I receive emails and phone calls every week from stressed and tired designers. I can feel the anxiety of these designers in my soul because I remember. I remember the sleep deprivation, the last minute wedding shipments of subpar flowers, and the design that just wouldn’t cooperate with my well thought out plan. I remember the guilt I felt while working on the weekends and missing out on time with my family. I remember the competitive (and some times mean-spirited) nature of the business. I remember the financial struggles, the feeling that everyone wanted something from me for free and the constant nag to be bigger and better. And I remember the feeling that I never would measure up to the newer or younger or more glamorous or more talented or more experienced designers that seemed to surround me…in person, in magazines and on TV.
The experience of owning a floral design studio was a dizzying conglomeration of joy, excitement, beauty and anxiety. I loved the business with a “hurt-feel good” passion. The pre-event hours of rushing around and asking myself why I had agreed to subject myself to such stress was always followed by an all-consuming euphoria the minute the event concluded. I craved the next chance to be creative, working from a clean slate and seeing it all come to fruition again. One more time. One more time. One more time. I know you understand.
Now that I’ve been out of the day to day rat race of operating a design studio for several years, I’m beginning see things from a different perspective and I want to share a few thoughts with those of you who find yourself struggling…
1. The very fact that you wrestle with your relevance in the industry and your effectiveness as a designer means you’re doing something right.
I see the intensity of thought that goes into your design work. You are constantly pushing yourselves…experimenting with new flora, seeking out new designer mentors, engineering a new chuppah framework or diligently submitting your work to magazines and blogs until you are featured. You’re not content creating the same basic designs over and over while simply varying the flower choices and color palettes. You have websites tailored to your personalities and design styles. You are diligent about sharing your designs on social media. You push. You create. You strive. You learn.
Do you see? You’re accomplishing your goal as you wrestle. When you stop wrestling and become complacent, you will become irrelevant in the forward momentum of the industry. You’re not there.
2. There is only ONE (insert your name here).
In our attempt to be unique in our designs and make a name for ourselves and our businesses, I think we often forget that we already are unique. The temptation was always there for me to want to be like someone else…to create designs that looked like those of my flower idols, to dress like the cute designers featured on TV, to have a picture perfect studio space like the ones I saw in magazines. Holding on to expectations based on other people often ends in frustration and a sense of inferiority.
One designer that comes to mind here is Francoise Weeks. Francoise’s designs are so uniquely her own that you could spot one amongst a sea of other floral designs. When I first began talking with Francoise several years ago, she said something that made me stop and think…and I believe it is the secret to her success. She seemed perplexed by all the competition among designers. She didn’t understand why designers were so resistant to sharing ideas, mechanics behind designs, etc. for fear that someone else was going to “take my idea”. I believe Francoise sees designing as an outpouring of the creativity in your soul. Your soul. She says no one can ever copy that or take that from you. There is always more where that came from. It’s always fresh and new because it comes from within you. I believe this may be one of the wisest and most liberating pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. Wonder what kind of success we could accomplish if we stopped looking around comparing ourselves to others and, instead, relaxed into our own creative sweet spots?
One other thing about Francoise…she doesn’t fit the mold often held up as the standard of a successful designer. She is not a 20-something fashionista with a minimalist white loft studio space. She doesn’t mimic any other designer’s style. She is completely and uniquely Francoise. And here’s the beautiful part…over the last couple of years, her career has taken off and far exceeded anything she could have dreamed up on her own. All because she is authentic. She is real. She is kind. She is generous. She is a master of woodland floral design. She is Francoise…and there is only one Francoise Weeks.
Doesn’t it take some of the pressure off to think that you were created uniquely you? No one can be exactly like you. And you can never be exactly like someone else. Give yourself some space to think and feel and be creative. Then rest in knowing that there is creativity within you and no one has access to it but you. It’s your God-given well. An extension of your soul.
3. Only a few will be considered prodigies, but there’s room for all of us to make an impact.
We all fantasize about being considered the very best at what we do. Renowned for our work. Recognized for our contribution to our industry. Leaving a mark for the generations after us.
How many of us will actually accomplish that kind of recognition? A small percentage will. A small percentage have in the past. What about the rest of us? Are we somehow deficient in our abilities and accomplishments?
Consider this. Think about the people who have made an impact on your life. Who inspired you? Who encouraged you? Who changed you by investing time in your life? Who made you into the person you are today? Sure, we’re inspired by some iconic figures, but I’ll bet the majority of your answers reflect the influence of “regular” folks. Family. Friends. Teachers. Ministers. The people in the trenches.
While becoming a world-renowned floral designer is an incredible accomplishment, there is no shame in being a floral designer to the common people in your pocket of the world. Just ask the bride who fondly remembers the care you took with her bridal bouquet and the tears of joy the two of you shared when you handed it to her on her wedding day. Or ask the young designer that you trained and encouraged for years until she had the skills and experience she needed to start her own business. Or ask the widow who still looks at the pictures of the casket spray that you lovingly created to capture the essence of her late husband’s life.
You have a purpose. You are making an impact.
4. “We all break the same.”
I love this Mutemath song. At the end of the day, it’s powerful to think that we all break the same. And believe me…I get emails and calls from all kinds of discouraged designers. New and seasoned. Young and older. Designers you’ve probably never heard of and designers you probably hold in high esteem.
There is comfort in knowing that we all worry, hurt and experience disappointment. Small town florist or world renowned designer. We all break the same.
Be encouraged today. Continue wrestling. Continue creating. Continue loving people. Keep fulfilling your purpose.
You inspire me! xoxo
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG)