EXCLUSIVE: 'The Bachelor' Executive Producer Wrote a Book That Just Might Change the Way You See the World
By Lauren Zima
Here’s a paradoxical idea: realizing you're not that great will help you be more great.
The concept might just change the way you approach life, and it comes from a man who knows how to affect people: Bachelor franchise executive producer Elan Gale. The 33-year-old is releasing his book, You’re Not That Great (but neither is anyone else), in December and only ET has your first look at the cover (it’s not that great!)
We talked with Gale as he was in the midst of casting (!!!) for the new Bachelor to find out why self-loathing, regret and shame (seriously) should be the most powerful tools in our psyche belts.
We’ll bite: we’re not that great! How did you first realize everyone is not that great?
Well, first I realized I’m not that great! That was the primary key. I don’t like myself very much, and I have a great deal of insecurities, I find myself uninteresting, and it’s just not fun to be me. But then I realized I’m perceived to be doing well, and I have a fun life, I guess? I learned all of that is a result of how much I don’t like myself. Then I started talking to all my friends -- people I admire, and realized all of them feel that way for the most part... The most famous, successful people I know: all of them are insecure, fearful, angry — so I became aware that there’s a lot of power in those feelings if you learn how to harness them.
Your book is about turning self-help on its head and “harnessing all the negativity in the world” to improve life. Can you give us unenlightened an example?
A good example from the book is that I’ve always had weight issues. I was overweight almost my whole life. The way I was able to cope was actually by forcing myself to be shirtless on the beach. I couldn’t hide it, I had to feel the shame of people looking at me. As a kid I’d wear a T-shirt at the pool, or as an adult you don’t put yourself in situations where you’d be uncomfortable. So, I was able to lose weight when I felt embarrassed by how I looked shirtless. I still get up every morning and look at my body and want to make it better.
When and how did it hit you that negativity was the way to go?
I think I’ve always felt it in my core and tried to fight it! Everyone around me told me to think positively, think forward, don’t be in the past. When I first, 10 years ago, got a very short job offer to be on The Bachelor, I’d never seen the show, but one of the main reasons I took the job was because my ex-girlfriend at the time really liked it and I thought it would annoy her! … Negativity is fuel, it’s fire, you shouldn’t lose it. What’s a better motivator than revenge? When you’re mad at someone you do something about it. When someone tells you you can’t do something, you prove them wrong. You shouldn’t get rid of negativity. It’s really important!
Got it! But, have you ever been positive?
I had a girlfriend who was so positive. She’d write notes and put them in my car, or put them on the refrigerator, and I was attracted to it and thought it would make my life better. But then -- it didn’t! I even hated it after a while. I’ve seen that the “mantra” people don’t tend to be doing what they want to do. They use the mantra almost to be happy about the life they have, which is fine, but if the goal is to move on with your life, you need negativity. I consider myself a negative person. I’m sad, insecure and afraid all the time. But: life is interesting and I’m never bored…. To me, being happy is not that important. Doing interesting things is important. Having the goal of being happy has always been weird to me; I derive happiness from things I do. Emotions are the results of experiences; I don’t think they should be goals. Happiness is great, but sadness is really great too, and grief is really important.
How do you balance your own negativity in personal relationships?
Part of a good relationship is balance. I’m also an optimist — I believe things will go well. I believe things will work out. But I believe you need negative feelings to make things happen. For example, when something bad happens, people always rise to the occasion. They find a way to survive. That’s human instinct.
You executive produce The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise. How does this way of thinking affect the way you produce those shows?
It affects the ways I interact with people on and off the show. This is how i think things should be and how people should be. … It certainly plays into all of my relationship with the people on the show. … Nick Viall is a guy who I talk to a lot about his flaws. I know him really well, and we talk about it a lot. I think he became a more likable, relatable person when he confronted his flaws as opposed to embracing himself for who he was. His mumbling, his hand over his face, things like that. By being kind of self-doubting, he suddenly became significantly more likable.
You’re casting for the new season of The Bachelor right now. How ‘not great’ are the hopefuls?
Oddly enough, the important element [with casting] for me is always trying to remember that I'm not that great so I can properly have an open mind when meeting any new humans. For me, there's always a lot more to learn.
How has working on the shows for almost 10 years (since 2008) factored into you writing this book?
I’ve gotten to spend considerable time with about 1,000 people, from totally different walks of life, parts of the country, jobs, backgrounds, stories — years of my life just talking to people. You just learn so much about what people go through before, during and after the show. It helps you see the similarities in the way people’s lives could be better. It’s been an unbelievable education in humans.
A big part of your job is to get people to open up a lot on TV, but you stay close with friends with many of them. And, now you’ve written a book of life advice. How do you reconcile the work with the personal?
I try to treat every person in my life in the same, regardless of how I meet them. I try to be honest to the point of being unpleasant, and I think sometimes people don’t like me for that reason, and that’s OK! As a person who’s kind of really self-loathing, when someone doesn’t like me, I get it. It makes sense to me.
How did you go from reality TV producer to author?
Before I was with the show, I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t really have anything to write about. These last 10 years have been wonderful because I’ve traveled a lot, experienced a good amount, had my heart broken and done the things people need to do to have insight. I’ve criticized myself a tremendous amount. But, I still don’t believe someone is publishing a book I’m writing. I truly think that’s crazy. … And, it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It scared me to death because it’s the first thing I’ve done that you do alone. On TV shows and movies, there’s a big team of people ... The first draft of writing a book is something you do all by yourself. It’s totally terrifying to talk about yourself, and I’m always telling other people to do it! I talk about my sobriety, my mother’s cancer treatment and I’m really open and honest about the worst parts about myself.
Ultimately, what do you hope people take away from You’re Not That Great?
I hope people can look at this book and say, 'This changed my perspective about something.' Even if you don’t agree with it. ... Though if nothing else, I hope it gives them an escape for a few hours in what is currently a very scary world. And ultimately, I hope people stop posting inspirational posts on Instagram.
Gale is also all about being 'unspirational': to that end, you can follow his hugely popular accounts TextsFromYourEx, TinderNightmares and YourShittyFamily. To see him with his Bachelor family, follow him on Instagram and Twitter. And there's so much more to learn about the philosophy of You’re Not That Great (but neither is anyone else). It's available for pre-order now ahead of its Dec. 5 release, making it the perfect Christmas present for everyone you know, because again: we are all not. that. great.