You missed out.
You missed out.
When I was transitioning from middle school to high school, my best friend Mary* and I were separated, resulting in us attending two different schools. About three weeks in, I got a tearful call from her. She said that she had fled the guidance counselor’s office after being confronted by two teachers, the guidance counselor, the vice principal and a nutritionist, and told that they were there to “help her become healthy again”. She had been pulled into the guidance counselor’s office before, and been asked questions about her eating habits, but nothing to the degree of what happened that afternoon.
I’m My Own Boss!
During my interview at Laura-Jean’s outdoor boardroom (aka lovely backyard… but seriously, it was like stepping into Narnia) I was asked some pretty typical questions. The magic came after the “interview” questions subsided, and we began to chat about what she wanted to see in her business. She told me that they were looking for someone to step out of line, suggest the craziest ideas, and dream big – they were looking for those outside-the-box people who could take on the store and run it as though it were their own. Apparently I fit the bill (hoorah!) and ever since I’ve been taking the first of many, many steps to a long and delightful career with FC. Each of our stores has such a different flavour because they are managed, curated and populated by a signature team of individuals who truly understand the clientele and vibe of the neighbourhood. Each and every person who works for FC is given the opportunity to lead their own projects, create their own systems, and establish their own career paths in any direction they choose. FC has been in business for TEN years now, but this is just the beginning for our team and what we’re going to accomplish in the fashion industry!
Relationships Beyond Compare
Company Culture Allows for Growth
Supporting Local Artists, Launching New Ones
Allowing customers to contribute
Real women – celebrating your body
I love dresses. Oh my goodness, how I love dresses.
Change… and lots of it!
I love a pencil skirt and a blazer as much as the next gal, but I’m not the kind of girl to get gussied up in office wear for sport. Life is good when your wardrobe can be as creative and funky as you like. Its also nice to come home, flop down on the couch and not have to immediately slither out of a suit as though it’s trying to eat me. As much as I enjoy being fashionably free, most of my friends work in corporate environments, which requires modest, straight-laced outfits and that often limits creativity and expression in dressing. Its all-too easy to get caught up in the over-structured, oatmeal-coloured world of crisp lines and classic cuts, and some of us simply fall into this pattern for lack of inspiration, concern over maintaining professionalism, or even inexperience with mixing professional items with more casual ones. A friend of mine suggested writing this week’s blog about dressing for the office, but keeping your sense of self and pushing the bar while still dressing appropriately, with class and style. Janet, this one is for you!
Fun fur, pleather pants, and fishnet anything have NO place in a professional environment. None. Scrap that idea now. Done? Okay, good, now we can move on to incorporating fun materials and textures into your wardrobe. Keeping shapes classic, you can get a lot of bang for your buck when mixing and matching fabrics. Keep more playful materials office-friendly by balancing textured pieces with simpler ones, and play them up for night-time!
Everyone can wear colour. the brightness, saturation and amount of it worn are up to you. Colour is a BRILLIANT way to add a splash of fun to an otherwise boring outfit. Picking out garments and accessories in fun colours can also breathe new life into what you own already, and can play up your natural features, like your beautiful blue eyes, your chestnut hair, or your porcelain/freckled/gloriously tanned skin.
You guys know I love a good print. But how to incorporate a print into office-friendly attire? Simple. Balance. If you work in a creative field, bright, wacky prints can be totally acceptable. If you work in a more conservative environment, subtle prints will be your bff. Prints can add a playful touch, they can draw the eye and shape the body, or they can simply add dimension and interest to solids. Pick your favourite print, pair with matching accessories, and have a blast!
Play it safe: Pinstripes, small polka dots, subtle stripes, soft florals, pairing a print with a basic, layering under/over solids
Push the Limits: Combining two contrasting prints in similar colours (white and navy stripes paired with white and navy dots), double-exposed prints (large polka dots on top, small dots on the bottom), loud prints, allover printed garments, colour-blocked accessories (pink and green printed dress with bold green shoes, pink bracelets and a pink and green necklace) Pairing a print with ANY of the above mentioned (sparkle, texture, colour)
There you have it folks! Challenge yourself to incorporate one of these fun strategies each and every day next week, and see heads turn!
“These old saggers”
Women, young and old, need to love the bodies they’re given. Each unique shape has a unique formula for dressing, which allows the wearer (that’s you!) to play up or down their features and attributes, without swathing themselves in layers of loose-fitting gauzy fabric from head to toe. In grey or black. Because those are the most slimming, right?
First off, let me say this: You know that “trouble part” that you hate? That part that you’re hyper-conscious of throughout the day, and the first area you check/adjust/fuss over in bathroom mirrors? Yeah, that part. NO ONE ELSE NOTICES IT. No one. People, especially women, are too concerned either with their own trouble areas, or with totally unrelated things (like your awesome shoes, or that cute dog across the street, or what time they have to pick up their kids at, or their overdue Rogers bill) to notice your less-than-toned arms. Visual attention is a fun thing to play with, since it’s TOTALLY up to the individual to direct where the eyes of others go. Will you have passersby notice that you keep fiddling with the hem on your skirt? Or will you have them notice the awesome skirt itself, as it blows in the breeze and shows off its fun print and vibrant colours? Will people recognize you as the lady who wears all black, all year, or as the woman who has awesome fashion sense in any season and takes risks with fun shapes and patterns? People notice what you draw attention to. Picking, adjusting, pulling, fiddling, etcetera brings the eye towards the area. The viewer is noticing that you’re wearing garments you’re not comfortable in. So, if you HAVE to pick and fiddle, donate the item. If you truly don’t NEED to adjust, don’t.
So now that we’ve covered the fact that NO ONE notices your tiny, ridiculous areas of insecurities, we can move forward boldly and with a spirit of fun, playfulness and liveliness! Rather than donning a floor-length maxi dress with sleeves on a muggy day in July, get familiar with flattering cuts and learning to create effects using colour, shape and texture. For example, a wide, squared neckline will bring the eye towards the face. Tiered, textured skirts with uneven hems can lengthen and slim legs, and a well tailored blouse made from a soft but structured fabric can nip the appearance of love handles. Going sleeveless does not mean going directly to straps. A more wearable and comfortable style is 30’s inspired (Thanks, Gatsby!), and offers a full shoulder sans sleeve. (That means you can wear a real bra with it! No more of those ridiculous plastic straps! Rejoice!)
Ladies, unless you’re legitimately photosensitive, or a vampire who twinkles in the sun like unicorn droppings, realize that it’s okay, no, its expected, that you’ll be showing some skin when the weather gets warm. A little calf or upper arm never killed anyone. Basically, by draping yourself in fabric during the hottest days of the month for the sheer purpose of diverting attention from your ‘problem areas’, you’re working against yourself, by being the lady dressed like a mummy on the beach. Don’t be the mummy lady.
He’s right. Spring is here, and thus begins strolling-while-holding-hands season, and ice-cream-sundae-for-two season, and lemonade-with-two-straws season and watch-fireworks-with-that-
I’m a big fan of Patti Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker. I’ve had some pretty interesting jobs, but one of my most memorable was a high-end matchmaking agency. It used a simple software to sort clients by location, age, body type and interests among other attributes, making our jobs easier by eliminating anyone who possessed traits which were not desirable to the client being matched du jour. I drove my boss nuts, because I would often deviate from the “typical” matchmaking formula, matching my clients based on sense of humour or first impressions. Boy howdy, you can bet your best hat I had more successful matches than any other matcher there. I’ve got a pretty no-nonsense approach to dating and mating, and although I’m happily claimed by my awesome fiancee Fern, I’m still very well aware that dating truly is a game, and there are some crucial strategic moves that can be executed to level up.
Flipside, Exhibit B. An older gent named Bryan*. Bryan was from a small town in North Ontario, and although he travelled down to the city often, he had a hard time meeting ladies who shared his love for small-city living, fishing, and dogs. Bryan had been married for over 30 years and had a son in his late thirties, but lost his wife to cancer a few years before he came to the agency. He was looking for a Heather Locklear type without “all the glitter and face crap”. When we first met, the first thing I noticed was his uproarious laugh. He was hilarious, if not bordering on inappropriate at times, but he had a great sense of humour and positivity and joy oozed out of every pore he had. He was like that awesome, crazy uncle everyone has. Bryan was a favourite of mine. He called the office on my birthday to wish me a happy one, and when matched with his first two ladies, both reported having an amazing time and said he was a true gentleman, but no romantic connection. Oh no, the dreaded friend zone! A few months after meeting Bryan, I met a woman named Claire*. Claire was short, in her 60s, fuller figured with dark auburn hair and had a penchant for mustaches (seriously). She had a high-pitched laugh that made me think of Bryan, but physically, she was looking for a Burt Reynolds type, and Bryan was more of a Danny DeVito. She herself was closer to a Melissa McCarthy, definitely not a Heather Locklear. I met with each of them several more times to review past dates and tailor preferences, and although both of them were popular in the system, neither one of them had found love. During a check-in with Claire, she mentioned that one of her boys lived in the town where Bryan was from, and then I discovered that she was actually from the same town!
Each time we matched a client, they were charged. I had a great idea. I called Claire and told her about Bryan. She was hesitant, but once I told her that the match was on the house, she agreed. I called Bryan and told him the same, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he was really excited! It was rare for him to meet someone from his area who knew the lifestyle, and she could very well work out to be a great friend, if not a love match. The day after their date, I got an email from Claire to tell me that they had met, and not only had they had a wonderful time, it turns out that they went to the same high school! After graduation, Claire’s family had moved to the Toronto area and they had never seen or heard from each other again. To my delight, they both pulled their profiles from the system a couple of weeks later, after becoming monogamous and deciding that they were no longer on the hunt. SQUEEEEAAAAAL!
Knowing what you’re looking for in a partner is crucial. Knowing what you DON’T want in a partner is just as crucial, and being able to confidently communicate this is often perceived as being narrow minded or superficial. I disagree. I know that I would have a very difficult time forming a relationship with someone who’s lifestyle is radically different from my own, and I’m okay with people having physical preferences. For example, I understand that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and I are a perfect, perfect match and am relatively confident that our lifestyles would be an identical match. You know, because I love him and all. But in all seriousness, I have a type, and I’m someone’s type, and I understand that everyone is different in this respect. I will say, however, that during my single days I’ve been pleasantly surprised when I don’t let that type rule my decisions, and I leave myself open to possibilities of new people and experiences. Physical attraction is definitely important, but I’ve found super-hot guys who seem to be totally void of a brain, and other guys who may not be my type at first, but their cute smile or quirky sense of humour has grown on me, increasing their dateability.
Dateability is totally a word.
So friends, my advice to you during this beautiful season is as follows. Make an effort to meet people. I mean REALLY meet people, don’t just meet eyes in a bar. Involve yourself in activities you are truly interested in, and you’ll find a swarm of folks who share common interests. Don’t bash yourself during social situations. If you tell a potential partner that you’re not _____ or are too _____, chances are, they’ll believe you. Think of meeting new people as you would a job interview. Present the best parts of yourself, sell your strengths and be genuine, warm and authentic. Laugh at pickup lines, and strike up a conversation with the geek who’s brave enough to use them on you. Its probably the bravest thing they’ve done all week. Drop two of the things on your “dating must-have” list. Really, your dating candidate may not sleep in a bathtub full of money and speak four languages, but they may be a sweet, caring and truly compatible person. Be tolerant of set-ups. Your friends may set you up with the perfect someone… or you’ll have a hilarious story to tell and are one date closer to finding the perfect one. Before a date, remind yourself that you’re simply meeting someone new, and that there is NO way to tell if they are THE ONE at this point, so the goal is to have fun, share an amazing conversation, and maybe a drink or two.
Dating is fun, folks! Kick back, unwind, and get to know the cool, unique and fun person sitting right in front of you!
* individual’s name has been changed
We know the rules. Black is slimming. Choose looser, skimming styles to hide a belly. Keep skirt hems around the knee, and avoid volume. Pick pants with a straight leg to minimize hips.
This leaves me, and other fuller-figured gals, with a rather rectangular wardrobe. Doesn’t that sound like fun? So at the end of the day, if we follow all of these fashion rules, we’ll end up looking five pounds lighter, but we’ll also have the most boring, lackluster wardrobe in the world. Sign me up!
This weekend I was shopping around Toronto, looking to fluff up my spring wardrobe (after stocking up at Fresh Collective, of course. Its hard NOT to shop while you work when you work here), but was not looking for anything in particular. One of the trends I’ve been shamelessly attracted to for the season is those beautiful, lush floral prints. I recently picked up a pastel floral jacket, and even a funky floral pair of wedge heels, but have stayed away from the floral pants for a while, keeping those “fashion rules” in mind.
You may have read in earlier posts, I’ve kind of got a crush on my legs. After hiding them in bootcut jeans for years, I’ve realized that they’re very curvy, but well-suiting, and highlighting them makes me feel sexy, shapely and feminine. I’ve rocked skinny jeans to accentuate my curves rather than hiding them for some time now, but have stuck to mostly dark or mid-rinse denims. So you can imagine that, once I saw those brightly-toned floral jeans, thrown over a rack at a fitting room, I felt a mix of contempt and interest, with an air of challenge. Okay, jeans, lets try this. One leg on. The other one on. Button. Fly. Wiggle.
They did exactly what I expected them to. They totally brought attention to my legs and butt. And as I looked at myself in the mirror, I wondered how I had gone without them for this long. Yes, they definitely attracted attention to the parts they covered, but what’s so bad about that? I mean, I’ve never been one to think that a well-draped dress can make me look like a size 6, but I’m very aware that dressing for your size is the most flattering strategy of all, rather than trying to fool people into thinking you’re (at most) a size or two smaller than you actually are. So, if the goal is to flatter the body you have, why the heck was I so intimidated by these pants? They were good pants, and fulfilled their job nicely; They covered my butt and made me look like a rock star.
So I’ve been thinking about the concept of “fashion rules” and exactly what they achieve. It must take a lot of effort, time and control to make oneself look so very ordinary, and I wonder what the pull is behind the action. So here’s what I have to say on these so-called “fashion rules”, and ways to observe but challenge them. After all, rules are meant to be broken.
BLACK IS SLIMMING – Yes, black is slimming, and can be a powerful tool in not just drawing attention away from one area, but to highlight a different one! It absolutely breaks my heart to see people dressing in all-dark colours solely for the purpose of appearing thinner. How much more of an impact would they make with, say, a tailored black pant, topped with a vibrant structured top which brings the attention upward? Or a cool black leather jacket to offset textured jeans or a printed skirt? Black, like fudge cupcakes, should be something used (eaten?) in moderation. It’s striking, dramatic, and a great canvas for your brights to pop and take the spotlight, so make sure you’re adding some light to your dark!
LOOSE CLOTHES HIDE AN IMPERFECT FIGURE – Again, this can be true at times. For example, I have a pair of cropped pants (polka dotted!) which I absolutely HAD to own. They’re very retro, super-slim fitting, but low rise, which I’m not usually a fan of, since they can create an off muffin-top effect. With those pants, I choose longer flowwy tops to create a flattering silhouette. What I do NOT do is pair a wide-leg trouser with a loose-fitting top, and then throw a chunky cardigan over top. Some gals look as though they’re drowning in their clothes, and it ends up attracting more attention (the bad kind) and hides any shape you have under layers upon layers of clothes. Come on, ladies, I’m all for the bohemian tunic trend, but remember to offset a breezy piece with a well-fitted garment to create balance and flow.
PRINTS ATTRACT ATTENTION – True at times, but people seem to forget that prints also camouflage a whole lot too. Panty-lines, that tiny stain from your egg salad sandwich which should have ended up in your mouth but ended up in your lap, baby drool, and all the good stuff life throws at you. All of those can be ancient history if you’re wearing a well-printed garment. Prints also create (what we have lovingly dubbed here at Fresh Collective) “visual confusion” as the eye is attracted to the print itself, rather than the shape of the person underneath. Large, bright prints create interest and drama, while smaller prints in more neutral colours simply add dimension to your look. Many professional stylists advise clients to incorporate SOME kind of print into EVERY outfit to create a focus point, so get comfy, because prints are making appearances everywhere. Pick a printed shoe, jacket, or bag for a “pop of print” or get sassy with an exceptionally flattering allover printed dress to highlight your rockin’ silhouette. Get on with your bad self, girl.
KEEP SKIRTS LONG TO CONCEAL LEGS – Have you ever seen a curvier gal in a below-the-knee-length, loose-fitting skirt? Have you noticed just how much volume that ADDS to the silhouette? Skirts are often a tricky area for many body types including mine. I’m only 5’4″, and I have a long torso, so finding skirts which are flattering on short legs is a bit of a challenge. I’ve found that leaner styles are most flattering on curvier gals, and love my collection of Bionic pencil skirts which channel a bit of Christina Hendricks’ Mad Men style. Alternatively, shorter skirts can flatter just as well, but should be kept flouncy and flirty to make them look sweet and feminine, not as though I’m heading to the club to fist pump until 4am. Snookie happened for a reason, ladies, and we should learn from her. This is a great way to play up the print trend too, pair a fun skirt with a classic oxford for an office-friendly look, or toss on a cute tank and some sandals and hit the downtown core for an afternoon of patios and shopping!
PANTS SHOULD FALL STRAIGHT DOWN FROM THE HIP – Not always. What kind of look are you trying to create? I’m a fan of playing up my curves, and I’m relatively obsessed with the 50’s, so I typically choose a skinnier pant which accentuates the shape of my legs. That being said, there are plenty of opportunities to rock a wider-leg pant. There’s a big difference between wearing a wide leg pant because you want to create an effect, and wearing a wide leg pant because you think its your only option and the sole shape which will flatter your body. Wider bottoms create a column affect. This can be desirable in menswear inspired pieces, and is also super prominent in the upcoming global fashion wave, but it also eliminates any curves you’ve got throughout your bottom half. I love being a girl, and being shaped like a girl, and I simply can’t imagine hunting down items which negate my curves and make me look blocky, for fear of looking TOO curvy.
Here’s the secret: Your body has already decided what shape it is, and now it’s given you full control over dressing it accordingly and with love and pride! Take a good long look at yourself in the mirror today, and pick out your best features and parts, and think of ways to play up these wonderful, wonderful attributes. Cutie booty? Shapely legs? Perfectly flat tummy? Be proud of the features which make you look like a rock star/pinup/Superwoman and give them center stage to shine. Having trouble seeing this for yourself? Drop me a line at Jamie@freshcollective.com and I’ll reply. We can chat about ways to create a great sense of balance and self-love through your wardrobe, and discover what sorts of new fashion territory you can cover confidently!
Happy spring, folks! See you next week!
If you’ve read even a single one of my blogs before this one, you’ll know I’m an avid shopper. If you haven’t, nice to meet you, and I hope you enjoy these from here on out. But if you have you’ll know that I adore fashion. Loving fashion often results in being in retail spaces for an extended amount of time, and having interacted with many, many salespeople.
Many, many salespeople. My God, the salespeople.
I also have just under a decade in working in retail management, most recently in the training and development arenas. I’ve worked in social media and corporate branding too, and if there is one thing that absolutely tears my heart from my chest, volleyball spikes it to the ground and then tells it it’s sister is the prettier one, it’s (get ready for this)…
(are you ready for this?)
Poor customer service. Bum bum buuuummmmmmm.
Every industry has it’s versions. There are aspects of customer service in every business, be they super noticeable or not, and there are always those shining examples of people who’s ethics are a terrifying reminder that being a customer is not as luxurious of an experience as businesses often suggest they are. I could re-write the Iliad with names of stores, businesses or service I received less than satisfactory service from, but the few which I’ve chosen to highlight now have truly made their mark, be it in a positive or negative way.
Around three or four years ago, I was shopping in Sherway Gardens (for those who don’t know, its a mostly upper-middle class mall in the West end of Etobicoke, and it’s most loyal customers are teens of well-to-do professionals) with my friend, a gothy art major who wore corsets as shirts. We passed a tiny boutique with bizarrely coloured faceless mannequins, one of whom was wearing a side-slung evening purse, plastered with peacock feathers. My eccentric friend paused at the window, remarking about the purse being the only thing which had caught her eye since we got inside the mall. Hmm. Her birthday was coming up, and it was an absolutely fabulous bag, and the only time I’d seen her express willingness to wear colour since two summers ago.
I went back to the store a few days later, alone, and was hoping to price the bag. The salesgirl was at the counter, on her Blackberry. She looked away from her phone for a moment, then back down, then back up to me.
“Hi, um, I’m sorry, but we don’t really carry anything in plus sizes here. But there’s an Addition Elle across the parking lot, though.”
No greeting. No asking if there was anything I needed help with. Nothing but an insult, and indirect direction to leave her place of work immediately. Surely there was nothing anyone over a size 10 could want from the store.
I might also take a moment to mention that Mean Girls was shot at Sherway Gardens, and at the neighbouring high school Etobicoke Collegiate. The movie was released years before this incident, including the “Sorry, but we only sell sizes one, three and five. But maybe you could try Sears?” scene. It was like I had entered into a Plastics alternate universe.
I told the girl that I was in to price check the bag. Her face lit up.
“Oh, its two-seventy…”
I cut her off. I was not paying two-seventy-anything for the bag, first off, but I was also absolutely uninterested in anything she had to say. I was not hurt, personally, but I was irritated and SHOCKED that a person with so little tact was left alone to operate a business. I would be mortified if I had found out that one of my sales staff had spoken to a customer in that way, and had also thrown any attempt to create a warm, inviting atmosphere out the window. I was appalled, and I asked for the manager’s name and hours, informing the girl that I’d be calling to speak with them the very next day. She babbled an apology and said she was just trying to save me time, and looked genuinely confused when I asked whether they had sold purses, shoes, jewelry, accessories, or gifts to other plus size women, and whether that was a possibility today. Apparently there was a force field around the entrance to the store which repelled anyone over a size 10, but I had magic powers which allowed me to enter, so she had never been forced to interact with my type before. Poor girl. Must have been terrified.
Here’s where the story gets interesting. The next day, I called back and got the manager. I introduced myself and shared the incident with her, mentioning that I felt that this information would help with some training opportunities and courtesy refreshers, as I knew her business was an esteemed one and did quite well. SHE SIDED WITH THE SALESGIRL. She sided with the freaking salesgirl. She said that she understood how my feelings could be hurt “because some people are just a bit more sensitive, right darling?” and completely refused to acknowledge that there was no greeting, uncovering of needs, gestures of acknowledgement that I was even in the store except to dismiss me, or even thought to whether the purchase was for me or as a gift. Frustrating, and concerning.
I remember interviewing candidates for positions within my stores or teams and wondering, is this person a reflection of myself? Is this person one I would trust to act as an ambassador for my brand, and what my team represents? I was constantly on the lookout for feedback from my customers, and found that customers truly are the eyes and ears of your business. I’m usually a good judge of character and have always believed that while some may not have as much experience, or the highest qualifications, the right attitude and work ethic can go leaps and bounds in making an impression. I once fought my two supervisors to hire a young man who spoke with a heavy Spanish accent and had minimal retail experience, while the company wondered if he would have communication barriers with the customers. He was taken on for a seasonal position, and three years later, he has won endless incentives and has hit the “top sellers” list every single month. He’s a lively and exuberant fellow, who would share stories of his childhood abroad with his customers, and had a fantastically genuine sense of humour. He’s the most authentic, warm person to be around and his customers know him by nickname and offer to bring him coffees and lunches when he’s manning the store alone. He’s received many letters of praise, including from a regional manager from Montreal who mystery shopped the store while dressed down, who exemplified him by describing his experience as the “most memorable experience I’ve had in retail in many, many years and (the regional manager from our area) should be proud to call (him) a member of her team.” This dude is an awesome example of someone who loves their job, brings amazing energy to the business and creates relationships, not customers.
Just this weekend I was driving through a rather industrial area with my family, when I asked them to pull over to the nearest convenience store so I could buy some Advil. My head was pounding. What we thought was a dollar store was actually a very strangely placed accessory boutique. When I went inside I noticed that they had a small fridge of drinks, and a few assorted items for sale behind the counter as well as the heaps of accessories, wallets, phone cases, hair accessories and scarves which were draped across doors and tables. I asked the shopkeeper if she carried Advil at the store, and she replied stating that they did not, but asked me to follow her. She got her purse from under the counter and popped open the cap of her own Advil bottle, offering me two, and instructing me to take a bottle of water from the fridge for free. “I know how much a headache can ruin your day, just take it and feel better.” Accepting over-the-counter drugs from a total stranger? I believed wholeheartedly that she was well intentioned, as I could see myself doing something similar, and the pills were clearly labelled. And, while I know it may not have been the most cautious move, I had no reason to think that this almost 60-year old woman had any reason to carry tiny immaculately recreated poisoned Advil with her. I just could’t see that being a reality. So I took the Advil (bless her soul, they were so appreciated) and wandered around her store while explaining how thankful I was, and how rare it is to see such a cool offer. when was the last time my local grocery store offered me a cool drink gratis on a hot summer’s day? Never, that’s when. Not only had I not made a purchase, she offered me a FREE bottle of water. She just said that she hoped that if she was good to people they would be good to her, or that the favour would come back around somehow. Long story short, I bought another leather wallet. It was lovely, and I was happy to give her the sale. I’ll definitely be back, too. I bought it in purple, but they also had it in teal, and I’m not so good with self-restraint.
I’m such a strong believer of making your business, service, store, office, whatever, as warm and true to yourself as possible. If you don’t truly like people, you’re likely not in one of these industries. Well, hopefully you’re not in one of these industries. That would be rather counterproductive. Anyways, If you’ve aligned yourself with, jumped on board with, or created a business, its likely grown from a passion of yours as opposed to something you thought there was maybe some money in and you decided to, you know, give it a whirl. Please folks, be accountable to your customers, clients, and fans to ensure that your space is reflected through your people. As a customer, I truly value the folks who go above and beyond to make my experience a great one, not those who are only interested in closing the sale. Without passion or enthusiasm there is no honesty behind service, and the experience flat-lines. But when you stumble across those folks who love their jobs, are truly invested in their industry and are excited about their product or service, the quality flows naturally and the impression we’re left with is an awesome one.
What are some of your best and worst experiences in retail? What are some of your most memorable interactions? Email me and have your say, I’ll write right back, plus I’ll feature your input in a future posting! Jamie@freshcollective.com
Talk to you soon, friends, and have an awesome weekend!
“What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?”
The Cowardly Lion got it right. I mean, I don’t expect to model my behaviour after a territorial muskrat, but you get the picture.
I’ve been conducting a bit of an experiment amongst my friends. I’ve asked people if they consider themselves to be courageous, or when the last time they demonstrated courage was. I tried this on about five or six people. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM replied stating that no, they did not identify as a “courageous” person by nature, and most could not recall the last time they demonstrated courage. In fact, a handful of them identified ME as the most courageous person they know, and when I asked why, they (in various different explanations) said that they felt that way because I’m outgoing and boisterous. Funny, I saw the total opposite, but since I’m privy to my own inner-head workings, I was the wiser.
I do identify as a courageous person (not all the time, but some of the time. I possess the ability to be courageous and try to tap into that when its needed) but I also identify many of my friends as courageous as well. I pointed out one instance to a friend who has taken on a rigorous fitness routine, and in just a few short weeks has seen a big change in her body and how she feels. That, along with (at the time of publishing) 9 weeks without smoking, have worked wonders in beating sluggishness. She said that she decided to take action not out of courage, but simply because she felt that it was time to start living a healthier lifestyle. I told her that I totally thought that committing to that kind of routine required courage; Courage to hold herself accountable, courage to change her lifestyle and habits so drastically, and courage to share this with her friends and allow us into that aspect of her life. She accused me of being a “cheerleader”, and told me that she didn’t think she was doing anything worth recognition. I pointed out another instance to another friend, when she applied and was hired for a position she thought she was unqualified for. She responded that yes, she took the chance, but it didn’t require any “real courage”. I asked why she would have applied if she thought there was truly no way she’d get the job, but she played down her initiative and chalked it up to a “might as well” mentality. These chicks are courageous, whether they know it or not.
So that go me thinking, what exactly is “real courage”? Is it jumping in front of a moving train to save 6-year old Jimmy who’s tied to the tracks? Is it being a rock for a loved one who’s going through a hard time? Is it trying something you think you may fail at? We quantify courage as a trait which is manifested through grand, dramatic gestures and intentions, yet we totally fail to recognize the day-to-day situations where we show courage. How lame is that? It definitely takes courage to make a change in your life, be it in the workplace, in your personal habits, in your communications or in the relationships you maintain. I see courage in interactions around me every single day, from the women who come into my store and try on a dress in a more-vibrant-than-they’re-used-to hue, to the folks who picket and protest for the causes they believe in on the street and in the market, to the moms who balance work and children and being a partner with all the other tasks the day has in store for them. Courage, courage, courage.
This week’s point to ponder is where YOU’RE showing courage in your life. Consider all the little areas in which you push yourself that much further, or follow the steps as rationally as they maybe should be followed, and the little victories you claim as a result. Are you a great leader in your workplace? Are you an amazing friend to those around you, and unwaveringly reliable? Are you the problem solver in your family, or the one who cools things down as the serene voice of wisdom? Consider all the tiny flickering moments of courage in your days and weeks, and give yourself credit for the ways YOU are a courageous force to be reckoned with!
(PIC LION) : I may be a Leo but I’m no Cowardly Lion!
I’ve never been one to shy away from conflict. In fact, in a way I kind of like conflict.
When I was four years old, and in junior kindergarten, my class held a Valentine’s Day pageant. All the girls were instructed to wear headbands, all the boys were to be in collared shirts, as the teacher planned to affix huge tissue paper bows to our heads and shirts, respectively. I showed up in a crushed velvet dress with lace at the collar and sleeves, and a white lacey headband, covered with tiny beads and pearls and feathers, which was quite the headpiece for a kid my age. I loved the headband, and thought it was the best part of my outfit. Fast forward to where the parents are sitting, on the other side of the classroom, hidden by the folding wall which was drawn out to create a “backstage” area. Over the buzzing the group of twenty-something four-year-olds were making came a single child’s voice.
“I am NOT going to wear that. Don’t touch me. You can’t touch me! I’ll scream! Get it away from me! GET IT AWAY FROM ME!”
And then a hush came about, and the lights dimmed. Out from behind the wall came the bunch of four-year-olds in single file, each donning a fluffy tissue paper bow. All of them except for me, who wore the widest smile and the most self-righteous look of accomplishment imaginable. My dad still owns the handicam video of this, and shows it to anyone who will watch it. Most parents seem to think its hilarious.
I fought for what I wanted and I challenged authority, and I won. I was noticed! Best of all, someone’s Mum even complimented my lacey headband after the show and said that I looked “angelic”, and commended me on speaking my mind. My head grew three sizes that day.
I don’t believe in starting random arguments and fights for the sake of working your assertion muscles. I believe in being true to yourself, and speaking your mind in whatever context you need to. As a four-year-old brimming with decisiveness and the desire to obtain control over my appearance, this came in the form of rebelling from tissue paper bows (damn them). Later in life its re-emerged in less explosive ways. I’ll send a dish back politely if its not what I ordered. I’ll speak up politely if I notice someone trying to cut me in line. I’ll speak honestly and openly with people when I’m upset, irked or put off by something they’ve said. Yes, I’m sure its rare to hear someone say “excuse me, Sir, but I’m next in line” rather than “Don’t try to bud me, dude, get to the back of the line”, but the result, at least what I’m finding of this, is that often the offenders have no idea that they’ve overstepped a boundary, or are even aware of their actions. Yes, there are some people who intentionally cut in line, and there are careless cooks, but often these errors are a result of typical human nature, or a very loud restaurant, or a busy store with six cashiers but seven different lines of people. Trust me, that middle-aged guy with two hyperactive kids truly did not see you in line at the dollar store, as you were leaning off to the side, kind of looking at something. He was too busy prying the water guns from his sticky children’s hands. In these kinds of cases, something was communicated clearly and received well, and there was no need for conflict.
It’s also necessary as a breakdown of communication. It makes minds churn and forces feelings to rise to the surface, and can be the most honest type of communication. There are so many types and forms of conflict, and yes, some are destructive and hurtful, but on the other hand some situations of conflict can bring about a profound change in the reality of the folks involved. Typically arguments happen as a result of two passionate but opposing viewpoints. They serve themselves, serve an idea, a theory, or various other concepts, but ultimately, they boil down to two sides being so invested in that concept that they are willing to rise against an opponent.
They also create an environment of totally raw, unfiltered communication. Comments and criticisms are thrown out carelessly, but many breakthroughs happen in these moments too. People suddenly have motive to highlight the flaws in the other person, which most often reveal NOT the person’s flaws, but the flaws in the relationship or topic of argument. “You never keep plans” means “I feel as though I can’t rely on you, and as though you’re not eager to see me”. “You don’t care how I feel” is a simplified version of “We need to be able to better express our needs” and “I hate you” usually means “I’m very upset with what’s just happened, and my trust for you is ruined. I reject this reality entirely and now reject you from my life”.
But they also say that what’s said during an argument is what’s been laying just under the surface all along. Do we really mean what we say? We take things to extremes in the heat of the moment, but actually, these thoughts were indeed swimming around our little brains, not being bold enough to come out for fear of hurting the other person. We’re pre-programmed to think that any criticism will come off as offensive, and we’re pre-programmed to be defensive too. Effective communication is already shot to the ground like a duck in Arkansas during hunting season. So then, this effective communication, how does this happen? By learning to communicate through the conflict, not to yield to it. When we reposition ourselves in our dance with conflict, and we handle it as a summit of passions, Its a whole lot easier to receive. Conflict rarely has anything to do with facts or events, rather with the way they were perceived by each side of the debate, and the grey area is found where the disconnect is in the story. Usually each side of the story starts and ends the same way, but the murky middle bits are all perception, feelings, and mistaken intentions.
Recently something happened in my life which created substantial conflict in my world. I was disoriented, angry and hurt, and these feelings endured for a while. Any communication with the people involved ended in tears, yelling and fury, but it was probably the most honest communication I’ve had with these people since I’d known them. Suddenly, tiny issues were rising to the surface. Things that had been bubbling below the surface for years finally came to a nasty head. This resulted in two amazing discoveries regarding my relationships with these people. One revealed loads of potential to grow and strengthen, the other revealed myself to be insecure in addressing and ending a friendship which truly wasn’t working for either of us, and had been strung along further than it probably should have been.
This conflict changed my world in a big way. In a good way. It was the cutting of the ribbon in a new stage of my relationship with someone, and I see amazing change in the way we relate to each other immediately. We have a long way to go, but I truly see the lines of communication being unobstructed by fears or assumptions or insecurities. With the other person, it was a sad but liberating experience to be able to say that I simply no longer have anything in common with this person, and the ideals and norms which we maintain in our own lives are simply not compatible any longer. Its unfortunate that this discovery was made in such an emotional way, but freeing nonetheless to know that I’m being that much more honest with myself.
What conflicts are YOU avoiding? What’s the price you pay for calling it out, and what’s the payoff? What’s holding you back? CHALLENGE YOURSELF, guys. Look at conflict as a powerful, productive conversation and don’t shy away from it! One way or another, conflict brings about change, understanding, knowledge and tolerance. Its a healthy part of every relationship, be it platonic, romantic, professional and should be taken with a grain of salt. The challenge I set out there today is to have a conversation with someone which you’ve been avoiding because you’ve been afraid to create conflict. See what kind of things can come of this discussion, be they be positive and unexpected, or offer closure to something which may desperately be in need of it.
As they say, you can’t make a splash without making some waves! ;D