To state the obvious, 2020 was unique in many ways. Similar to many others, it changed the way I work and interact with others. It presented unusual challenges and allowed me time for reflection. This past year has also offered me plenty of everyday lessons in numerous ways, including through style. While that might sound odd, I’ll begin by explaining that true style goes beyond clothes; this is certain.
Defined, style is a manner of doing something. It is the way we use our voice. Style is a means of expression and a place that reflects our deepest values. Looking back on 2020, style taught me many life lessons that I’m leaving behind.
To illustrate this, I’ll share a story about my recent decision to buy a new handbag. While this story centers around a handbag, it’s really about decision-making.
Via a handbag, there is one key style lesson that I will take with me into 2021: when creating change, don’t fight what is; instead focus on making the existing style outdated.
Make the existing style outdated.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” —Buckminster Fuller
Ever settled for mediocre style because it’s easy?
My 2020 word of the year was “glamorous.” As the year started, I knew if I wanted to embody glamour, I would have to think in ways I hadn’t ever thought before. Ways of thinking that were not easy to adopt. I knew I had to grow my style—that is, my manner of doing things. Making my existing style of decision making outdated was part of this.
A past handbag purchase embodied the decision-making style that needed to change. A few years ago, I bought a handbag that I was still using in early 2020. It wasn’t the right handbag for me. I knew that even when I made the purchase.
Still, there were some things I liked about this bag: It was from a designer with a quality reputation. The line had price points for all types of budgets. It was a crossbody and had a small handle. I liked that it was a smaller bag. I had wanted a smaller handbag because my prior one was too heavy. (Although that, too, was from a well-known designer, early on the bag’s stitching started fraying; I was very disappointed.)
After using the small bag for a few years, it continued to hold together. The stitching was still in place and the bag remained sturdy.
But, as I said, I knew it wasn’t the handbag for me. I’ve since realized that when I purchased it, I settled for mediocre. I had wanted a small bag, but this handbag was too small. It was okay, I told myself, that I couldn’t fit my sunglasses in it. I just went without wearing sunglasses (read: I settled). The exterior of the handbag featured a print of the brand logo. I never cared for that printing, but I overlooked it (read: I settled again).
I knew that thinking in these ways wouldn’t serve me in 2021, and neither would this bag.
By way of this handbag, my 2020 lesson was that when a style isn’t serving me anymore, the solution is not to fight it, but make it obsolete. This includes not settling for mediocre when it comes to living my style purpose. The moral of this story is about more than the handbag itself—it’s about growth. I ultimately purchased the a handbag.
Our style may be expressed through our clothes, accessories, or hairstyle or through the way we write, communicate, or even by how we approach leadership. The possibilities are endless because I believe we can embody style through our everyday choices and actions. For me, defining my style is how I learn about living out my purpose.
So this story about a handbag is not about the handbag. Style is a narrative and artifact of a moment. It is an instrument to become new. Clients ask me to help them redesign their style. Doing so is a process, I’m on this journey right along with them.
To become and evolve, you have to do things you’ve never done before. That includes making new style decisions. Sometimes that even comes in the form of a handbag.
I’m excited to learn what 2021 will teach me about how to make other styles obsolete.
What zenith 2020 style moment will you take with you into 2021?