The end of the year draws nigh. As I take stock of the year that was, I see the few critical moments that shaped my year(always, a *tiny* number of inflection points that make all the difference, dont they?).
I’m going to share one of the most powerful of these shifts that I’ve had – because thisis also something that is pertinent it is to all creators and for the creative process. Something for you to mull over as you think about *your* own year that was – and your coming new year.
I was party to these two conversations within a week of each other.
Friend: “You’re not wearing that jacket today?”
Me: “I had a feeling it looked uncool on me, so I wanted to try ditching it today.”
Friend: “That jacket *is* really uncool.”
Me: “DUDE. Why didnt you tell me before?”
Friend: <Shrugs> “I didnt think you wanted to hear it.”
Mentor + teacher: “I don’t mean to be judgmental – but you really need to work on your style. That is really holding you back everywhere”
I had never paid a ton of attention to my style and clothes for much of my life. One part of that mindset came from my middle-class upbringing(“don’t buy any fancy clothes – because, y’know, they cost money. Like, a TON. You don’t want to be vain like those rich folks, do you?”). Another part of that mindset came from my recovering-overachiever-self(“if I do great work, that should be enough – why should I have to do shallowass things like dress up?”)
In mid-2013, I got to a financially comfortable place in my life – so I started to spend non-trivial amounts of money on clothing. Because, hey, I had the money now – so it was about time I graduated from homeless-chic.
Yet, these two conversations above from mid-2014 shook my world – because they suggested that just because I’d started spending money on clothes, it didnt mean I was wearing the *right* kind of clothes. All those years of skimping on my clothes had taught me ZILCH about style.
What could I do after the two conversations above shattered my delusions?
Two of my mentors talk a lot about how the best way to improve in an area where you are starting from scratch is to simply pay specialists like coaches to help you.
The idea is that if you don’t have a clue about where to begin, hire someone who knows their shit – and have them handhold you so you aren’t lost. That way, you make progress without floundering and doing random unproductive shit(like I’d been doing in spending money on clothing – but buying *wrong* types of clothes).
So this would have suggested I should just have hired a stylist – and ask them to help me get my style together. Cue multiple scripts going off in my head at the mere thought of hiring a stylist:
– “Ha. What a waste of money to hire someone. I can walk into Macy/Target and pick up great clothes.”
– “Stylist?! That is SO vain.”
– “Of course I’ve got my style handled. I don’t need help. COME ON. They don’t call me Giacomo Girolamo Casanova for nothing.”
Yet, after conversations #1 and #2, I realized I had no excuses.
After both these conversations, it hit me that I’d NO IDEA how much my lack-of-style might have been hurting me in my career, personal life and elsewhere.Maybe those folks at that party excused themselves to mingle elsewhere because my style made me look like a homeless person. Maybe that cute girl decided to totally avoid eye contact with me – and I might have missed out on meeting the love of my life.
And NOBODY would tell me. So many people would have shut up out of politeness instead of giving me candid feedback. Let’s face it, brutally honest feedback isn’t easy to give(or take).
So I bit the bullet. I hired a stylist to take me shopping. She started with questions for me – what did I want to convey/communicate with my style?
GASP. I had never even thought about what I wanted to convey. And when I met her for our shopping trip, I realized what I’d gotten ALL wrong.I’d worn playful/fun clothes in situations where I did NOT want to convey a playful/fun vibe(work, conferences). I’d worn serious-max clothes on hikes and parties. (To my relief, she also assured me I wasn’t so bad that I came across as a homeless person).
On our shopping trip, she came to my rescue. She laid out simple rules and frameworks for what clothes go well in what situation – and what kind of vibe each gives out.
I’d walk into and out of dressing rooms – and she’d give me a thumbs up-or-down sign. In a couple of hours, I not only had new clothes, but I also left with a very good understanding of what I should wear in different situations – and the message I’d convey with each type of clothing.
At the end of our 120 minutes together, I was shocked that I had been practically BLIND to all this all along. Here I was, seeing that I might not have been coming across as the suave, debonair man I thought I was for YEARS.
And yet, I was relieved that I was seeing the light now.
I was glad I not only had new clothes that worked for me, but also had knowledge that would help me continue shopping for myself in the future. To be clear, I’m still learning and figuring out the style that does work for me – and I sometimes still make style-gaffes – but I come across as far better than I would have if I hadn’t hired the stylist.
It has been an investment for life.
(Hai Giacomo Girolamo)
WHY DOES THIS MATTER TO YOU AS A WRITER OR CREATOR?
We all have our blind spots – areas where we have NO IDEA that we suck in. Unless we reach out to folks who are wiser than us, there’s often no way we can even get a clue as to what we might be missing – and what we can do to improve.
Wondering if you’re doing your workouts right? Hire a personal trainer – or ask a friend who guzzles her protein shakes at work. Not sure if you’re deluding yourself about how well you write? Ask someone whose taste you trust(or reach out to me via my office hours).
Yes, this feedback might often be bitter – and brutal. You might not want to hear that everything you thought of as awesome about yourself has actually been shit – and that you’ve been deluding the fuck out of yourself.
But would you rather never ever find out – and have opportunities pass you by – or would you rather know now so you can make *some* progress in the next few months and years?
As you take stock of YOUR year that was, where would YOU rather be in the next one year?
Since it’s been a while since I’ve written in, I’ve some catching up to do in terms of sharing pieces from Mint Lounge. Here are some pieces from sometime ago that I’d like to share with you.
Thasarak, Kerala – Inside A Village of Legend – Prathap Nair
Mysore, India – A Secret Muse – Shruthi Rao
PS – Here is some more wisdom that I read about how clothes maketh the man.
PPS – If you’d like to consult with my amazing(and shockingly affordable) stylist Adey Bell, hit me up and I’ll make an intro. She’s based in the SF Bay Area, but she does Skype consults as well.
PPPS – Want to speak with me? In the spirit of sharing, I’ve been hosting office hours
via Skype. Because of this, I’ve had the chance to speak to a lot of folks, and learn and share lots of new/interesting stuff so far. If there’s anything you’d like to chat with me about – or share of what you know, just hit reply and propose some times.PPPPS – You’re receiving this email because you’ve subscribed to my email newsletter – or because you’ve written for me and I’d like you to be in touch. You can always unsubscribe via the button below. I’ll deal with it. 🙂