When the Seemingly Ugly Is Very Beautiful

IMG_20151106_091859Imagine this: you walk to work surrounded by cranes in the sky, trucks roaring beside you, cars impatiently waiting at a tense standstill as heavy mobile cement mixers drive against the traffic.  Then imagine having to take walking detours as men in hard hats motion you to get out-of-the-way of a huge load of metal rods that are being lowered onto the street.  And almost every street has scaffolding obscuring any character of the buildings you pass.  There are no scents of flowers or shady trees.  There are no sculptures or mini parks.  There’s just concrete, trucks and wooden make-shift walls.

“Ugh,” you’re probably thinking, “what a horrible place to be.”

Well, this is my commute, EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I walk from 59th St and 10th avenue to my offices on 15th street in in Manhattan. For over 40 blocks I can’t avoid any of this.

And, yet, I love it!  I find all this hassle, men in hard hats, grinding sounds of construction and boarded up buildings, well, beautiful.  There is an energy to all of this construction.  Men and women are hard at work, yelling commands at one another, measuring distances or hustling to manage some sort of construction material.  You can really see the imagination and brawn of humankind taking shape. It’s quite magnificent.  It literally takes my breath away.

Why am I sharing this experience with you all?  Because so many of us live in cruise control.  We don’t notice the beauty around us.  More importantly, we don’t the notice the beauty that may be hidden to us at first glance.   We are constantly on the move trying to achieve the next thing — picking up our kids, getting to work, prepping for our presentation.  And let’s be honest, there may not be any flowers to stop and smell along the way.  But I guarantee you that there is beauty taking shape in interesting ways all around us, all the time.  We just need to tilt our heads in a slightly different angle and truly notice it.

This desire to see the beauty in the seemingly mundane — even ugly — things around us is one of the explanations for the preponderance of banal images that seem to overwhelm our internet feeds.  In my research I found that people are attracted to these everyday pics MORE than the the unusual, out-of-this-world stuff because we crave the beauty in the everyday.  Such a discovery elevates our everyday and reminds us that our daily lives are full of wonder, not just the grind.

What may seem ugly, drab or boring may just be quite beautiful.  We just need to scrape away the layers a bit and truly take the time to think about it.  But when you do, you’ll realize how cool our everyday world really are.

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It’s What You Do, Not What You Say

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Growing up, we are all taught that actions speak louder than words.  Working in an engineering-based company reinforces this thinking for me.  It’s what you make that matters.  And in my role, in particular, I see this truth played out time and time again.  I investigate human beings.  Why? Because the inventions we create for brands need to be solving something for the people who use them or giving them something beneficial.  To understand what people really need or want, we need to go beyond what they say and look at what they DO.  Luckily we have access to people’s behaviors, namely their search behaviors, and that reveal so much.

What does this have to do with beauty?  Well, Google just published its first ever 2015 beauty report.  The piece showcases the most searched beauty items of 2015.  Some of the searches may be obvious and some surprising.  For example, one of the top searched beauty items was braids.  Looking back on the trends these past few months, I can see why.  Lots of celebrities were braiding their hair.  Another top trending searches was for male hair styles…hmmmm.  Now that’s surprising, no?

Of course the searches themselves are interesting facts.  But what is even more interesting is WHY these searches are happening and WHAT we do with this information.  And that’s where my team and I come in.  We analyze it and make sense of it as a source of creative fodder.

The most salient point to be made with this information, however, is how this high level of interest by men (as indicated by their search behavior) would not have been expected by us and probably not have been voiced by the guys we know.  After all, we still live in a culture where men are not “supposed” to care too much about how they look.

It does matter what we say, after all I wouldn’t be writing in this blog if it didn’t! 🙂  But what we DO tells us so much more.   For my job, this helps me understand human beings that much more. But in life in general, it has major consequences too.  We are always seeking clarity and truth. We need direction amidst the wonderful but sometimes debilitating chaos of our lives. By realizing it’s the behaviors — our own and those of others — not so much people’s words, that reveal so much to us, we can get a bit more of that clarity we need to live our lives with purpose and peace.