“Draining The Shallows” Digital Minimalism Diaries Part 3

What does “Deep Work” Mean to Me?

My whole life I’ve been naturally drawn to produce what Cal Newport describes as “Deep Work.” I picture myself as a ten year old writing stories in one of the many outdoor “forts” my sister and I would build. Sometimes I’d spend what felt like hours alone, riding my bike down our long dirt road to sit on the “big rock” and write down my thoughts and observations – a backpack full of books in tow, and a heavy imagination to compliment the scenery. Nature and quiet time were easy to find, but so were the other kids on my street, who, when I was ready to socialize seemed to always be available.

We grew up in a town where solitude was plentiful – I refer to solitude in the way that Newport does, as being alone with your thoughts, but not necessarily alone physically. Think: In the grocery store check out line without your phone. Not alone, but alone in your head – solitude. My home town is excessively rural, secluded, and a few years behind whatever technology or trends are happening on the outside. Thinking of the hundreds of days I spent riding my mountain bike up over the hills to spend hours with friends makes my heart fill with gratitude. Idle time was seen by many of our parents as time for trouble, but we rarely found any. What we did find was a childhood and adolescence spent “hanging out” with each other before the internet meant much, and long before cell phones were common, let alone in any of our own hands. 

Sitting alongside the Kern River watching tourists go by on river rafts, walking circles around the high school football field talking, getting to know my future best friend, cleaning the hotel pool area in the early morning at my high school job. Thinking about being outside in the warm summer air, just me, the smell of chlorine, and the sound of the birds at 7am sometimes leads me to think that maybe we have gotten so far away from analog behaviors, solitude, and personal connection that we are suffering – mentally and physically. But how do we go back to that feeling – the one that we seem to find whenever our minds are left to fend for themselves?

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive abilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate. 

My intention is not to emphasize an unrealistically ideal society pre-modern technology and to suffocate you with nostalgic tales from my childhood. What I do mean to do is evoke that sense of calm in you that I believe comes from the fulfillment and mental rewards we reap from the combination of experiencing a balance and abundance of solitude and personal one-on-one connections with other people.

I find myself researching Digital Minimalism, efficiency and effectiveness in my business and personal life, and my own cognitive potential, realizing that not only are those topics interconnected on many levels, but in my opinion, crucially dependent on one another for their success. As a society we’ve strayed away from meaningful connections and failed to give ourselves and others the permission to spend significant time on work that captures our undivided attention. The result: Our lives are spent toiling away on work that does not fulfill us, and on media platforms that do not produce the amount of value they’ve promised for the time we’re haphazardly giving away. If Instagram was charging you per minute to use their service, how much would it be worth to you? As it turns out, “liking” your friend’s post does cost us something huge: time. The only resource we cannot replenish. When it comes to our time, we should be counting our pennies, but instead we all spend like we have millions in the bank.

Personally, I enjoy and find fulfillment in one-on-one time spend with other people, and time spent alone, producing what I consider to be my “deep work” which usually has something to do with writing. The problem that I’ve encountered, and that has become glaringly obvious to me recently, is that I’ve positioned myself in a career where my personal connections are bountiful and meaningful, I’ve etched out time in my schedule to produce high-quality work, and I’m maintaining a blog and four social media accounts. And it’s too much. I did not replace personal connection with online or shallow connections, I merely added them all in, on top of the heavy client load and the real brick-and-mortar business location I currently run. Shocking fact: I have only had a personal Instagram account for three years. What value is it really producing? Not much.

For those of you unfamiliar with the day-to-day operations of a full time esthetician, my schedule looks like this: From around 8am to 7pm three days a week I book back to back clients during all of these hours for a minimum of thirty minutes and a maximum of three hour long appointments. During this time I will render any combination of skincare and makeup services, typically in a private room behind closed doors, in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. This means that on any given client work day I will have an average of around ten one-on-one conversations. Many of my clients are friends, almost every single one has been coming to see me for several years. So we know each other and our talks are meaningful and rarely surface level. For roughly 33 hours per week I am in an intense state of concentration and attentiveness. I am producing quality work which requires practice and skill, providing a quality environment that requires thought, intention, and execution, and I am cultivating meaningful personal connections and conversation, which requires my full and undivided attention.

In addition to these client hours, I have event hours which typically include several weddings a month where my ability to concentrate and produce quality work in intensely distracting and high-stress environments is vital. And lastly, office hours which I’ve widdled down to two efficient hours per week doing paperwork and making phone calls – another task that requires my undivided attention to complete, lest I digress to completing these tasks haphazardly throughout my week, distracting me from client work.

I believe that I have cultivated the ability to work deeply and to socialize deeply because my career depends on it. And at this point in our history those skills are becoming increasingly more rare, and therefore, more valuable. The problem: I concentrate deeply for roughly 40-45 hours per week in a very social environment and then go home and try to socialize online, or text/email/call back any clients who are trying to contact myself or my business. My energy is so depleted by that point that I have basically none remaining for myself, my husband, or my personal relationships outside of work and social media. Perhaps I am not becoming more anti social, but rather, more intolerant of allowing my time to be monopolized by anything that produces shallow or ambiguous value.

I built the majority of my client base before I used social media much at all, and many of the most successful business people I know rarely use it. If they do, it is with intention to produce a specific value. The haphazard use of social media networking tools to produce a very abstract value is not serving me, or my business in real life. What does serve me and my clients is a thoughtful, professional environment, quality services and deep connections. In order for me to produce these things, I need solitude, and in order for me to feel content and happy I need to be “immersed in something challenging.” 

As Newport would say, it is time to “drain the shallows” to fill what room is left in my bucket with deep work.

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Luxe Headshots by The Studio by Kimberly Ann

http://www.photosbykimberlyann.com/contact.html

Women In Business Series: Angela Boults Co-Owner Escape Salon & Skin Studio

Today’s blog edition is a special interview dedicated to one of my closest friends, Angela Boults. Angie has played a major role in mentoring and supporting me personally and professionally throughout the last decade, during half of which we worked together. Her kindness, honesty, non-judgmental guidance, and intellectual incite has proven invaluable to me during times of abundance and growth, but more importantly, during the lonely and challenging moments in my life. I call her a mentor because I believe she leads with a vulnerable and open heart and in doing so has helped create a community of strong female cooperation and empowerment. So much can be learned from her success doing so.

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1) Explain what your business is, and your role in the company.

Escape Salon & Skin Studio is a full-service salon established in February of 2012. I am a co-owner with my business partner Amy Kolshinski. We are both licensed estheticians (skin care therapists). 

2) Tell us a little about yourself, your professional background, and why you chose to get into the beauty service industry. 

I am a Humboldt County native. I was a dental assistant for seven years before discovering the world of esthetics. I have always been someone enchanted by all things beauty, but knew that I didn’t have a passion for hair or nails. It wasn’t until one day on my lunch hour when I went to have my lip waxed that it clicked for me. After my ten-minute service my friend said: “That will be $12.” At the time I was making $12 hourly and was struggling to love my job. The salon environment was fun and energetic and stirred something in me. I had made a comment to my cosmetologist friend about how I could totally see myself doing waxing but had no interest in the “other stuff.” She told me about Frederick and Charles Beauty College in Eureka and their esthetics program. That was it for me! As a single mom of three, it wasn’t an overnight change – I had to develop a plan. But six months later I had quit my dental assisting job and was enrolled full-time in the December 2006 esthetics program at Frederick and Charles Beauty College. The program took 600 hours to complete and it was the best thing I ever did for myself. 

3) What is it like working with an all-woman team and co-owning with another woman who happens to be a best friend? 

Amy and I joke all the time that we are totally “cheating” at the job thing. We have been in business together over seven years and have never had an argument. I couldn’t have imagined a world where my work environment is so fun, supportive, and full of love. My business partner and I are different in a lot of ways but also complement each other well. Amy is very organized and methodical. She takes care of all the logistical aspects of the business. I tend to be the more social of the two of us. If we need to network or engage in a challenging conversation, I am usually the woman for that job. All other situations are figured out together. There are six of us who work out of our salon: Amy and myself are estheticians, Katrina is our massage therapist and airbrush spray tan specialist, Yvette is killing it on fingers and toes (natural nail care), and JoAnn and Sarah are our talented and experienced hair stylists. We are all self-employed booth renters. These women empower me to be the best version of myself every day. We encourage and lift each other up without judgment and actually enjoy our interactions with each other. It is a unique working environment in that way. 

4) Do you feel that working with (predominantly) female clients and colleagues helps to create community? If so, why. 

I 100% agree that our work environment and the people (mostly women) we encounter foster a sense of community. We all actually care about each other. It would be impossible to share many hours with someone over the course of a year and not become part of their life. Our interactions with our clients and our co-workers impact who we are as a whole. Our world is opened up. New ideas and views are formed. Connections are made and relationships grow. People initially come to us for beauty and relaxation services. They return, over and over again, because of what transpires during those appointments. And I am so overjoyed and thankful that they do. 

5) What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned from spending so much time with women of all different backgrounds and life situations? 

I think the most powerful thing I’ve discovered in my years as an esthetician is that despite our amazing and beautiful differences, we are all basically the same. We all want to be loved, supported, validated, and respected. And sometimes we just want someone to listen. 

6) What is beauty to you? And how does your work environment foster that idea? 

Beauty is confidence. And confidence is beautiful. Does a single facial or leg waxing erase every self-perceived imperfection? Ummm… that would be a no. BUT, spending time taking care of one’s self can make them feel important. And the valuable choice to invest in ourselves makes us more confident. Putting ourselves on our own list is beautiful and necessary. 

7) What is one thing you hope your kids learn from your journey as a female business owner? 

More than anything, I hope my kids have observed that what we do for a living should be part of our life, not our entire existence. That everyone deserves to feel respected, happy, and valued in their profession. Life is short, but it can feel very long if you don’t love what you’re doing with it. 

General Questions:

8) What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

“You can’t please everyone.” Struggling to do so is fruitless and results in frustration. 

9) What is the biggest challenge and biggest reward of owning your own small business? 

The biggest challenge at times is knowing that I’m it. There is no one else to blame if things don’t work out. The biggest reward is that I am able to cultivate my environment. I create a space of acceptance for everyone and it feels pretty damn good. 

10) Tell us about one book that changed your life. 

The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement by Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz changed my life. I chose two books because they really go together. The idea of these books is how to achieve heaven on earth by changing our agreements with the universe. The first agreement is to “be impeccable with your word.” Say things that need to be said, speak the truth, and do not gossip. The second agreement is to “not take anything personally.” What people do and say has nothing to do with you and everything to do with who they are and what they are going through. The third agreement is to “not make assumptions.” Take things for what they are and ask questions if you have them. The fourth agreement is to always do your best. Your best will vary from day to day but as long as you give what you can to everything you think and do, you’ll be on the right path. And the fifth agreement is to “listen but be skeptical.” Which I understand as actively listening to what people are telling you but knowing that every piece of information comes with a healthy dose of opinion. Doing my best to implement these five agreements has helped me to become a more effective communicator and has therefore helped improve the quality of my day to day interactions with others.

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http://www.escapesalon.org

215 7th Street, Eureka CA

707-269-0199

@eureka.escape