Beyond the Label
Book Review - Beyond the Label: Women Leadership and Success on Our Own Terms by Maureen Chiquet
I have a love/hate relationship with these "business memoir" type books. On one hand, they provide excellent material for discussion with my students about what it is like to work in the retail industry. This type of book often inspires my students to work hard and contribute something larger to the world than selling product. On the other hand, I often find the same, tired advice with a slightly different twist each time. Rarely do I find a truly unique point of view. But as far as this genre goes, Beyond the Label by Maureen Chiquet is one of my favorites.
The beginning of the book focused on concepts that, over time, shaped her career and her leadership style, including a few french concepts:
- Deconstructionalism: "challenged the idea that absolute meaning could exist at all - I started to understand that these reactions and emotions, and in fact meaning itself, came to life in a fluid co-creation between artist and viewer."
- L'here de l'apero: literally, a cocktail hour. But also, "all about the ritual of beauty - a moment in the day before dinner to stop everything else and to just be."
- M'enfang: "used as a dismissive counterpoint, a soft acceptance of or a surrender to the messiness of life and its beautiful imperfections..."
I also appreciated her high opinion of the humanities, the discipline in which I teach. She said, "Every discipline in the humanities - literature, history, art history, philosophy, or religious studies- teaches us how to question how we see and interpret the world and who we are as human beings. These course of study call upon us to become close observers of people and images, of circumstances, of the so-called facts, of variegated points of view. They ask us to draw relevant connections and to develop our own narratives about their significance." This sparked great conversation about what electives students should opt for and possible courses that might develop their ability to become close observers.
The book was also full of practical career advice and thought-provoking questions that students (as well as those of us who could use a spark of inspiration after working for many years) could use to evaluate their career and life goals.
- "Note to self: When in doubt, asking for assistance from the right person saves time and tears."
- "No opportunity is ever too small to show you what you can accomplish, and no boss is ever so mean that you can't learn something, even if it's only to show you how not to lead."
- "At the moment I understood that if I was going to succeed, not just as a merchant but in life, I would have to practice listening; not just sometimes, but all of the time; not just to him [her boss] but to my teams, my customers, and other stakeholders."
- Are you doing enough to stimulate your curiosity? What would it mean to be the artist of your own life? In other words, how have you challenged the status quo to invent something new?
- So, what's your trademark? How can you bend the rules to create something more compelling? What traits and talents might you be able to use to define success on your own terms? What part of yourself can you bring to your job that creates you singular identity? What passions make you dizzy with excitement and expectation?
If you're looking for a little extra spark of inspiration to get you passionate about the work you're doing - if you're looking for equal parts storytelling and career advice - if you're looking for a little touch of fashion history...then click the link below and order your copy of Beyond the Label: Women, Leadership, and Success on Our Own Terms by Maureen Chiquet.