I was never a person who had, or even needed much encouragement to carry on with my life. For as 5’1 as I am, I’m pretty sure I’ve got an additional 6 feet of imaginary brain space up there just to hold the large stockpiles of chutzpah I’ve been blessed with. A friend I had (a BEST friend!) told me that I was not a person who ever needed a ‘yes-man’, and if I ever had one, it would be the demise of the world.
The funny thing is, I met KING yes-man 5 years ago, and married him. Not only is he my personal and emotional yes-man, he’s ALSO my business partner! He backs me up all damn day, and the world still spins. Wonkily, and sometimes irritatingly slow, but hey. There has yet to be a grandiose demise to speak of. At least not one at the hands of this jne. Horrible Hollywood revamps of one of my childhood favorites totally, but not me and my awesomely weird brain.
In one of those classic Nature Vs. Nurture arguments, it really doesn’t matter why I became so headstrong in the believe of supporting humans in whatever their own weirdness is, I stand here as one hell of a champion in the Sport of Weirdness, and I have loved very few roles like this one.
Encouragement is the smallest effort you could pay to make the biggest impact for yourself and others.
Wait a sec– hold up, DJ. Bring that beat back.
I didn’t grow up around encouraging support in my family, and yet I am a person who came to this earth on her own terms. I can’t quite make sense of this, because I am only on the 3.2 version of this life and still figuring it out, but I do know what works, what feels good, and what feels awful.
Dealing with being a 15-year-old girl is difficult enough. Dealing with 15-year-old-girlness, and moving across the country from Jewish-full New Jersey, to let’s say the Christian-palooza that is central Central Florida is something else entirely. Throw into that mix that I experienced severe discrimination over the fact that I was a Northerner (excuse me, Yankee. Remember, I’m in Florida!), AND JEWISH (and we are in 1998 at this time), and I have a mother who did not believe me when I tried to get her to help.
By junior year, I was a high school drop out; getting my GED through a community college. It took me 5 weeks.
I kept busy working as a telemarketer and bill collector, and made all kinds of art when I wasn’t at work.
While I had a ton of money, I was really lonely. I missed people, the connections, and Twitter and Facebook had yet to be invented. The AOL Nirvana Chat room (*not a joke) was all I had, people. The Dark Ages of the 20th century, right here. (But fear not, dear Melissa. For it was in this time that I learned the fantastical and addicting powers of graphic design! But I digress)
When I have nothing to receive, or can’t receive because of unfortunate circumstances, I always take to giving. When I was 3-4ish I’d give my friends my toys if they liked playing with them better than I did. At 6, I railed against the back of my mother’s car seat to make her pull over and give a homeless man something to eat. Again, I can’t tell you how these thought came to me; I’m pretty sure most of them are Jenny Ambrose originals, but others must have this instinct too (I hope?) The same is true today. When I’m depressed, I gather up old clothes and give bags of them to the homeless people that live around our neighborhoods. Or try and give 10 strangers authentic, sincerely felt compliments.
When I am sad or frustrated and want to connect with people, I always reach out and share/point out something positive. It makes making friends SUPER easy, but it also never fails to put a smile on my face when I see I’ve given one to someone else.
If I am outside, at work, food shopping, in an airport, on line at the bank, I will try and find something about the people I am around to compliment. Not just to quickly get it over with, but to seek out something truly worth admiring and then sharing that with whoever it was that inspired that admiration. This small act has been the saving grace of my teenage years, but much of my adult life as well.
Flash forward to designing for clients: I can now recognize my clients’ lack of inner confidence and outer encouragement; and a broken heart about it compels me to interrupt them.
While on a consult call about a high-fashion photog’s brand:
“I just love hot pink, it’s my favorite color and I wear it all the time, but my husband doesn’t think I’d get taken seriously if I use it for my business”
As if my mouth were a sling shot of truth: “Girl I am sorry but that is B.S!”
I hear this, or anything within the same vein, I immediately snap that crap off the vine. If you are running a business, the best (and honestly, only) choice you could (should) make are the choices that are in tune with who you are as a person. The ones that make your heart light up and sing. Those will be the same choices that bring you the projects that will be the best fit; the personalities you enjoy will be drawn to the same things you use to represent yourself. Likemindedness, especially represented visually, is a very strong pull.
Should you make a brand out of the fact that you are a demon on wheels when dealing with Time Warner Cable? No. Can you find a way that treats those qualities as positive and incorporates that level of strength, sassiness, and authority but in a professional and palatable way? You betta believe it–because that’s the life I’m living right now.
When I work with clients and walk them through inspiration, or even my own suggestions in a design direction, we only look at what they do like, what is working, where we can move on from wherever we started. Nothing destroys momentum or excitement (or self esteem?!) like tearing options down without suggesting anything in to replace them. So why tear anything down? Just suggest new and change the proverbial conversation.
As a creative director providing critique to other designers, I place my focus on the positive aspects of the work alone. Why? Because doing so naturally causes the negative parts to fall to the way side as the person happily pushes what is working. Added bonus– There is no time needed in the decompression of hurt feelings, or the separating any confusing aspects of taking your work unnecessarily personally. It is a rewarding experience for both parties. Now if the designer’s using comic sans we may have a small issue, but that’s just me playing devil’s advocate. No designer working with me would use comic sans. This is a fact.
This depth of inclusion in the name of encouragement continually blossoms across my life. One of my favorite things about being stuck in traffic is getting to pause and look around. Did ya hear that? I live in Los Angeles, and genuinely found a positive about sitting in traffic. People Rocking Out In Their Car is probably my favorite T. V. show. Is Don’t Stop Believin’ On playing in a fancy gastropub? Are the waitstaff rocking out silently, afraid to really let their inner rock god fly? Oh Jenny sees you, my friends, and will gladly fist bump and air guitar solo you out of your silent funk. It’s Journey, people. You HAVE to live it out loud.
One of my favorite things is seeing people happily express themselves when they feel free of judgement. I don’t mean painting or creating art, although that is an aspect of it. I mean singing out loud, dancing in the middle of the side walk, or getting dressed up as Astronaut Hello Kitty.
Maybe it’s because I literally live on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that this aspect of my personality has been permanently cemented.
If I see a group of single girls out to go clubbing, depending on if they really ARE looking amazing, I will tell them “Wow ladies, you are KILLIN IT! GO GET IT!” and Jake and I happily cheer them on. Or knowing how simply telling someone how awesome a color looks on them will make their faces light up. I love this. It’s one of my favorite aspects of living, guys.
There are external reasons to be an encouraging force, especially in a creative field, but the internal rewards for the recipient of that encouragement is an endless wellspring of opportunity. Personal admittance time (Jenny, this whole article has been personal admittance time. Yes I know, Melissa, but this is different)
Yesterday I sent an email out to one of my younger brother’s friends who I know is going through a beautiful but extremely challenging metamorphosis. At first I was sending my brother a link thru Facebook to a show that holds endless inside jokes, but the friend’s pictures held my eye and I was blown away by how beautiful & shiny she was. Not shiny forehead shiny, but like how the moon is beautiful and shiny.
It was as if her skeleton was formed from a flashlight; the vibrancy of their goodness poured out of my computer and I was instantly compelled to message her. So I did. I didn’t over think it, and I didn’t let my insecurities with my own vulnerability overshadow my goal: telling someone who really needed to hear it that she was beautiful inside and out. I had sentences flooding my inner space and shared them with her. This was her response:
If I had ignored my instincts, or talked myself out of expressing them for fear of being stupid, or too mushy, I would have withheld something so meaningful to someone else– without ever realizing it. I didn’t ask about her day, because at that point it was irrelevant. Sharing my kindness and encouragement with someone who wasn’t expecting it changed their entire outlook. The same is true when it happens to me, and I’m sure everyone in the world over.
I’m now to the point where I consider not sharing these little gestures one of the most selfish acts a person can do. You have no idea what effect you have on the people around you, so open up and share your opinions and feelings— as long as their positive and useful. The world has too many cynics and they aren’t helping things as much as they’d like to think. I should know, as I live in the warm world of Encouragement and we are happily recruiting. Inquire within, you fabulous wonderment you.