How to Say Yes

The title sounds like a self-help book, I know. But hear me out.

My new commute affords me plenty of time to read each day, and I’ve enjoyed taking full advantage of that quiet(ish) time. Interspersed between fun fiction and travel tales, you’ll find me reading a number of books related to success, leadership, leaning in… you know, those.

It seems that a running theme in many of these popular reads is the power of saying no. Evidently a lot of powerful, successful women have learned that a healthy ability to say N-O at work is crucial to maintaining both their status and their sanity.

I don’t disagree.

But some of these fine ladies gloss over the fact that to even get where they are now —  and have the ability to say no with authority — they first had to learn something else: how to say yes.

I don’t mean the kind of yes-ing that leads to overwork and underpay. I definitely don’t mean the kind that can cost you more than your career.

But as a woman who is perhaps a shade too comfortable, too quick to say no to things outside of my comfort zone, I’m working on a process to teach myself to say yes.

Yes, I can handle that report. Can you show me how to format it?

Yes, I can take the lead in that conversation. Let’s go over an agenda.

Yes, learning to do that is important to me. Are you available on Thursday?

Yes, I will join the team after work for some social fun time. How do I sign up?

For my fellow actors, this is my version of “yes, and.”** It can ease my way into saying yes to things that might otherwise intimidate me by asking a follow-up question. This lets the other party know I’m involved, but doesn’t force them to assume I know everything and won’t need any guidance.

Yes, that big sale was mine.

Yes, I know how to do that.

I’m also learning not to apologize for my success, which is another way of saying yes to myself. It used to be my habit to downplay the sales I made when I was selling jewelry, because the experience I received from it always seemed to trump the actual fact. I’ve since learned to value the more cut-and-dry factors in addition to the less tangible gains. Dollars and… sense!

For me, saying yes has been as challenging to embrace as saying no can be for others. There’s a freedom to it I hadn’t anticipated, almost like that feeling I used to get while on stage — embracing a feeling, committing to the scene, making the magic happen. How nice to see that play out in real life.

**When you take a class or perform improvisation, it’s crucial to move the scene along by always saying some version of “yes, and…” You don’t want to be the one to kill the momentum of the scene by refusing to go with the flow.

A Conversation With Two Ladies

I had a conversation with two lovely ladies just the other day. It had been about a year since I last saw one, and the other it’s been around 12 years. We’ll call the first “N” and the second “G.” Here’s how our conversation went.

Me: Hi! I guess it’s been a while. I’m sorry about that, I’ve certainly missed you both.

G: That’s all right, I’ve been getting updates every now and then. You’ve grown up!

N: You’ve been busy.

Me: I’ve definitely been busy. I also have a new job!

G: That’s wonderful, I’m so proud of you! You’re such a hard worker.

N: Oh? A new job? And what are you doing?

Me: Well, I guess it’s a little hard to explain. I work for a company that’s bringing  a special kind of new technology called 3D printing to the market. It’s a way for people to create things using a particular type of machine. My job is to market it and sell it, especially to the jewelry industry.

G: Sounds exciting! I’m sure you’re great at it. You always loved talking to people.

N: Is it expensive? Do they make you travel a lot?

Me: It’s not expensive relative to other machines that do a similar thing. Yes, I do get to talk to a lot of people and travel quite a bit, but I love it!

N: What about your husband? You need to make sure you’re spending enough time with him. That’s really important.

Me: Yes, it is. We try to spend time with each other, and our families too.

G: I’m sure you do. Your mother and father miss you a lot, you know.

N: Well, she can’t be everywhere at once. But as long as you’re happy and doing a good job, it will be good for you.

Imagine having these ladies perched on your shoulders, whispering questions and comments! One is an eternal optimist, reminding me to be kind and thoughtful whenever possible (or even when it’s not); the other is a consummate realist, insisting that I keep a watchful eye on my own words and actions, not to mention the habits of everyone around me. Both continue to guide me with the occasional tug on my ears to correct my course.

Chanel perfume, hand-knitted blankets. Grace and poise, kindness and gentility.

We lost Nana and Grandma in April, just over a decade apart. Both were cornerstones of their respective families, and represented two very different but equally important styles of living: the homemaker and the working woman.

I imagine the conversations I’d have with each of them now, as a woman and wife and worker. They might ask about my marriage and job, the details of my latest vacation or recently read novel, or if I’m keeping up with my studies. In their own special ways, they would ultimately be asking one simple question: are you happy? Because despite their differences, that’s what always mattered most. And that’s the greatest lesson I could ever hope to learn.

 

Adrift at Sea

I’ve tried to write (and re-write, and re-re-write) this post over the last week, and I think it’s time to admit something to you and to myself: I’m a little lost.

Changing jobs is always a precarious balance, particularly when we live in a world that often uses occupation to define who we are. Intellectually, I knew this. But I guess I just never thought about what it would feel like to lose my sense of definition and identity for a while.

I wrote just a few weeks ago about having the courage to make changes and sail off in a new direction, but right now I’m more like a rowboat caught between islands, unsure of my direction but unwilling to just row in circles.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I don’t know what to call myself anymore. For a few years I had a title, an easily understood introduction at parties, an actual noun to use when filling in the blank. It was comfortable and comforting to hide behind that title, because it allowed other people to understand me. Now I’ve had to leave that role behind, but haven’t replaced it with anything concrete — no meat, just spirits.

The wise amongst you will counsel me to embrace this lack of definition, and use it to expand my horizons and force myself to look beyond the job titles for something greater. You might even suggest that this is exactly what I should be doing at this stage in my life — loosening up, removing the rigid boundaries I set for myself, exploring the things I didn’t even know existed.

And you’re right.

But that doesn’t make this feeling go away, and it really doesn’t make the more practical consideration of introducing myself any easier. I can’t stop my natural craving for a label, even a strange-sounding one that requires explanation. I just haven’t come up with one yet (suggestions are welcome, creative friends).

I continue to explain to friends, family, and coworkers that I’m still very much a part of the jewelry world. If anything, my resolve to make an impact and breathe new life into this beloved industry has strengthened, and my drive has actually increased thanks to the bold new direction I’ve taken.

Still, I look forward to a time when a few more puzzle pieces of life will fall into place, giving me a peek at the bigger picture of my life.

I write a jewelry blog — for consumers, for industry members, for everyone.  Normally this space wouldn’t contain any commentary on current events, because as a social and political activist, I give myself plenty of alternative outlets. But I feel compelled to express my horror at the events that have unfolded across the world over the weekend, particularly as I experienced the live updates about Paris while frantically attempting to contact my parents as they slept in their hotel beds in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Once I ascertained their safety, my thoughts turned as they always do to a piece of music that expresses my personal feelings about the world in which we live.

 

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be

 

I took the featured photo last Wednesday, never dreaming it could be used to represent one of the many nations currently mourning the loss of life. There is beauty in all things, and I am positive that there is beauty yet to be discovered in this world, regardless of the actions taken by those who attempt to remove it.

Je crois en la paix.

 

My regularly scheduled posts will begin again tomorrow.

Show Me Your Creds

Credentials.

Did you cringe when you read that word? If not, yours are probably more than sufficient to command respect in your field (or you simply don’t have any need for them). If you did, then welcome to the club.

We all know that in most businesses, it’s not just who you know and what you’ve done that matters. From your hiring manager and CEO to your own client base, people will grant you an automatic jump in trust and confidence if they see some form of alphabet soup on your business card. Often these suffixes designate levels of education completed or certifications received, which do have a certain amount of credibility attached — a doctor without the MD just isn’t a doctor — but they are rarely proof of talent or ability.

Growing up in a heavily academic-oriented household, I have always been aware of a singular fact: your credentials may get you a seat at the table, but they won’t help you keep it warm. Everyone has a story about Dr. So-and-so’s total inability to fill out an intake form and write the proper dosage of a prescription despite thirty years’ experience, two doctorate degrees, and a wing in the new hospital named after him. Yes, we nod sagely, he obviously looks great on paper, but he doesn’t really have what it takes.

In contrast, I feel that the Dr. So-and-sos of the world are the exception that proves the rule. Going through the standard educational pathways shouldn’t be considered merely as minimum qualifications, but as a starting point to a greater discussion about knowledge, practical application, and person’s developing interest in a field or fields.

Obviously this topic is on my mind as I work to pursue my own degree pathway, but it also factors into my current position as gemologist-in-training. Customers will occasionally ask what the “AJP” after my name means, usually followed immediately with “oh, does that mean you’re a gemologist?” Alas, I tell them, I’m in the midst of my studies and training, but haven’t yet achieved the coveted Double-Gs. When friends or family are doing the asking, I go into greater detail about my passion for evolving an industry that is at times stuck in its own past, my interest in learning alongside the great tastemakers of the current age, and my desire to make positive contributions to the industry as a whole.

Phew. That’s a whole lot of lofty goal-setting to combine with a GG and a current full-time job. But as I inch my way there, I keep the thought of earning my chair — and keeping it warm! — forefront in my mind.

Decked Out

Well folks, there’s no escaping it now: the calender has changed, snow has fallen, and summer’s golden tan has faded away. The holidays are here!

I always wonder what will be the surprise hit of the holidays. Rubies the color of candy apples, emeralds set in halos of gold, sapphires that rival a winter dusk and the starlike diamonds that surround them… how will people deck the halls and deck themselves out in the jewels that shine just as bright as the twinkle in old St. Nick’s eye?

I posses a somewhat unique viewpoint on the season as a whole, stemming from a very culturally mixed childhood and my own approach as an adult. Fortunately, I ended up mostly on the ho-ho-ho side of celebrating, rather than the humbug.

My family is a religious mixed bag, which has made for some fascinating dinner table conversations and not a few weddings. I was raised in a very secular household, but spent a few formative years going to temple, Sunday school, and becoming b’nai mitzvot, We always had a tree and a menorah, Purim costumes and Easter candy. In my heart. I have always known that life is better for everyone when we coexist with peace, love, fellowship, kindness, and a general will to follow the Golden Rule — everything else is just a different verse in the same song.

(Speaking of music, I am unapologetic when it comes to my devotion to the sounds of the season. My mid-2000s-era iPod carries a pretty hefty mix of both secular and sacred holiday music, and you can bet your bells it’s been set on shuffle since yesterday.)

You already know that a mention of food is inevitable around here, so I’ll spare you some of the gooey, sugary, spicy, scrumptious details of the planned goodies for now (but only for now). Baking the yummy stuff is never a chore at this time of year, as my family and co-workers (my best victims testers of all) will tell you.

Wait a second — isn’t this a jewelry blog? Don’t worry, you’re still reading the right page. I wanted to share a taste of how I approach this time of year because it forms a solid foundation for how I try to remain true to myself and my family’s happiness even as I work longer and longer hours and the stress levels rise as we inch closer to the single digits of the shopping countdown I keep on my home screen.

Holidays and retail are all but inseparable in this modern age, and we can probably agree that’s not for the better. But I choose to spread goodwill and cheer by helping the excited, nervous, happy revelers who become my clients to celebrate the special events in their lives. Every person who receives something chosen with care and love, wrapped up and shiny and so perfectly hidden until the big reveal, is a way for me to put a little sparkle back in my own life. If giving is receiving, then I have wonderful people to thank for sharing their joys with me.