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I’m Laura Newberry-Yokley, your November career coach. This month will be all about attitude. Time to turn up the moxy—let’s take a hard look at what you’ve been telling yourself about you, your relationships, and your career.
Social intrepreneur. I call myself a social intrepreneur. Once I know where my four walls are, I can creatively function and strategize within said parameters to create powerful social change of any kind or size. I have over 8 years of health policy experience in the corporate world. From envisioning to project execution, I’ve done it. This strategic knowhow and political maneuverability are key to creating lasting career success…as is a commitment to internal wellbeing. I was also a strategic advisor for diversity and inclusion, including internal employee resource groups.
Leadership as Self-exploration. I am currently the Director of Cultural Innovation and a holistic leadership coach at Sonrisa Products LLC, a holistic leadership company. Leadership is top-down, but it also can be bottom-up and sideways. It is code for self-exploration. If you can effectively lead yourself through change, then you can help others do the same. Understanding your context as well as all of your moving parts and pieces will be critical as you push for change.
I live in Columbus, Ohio by way of Colorado, California, Spain, and India. I’ve spent my career researching women around the world. Over the next few weeks, I’m here to answer your questions and coach you towards excellence.
Looking forward to connecting,
--Laura Newberry-Yokley, Holistic Leadership Coach
Colleen Grapes is the first woman in her family to choose a non-secretarial career. While she didn’t follow their path, she did inherit their hard work ethic and sweet tooth, and today is the executive pastry chef at Manhattan’s Oceana. Colleen tells us more about her decision to go into culinary and how she keeps up with the boys in one of the toughest industries for women.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a pastry chef?
Definitely not. In high school, I was really into weight lifting. After a tough workout, you drain yourself of a lot of natural sugars, so I would always bake things with my mother and grandmother. People drink Gatorade after a workout because they think that’s the thing to drink, but look at the ingredients—that’s a lot of sugar! I just went a different route.
What’s your favorite thing to cook for the holidays?
My great, great grandmother’s Polish Tea Cakes. I still have her original recipe in her handwriting! I have 15 cousins on one side of my family and 11 on the other side, so every holiday we need a lot of cookies, and the Polish Tea Cakes are always the first to be eaten.
What is it like being a woman in the culinary world, a male dominated industry?
The main thing you have to earn is respect. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask for help, but if you can carry that 50 lb bag of flour on your own, that helps. Show everyone you’re doing the same job they are, and that you don’t think anything’s below you. If I have to go back and help the dish washer scrub dishes, then I’m going to do it to get the job done.
What advice do you have for other women who want to enter the culinary world?
Do something else? Just kidding, but in all seriousness, be learning constantly. Read articles. Learn how to do those juliennes correctly. And, most importantly, you have to cook from the heart. That’s the biggest thing. It’s great to have mentors, but food is a form of self expression. You have to be willing to put in the extra work, the hours, the cuts, the burns and the scrapes—it’s never easy. But anything worth attaining is always difficult.
Can you summarize your process for creating a gourmet pastry dish?
I figure out flavors first, and then decide how I want them translated on the plate. I need to decide whether I want them crunchy, or as a fruit, ice cream, sorbet, or sauce. I usually take a bunch of flavor profiles in my head, and figure it out from there.
That sounds like it was a difficult skill to hone.
Absolutely, you have to know your ingredients and how to manipulate them to get those flavors. It’s good to experiment, but first you need to understand the ingredients individually. Cooking is a science.
Stay tuned this holiday season for one of Colleen's incredible recipes!
Interview conducted by Amanda Miller (WomenWorking.com Intern)
Halloween is nearly here and if you haven’t already picked out your own frightfully terrifying costume, then you must be scrambling for one. Take some inspiration from Cat Paschen, co-owner of DYAD Make-up & FX Studio and former contestant on SyFy’s Face Off. We asked Cat a few questions about her work and what it was like being on a critically acclaimed reality series.
You originally planned to attend law school, how did you make that career shift? Was it difficult?
The decision to attend make-up school and not law school was very difficult. I first had to move away from my friends and family to pursue my dream. I also made the move with out their full support of my decision but I knew it was something I had to do. I needed a career that allowed me to utilize my creative side. Following your dreams is not always easy.
What was it like being on a reality TV show? What has your life been like since—has it made an impact on your business?
Being on a reality TV show has been a crazy once in a life time experience! I had so much fun during filming and watching the show with all of my cast mates. We definitely made many wonderful memories with each other. I sometimes forget how big the show is and am still surprised when people are excited to meet me.
Being on Face Off has definitely been good for business. It has given me many opportunities that I otherwise would not have gotten. It has allowed me to travel around the world from London, to New York, to Mexico working for various make-up companies such as Make-Up Designory and Crown Brush. I feel very lucky and blessed for the opportunities I’ve had.
Today you own your own studio, what's your advice for any women who want to go into special effects makeup?
My advice to anyone who wants to be a freelance beauty or special effects make-up artist is “be prepared for hard work.” You are one of the lucky few that get paid to do what they love—so work hard. The industry is competitive; you need to be one step ahead at all times to be successful.
What is your favorite part about being a special effects makeup artist?
My favorite part of being a special effects makeup artist is seeing the look on everyone’s face after I have finished a makeup. The look of terror, delight or being completely grossed out (depending on the make-up) makes all of the hard work I put into each project worth it.
Any tips for the average person who wants to spice up their Halloween costume this year?
Be creative, be original, be yourself and have fun! Pick a costume or character you love and try to put it together yourself instead of buying it from a store—you will have so much more fun! You’ll save money and will feel great when the costume is all put together.
Check out some of Cat’s incredible work below:
From time to time, a client will tell me, “I need your help changing something I've never been able to change.” Can you relate? Have you ever wondered why you’ve struggled to change something and can’t seem to do it? Everyone has at one point or another. Why is that? Is it lack of willpower? Is it laziness? Is there something wrong with you?
As a former psychotherapist, and now as an executive coach and life coach, I have some good news for you… there’s nothing wrong with you. But while there’s nothing wrong with you, there is a common reason why we often fail to make the changes we want: we’re not being fully honest with ourselves about the change we say we want.
Imagine listening in to a coaching conversation I’m having with a client. In each bullet point below, the first sentence is the truth, but it’s not the whole story. It’s the second sentence fills in the rest of the blanks. When we leave the second part out of the equation we make change very difficult:
When we tell ourselves the first part of the story and leave out the second, we’re fooling ourselves into thinking “I want to change, end of story.” But it’s not the end of the story; it’s just the first part. The last part is what's keeping us from changing faster and easier.
Telling only part of the story doesn’t just happen with individuals—it also happens frequently with teams at work. I’ve had companies bring me in to do workshops on collaboration, saying “We want to change the way we work together.” However, during the workshop, I discover they want to but they also don’t want to. They want the rewards of collaboration but they don't want the hard work that comes before.
We have to quit being afraid of thinking “I don’t want to change this." That’s not easy, but until we see the whole picture nothing is going to change. When we listen to the whole story with patience, empathy and respect, oftentimes the "I don't want to" begins to fade away and the "I want to" begins to write the story. That's when change happens.
—Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Life can easily become one drama after another, but we get so used to it that it feels normal. We see the drama in the lives of those “crazy” reality T.V. stars and wonder how they can live that way. The answer is: they live with their drama the same way we live with ours—they get used to it. It's not that we don't have any drama in our lives; it's that we don't notice it anymore.
Some of us play out the drama in our difficult relationships at home or at work and use up all our peace of mind, and some of us indulge in the drama of neglecting our physical and emotional health. We claim we’re too busy to exercise, meditate or take time for fun. Drama is different for different people. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s—well—dramatic.
In many ways, we can be “addicted” to our drama. If you think you just might have some drama in your life and want to end it, here are three suggestions:
Admit there is a problem:
When someone asks us “How are you?” a typical answer is, “Crazy busy.” We brag about putting in 50-70 hours a week and not taking our paid time off. We tell ourselves we can’t do anything about it so we keep doing it. Might there be a little bit of drama to that?
We say we live and work the way we do because we’re responsible adults or because we don’t want to hurt someone—meanwhile we keep hurting ourselves. We have to pay the bills after all, or we have to stay in that relationship just a while longer to help the other person get through the “temporary” crisis they’re in. However, that’s not being responsible or caring, that’s keeping the drama alive.
Own the problem:
When it comes to drama, it’s easy to blame others. It might be your boss, the economy or even fate. Something “out there” needs to change for things to get better. However, if you have too much drama in your life, you are the only one that can do something about it. Blaming others or external factors will only fuel the drama. You have to come face to face with the fact that no one is coming to your rescue. Owning the problem means finding solutions, not beating yourself up for your past decisions or behaviors.
Get a plan:
I’m not suggesting you quit your job or dump your responsibilities today, I’m saying you need to get a plan to live the life you want to live. Your plan might be a two year plan, but it needs to be one you can take some action on today. You might not be able to reduce your work hours immediately or leave an unfulfilling job, but you can make plans to do so
Staying in a job you don’t love is drama—even if you’ve gotten used to it. If you’re in a relationship that has drama, end the drama or end the relationship. You might need some help to do that, so put that in your plan to reinvent your life. If you have drama in your life, it’s your drama, and if you don’t plan a way to end it, you will unintentionally keep it going.
—Alan Allard, Executive Coach
With Halloween around the corner it's time to break out the carving tools and get ready to make some frightfully ghoulish pumpkin creations. If you're tired of the same old jack-o'-lanterns, take some inspiration from Hugh McMahon, a New York City pumpkin carver who has been creating masterpieces since 1976. WomenWorking has featured Hugh's incredible work before, but now it's time to see what the new year has brought.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Lady Gaga, singer-songwriter
Bette Midler, singer-songwriter, actress
Albert Einstein, renowned physicist and philosopher
Edgar Allan Poe, 19th century writer
President Barack Obama and
First Lady Michelle Obama
To see more of Hugh's work, click here.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone at work say, “I would rather be respected than liked.” I don’t know who started that thinking, but it's misguided. The truth is, we don’t have to choose between respectability and likability. Being liked will boost your success in life and the workplace, but not everyone will like you. That’s not humanly possible. Regardless, it is possible to be the type of person others want to be around because you make the effort to be likable.
To be that person, here are three suggestions:
To be likable, like others:
It’s human nature to like those who like us. We also know it’s easy to like some people more than others—that’s why it’s normal to have cliques at work where some are included and others are left out. The problem is, those outside the clique get the message: "You don't like me." So what do you do? Make it your aim to connect with everyone, not just the ones you are naturally drawn to. I know that can be challenging, but when you build better relationships with more people you will have a higher likability quotient.
Ask how you can help:
Let me tell you about my wife, someone who has a high likability quotient. Everyone who knows her likes her—a lot. One reason is that she is always quick to jump in and help if someone has a need, big or small. In fact, you won’t have to ask her for help because she’s going to offer it first. I’m exaggerating a bit, but to make a point: you can’t help everyone all the time, but if you want a stellar likability quotient, be that person who asks, “How can I help?” If you see a co-worker that's overwhelmed, you may not be able to help him or her with their work, but you can ask, "Can I get you a cup of coffee?"
Let’s face it, no one likes to be around negative people. We may empathize with their problems but we can only take so much. If you want to raise your likability quotient, develop a reputation for being solution-oriented and for taking action to improve the situation at hand. Let others badmouth the company while you put your energy into doing your best work to improve your company. Let others gossip about a co-worker while you are busy connecting with them and offering help when needed. If you want to raise your likability quotient, be positive about what you do and who you do it with.
—Alan Allard, Executive Coach
At 92 years of age Deborah Szekely has revolutionized the way we look at wellness. She’s been involved in community activism for years, and launched Wellness Warrior in 2013, a non-profit dedicated to the improvement of American health—a feat she believes can be accomplished by preventing illness.
In 1940 she founded Rancho La Puerta, a spa in Mexico, a mere hour from San Diego. Today Deborah is still lecturing, and travels often. We were so impressed with her energy and enthusiasm and asked her what the future holds.
What are your goals in the next five years?
Get cracking! There's no time to waste, after all I’m 92. I came up with the idea for my Wellness Warrior website, which is the one-stop home for the latest health-issues and is also an advocacy tool. One of my favorite mottos is, "We can do together what we cannot do alone."
What do you want to accomplish personally and professionally?
The two are one and the same with me. People see me as a mentor-model and I have a moral obligation not to let them down. I have to stay healthy, exercise, not "be my age." When I lecture I say, "I have too much ego to allow my weight and overall health to be out of control. You keep me in good health."
Some people are not fitness minded. What simple steps can they take to become a wellness warrior?
Your health is your choice. How—and how fast—you age can be a choice as well. Choosing to change begins the moment after a good night's sleep. Resolve to get moving, be vigorous—in whatever way you like to do it. Also pledge to eat fresh and healthy foods.
The grounds at Rancho La Puerta.
Many years ago I attended a two day workshop on Reality Therapy. I can’t remember the name of the facilitator, but I will never forget how she began the first day: “I expect each one of you to arrive on time so you don’t disrupt everyone else. I don’t want to hear about how traffic made you late." Then she paused and said, "Now that we all know we are responsible for our behavior, let's begin."
Positive change in our lives begins with the mindset of "I am responsible." The question is, "How can you take ownership of your life, your decisions and your behavior and do it in a way that enhances your self-esteem and preserves your dignity?" Here are three suggestions that work:
Drop the personal blaming and shaming.
It’s easy to blame and shame ourselves in ways we don’t realize: We think things like, “Why can’t I be more disciplined?” “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I not further along in my career?” Those aren't really questions—they're accusations in disguise—and they wreak havoc with your self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence.
Taking responsibility shouldn't make you feel bad, it should make you feel strong and capable. Blaming and shaming makes you feel small and powerless, like a child being scolded. Taking responsibility is about acknowledging you are responsible—and when you do that, you will feel competent and capable of finding solutions and acting on them.
Ask better questions to get better results.
The “I am responsible” mindset avoids questions that are more accusations than questions. The right kind of questions bypass blame and shame and go right to solutions. For example: Replace “Why can’t I be more disciplined?” with “Is this something I've chosen for myself—do I really want this?” Instead of asking “Why am I not further along in my career?” make a list of 1-3 things you can do better at work and ask, “How can I put one thing into action right now?”
How do you know if you're asking better questions? Notice how you feel after the question. Does the question imply judgment or does it raise solutions? Does it discourage you or motivate you? Being responsible isn't about catching yourself doing something wrong—it's about acknowledging your ability to make something better. Learn to frame questions to yourself that inspire you and bring out your best self.
Get the support you need to fuel your success.
If you’re not making progress on a goal that’s important to you, it’s likely you don’t have the support you need. The “I am responsible” mindset is about doing things for yourself but doesn’t mean you do it all alone. If you read the acknowledgment section in a book, you will find every author thanking the many people who helped make the book possible.
Taking responsibility for your life isn’t a “I can do it all alone” philosophy. It’s a “I can do it with a little help from my friends” philosophy. Think about something you want to change or improve in your life—something you’re not making progress on right now. My professional experience tells me your lack of progress isn’t about your talent, drive or “discipline.” You have all that. What you don't have is the support you need. Get the support you need to fuel your success.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
Dr. Tracey Wilen is a leading authority figure on the impact of technology on society, the workplace and careers. She is currently the Vice President and Managing Director of the Apollo Research Institute, whose research underlines the importance of education and aims to ensure that our workforce is equipped to deal with a rapidly changing technological landscape. We recently had a chance to ask Tracey a few questions.
You are a thought leader on technology trends—what are three major future trends, and how will they impact career women?
Extended longevity—the fact we are living longer to 100 years or older means we are working longer. In the past we scoped our careers to be 20-30 years. Today women need to realize they will be working for 50-60 years. This means they need to think about how to remain employable in a digital world where new technologies emerge yearly. This may mean planning a career that has numerous job stops and each one will build skills and expertise. The final job stop may be self-employment.
Technology creates and displaces jobs. As the world becomes more automated I think it is important for women to think about how their own jobs and careers will change. For example, if marketing is now embracing social media, get on board with this early. My advice is to keep up with technology trends in your field, job and industry.
Globalization creates a number of opportunities in terms of market expansion, international projects and overseas assignments. But it also creates a more competitive landscape for individuals whose jobs can be outsourced.
What qualities are needed to get a career edge with the advances you are seeing?
Firm trends include:
Amy* had been a client for four months when she told me she was thinking of getting another coach. When I asked what was on her mind and she said, “You’re too easy on me! I want you to challenge me more.” You’d think a coach would love to hear a client say that—and normally I would—but not in Amy’s case. Why? Because I had been challenging her all along.
In fact, how I was coaching her made her so uncomfortable she was thinking about quitting. It turns out what Amy most needed to learn was going to be the hardest—making the distinction between success and perfection. In short, Amy was too hard on herself. She would think, “It’s wonderful I graduated among the top ten-percent in medical school, but if I had been more disciplined, I would have graduated number one—or at least in the top three.”
Maybe you’re a little like Dr. Amy and could stand to ease up on yourself. Do you ever find yourself thinking things like:
At first, Dr. Amy hated it when I asked her if she thought she was being too hard on herself. She thought the way to change and improve was to demand more from herself, and many of us think the same thing. It's like we discovered the recipe for success and the secret sauce is being too tough on yourself.
If you would like to learn to motivate yourself without having to resort to “I did great... but I could have (and should have) done better,” here are three tips:
Drop the Should’s and “Ought’s”:
Words like “should,” “should have,” “could have,” “ought to,” “have to” and “must” are red flags when it comes to being too hard on yourself. Instead of, “I have to do better,” think in terms of “What would happen if I gave myself more credit for a job well done and focused on my strengths and passion?”
Aim for progress, not perfection:
Perfection is an illusion; life becomes so much easier and enjoyable when we discover the distinction between a job well done and a perfect job. If you need to master making that distinction, ask a trusted friend or colleague at work—they will likely know when you’re being too hard on yourself.
The “WYSTTYBF Test”:
In my book, I share my WYSTTYBF test, or “Would You Say That To Your Best Friend?” Imagine a friend did a great job as a team lead—but was recounting all the ways she could have been a stronger leader. Would you tell them “a great job is a great job!” If so, it’s time to ease up on yourself. When you do, you’ll discover that what you do and how you do it has a magical way of improving all on its own.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
When was the last time someone asked you, “What can I do for you that would make you happy?” I’m not suggesting you don’t have people who care for you, I know you do. However, I do know everyone (your family, friends and co-workers) are busier than ever and have plenty on their minds besides you. It’s nice when others do something that makes us happy, but you can’t leave your happiness up to others. With that in mind, why not ask yourself today, and every day, “What can I do to boost my happiness today?”
Here are three suggestions:
Brighten someone else’s day:
Yes, this is about what you can do to make yourself happier today. It’s just coincidental that brightening someone else’s day will also increase your happiness at the same time. We know research backs that up, but you also know it’s true from your own experience. Why not make it a habit to choose someone every day and do something that will bring a smile to their face? Go out of your way to thank someone across the hall at work, write a handwritten note to let a friend know you’re thinking of them or compliment someone in front of others. We can’t single-handedly save the world, but we can brighten someone’s day all by ourselves.
Give yourself a treat:
Remember a time when you told someone “This is on me, it’s my treat.” Maybe it was coffee at Starbucks or it was the time you paid for a friend’s lunch. Isn’t it time you began to treat yourself on a regular basis? Why not—you deserve it. Surprise yourself and do something for yourself you don’t normally do. Buy yourself something non-essential that you can’t justify with logic—and tell yourself “Let me do this for you, it’s my treat!” It might sound crazy, but it’s not. We could call this DYI Happiness--Do It Yourself Happiness. There’s no need to wait until someone thinks of doing something thoughtful or nice for you. Make boosting your own happiness your personal mission.
Make happiness a top priority:
All the suggestions and strategies in the world won’t work if you don’t use them consistently. The thing is, you won’t do even simple and easy things to boost your happiness unless you make it your number one priority or at least a top priority. Have you ever done that? Take some time to think this through and consciously decide how important happiness is to you. Happiness doesn’t happen by accident. You have to decide to be happy and then become and do the things that will bring you happiness. Then find your own ways to boost your happiness that are simple, easy to do and then make them a habit.
The lyrics from Helen Reddy's song, I Am Woman, are ringing in my head as I watch the news about Beverly Carter, a realtor in Little Rock who was kidnapped and killed. The man arrested for the crime stated he targeted Beverly because she was "a woman who worked alone."
Violence against women doesn’t get discussed often and is far more common than we realize. According to the Justice Department, 1.9 million women are physically assaulted annually in the U.S. and approximately 15 – 25% of American women will report a sexual attack or rape at some point in their lives.
When I was in college, a man from one of my classes stopped by my dorm on a Friday night. I was neither interested in him nor attracted to him, so I just made small talk. His intentions were clear when he forcibly grabbed and kissed me. I struggled to get away-- I knew physically I couldn’t match or beat his strength, that my only weapon was my voice. Although petrified, I was able to reason with him. I am one of the lucky ones.
As a young adult, I traveled 80% of the time for my job. On four different occasions, I had men try to get into my hotel room. One man dressed in a hotel uniform and knocked on my door at 1:00 a.m. claiming he was delivering room service. I didn't answer and called the front desk. They told me room service had stopped two hours earlier.
Personal experiences and news stories make me observant. I don't open hotel doors or doors at home unless I know the person on the other side. But these safety precautions can’t help you if the danger resides in your own home.
When my daughter Shannon was 10 years old she had a sleepover at a friend's house. While she was away, domestic violence broke out between the husband and wife; Shannon and her friend hid in the closet. Shannon stayed at their home overnight, but in the morning violence began again and the police were called.
I never thought I would be talking with my 10 year old daughter about the potential for violence in relationships. I imagined I would have this discussion when she started dating. I told her if anyone ever hits her she needs to get out of the relationship and tell someone.
We need to change the dialogue about women to one of respect, inclusion, and appreciation. The fear or reality of rape is one of the fundamental realities for most women. Creating dialogue and open spaces to discuss personal experiences paves the way for new possibilities for our collective future.
--Sharon Orlopp, Global Chief Diversity Officer at Walmart
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is taking a lot of heat for his recent career advice to 10,000 women at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference. He was asked how women who are uncomfortable asking for a raise should go about it. Here is Mr. Nadella’s reply:
“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise as you go along. That might be one of the additional ‘super-powers’ that, quite frankly, women (who) don’t ask for a raise have. That’s good karma. It will come back.”
That, of course, is really bad advice—whether it’s given to women or men.
To his credit, Mr. Nardella owned up to his mistake and later stated on Microsoft’s press page, “I answered the question completely wrong.”
Here are three things we can learn from Mr. Nardella’s own career mistake:
Smart people make mistakes, apologize and move on:
You don’t get to be a CEO without being smart. And you don’t get to where you are without being smart. Remind yourself of that when you make a mistake. Tell yourself you’re smart but you’re not perfect, and there’s no need to beat yourself up over your mistake. Mr. Nardella said, “I answered the question completely wrong.” The lesson for us: Apologize, make amends and move on. It’s amazing how forgiving people can be when we own up to our mistakes. The bigger question is, can we forgive ourselves?
Smart people take feedback well:
Mr. Nardella got feedback—probably more than he wanted—because social media lit after his response. He didn’t fare so well in the public outcry over his misguided answer but he was very smart in how he handled it. The lesson for us: Ask for feedback. After all, even the smartest of us have our blind-spots. If we want to be smarter, here are two questions we can ask: What am I doing well with?” and “Where can I do better?” It's good to recover from a mistake when you make it—it's far better to get advice and feedback to make fewer mistakes.
Smart people ask for help:
We’re all smart about some things, but we’re not smart about everything. Mr. Nardella tried to answer a question he shouldn't have. The lesson for us: We need to know our limits and be able to say, “This isn’t my strong suit, I need some help here.” We can’t know everything or be the best at everything. However, there is usually someone within reach who can help us if we’re willing to ask.
--Alan Allard, Executive Coach
On the surface, Manhattan-based floral designer Alix Astir is living a fairy tale. Her floral business, Trellis Fine Florals, is very successful, and Alix herself is crowned the “Rose Queen” of New York. Her apartment overlooks “The Secret Garden” of Central Park, dedicated to the author of Alix’s favorite childhood book. Here are the highlights of an interview we did with Alix recently.
It seems like you had an interesting life even before you began your business. What was your childhood like?
My childhood was extremely difficult: my father was a fine artist, and my mother a ballerina, and neither job paid well. It was the 70s, and we literally lived next door to a commune in the Bronx. It was very back to nature, granola, all of that. I learned at a young age to think independently, to look at things in a different light, and to not mindlessly follow the crowd. A difficult upbringing will either crush you like a steamroller, or teach you to bootstrap it, forge on and make your suffering your strength. I was determined to do the latter.
How do you manage to balance your work life and your personal life?
It’s really, really hard. Now that I’ve reached a certain level of success, I’m trying to take a step back and put my personal life first. I had to realize that my business wasn’t going to fall apart because I didn’t send an email or answer a call. On the weekends I need to be emotionally and mentally present for my family, and I actually work better now because I’m more refreshed when I show up Monday morning—that is, if I’m not working that weekend!
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs trying to grow a successful business?
I see women time and again trying to “do it all,” and it just doesn’t work! If you are going to be a floral designer, you really do need to be an expert in the actual design and execution, so let others handle everything else. I’m not a good accountant or a good manager—so I hire experts to do those jobs. No one expects you to flourish in every single facet of your business. That is part of being a good entrepreneur as well, know your strengths and your weaknesses.
How have your experiences made your design aesthetic especially unique and different?
Going back to my roots, my father and mother always had natural elements in our household. My dad and I would go beachcombing for driftwood after every storm, and my mother would collect shells or we’d go hiking in the woods to find strangely shaped mushrooms and things. Clients here in Manhattan love tight, compact arrangements, so I balance that aesthetic with a flourish of a natural element, like a twisted branch or strange berry—something that looks straight from the forest. We’re very urban here in the city, people get so disconnected from nature they realize they’re actually starving for the peace it can give you. Very often I’m called into offices to bring some of the outside in.
Some examples of Alix's terrific work:
Interview conducted by Amanda Miller (WomenWorking.com Intern)
Do you ever compare yourself to others and end up not feeling so good? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, untold numbers of people will read something from a friend on social media today wish their family vacation was so spectacular or that their career was so stellar. When we watch celebrities walk the red carpet, it’s easy to forget that no one has a perfect life—even if their designer clothes, make-up and hair-style make it seem so.
There's no shortage of opportunities to compare ourselves to others when it comes to beauty, income, talent, title or just about anything. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we’ve learned to look at others, compare ourselves to them and to suffer in the process. Playing the Comparison Game isn’t much fun and we can stop with a little help:
Decide What’s Important to You:
I had a friend who recently bought a new car and was thrilled—until they saw a co-worker with a higher end model of the same car. I asked my friend, “On a scale of 1-10, how important is it to you to have the higher end model car instead of the one you bought?” They thought a moment and quickly said, “You know, all things considered, it’s not that important.” Our culture and the media might tell us we need to look like a model or have the power of a CEO to feel important, fulfilled and happy—but we can make up our own minds about that. The key is to decide what’s important to you and keep the rest in perspective.
Monitor Your Progress, Not Others:
It’s okay, even good, to compare yourself to someone else—if that comparison inspires you to be your best self. For instance, if someone in your company gets promoted and that inspires you to evaluate your own career goals, all is well. If you know someone who is generous and kind and that reminds you that you are as well, that’s a plus. Monitor you own progress at work and in life and if you decide you want to do better, you can. The truth is, if we're focused on ourselves and making progress, we're going to be too busy and happy to compare ourselves to others.
Don’t Compare, Be Aware:
Remind yourself that happiness is a choice and comparing yourself to others destructively will only rain on your parade. When you see something in others you feel you don’t have, be aware of what’s really important to you. If it is, inspire yourself to become the person who has the qualities you admired, and practice everyday being more aware and happy about you do have. You might find that focusing on what you do have (instead of what you don’t have) leads to more and more of it coming your way.
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Remember to always be the best YOU.
Video editor: Melenie McGregor