On Maya Angelou, RIP

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Growing up with the namesake of the great Maya Angelou was no burden since hardly anyone knew of her until I was an adult.  I was actually named after Picasso’s lover but really no one knew that Maya.  A little known fact is that Maya was not Maya Angelou’s birthname but a nickname her brother gave her that stuck.  Much of her amazing legacy was like this-a creation, an evolution and a powerful rebirth of a more powerful self.

 

Recently, a Facebook friend with a curious mind asked the question, “Do inspirational quotes or stories actually work?  Scientifically speaking?”  Her thread was 35 deep and I would say divided into yes/no evenly.  I found the dialogue interesting as it actually never occurred to me that inspiration would somehow NOT work (scientifically speaking is another matter because how does one measure the efficacy of inspiration?).  I hadn’t thought that inspirational stories or quotes would be regarded as catering to the less-intelligent among us.  Or considered trite, as in bumper sticker kitsch!  My contribution to the thread was that I thought people who seek inspiration are absolutely changed by quotes and stories because their mind is seeking it. The self-help market is alive and well for those seeking as are seminars, life coaches and quotes galore on Pinterest.

Perhaps some of us are caught off guard and moved, even when we are not looking for it by friends sharing inspiration on Facebook.  I have spent my life as a seeker and hopefully, provider, of inspiration.  I believe the meaning of our lives and experiences and how we make sense of them provide inspiration to those around us. And I have been greatly inspired by Maya Angelou.  With the passing last week of Maya, I wanted to pay homage to her and how she has affected me both personally and professionally.

 

I don’t recall the first time I heard this:

 

 

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But I do remember the year I began doing hair and observing Stylists with their clients. I observed how profoundly affected each client was by the Stylist (mostly positive but sometimes horribly).  As my career went on and I worked with Stylists in a corporate capacity, I participated and eventually taught a long seminar on business and purchasing habits as it pertained to success as a brand.  The seminar was a few days long but in a nutshell, Maya Angelou’s quote said it all.  We always remember the feeling we have about the people in our lives and in business, this is often enough to succeed.  We will NOT usually return to a restaurant if the food is great but the service is horrible, for example. We WILL, however, keep going to a mediocre Stylist because we LOVE them.  Not because the technical service is great.  But if we provide great service and we are pretty cool (and consistent!), we have a good thing going.  A slam dunk really.

Clients who come to me, usually come to either have their hair highlighted or to cover their grey.  The grey hair can be slight or profound and this has nothing to do with age or stress, despite what people think.  What grey hair does to most women psychologically, however, is makes them feel old and not-so-great. Because of this deeply personal and emotional relationship women have to grey hair, I have the opportunity to transform a client from feeling not-so-great, to feeling amazing.  All day, every day I aspire to create a great experience for the client in my chair so how she feels about her grey isn’t as bad.  This can be done by having a rich conversation, leaving her to read and drink coffee or giving her the opportunity to reinvent herself in changing how she looks that day or just by covering the grey.  I have taken the words of Maya Angelou to heart in my business practice and there isn’t a day that goes by that I forget this very important tenet.

 

The other profound quote I love by Maya Angelou I actually referenced a few weeks ago in my blog post On Unicorns:

 

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I do believe the subject of falling in love with someone’s “potential” deserves it’s own post (entire books written on Codependency…) but suffice to say, I used this quote as a mantra when dating.  Every time a man would say something on the first date or in the first conversation that indicated perhaps a tiny problem with alcohol or maybe not such kind words for his ex-wife or perhaps that he hated his mother…I thought about this.  And even when the dates progressed and I heard the words “not ready” or “wanting to just have fun” I would say to myself, “LISTEN!!!!!”.

There is really no way to properly honor the scope of Maya Angelou’s legacy here.  I am thankful that she has been recognized globally and that her work will live on.  I am hoping that my friend with the inquiry on whether or not inspirational quotes work will find proof in Maya Angelou’s life and know, whether scientifically proven or not, words indeed have the power to change us.  Forever.

 

RIP

 

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On Truth Circles

I have a memory pending substantiation from my childhood friends but it goes something like this….

 

We are in 7th grade and it’s the end of the school year and my friends and I have been called into a Truth Circle. None of us know exactly what to expect but it’s a sunny day and we gather on the soccer field, about eight of us sitting cross legged.  What happens next is hazy but I believe the Leader of the Truth Circle (one of our 7th grade friends) told each of us what no one liked about us.  I remember some girls crying and I remember acting stoic as I heard my “truth” and feeling relieved that the only “truth” that no one liked about me was my apparent stealing of everyone’s boyfriends (kind of seemed like a compliment?).

 

Many months ago on Facebook, I posed the question to my friends, “What if someone could tell you the “truth” about yourself?  Would you want to hear it?”  The response was mixed.  Some said definitively “yes” and some said “no” and some said that they would like to hear it but it would have to be from someone they completely trusted and in a way they could receive.

 

In theory, this is what we have Managers for at work and Mentors for in our lives.  As a Manager in a corporation, I had my share of giving performance reviews to employees as well as receiving them and I always found it challenging.  Within a corporate structure, how honest can we be?  How do we know that the person giving us feedback really has our best interest in mind?  Are they rationalizing my shitty raise because of the company’s profits or was my performance really lacking?  How will I ever really know given the legal bindings of corporate America?

 

There is a mode of career coaching called the 360 I find intruiging.  It is usually for Senior Management in corporations.  The employee is evaluated and reviewed by everyone around them.  Peers, direct reports, colleagues and those above. This feedback is presented for your higher good by a trusted Coach and often reveals blind spots to help make you a better employee, Leader, contributor and peer to your colleagues.  My client and friend Erika who shared her 360 experience with me said it truly was a game-changer for her professionally and something that she craves again now many years later.  What it taught her by revealing her blind spots helped her become a stronger Leader and also helped her excel as a high performance communicator.  Could the 360 be the modern day and helpful version of the Truth Circle?

 

In the age we live in, we are presenting an image of ourselves in social media at all times.  We are creating a perception of ourselves and marketing ourselves every time we tweet, post a picture on Instagram or post a Facebook status update.  Those who observe us are making decisions and having feelings about us 100% based on the tone that we use in our pictures, updates and comments.

 

Recently Gwyneth Paltrow, bless her heart (as the Southern ladies say when they don’t mean it), found herself in a PR shit-storm for stating in an interview that working mothers have it easier than she does because while working mothers have a routine (9-5 job, mornings at home with our kids), she does not.  14-hour movie set days are so difficult!  We all, every mother (working or not) collectively vomited a bit and solidified what we suspected about Gwyneth.  She’s so deep into Gwyneth-Ville that she does not know HOW she comes across.  I call this Gwyneth Syndrome.

 

As horrible as that 7th grade Truth Circle may have been in the most awkward and uncomfortable stage of life, I wonder if there was a way we could do this for each other in a good way.  If someone could tell you the “truth” about yourself, would you want to hear it?  Would you tell me if I had Gwyneth Syndrome my friends?
Please?

 

The_Self