Remember the days when you’d go to a restaurant and while you waited to meet your friend, you’d order a drink, look around and watch other people? Then you’d feel weirdly uncomfortable and awkward because you were alone — yes — without your smartphone, and therefore, had to sit idle. As I reminisce on these pre-phone days, I recall looking around and watching other couples in conversation, studying the meals on the tables, scanning the apparel and shoes on those around me, or even the decor of the restaurant, all while giving the server a polite smile and say, “I’m just waiting for a friend.” At that time, every minute I checked my watch felt eternal because I was alone. Rather than swiping, liking and scrolling on my coveted phone, I was forced to deal with myself. Crazy right? Eventually, I’d accept the discomfort of sitting idle and having to just think, daydream, and as we see it today, “do nothing.”
Rather than swiping, liking and scrolling on my coveted phone, I was forced to deal with myself
I also remember when I used to wait for the train from New Jersey to Manhattan and while I waited, I watched people, tossed out “good morning!” to strangers and talked to the familiar faces that were “regular” commuters who like me, waited for the same train on a daily basis. When the crowds subsided, I would fidget with my outfit or lip gloss and just kept checking my watch for 7:14am to come around. At some point, I’d eventually let my mind wander while I admired the sunrise or studied other commuters.
In today’s world of smartphones and hyper-connectivity, (read: when you text your friend before a date with a “be there in 2 minutes” or “parking the car,”), there is no time for awkward silence, nor daydreaming. In fact, I embrace the extra few minutes to fire out one more email, check instagram or squeeze in a quick phone call. Like most people, I find the need to be productive EVERY MINUTE of the day. The same situation applies for when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for the barista to prepare my latte and heck, even if I sit in the car at a red light too long, I feel productive taking a quick scan at an email or text.
This article was originally published on thriveglobal.com
My phone has become my security blanket, my partner, my accessory, my prop, and my “I can’t live without you!” I surveyed some of my friends and we all agreed that whenever we have any “dead” time or have to sit idle, we are instantly commandeered by our little rectangular blue-light companion that comforts us and gives us something to do when we need something to do, or makes us at least look like we have something to do. That’s kind of messed up, right? And is this good or bad?
It’s discernibly good because we are “getting things done,” however, when I reflect on this, I consider it to be not so good. Why? Because it was during those quiet times of observing and mind wandering, when I did a lot of thinking, when I paid more attention to details and when I use to memorize things I saw or heard such as songs or billboards on the subway, and even people’s names! I would walk down the Manhattan streets and look at birds, make eye contact with people, notice new storefront windows and creatively think about what I wanted to accomplish. Today we see people walk down those same streets, hijacked by their cell phones, and typically head down and headphones in. But what about that awkward silence at the restaurant? Have we forgotten how to feel awkward and just deal with ourselves?
My phone has become my security blanket, my partner, my accessory, my prop, and my “I can’t live without you!”
In 1670, French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Psychologist Timothy Wilson backs this up in 11 studies proving that people did not enjoy spending even short periods of time in a room, with nothing to do but think and daydream. The participants preferred listening to music, being on their smartphones and even giving themselves mild electric shocks, as opposed to being left to think.
When I remember those non-iPhone days, I recall things that I never even pay attention to anymore and I feel grateful for having lived a smartphone-less childhood, well into my early 20s. I spent more time thinking inwards, visualizing goals, smiling about past moments and meditating. Sadly, the digital distractions, apps, emails and alerts on my phone now replace this time.
So here’s the challenge — try it; make a date with someone, arrive early and Just. Sit. Idle. Might you feel awkward, uncomfortable, inefficient or fidgety? Absolutely. But within that awkwardness, you may discover the magic of kicking up a conversation with the bartender, or even better, daydreaming and allowing your mind to wander. Studies show that during this brain’s idle stage of thinking is in fact, anything but idle. The brain uses this quiet mode of processing for “self-awareness and reflection, recalling personal memories, imagining the future, feeling emotions about the psychological impact of social situations on other people, and constructing moral judgments.”
Empowered with this knowledge, I will certainly rethink the incessant social check-ins, unnecessary “I’m sitting at the bar” texts, and obsession to be “always busy,” to once again, accomplish true mindfulness and a stronger sense of self. In other words, I may just have to deal with myself, but this time, I’ll enjoy it.
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.