Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cutting Off the Tags

Last week while working a shift at the incomparable lululemon, my kick ass store manager moseyed over and asked me to look at one of our studly male mannequins. I obliged. She was curious if anything caught my eye from a visual merchandising standpoint. I commented on a few kerfuffles - nothing major - a bunched up leg, a turned torso and then I saw it: the hang tag was flipped up over my man's waistband and half tucked in. It was causing a little bit of an unsightly tug on his drawers.

I pointed it out, we high-fived, we brought him down to fix the tag. None of this is earth shattering, I get that. Wait for it. Per usual, I'm trying to get somewhere by the most circuitous and least direct route. As I attempted to de-robe then re-dress this specimen, I realized there was no way for me to, a) tuck the tag in to his pocket so it wasn't showing, or b) tuck it in to the waistband without it causing some other sort of vis merch faux pas. I was rendered helpless. It truly was pathetic, cocked head, puzzled look on my face... the works.

Rather than stand there and waste more time, I asked my manager how she would solve the situation. She simply said, "no problem, cut the hang tag off and re-tag it how you need to."

TA-DA! Well, that was easy. And genius.

She said it so nonchalantly, and to her sublime credit, did not make me feel like a dumb ass for not coming to this conclusion all by my grown-ass-woman-self.

Fast forward an hour later when I was on my break just letting my mind wander. For some reason I found myself still thinking about that hunky, shirtless plastic torso and his tight buns and how silly it seemed that I hadn't thought to just cut the damn tag off and be my own knight in shining armor. I can't say with absolute certainty why my brain didn't register that solution, but this is my blog, so hell, I'm going to give it a shot anyway. So there.

  • I was "talking problems, not solutions." As a good friend of mine likes to say, "let's talk solutions, not problems." He's a smart guy. And I think he's really on to something. How often do you find yourself looking at a situation and just fixating on the problem? That nasty hang tag... too short to tuck in and too far away from the pocket to hide. Rather than look at that situation and think beyond the obvious solutions - which were doing nothing for me - I just sat there in one-dimensional, black and white land. You know what it sounds like in that land? Something like this, "well if the hang tag is here... and the waist band is there... and the pocket is way the hell over there.... sonofa... this isn't ever going to reach... somebody cocktail me. STAT!" 
This is classic linear thinking. It lacks creativity. It lacks energy. And to some extent, it is so reliant on "common sense" that it fails at the very thing it's in dire need of: common sense. For instance, true common sense would've led me to walk over to the desk, grab the scissors and tagging gun, cut that tag off, and re-tag the pants from the inside out.

Boom.The Earth may have shattered. Minds definitely would've been blown. And I'm pretty sure babies and angels would've clapped and sung in unison.

But it's not just a lack of creativity or an abundance of linear thinking that I believe led to my inability to solve my own problem. There was also something else at play...
  • I was too busy "following the rules." Although I knew that hang tag was making my man's pants look fuuunky, I assumed that someone had tagged the pants that way with good reason. And truly, someone probably had. The tag was in the "right place" (in a seam, opposite a sensor, etc.) I don't know if I didn't want to offend someone else's work, or if it simply didn't enter my brain to negate the usual placement parameters. But, I do know this: I was too busy following a guideline that in this instance should be broken, to come up with the optimal solution.
This is straight up lack of problem solving skills and perhaps, a slight lack in confidence. What can I say... I've been out of the academic realm for nearly ten years and my critical thinking and problem solving isn't what it once was. But even more than that, I was so worried about doing things "by the book" that it didn't enter my consciousness that in this instance, I would actually be doing a hindrance to the situation by following the standard operating procedures.

So let me leave you with this question: where in your life are you staring at an unsightly hang tag and scratching your head at the apparent "solutions?" Hint: they probably aren't really solutions if you're still standing there jaw agape. Go find the scissors. Abandon the rule. And above all else: be your own hero. Remember, nobody can save a damsel that creates her own distress.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Snack Pack of Life Lessons, Get 'Em While They're Hot!

Lately I am uncovering nuggets of inspiration and wisdom just about everywhere. They all could probably warrant their own blog post. But until I find a surplus of Shelleys hanging around, I'm going to share these nuggets as such, quick bites best enjoyed warm. So, rather than lose track of all these goodies, I'm serving you up a three-piece, snack pack style. Holla.

1. Your comfort zone is comfy. Which means it could have holes in it just like your other favorite comfy things (blankies, sweats, pj's, you get the drift).

I've trained four new clients recently. All four of them had never done a CrossFit-style workout in their life. They put their trust in me to try something new. This, is gettin' out of your comfort zone defined and personified. The lesson? If we focus on what we've always done, where we're always been, the places we know, the experiences that are familiar, hell the food we've always eaten or the friggin' colors we've always worn, we will be who we've always been. And most of us aren't satisfied with that. Most of us want to evolve. I'm talkin' next level shit.

Staying in our comfort zone means creating a one-dimensional version of our life. It means choosing to make our world smaller and confining rather than limitless and abundant. As Socrates said about life, the secret is to focus all of our energy not on fighting the past, but on building the new. If you want to change something about your life, quit beating yourself up about the past, quit staying committed to what feels comfortable and go do something the old you wouldn't normally do. And you know what, you'll inspire someone in the process. I guarantee it. All four of those "new clients" of mine, they absolutely showed me the best of the human spirit.

2. Sometimes you need to force yourself in to the present. Hey that sounds pretty counterintuitive, doesn't it? Yep. It sure does.

Here's the deal, sometimes our minds are a runaway train. Just like the one Soul Asylum sang about, this runaway train ain't a good thing and it ain't pretty. I hear it wears flannel and hasn't washed its hair in weeks. That said, sometimes you just need to slap yourself in to the HERE and NOW and quit thinking about the bills you need to pay, the laundry you didn't fold, the deadline breathing down your neck... you need to just shut that damn to do list up and bring yourself back to this fact: you are breathing, you are alive, and nothing is anywhere near as important as it seems.

Last week I had a really stressful couple of days that kept piling up on each other. Finances, emotions, business, you name it, I was stressing. Then I watched the movie Life of Pi. Boom. Reset button. Engaging with something so beautiful and captivating as that film forced me in to the present and reminded me to chill the eff out. After all, I'm not stranded at sea on a life boat with a tiger. Enough said. When you find yourself tail spinning I know it can take everything in your power to switch gears and quit focusing on whatever it is that seems like it needs all of your attention at that moment, but I guarantee you if you can find the wherewithal to do so, you will thank yourself. And you will reapproach that to do list like a new woman. Or man. Or tiger. 

3. The choice to be in the service of another human being and really be there for them, can change their entire life.

During the recent stress fest I mentioned above, a relative stranger (my "tax guy" at H&R block) took the time to ease my mind not just about my taxes, but about my choices in life (to go out on my own as an entreprenuer) and my financial future ("you're in start-up mode, don't worry"). He kept me calm. He's continuing to fight for money I'm owed. He did it with a sense of humor, he stayed up late to work on it, he emailed me to reassure me and he did it with such grace.Then he told me he felt like he could talk to me forever and I seemed like the daughter he never had. Not gonna lie, I pretty much started crying in his cube.

This man changed my world that day and taught me a lesson in customer service humanity. Being in service of others - whether it's your job, a volunteer opportunity, your family or friends - is different than being there to do what you're "supposed to." One is an obligation the other is a choice and an act of grace. I've got my work cut out for me, but thanks to Mr. McLemore from H&R Block for setting such a fine example.