"And you should smile more often," he said, leaning in. As if he was sharing with me the secret to my advancing in the organization. "You should just smile."
That was the feedback I received early on in my career. Impromptu words of wisdom from a well-meaning male colleague. It would seem as though that smiling would be the key to my success. My lack of smiling was clearly holding me back.
On one occasion when I was sitting, tapping away quietly at my keyboard. Someone came up to me and said "What's wrong? Is something wrong?"
No that was just my resting face. I was just concentrating on an email. I wasn't smiling.
Another time I was walking down the hallway. On a mission to make it to a meeting on time. "What's wrong? Is something wrong?"
No I was just wearing heels that are too high. I was developing a blister on my heels. I wasn't smiling.
And a third time. I was listening intently in a meeting. Taking notes and following along in the conversation. "What's wrong? Is something wrong?"
No I was just paying attention. And thinking about next steps for the project. I wasn't smiling.
Throughout the course of my career, I inevitably started to smile more. I was conditioned to smile more. I smile often. I smile to make people feel welcome. I smile to disarm people. I smile and even throw in a laugh to cut the tension in any given situation. I smile when given tough feedback. I smile when others are angry. I smile when I am angry, sometimes growling through my teeth. I smile often and smile plenty.
"You should smile more often. Just smile." But when is the last time we ever asked a man to smile more?
If a man doesn't smile, it's ok. We never question, never doubt. He's commanding, he has a presence and gravitas. He's a leader. He's a visionary. He's someone we can follow. He will lead us to where we need to go. Follow that man!
We don't smile? The narrative can quickly go in another direction.
Then we are cold. Lack empathy. Lack emotional intelligence. People just can't seem to connect with us. We make people uncomfortable. We appear aggressive, sometimes threatening. People wonder if we like them, if we approve of them, if we can lead teams. If people will follow us. If we can make an impact. We just don't have that warmth, that energy, that charisma- those intangible qualities that make that next great leader.
It would be so much simpler if we just smiled. So why don't we?
Because maybe like our friend Kim Kardashian we don't want wrinkles. Because we don't feel well that day. Because we have blisters on our feet from heels that are far too high. Because we are just intently listening, planning what action we have to take next. Because we are fed up with the comments, the jokes, the daily attack of micro-aggressions we as women face in our lives.
Because some of us just don't like to smile, because we don't have time to smile. We aren't here to make friends. We aren't here to smile and show off our happiness and make everyone else comfortable. We are here to make moves and make things happen just like our male colleagues. We are here to make as much of an impact as humanly possible.
So what does smiling have to do with anything?
Next time you are in a meeting. And someone questions why she doesn't smile enough. Why she's so aggressive. Why she's so calculating. Why she doesn't collaborate. Why she's difficult.
Ask yourself and the others in the room, would we use the same words to describe a male leader? And doubt his capabilities?
And for the record. I do love to smile. I have a great smile. I smile often. Because life is good.
But please don't ask me to smile. Unless we are taking a selfie. Unless we are out enjoying a glass of frose. Unless I am with my children, snapping a photo, and we all shout "Cheese!" Then I will smile on command.
- The Art of Unplugging: Just Put Down The Phone - Swaay ›
- The Secret To Saying No Without Pissing People Off - Swaay ›
- Arianna Huffington: "Don't Hire Brilliant Jerks" - Swaay ›
- Limitless: How to Start Your Own Successful Business at 21 - Swaay ›
- 30 Signs You're An Adult… Or In Denial About It - Swaay ›
I have always been in love with all things art- I was obsessed with drawing and painting before I was even walking. In high school, I started a career selling art through various gallery art shows and on Etsy. I then went on to study fine arts at the University of Southern California, with an emphasis in painting, but took classes in ceramics, printmaking, cinema and architecture to get a really well-rounded education on all sorts of art.
During my senior year of college, my career path went through a huge transition; I started my own temporary tattoo brand, INKED by Dani, which is a brand of temporary tattoos based on my hand-drawn fine art designs.
The idea for the brand came one night after a themed party at college. My friends, knowing how much I loved drawing, asked me to cover them in hand-drawn doodles using eyeliner. The feedback from that night was overwhelming, everyone my friends saw that night was obsessed with the designs. In that moment, a lightbulb went off in my head... I could do some completely unique here and create chic temporary tattoos with an art-driven aesthetic, unlike anything else on the market. Other temporary tattoo brands were targeted to kids or lacked a sleek and millennial-driven look. It was a perfect pivot; I could utilize my fine arts training and tattoos as a new art medium to create a completely innovative brand.
Using the money I made from selling my artwork throughout high school and college, I funded the launch of INKED by Dani. I had always loved the look of dainty tattoos, but knew I could never commit to the real thing, and I knew my parents would kill me if I got a tattoo (I also knew that so many girls must have that same conflict). Starting INKED by Dani was a no-brainer.
I started off with a collection of about only 10 designs and sold them at sorority houses around USC. Our unique concept for on-trend and fashion-forward tattoos was spreading through word of mouth, and we quickly started growing an Instagram following. I was hustling all day from my room, cold calling retailers, sending blind samples and tons of emails, and trying to open up as many opportunities as I could.
Now, we're sold at over 10,000 retail locations (retailers include Target, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Hot Topic), and we've transformed temporary tattoos into a whole new form of wearable art.
My 4 best tips for starting your own business are:
- Just go with your gut! You'll never know what works until you try it. Go day by day and do everything in your power to work toward your goals. Be bold, but be sure to be thoughtful in your actions.
- Research your competitors and other successful brands in your category to determine how you can make your product stand out. Figure out where there is a need or hole in the market that your new offering or approach can fill.
- Don't spread yourself too thin. Delegate where possible, and stay focused each day on doing the best and most you can. Don't get too caught up in your end goal or the big picture to a point where it overwhelms or freezes you. You're already making a bold move to start something new, so try to prioritize what's important! I started off in the beginning hand packing every single tattoo pack that we sold and shipped. If I wanted to scale to align with the level of demand we were receiving, I needed to make the pivot to mass produce and relinquish the control of doing every step myself. I am a total perfectionist, so that was definitely hard! From that point on, overseeing production has been a huge part of my daily schedule, but by doing so I've been able to free up more time to focus on design, merchandising, and sales, allowing me to really focus on growing the business.
- Prioritize great product packaging and branding. It's so important to invest time in customer experience- how customers view and interact with your product. The packaging is just as important as the actual product inside! When we were starting off, we had high demand, and I definitely jumped the gun a bit on packaging so we could deliver product to the retailers when they wanted it. Since then, we've completely revamped the packaging into something upscale and unique that reflects what the brand is all about. Our product packaging is always called out as being one of our retailers' and customers' favorite part of our product!