The next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot?
I did this with Bikram, and it stuck. Knowing there's an end point to the challenge makes you more likely to try something adventurous or difficult. #creativityboost
It became really clear to me that if I couldn't trust my own gut, if I couldn't sort of have an idea that what I needed to have happen, that my vision wasn't the vision that we were following, then we wouldn't be following a vision at all. And that that was the only thing I had to go on was my creative spirit and my vision. And it was also the idea of power isn't power if you don't know you have it. If you don't know you have the power and you're not using it, then you're not powerful at all. And that's a lesson I've learned over and over and over again, I think.
Listen to the Fresh Air interview here.
"In her new memoir, Year of Yes, Rhimes, a self-described introvert, details how confronting her fears allowed her to embrace other aspects of life...."
Over time, being 100% commission-based has changed my relationship with money.
Before doing hair, money was about doing things to buy things. Making more money at a given job meant nicer apartments, nicer cars, nicer clothes, and less worry. It was transactional. It was also something you wanted to be able to anticipate and depend on into the future.
That is not how money works behind the chair.
Money is an *objective* measure of how much *subjective* excitement a hair stylist is building within his or her clientele. Imagine having 300 bosses. They all get to rate you separately; your performance is re-evaluated after every task you complete; and their average thrill-level determines your average paycheck. They don't rate you on a set of technical or even objective criteria, either. There is no sure way to impress across the board. Technical or artistic prowess might help, but their rating ultimately depends on how much you delight them.
The amazing thing is that the more passion and commitment you bring to the chair, the more your income grows - and there is no limit! The intimidating thing is that you need to Bring. It. Every. Day.
Someone recently told me he was thinking of giving up on hair because he couldn't get up to a stable income. This is someone who wants tit-for-tat. He wants to work a little, make a little money...work a little more, make a little more...etc. This industry doesn't work that way, because it is built too directly on face-to-face human relationships. If you want to build a book, you have to commit up front and do nothing halfway. If you want an eventual payoff, you have to forget about a payoff anytime soon and remove that as a factor - because it's holding you back from giving your all. This is not a 9-5 job and it is not a secure job. Your hundreds of bosses can individually fire you whenever they want, for any reason, so you have to hook them again and again over time.
In this rather intense situation, forgetting that money buys things and treating my numbers like grades is how I grow. Grades are tools for learning and that seems less high-pressure than focusing on money as income and the determinant of my quality of life. Every day something reminds me that I'm not entitled to any set income, because every penny comes from creating delight. No amount of technical skill will necessarily secure my future...but I get to spend 40+ hours per week working with my hands, creating art that moves and lives and is on exhibit 24/7, and making people happier with themselves. I focus on all this as my payment, let the fluctuations in my numbers steer me, and trust that with them as my guide I won't end up a starving artist. So far, it's given me a more appreciative and respectful relationship with money than I had in my cushy office job. If it's sometimes less comfortable to see my livelihood fluctuate, there is a truer safety in not taking finances or status for granted.
There's a limit to how much you can cut, but there's no limit to how much you can earn...
I left my Man Friend's place the other morning intending to walk 3 blocks to the metro. I made it one block before I hopped in a cab and paid $38 + tip to get home. That's my relationship with winter, and part of the reason I finally gave hot yoga a try.
My business partner and a few clients have been nudging me. The idea is that it's much easier on my post-carpal-tunnel-surgery wrists than flow classes, helps develop core strength necessary for a physical job, and limbers me up for jogging and standing all day. Plus, the rhythmic breathing provides stress relief. So yeah, yoga is good for people. Blah blah blah.
What really got me in there is what keeps me going back: my skin, OMG!!!!
Mary started talking about how every dead and dry skin cell sloughs off in the shower after a class, and I tried it the next day.
I have never had a facial or anti-aging product produce this sort of glow. I can skip foundation after a Bikram class and get complimented on my makeup. Even my eyes look clearer and brighter. It's January and my skin feels like it's springtime and I just got a full-body sugar scrub at a spa!
Not only that, when I am in the hot room and see sweat pouring down my face, I can't help but feel like an athlete and get sort of impressed. Yesterday I finally folded into a toe stand from tree pose (or whatever it's called). I wake up with no stiffness in my shoulders and can see in the mirror how much further they automatically fall from my ears. I used to wake up almost every morning feeling like one big walking charlie horse, but my calves are much more content. Repeating the same 26 poses every class gives me a sense of discipline, and builds respect for my body while pushing its limits. Whatever worries I carry into the room, I find that the practice leaves me with a complete inability to focus on anything but the positive. In anyone.
And there ain't nothing prettier than self-acceptance.
The more you put your real self out there, the more it hurts if people don't agree or appreciate your ideas and efforts. Clients see red where I see brown; break room chatter slams an attempt to help my team; people say they had expected something different from their experience with a stylist or assistant at my store; silence greets my attempt to reach out.
Rejection always stings. Some people deal with it by closing themselves off, but then they lose the valuable piece in every review, the piece that gives hints on how to become better. I want to use critiques as input, but not let them derail me. Yet I'm hypersensitive, define myself by my work and treat every little thing I put out into the world as a creative little piece of my soul - whether managing, hair, or ideas. My preferred reaction to rejection used to be buttoning my emotional trench coat up to the sky and running away, never to be heard from again. Not an approach that is easily available when you are responsible for over 300 clients and 30 employees!
So how does someone like me thrive in a hair salon? I have developed a slippery outer surface.
If you get inside that surface, things are really sticky and everything you say matters to me intensely. Only a few people who really count get all the way inside. They comprise my personal network of supporters who may judge me the hardest, but do so out of love and a desire to help me grow. When someone proves their worth as a mentor and earns my core trust, they get let inside.
What keeps me from crumpling into a ball of despair, and often, is that when someone else flings a complaint at me, I let it slip right off my slick exterior and dissolve into 2 buckets beneath me labeled "FACTS" and "FEELINGS". That is, my first step is to just silence my own feelings and encourage the other party to let it out. Once it's fully out, I isolate the facts from what the other person feels, and analyze both separately. I force myself to try to imagine why they may feel the way they do even if I disagree about the facts. I do all of this before allowing myself to feel my reaction, but when I feel it, I let myself feel it 100% - hopefully only in my own head. Finally, I decide how to express my emotional reaction. This depends heavily on whether I think the person complaining actually wants to make things better, or wants to pull me down. It also depends on whether I think they are honest. (Yes, we do get people who just want every haircut to be free, and someone recently tried to return a 3-year-old hair product!)
It's by having these standards that I've been able to build up a network of supporters who pick me back up on the days where my process just isn't enough to stave off doubt or disappointment. What I want most for myself and everyone I come into contact with is just this: that we will keep putting our true selves out there, even though it's harder than how most people live, and even though it means we will step on lots of toes. I'm not trying to be cool and I'm not trying to be right. I'm trying to keep trying.
And not just professionally. My dad wrote me the following in an email this week, when I was talking about taking on a new (exciting) risk in my personal life. I expected critique, but instead got the reassurance I most needed:
"We only get one life. I would rather go for what seems right and makes sense than overly protect myself and miss out. Knowing you can and will bounce back (and knowing you have lots of support) makes leaning forward a better bet in my opinion than missing out."
Leaning forward and sharing your creativity will earn you criticism. I promise. How you deal with that criticism will make or break you. It will give you greater traction or it will make you trip.
Developing emotional armor in all the right places ~ that's my favorite thing about getting older.
A stylist at my store posted this video on our staff page. Definitely watch the whole thing, it's outrageous:
This guy's tricks have an elegant simplicity, yet they create dramatic results. While watching this much expertise and creativity flow through someone's hands, all I could think about was how many things he must have tried first! This sort of magic doesn't just happen. It takes a really fearless artist willing to make some mistakes and experience a lot of frustration at not quite having nailed it.
I've been thinking a lot about the creative process, and how to rekindle my own after an exhausting 2015. Luckily, Emily Ford gave me a copy of Big Magic for Christmas (thanks, friend!) I never could get through Eat, Pray, Love but this book is right up my alley. It's about "living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear." When it comes to doing the best work you have in you, curiosity is what ultimately pushes you beyond the way you currently cut, color and relate to others behind the chair, to attempt new (and therefore risky) methods.
I had a long list of New Years resolutions for 2016, and it made me feel like shit. So I threw it out.
At the brilliant recommendation of my man friend, Eric, I did something else. I made a list of all the actions that make me feel better about being me - right now. Things like doing yoga, running, having a drink with one of my stylists, prepping my lunches for the week, and actually putting my clean laundry away before I wear it. Basic little things. The idea is to relieve the pressure I put on myself to Do Big Things and do more of what I know full well makes me feel amazing. No matter what else is going on, no matter how others respond to me, I have control of doing these small things and making myself feel better. Eric suggested I cross 3 things off each day, so that over the course of the week I've taken pretty damn good care of myself - while still allowing for those nights when the dirty dishes don't make it off the counter.
If this sounds too simplistic, think about all the times you focused on your loftiest goals and didn't quite achieve them. How did that affect your confidence and productivity? Now think about how you feel after doing one of the little things on your list. After a run, when my endorphins are flowing, I have my best ideas, focus on the happiest parts of my life instead of the most annoying, and reach out to others in a more positive way. For a little while, I live more confidently and stop focusing on all the ways I'm not yet precisely who I want to be.
It's only in this energetic state that curiosity can flourish and the sparks that lead to Big Magic can fly. As Gilbert puts it,
You can battle your demons instead of battling your gifts - in part by realizing that your demons were never the ones doing the work, anyhow. You can believe that you are neither a slave to inspiration nor its master, but something far more interesting - its partner.
Instead of making your 2016 resolution a simple goal, what if you made it a purpose?
A purpose is more than a goal. When people are purpose-centered,
For any area of life you are not currently in love with, imagine how you'd like to feel. Remember how you felt at the healthiest moment in your life and how much energy you had waking up in the morning. If you're working on improving your communication skills behind the chair, envision yourself striding confidently up to your guest, giving a handshake as firm as your smile is warm, and experiencing that prickly sensation you only get when your presence fills a room. Imagine your reaction to yourself if you tackled some area you want to improve, and imagine others' reactions to you when they see you holding your head higher. Aim for discovering how you want to feel instead of heaping "shoulds" on your shoulders. The point of self-improvement, after all, is to lift you up!
When it does come time to break down a large and energizing purpose into intermediary goals, don't rely on sheer discipline. Some of my friends are under the mistaken assumption that I "have my shit together." In reality, I just know how little discipline I possess and am careful to tie every chore to something I actually like. I am terrible at maintenance and repetitive tasks but love decorating and reorganizing stuff. So instead of telling myself to clean my apartment because it's filthy, I buy flowers every cleaning day. The experience becomes about beautifying my home and picking out a new bouquet, and the whole thing feels less obligatory. I basically clean to impress my new flowers. Instead of just straightening the closet, I rearrange the closet and bag up clothes for Goodwill and then reward myself with a new item. If I need to cook some meals for the week, I always pick out a new podcast to listen to and if it's nice weather, I open the balcony doors for some fresh-air therapy.
Mind games are the secret.
My purpose behind the chair is to help my guest project the exact message with her look that she wants to project. This purpose necessarily leads me to address rebooking, how she will recreate her look at home, and what tweaks we can make to improve her look each and every visit - so I consistently hit my performance indicators without directly thinking about them. Having a clear purpose has kept me from feeling burdened by a bunch of random number goals on top of doing good hair and connecting with people (in fact, it's become how I connect with people and why I pursue continuing education to improve my skills). The stylists who craft a personal framework that feels sincere - one that can be embedded fully into their artistic activities - will find that their approach can grow with them as they get busier and their lives and responsibilities change.
Care for an easy first step? Decide exactly how you want to feel at the beginning and end of your work day.
The holiday rush always crystalizes my core beliefs about stylist success.
- The people who seem to do the impossible all got there the hard way.
- If you're waiting for directions, next steps, a path, or something to believe in from others, you'll wait forever. Just decide. Decide where you're going, start moving, and tell everyone around you. The path is something you'll only understand in hindsight.
- If you want to change your results you have to change your habits, and that is going to be uncomfortable. Discomfort means you're changing - congrats!
- Take everyone's feedback seriously, but listen hardest to those who make you feel more energetic.
- Nobody ever consistently met their R's (Rebooking, Recreate and Reinvent) without a little PRE-PLANNING. You want to change your book? Get to work 10 minutes early, look at your real time monitor and travelers, choose your 5 favorite products and make a game plan. I have never seen this fail.
- The second you feel dread about anything, stop and ask for help. You *never* need to feel dread. Hit pause, make a clear game plan and reach out to those who have the results and skills you want to acquire. Doing the work isn't easy but you can and should have fun the whole way, even if you fall asleep in your clothes every single night. ;)