Is the career path you want to take unexpected? Unique? Unchartered? Or unconventional?
Do you feel scared to take the first step? Worried you’ll disappoint someone? Afraid to take a risk? Or nervous you’ll end up broke eating ramen for dinner every night?
I truly believe you deserve to love your work and your life.
I believe it’s possible to enjoy what you do in your career.
And when you love your 9-5, it spills awesomeness and joy into the rest of your life.
You’ve heard it from me. Now I want to share a story about the journey Kimiko Stella has taken to get to a place of real life career love.
A few months ago, I was getting my hair styled by the lovely Kimiko. Mid-shampoo, I casually asked her “do you like your job?” (It’s a habit – I can’t turn the coach off.)
Her eyes lit up. She grinned, threw her head back and said “YES! I love my job”.
From that moment, I knew I needed to know more. So I got the chance to sit down with her for some lunch (and bottomless mimosas) to get deeper into her story.
Kimiko has inspired me and I know she will inspire you.
Kimiko is a 30-something Japanese Italian woman who is feminine, strong and beautiful inside and out. Growing up, she was surrounded by amazing women. She has a very strong mother, a sweet and gentle aunt, and a Nona you don’t want to mess with (let’s be honest, is there any Nona you would mess with?!).
Life wasn’t always easy for Kimiko. She struggled with depression. She has been married and divorced. She’s a survivor of sexual assault. She took the unconventional path in her career and it put a strain on her relationship with her family. At the age of 26, she came out to her family as a lesbian.
But all the steps in her journey have led her to become a seriously inspiring badass, and a force to be reckoned with!
Today, she’s a hairstylist in one of the top salons in Vancouver, Brush Salon (check them out!). She gets to do hair for all sorts of glamorous events like Vancouver Fashion Week, and several TV shows filmed in Vancouver. Somewhere in there, she does regular people hair like mine.
Every day, she goes to work and LOVES her job. And she’s fiercely confident. She’s uniquely herself.
Here’s Kimiko’s journey to becoming a top stylist in the city.
Growing up, Kimiko was encouraged to take a traditional path. Go to school, they told her. We’ll pay for your education. Do something that will make you money and be stable. Needless to say, Kimiko’s family did not support her being a hair stylist.
Their vision for her was one of an academic path. So, she dabbled in kinesiology, counseling, nutrition, customer service and radio broadcasting – things she was interested in but not passionate about.
Her family was supportive of her education, even going so far as to paying for her education as long as it was on their terms.
Have you ever worried what your family might think if you quit your job? Or if you changed your major? Or went back to school?
Kimiko knew she wanted to be a hair stylist. But she also knew they wouldn’t be happy with her decision.
She needed to overcome this huge roadblock. For Kimiko, she came to the realization that she had to be ok with - and accept - that she was going to let people down. This was not an easy journey.
But she knew she wasn’t going to be able to follow the path others set out for her.
She knew the journey she was on, easy or not, would be her own.
And she knew it would be worth the challenge.
She took out her own student loan.
Made the decision to say goodbye to academics.
And faced many difficult conversations.
She shared with her family that as much as she loved them, she was going to follow her dream and passion to be a hair stylist.
Lesson #1 – Sometimes you have to walk the path alone. Sometimes the path gets darker and more challenging, before it gets easy. It will be worth it.
Kimiko’s story is painful and strikingly honest. It’s also one that I know isn’t only Kimiko’s.
Many of the men and women I know have grown up with similar messages. Well-intentioned families, teachers and even friends tell us “you can be whatever you want to be”.
But as soon as we step away from the classic “acceptable”and “stable” jobs, fearful comments and ominous warnings instantly begin.
This is incredibly difficult. As children, we want our parent's approval. As we grow up, we want our family and friends to support us. To go against their cautions and wishes is counter to most of what we’ve been brought up doing.
She persisted despite their growing fears for her. One family member even told her “you’re going to be living in the gutter if you have that job.”
For Kimiko, she knew her family’s worries and anxieties existed because they didn’t understand the business. But she DID understand the business. Kimiko knew her passion and creativity meant she would be successful! She wasn’t worried about not making it. Instead, she focused on following her dreams and has become a mega-successful hair stylist.
Lesson #2 – People will project their fears onto you. While they might mean well, know yourself enough to know if your fears are your own… or someone else’s.
Kimiko wanted to be a hairstylist enough that she was willing to go through the challenges, the financial struggle, and family turmoil because it would be worth it.
For Kimiko, hair styling is about art. It’s about growing a business. It’s about connecting with people and genuinely making them happy. It’s about relationships.
And that is what she wanted deeply for herself – to have fun and make others happy.
Lesson #3 – Your desire for your dreams has to be greater than your fear of taking a risk.
As you’re probably realizing, Kimiko is a deeply insightful, strong and intelligent woman (on top of being an amazing stylist). Her wisdom is inspiring and beautiful.
What Kimiko knows for sure:
- Our choices are ultimately what define our personality. What we choose to do and our actions, are our soul being bare to the world. Your words and what you say is one thing, but your actions are ultimately a reflection of your true colors. So take action to create the live you want and need!
- Societal pressures and expectations will shape us, without us even realizing it. But your life belongs to you. Get clear on what you want and be true to that.
- Careers are an important part of our lives. It’s what we do for 30 - 50 hours a week. And the right career is nourishing. It feeds you (pay check, stomach, and soul).
- Historically, femininity has too often been about being docile, submissive, gentle, quiet and small. But now, there’s a chance (a need!) for women to be present, have a voice, and stand up. It’s time for women to show the world who we are.
- “Strength is having no regrets and no shame in what you believe in.” Kimiko strongly believes that there are times that the situations we are in are uncomfortable. The setting hits a prickly nerve. With friends or family, this is even harder - it’s icky, gross, nitty and gritty. And necessary. Stick with what you believe in – it is the definition of strength.
Are you wondering how you could possibly create a career you love?
Here’s Kimiko’s advice for getting success on your terms:
- Have a constant pursuit of happiness. Happiness doesn’t come to you automatically. Make it a mindful effort to chase and explore what brings you joy and delight. It’s why we’re here on this planet.
- Always be reflecting and growing. There are so many people who live life on autopilot and end up drifting wherever life takes them. Don’t do that. Be consciously living and critically making choices to take advantage of this short, beautiful life you have been given.
- Learn. All the time. Every part of your journey is building you to get you where you need to go. It all happens for a reason and it will pay off.
- Take risks and make mistakes. Sometimes you get hurt. Sometimes you fall down pretty bad. No risk, no glory.
- It’s not too late. Even if you have no idea what it is you want. If you know you’re not loving what you’re doing, take the first step. Be ok without knowing and get curious about yourself and what’s next for you.
I’m so honoured to share Kimiko’s story. I am deeply grateful to her for opening up her soul and sharing her story with all of us.
I am humbled by her authenticity. But most of all, I KNOW her story is going to resonate for so many of you.
Her courage is palpable.
She's courageous for standing her ground.
She's courageous for taking a risk.
She's courageous for following her passion.
She's courageous for sharing her story with us.
She's courageous for opening up to help you.
My hope is that you will also be inspired by Kimiko’s courage.
My biggest wish for you is that if you are in a place in your career that you aren't happy, you start taking the steps to find joy in what you do. Today.
My longing is that you explore your deepest desires and give yourself permission to want more.
My dream for you is that you find the courage within yourself to create the life that you want.
Because your life DOES belong to you. To you and you alone.
And you deserve to design your beautiful life into the one that you really, truly, madly, courageously and deeply want.
Thank you Kimiko, for your huge gift - reminding all of us that courage and strength pay off with huge bonuses of joy, purpose, and passion.
PS. My hair is also eternally grateful that you, Kimiko, a) followed your heart and b) I found you.
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