The Ugly Chairs
After getting married in October 2008, my husband found an amazing new construction home in short-sale in Fairfield County CT. We immediately saw it as our opening to buy in an incredibly expensive area we had been admiring from afar. In securing the sale and planning our move, we realized that our shared junior one-bedroom in Brooklyn Heights would not put a dent in furnishing a four bedroom home... but as two full time professionals, we had little time for catalog browsing or furniture shopping.
We decided that to maximize efficiency, we'd make a New Years road trip to North Carolina. We had exactly 48 hours. With blueprints, measurements, and paint swatches in hand and were on a mission to fully outfit the new home we hadn't yet moved into. If you've ever been to High Point, NC you'll know it's a furniture mecca and home to the largest furniture store in the WORLD, which boasts more than 1.3 million square feet of appointed showroom space.
Overwhelming is an gross understatement. But our assigned designer asked no questions and got straight to work helping us navigate our shopping list and narrow down our options. We felt good about many of the purchases, but selecting sitting chairs for the living room had us stuck. We wanted something comfortable and inviting, big enough for Justin, but cozy enough for me (he's 6' - I'm 5'3" on a good day). Once we picked a chair, we had to choose upholstery from a selection that rivals Theresa Roemer's closet. What the designer hadn't realized is we brought paint swatches of the existing colors in the home - colors I didn't really love and would NEVER have selected. They were OK... but not my preference and not reflective of us. Yet, as stupid as this sounds, as first time home owners, it had never occurred to me to change the colors! Having lived in white walled apartments where maintenance was done for you for years, painting the whole first floor seemed like a huge undertaking - a waste even! Given that I really could live with the colors that were there. So I was struggling not because I couldn't find a fabric in those colors that I liked for the chairs, but because they were colors I just didn't really love!
The basis for the disconnect never clicked for me, given the rush we were in though and we deliberated over options for several hours. Eventually, I let the designer talk us into a fabric he insisted would look amazing with our other selections. He never asked for more context to understand the hesitation. And I didn't realize or think to share. So, as the expert, I trusted his advise, hoped I would agree once we saw the final product and we moved on. Deep down, I knew I didn't love it, but we were on a timeline and this decision had already cut far into our other shopping list items. We literally had just 30 minutes left in our trip to walk through 3 stories and dozens (hundreds?) of rooms and pick out a bedroom set for the master bedroom.
Interestingly, in reflection, the bedroom set we picked turned out to be our favorite selection of the trip, while many of the others we deliberated over turned out to ultimately be expensive mistakes, err, lessons. :) In picking out furniture when we moved again, several years later, I let many of the rooms sit empty until I found things I immediately knew I loved. I realized we had felt that way about the bedroom set and had never looked back on the decision - and there had been no deliberation necessary.
The takeaway message is two fold: while it should have been obvious that you can't rush important decisions, it also became clear that when the right solution is in front of you, you don't need to. In applying this to our businesses... when you listen to your clients, really listen, and REALLY understand what they fear, what they need, what they value and what they prioritize, you'll be able to speak their language in a way that demonstrates understanding and presents solutions that require NO deliberation. Don't skip the questions that seek to really understand where they are coming from, what they love and what they don't. Rather than rush the process, get curious first. With true understanding comes the efficiency we so often try to create artificially... and without it, we miss the opportunity to create something truly fitting... something beautiful that adds JOY, not just utility to our lives. Without true curiosity and seeking to understand, we risk getting stuck with comfortable, but ugly chairs.