My Word for 2016: Permission

Two of my thought-leadership role models, Gretchen Rubin and Ann Shoket, recommend choosing a single-word theme to shape the new year.

Other than signing up for a new Goodreads Challenge (I’m aiming to beat my 2015 challenge of 52 books with 55 in 2016), I haven’t made new year’s resolutions in the past couple of years. Instead, I set small goals throughout the year. However, I like the idea of a one-word theme. Gretchen’s is two words, “Lighten up,” and Ann’s is “Deeper.”

For 2016, I’ve chosen PERMISSION as my one-word theme. One aspect of myself I’d like to work on is self-compassion because I tend to be highly self-critical.

A few months ago, I had planned to work through a to-do list I had made on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t remember what was on it, specifically. It was probably running errands, doing some cleaning and other things to get ready for the week ahead. But I felt too tired to power through the list. I wanted to take a nap, but the voice in my head told me that if I did, that would make me lazy and self-indulgent. What reason did I have to be tired? I hadn’t stayed up late. In a brief moment of self-compassion, I thought, I am giving myself permission to take a nap. And this permission was a light-bulb moment for me. As it turns out, I wasn’t lazy, I was sick. The next day, I woke up with a bad case of the flu. My body needed rest; I gave it permission to take that rest.

The theme of permission, to me, isn’t about sleeping. It’s about getting out of my own way. It’s about providing myself with opportunities to work hard and also to have fun. I want to give myself permission to say yes and permission to say no, and permission to let go of the guilt that comes with those choices. 

2015 was a good year for me. I finished paying off over $35,000 of credit card debt, adopted an adorable cat, took three courses at NYU (including fiction, which was terrifying, but fun!) and got promoted at work. In 2016, I’d like to do more writing, so my goal is to give myself permission to write, and permission to say no to things that aren’t as important as writing.

What would you do if you gave yourself permission?

 

 

On Getting the Big Fashion Magazine Interview… But Not the Job

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The New York Post has an essay by Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell detailing her interview for a fashion writer position with Anna Wintour at Vogue. Amy details how nervous she was, what she wore to the interview and the questions she wishes she’d answered differently. Ultimately, she wasn’t offered the job. “If they had hired me, I would have done it well, I’m sure of that, but it would have been an enormous struggle, and I’d have gone on Valium just deciding what to wear every day.” It’s an excerpt from her new book, Tales from the Back Row, about working in fashion while feeling like an outsider.

I can certainly relate to the bungling of interview questions and feeling clueless when it comes to the fashion world. More job seekers might feel at ease if it were more common for people (other than anonymous Glassdoor reviewers) to write about their job interview fails. Of course, one can’t be too careful when blogging about work-related issues, which is probably why most people don’t. However, it is possible to share the ups and downs of interviewing without naming the company specifically or burning professional bridges. With that in mind, here is my own big fancy fashion magazine interview fail.

After I graduated from college, I reached out to some New York City-based alumni from my university for help as I searched for my first job. Since I like fashion and loved writing for my college newspaper, I decided to pursue a career in fashion magazines. As luck would have it, one of the alums from my school worked for a well-known fashion magazine and was kind enough to set me up with an interview for two entry-level openings. Aside from spending the previous summer working as an intern at a law firm (and deciding it wasn’t for me), I didn’t have much real-world work experience. So, naturally, one of the first questions I asked the alum when we met in the reception area was if working at the magazine was “like The Devil Wears Prada.” I can’t think about it without cringing, especially because even if her answer had been yes, it would not have kept me from taking the job.

I met with two different editors; one was on the fashion side and one was an editorial assistant. I gathered that they were trying to gauge if I would be better suited to work as a fashion editor or writer. The editorial assistant who interviewed me seemed exhausted. She was quitting to go to graduate school and interviewing potential replacements. She told me that the job involved long hours, grunt work, no opportunity for advancement and no time for a social life, but I didn’t care. I said that sounded great. I was 22 years old and unemployed; I couldn’t care less what kind of job demands I had to meet.

I don’t remember many details about my meeting with the fashion editor. She was impeccably well dressed, but she explained that when she started at the magazine, she didn’t know much about fashion: “I was like, ‘Narcisco who?'”

“RODRIGUEZ!” I all but shouted, nearly hurtling out of my seat like the next contestant on The Price is Right.

The next day, my interviewer informed me the magazine had decided to go with another candidate. That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t have done the fashion or editorial assistant jobs well if I had gotten an offer. Thankfully, I accepted a job at a different company the same day, though I have often wondered where I might be today had my interview gone differently.

Now that several years have passed, I’ve realized that there is a danger in wanting a job too much, on placing so much importance on a single interview, even if you are perfectly qualified for the position. It’s unnerving, at least for me, to know how close I am to having a job I want, even with so many factors in play that are out of my control. I’ve been on many job interviews since the big fancy fashion magazine, and I’ve been nervous, and talked too much, or not enough, but I haven’t had an outburst of a designer’s last name since.

Three Surprising Things I Learned from The Book of Joan

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The closest I came to meeting Joan Rivers was when she spoke at the Lucky Magazine FABB Conference in 2011. She was a lively, entertaining guest, and made sure to remind us several times to watch her new show, Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best. The conference was running a Q&A with Joan on Twitter, and I asked what I most wanted to know: How did Joan deal with her many critics? My question was selected.

“F–K EM!” she said matter-of-factly, with a fly-swatting wave of her hand.

After Joan’s passing, Melissa Rivers penned The Book of Joan, full of memories and anecdotes of her mother’s work ethic, quirks and family life. Here’s what surprised me most.

  1. She loved true-crime TV. Joan’s DVR included Wives with Knives, Scorned, Forensic Files, Lockup, Lockup Raw, and Law & Order. She and Melissa also bonded over reading true crime books. Joan’s favorite character in literature was Ted Bundy.
  2. She carried a giant purse full of stuff everywhere she went. There is a whole chapter on the purse, and it apparently always weighed between 18 and 25 pounds. Needless to say, Joan often had a hard time finding her cell phone.
  3. She rarely ever read what was written about her.  I suppose, in light of Joan’s attitude towards her critics, this revelation should not have been surprising. “Melissa, I don’t need to hear strangers say terrible things about me; that’s why I have family.” In the internet age, proliferated with armchair critics and an increasing pressure towards political correctness, a public figure who doesn’t respond to, or even read, her criticism is rare. (For more on this, check out “Joan Rivers and the Power of Not Apologizing” over at Esquire.)


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THRIVE by Arianna Huffington

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With the publication of Thrive and the creation of the Third Metric section of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington is spearheading an important cultural shift towards a more holistic definition of success. (Full disclosure: I have written for The Huffington Post). In Thrive, Huffington argues that success should be quantified by a “third metric” which includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving back. The book’s four sections are dedicated to these four pillars.

Thrive combines both personal anecdotes and heavy research.  Two important points Huffington makes that I think anyone in the workforce can appreciate are that over-working causes us to be less productive in the long term and the phenomenon of under-sleeping is a dangerous health risk rather than a badge of honor. It’s important to set boundaries for how much time we spend working and “plugged in” to technology in order to maintain health and happiness.

Most importantly, rather than encouraging us to quit our jobs, ditch our smartphones and move to a remote island, Thrive contains actionable advice for living mindfully, which is its greatest strength. A lengthy appendix with further reading and resources is also included.

If you’re interested in reading more books like Thrive, check out 10% Happier by Dan Harris and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

 [Note: I received a copy of Thrive from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.]