Several years ago I had a very successful faux finishing business. I employed a few artists at a time on a regular basis, and my work made it into a few magazines, and on a few television programs. I was climbing in my painting career, at least where I thought I wanted it to go, when everything came crashing down and I had to scramble to repair the damage.
I had just had a baby and was ready to step away from the job of marketing and actually get my hands dirty again. The two girls that were working for me worked great together. They were the best of friends. When I hired one she insisted I give her friend a job so they could be a team. They duplicated all the finishes I had created. They showed up on time. They were great with the clients. I encouraged them to come up with their own designs and ideas.
One day I called them both to get them up to speed on our upcoming work schedule but I never heard back. I was booked solid for the next six weeks, and it was really unusual for them to not call back. I knew something was wrong. Finally, I got the three-way call attack. They stammered and stuttered to tell me they were both going back to school to finish degrees in something else. One, I think, was going to nursing school. No, they couldn't give me a two week notice. No, they weren't coming back to work. After the numerous hours I had spent on the job with them, this was all news to me. It sounded like it was right out of the blue actually. I began to panic, what was I supposed to do? We were booked!
As I pointed out the abruptness of their unanimous decision, that is when the truth came pouring out. I never gave them credit for their work. I never appreciated them. I never complimented them in front of the clients. I was uncaring and selfish. I was in complete shock and started crying. Uncontrollably. Nothing could be further from the truth of how I felt, but it hurt so badly that they thought this of me. Or interpreted my actions that way.
When we finally hung up the phone I scrambled to find more help. I went to Memphis College of Art the very next day for career day and found someone immediately. Brenna was my new partner. That was eight years ago, two more children each, one move, and we are still the best of friends. I love her dearly. Obviously things were meant to work out the way they did.
But to this day, the words of the previous painters still haunt me. And I am grateful for that. It makes me a better artist, friend, wife, and most importantly, mother. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool and is not mastered easily. In fact, it is something to be aware of at all times in case you miss an opportunity to give it.
During a recovery meeting a few years ago a very powerful reading came up along with the analogy of a ladder. It went like this: We have a tendency to put ourselves on ladders. We take up one rung. And people are either above us or below us. But rarely is there ever room on our rung for another person. Of course, the analogy is that we constantly see people as being better than or less than we are. The solution? Step off the ladder! How simple is that? If we all step off the ladder we are on even ground together.
I have to pat myself on the back a little each time someone tells me how kind, or thoughtful, I am. Even if I was raised to be a "nice" person, actively being selfless doesn't come naturally to me. I was not an evil person before, but I grew up keeping my cards close to me, and I forget that I don't have to do that anymore. Since stepping off the ladder my world has been flooded with new people and new adventures much more fulfilling than I ever could have wished for.