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:
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:
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.