I have a problem.
“You know your problem, Quentin? You keep expecting people not to be themselves. I mean, I could hate you for being massively unpunctual and for never being interested in anything other than Margo Roth Spiegelman, and for, like, never asking me about how it’s going with my girlfriend – but I don’t give a shit, man, because you’re you. My parents have a shit ton of black Santas, but that’s okay. They’re them. I’m too obsessed with a reference website to answer my phone sometimes when my friends call, or my girlfriend. That’s okay, too. That’s me. You like me anyway. And I like you. You’re funny, and you’re smart, and you may show up late, but you always show up eventually.”
― John Green,
And that, my friends is what I’ve been doing too, being a Quentin. Let me explain.
2015 was a great year for Realize Beauty, great in terms of turn-over and procedures. Great in terms of my ability to pay my side-kick/ office manager/ research assistant/ sister a proper wage for the whole 12 months without fail, great in terms of me being able to pay myself a decent salary for the whole entire year. Great in terms of us making a start on our new venture – Fox Hill Hollow (the 50 acre woodland that we plan to turn into a research facility one day hopefully soon) and great in terms of us getting our rural container office finally finished (thanks again to my sister and her partner Ed).
But oddly enough that hasn’t left me feeling all that great.
The last few weeks have taken their toll on my sense of fulfilment with my work and it’s mainly my fault. You see I while I am a working cosmetic chemist who takes briefs and makes stuff, good stuff, stuff that I’m proud of, what I really am is a research chemist, writer and teacher. A person fascinated by the detail, excited by the prospect of learning more, of discovering, problem solving, improving and creating newness. Over the last few weeks perhaps more than any other time in my 18 years in this industry I’ve discovered more and seen things clearer than ever before so why the lack of fulfilment you ask? It’s because while I can see more and smell the opportunities I can’t grasp them.
Paying clients want to pay for guaranteed outcomes. This is no disrespect to anyone I am working with currently or past, it is just how it is. People come to a cosmetic chemist for a formula and want to go with a formula. I had a client a few weeks ago that came with an idea that I hadn’t come across before. I was fascinated but like most people approaching something new said that I couldn’t charge her for a formula that I was unsure I could produce but what I could do is charge her for my time to investigate the concept scientifically, to identify any problems and how they might be solved and to work towards a formula. With any luck all of the above would result in a formula anyway and the client would have made a sound investment. I was excited by the chance to try something new and to learn something new. The client wasn’t so. I didn’t hear from them again.
Next there was the discovery of something quite interesting and potentially valuable that I discovered while reading late one Saturday night (I am obsessed by cosmetic science. Obsessed…) I went into my lab and ran a few experiments and confirmed that there was indeed something here of value but that was a week ago now and while I’ve had several more ‘eureka’ thoughts while on my walking meditation walks I have realised that to turn these thoughts into something that has financial or academic value will require a cash investment. I’d need to validate my experimental data with some measuring and that measuring would cost somewhere between $150-$300 per sample. Not a great deal but a great deal too much to pay (I’d have at least 5 samples) when the market for the results is un-scoped and therefore un-known. A gamble.
Situations such as those above have been happening with increasing frequency this year to the point that I woke up this morning with a mantra going through my head urging me on, telling me not to settle, not to become mediocre, to stand tall and not allow myself to get lost. Sounds a bit daft but this is the sort of thing that goes around my head when I’m not reading or writing about science or business.
But it is hard as the reality is that it is Monday, I’ve got bills to pay and jobs to do. I’ve got the children (Ok they are getting older now but they are still children) to manage alone as Mr Bling is away and the dogs to walk and the house to clean on top of my emails, brain snaps and ‘to-do’s and now I’m supposed to find time to grab my business steering wheel and point it in another direction? Is that even possible?
If I want it, I have to make it possible.
I wanted to share this with you as it was at the end of my conversation with my sister (who works for me) that I realised one of the ways in which I’ve been going wrong and that is to expect people not to be themselves (see above quote, thanks to my daughter Meg for introducing me to this ‘teen fiction’ great). Expecting people to change and see the world my way. It sounds so silly now I’ve written it down especially as in my every-day life I’d never be as ridiculous as to expect people to change just because I said so or because I showed them something. But oddly enough in my working world I had lost track of that.
I feel somewhat better now, now that I’ve given shape to the jumble that popped out of my head and woke me up with its nagging chatter this morning. I am still not quite sure how I get myself a chunky bit of paid research to sink my teeth into in between formulating and the day-to-day (which I still love) but at least I now have a clear vision and visions can build plans and plans can catalyse action.
I promise I will stop expecting people not to be themselves.
and I also promise to be myself. Always.