that you enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

9. "YOU'VE GOT A KILLER WORK ETHIC."

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We all wish we could be the employee who blows through projects without breaking a sweat. If you're not that person, the least you can do is pay the tireless person in your workplace a compliment—especially after a big project that had them tackling most of the work.

10. "YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE IS INFECTIOUS."

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Just like one pessimistic employee can bring down the whole office, a positive person can have the opposite effect. It's hard to feel grumpy about starting a new week when the colleague sitting next to you does everything with a smile on their face.

11. "YOU ASK GREAT QUESTIONS."

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Asking about something you're not familiar with at work can be intimidating, whether it's about a new policy or procedure or perhaps about the ins and outs of a department you don't usually work with. But asking for help or clarification is also the only way to learn and grow. Complimenting a coworker who asks a lot of questions lets them know that not only is that OK, it's valued.

12. "I LOVE YOUR IDEAS."

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When someone introduces a great idea at work, people often respond in one of two ways: They get upset that they didn't think of it themselves, or they admire the person for their brilliance. If you want to strengthen work relationships and feel better in the long run, we suggest expressing the latter.

13. "YOU'RE GREAT AT TAKING INITIATIVE."

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Employees who take initiative help businesses run smoothly. Managers don't have to worry about babysitting them, and their coworkers never end up picking up their slack. Next time you go into work, find the person you know who always takes initiative and compliment them for their efforts.

14. "YOU'RE VERY CREATIVE."

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Even if your job isn't particularly inspiring, you may have coworkers who find everyday opportunities to be creative. Their creativity might shine through in the form of a sharply designed flyer, a well-written memo, or an innovative solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes people who don't work in a traditionally artistic field are rarely complimented for their creativity—you can change that.

15. "I APPRECIATE YOU TAKING RESPONSIBILITY."

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Do you know someone at work who's taken responsibility—whether for a botched performance, a failed pitch, or a missed deadline—even when they could have gotten away with keeping quiet? That's not easy to do. Recognize their actions, and they may be inclined to do it more often.

16. "YOU'RE SO FLEXIBLE."

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Sure, you can promise your coworker this is the absolute last time you'll ask them to push a meeting back a couple of days or move up a deadline by a week. Or, you can compliment them on being so flexible and thank them for working around the changes so efficiently.

17. "I LOVE YOUR CONFIDENCE."

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Confidence in the workplace is hard to ignore. It radiates from everything a person does, and when you're working on a project with such a person, it can make you feel more confident as well. Let this employee know that you appreciate their poise and self-assuredness.

18. "I APPRECIATE HOW TECH-SAVVY YOU ARE."

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Who do you turn to when your screen freezes, or when the long email you spent the last 15 minutes crafting suddenly disappears? Likely, instead of running to I.T. every time, you ask a nearby coworker who always seems to have the answers. Even if they don't share their know-how for the praise, they deserve a compliment and gratitude.

19. "YOU'RE A GREAT BAKER."

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People who bake for their coworkers are a special breed. By sharing what they made with the office, it means that they not only took the time to cook with you in mind, but also that they're sharing a bit of their personal likes or hobbies with you. What better time to compliment the chef than when they bring platter of fresh cookies to the morning meeting?

20. "I ADMIRE YOUR LEADERSHIP."

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A good leader is many things, including fair, compassionate, and hard-working. But whatever qualities your manager exhibits that make you appreciate working for him or her, find a chance to let them know you commend their leadership, and that you're a better employee because of it.

21. "YOU HAVE A MIND FOR DETAIL."

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Details make a big difference at work, whether you're writing a big report or a thank you email. Sometimes the details that make the biggest impact on a project are hard to notice on their own. See if you can spot the smart, subtle details the next time you're evaluating your coworker's work, and tell them if you're impressed by what you find.

22. "YOU'RE ON MY WAVELENGTH."

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It may not always top lists of most valuable skills to take into the workplace, but empathy can do wonders for office culture. When team members practice empathy and really make an effort to understand the people they work with, they make everyone's job easier. This is one skill that definitely deserves recognition.

23. "THANKS FOR BEING SO RELIABLE."

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No matter what you do for work, it's impossible to do your job entirely on your own. Reliable coworkers you can depend on for support, guidance, and inspiration are a priceless resource. If they make the effort to show up and work hard consistently, the least you can do is show them you appreciate it.

24. "YOU'RE A REAL TEAM PLAYER."

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In order to succeed as a team, your colleagues need to have the right attitude. Maybe there's one person on your team who sets a good example for the rest of you: They know exactly when to step back and listen to other people's ideas and when to come forward with their own. Sometimes being a good team player means swallowing your pride to do what's best for the group, and that's behavior worth celebrating.

25. "YOU GIVE GREAT ADVICE."

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At some point in your career, you've likely relied on a more experienced coworker for advice. Without mentors, many of the world's most successful people wouldn't be where they are today. Never be ashamed to ask for guidance, and once you receive it, make sure to show your gratitude.

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