|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol and Socal Culture|
My two-year experiment has concluded. I am returning to Norcal after living in Socal. This means that my two-year adventure immersing myself in Socal culture is at an end.
The justification for moving to Los Angeles was my husband’s two year schooling program. This gave me the opportunity to accept Socal jobs and live the Socal culture.
Before I became an MBA and English major, I was an anthropology student. I spent time living with the Akha and Karen hill tribes in Thailand as an undergrad. To reflect on my Socal experience I decided to go back to this perspective and examine my Los Angeles journey as an ethnography assignment.
Two years in Socal culture have given me new perspective and healthier habits as a leader.
I also learned that I don’t have to lead all the time. Instead I have permission to chill, be nourished by friendship, listen, enjoy art, laugh at myself and just be.
Here are 7 valuable life lessons from Socal:
1. Be chill.
3.Be a friend.
4.Make art part of your weekly routine.
5.Let your guard down.
6. Recognize fails as funny.
7. Hang out just because.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Hammer Museum Ping Pong Table for Vistors Socal Culture|
1. Be chill. I noticed that Socal residents are the most productive and most tranquil people I have met.
Some might credit the Socal habits of vegetarianism, pilates, and yoga. I did become a fan of Tender Greens’s Happy Vegan Salad with Edamame Hummus but I think it’s more than the diet and exercise. I will say that it was awesome sparring at the world headquarters of Krav Maga and eating low-fat Spinach bolani at Westwood’s Thursday Farmers Market.
I compare this to Norcal where I lived for three decades. In Norcal, it’s fair to say that the culture promotes a demonstration of worry. In fact, if you don’t look worried it is assumed that you don’t care. I’ve concluded that this is a false belief that harms health and productivity.
After working as a company home decor blogger and research copywriter, I’ve also concluded that Shabby Chic style is a great illustration of Socal culture. It originated in Malibu.
A bit of peeling paint. Sandy bare feet. No problem. Just decorate with white, beachy slipcovers.
In contrast to Norcal, Socal jobs are a blend of high productivity and a healthy mindset. This does not seem to be set by employers but by the workers themselves. For example, I was in charge of a team of 20 copywriters as production manager.
My job was to track and report productivity of writers for article marketing. The team of writers were fast, creative and smart. They also laughed more while working than at any writing job I’ve witnessed over my working years in Norcal. I believe it’s the “whistle while you work” idea that lubricates the gears of productivity.
So crack a joke. Make a pop culture reference. My previous supervisors of the writing team modeled this by playing video game music from Mortal Kombat or comedy from The Lonely Island to move the day along.
Create inside jokes and a culture that encourages a less anxious attitude. The work will get done and more quickly with fewer sick days by employees.
Also it creates just a welcoming work atmosphere that even if the tasks are neck-breakingly fast-paced and difficult, an individual will want to come to work because Socal culture coworkers are fun to work with. That is what I experienced as manager and copywriter in Los Angeles.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Gift Bag Art from Socal friend in Westwood|
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Greystone Mansion Courtyard in Beverly Hills|
2. Listen. Socal culture encourages listening rather than Norcal’s “ritual sparring”. This means that I was unlikely to be interrupted in Socal whereas in Norcal, it is custom to interject, interrupt and disagree while the speaker is mid-sentence.
|Photo Credit: Amazon.com I Don’t Have To Make Everything All Better by Lundberg|
Socal culture excels in what is called validation communication. I noticed this as a manager and in my social circles in Los Angeles. It is most similar to the communication style in I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better by Gary and Joy Lundberg.
My conclusion is the the Socal culture of communication through listening creates greater trust, productivity and general good health of the workplace.
|Photo Culture: Renee Marchol Socal Culture Baby Shower Flowers in Santa Monica|
For instance, three friends in Socal may have conflicting worldviews (i.e. a Protestant Christian, an atheist, and a Catholic). Each one listens and does not bully the other two into accepting his/her philosophy. Then the three treat each other as “normal” and go have fun together. No hard feelings and no agendas to convert.
In Norcal, whether it is a religious or apolitical idea you can expect a “hard sell” technique that makes it uncomfortable. Socal culture promotes co-existence and friendship of people with differing ideas.
So listen without interrupting. Don’t be forceful in arguing so that people become clones of you. Instead enjoy their company, chill and find areas of common interest. I recommend The Griddle of Hollywood as a great place to go afterwards. Three hours of pancake eating and joking is perfect after a non-intense round of listening to different views.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol at Point Dume in Malibu|
3. Be a friend. Yes, Los Angeles is the city where most people seek out therapists, gurus and professional mentors. However, it’s also the place where people let down their guard and admit what they don’t know. For instance, those who make appointments with therapists want a healthier way to think. Those who are seeking a spiritual leader want to be a better person. Individuals who follow a mentor trust that they are teachable.
Therefore, when you spend time with someone in Socal culture you are unlikely to be “adopted” as a protegee. What do I mean? Because he/she already has a role they are unlikely to behave as your “superior”. They are also unlikely to give you unsolicited advice. The first reason is because advice isn’t free in Los Angeles. Secondly, being recipients of coaching, he/she is humble and does not presume to teach.
This is different from Norcal where people who meet you for 60 seconds assume you need a mentor and that he/she is the one. This connects to #2 about listening versus interrupting. In Norcal, I’ve experienced that before the other party hears what you care about, how you see life and what your goals are he/she has an agenda to convert and “clone”.
This is in no way meant to condemn Norcal culture. I understand the Norcal point of view. It greatly fears chaos and the appearance of idleness so people are “kidnapped” as protegees and taught to demonstrate with their worry to prove he/she is on task. Socal jobs and grocery stores promote “organic”. This means that Socal culture is comfortable with natural rather than systematic or contrived growth and change.
So just enjoy the company of another person. Avoid looking for ways to “help”. Recognize yourself as a peer rather than a mentor on-the-hunt for a protegee. You’ll enjoy your own Socal job and journey of professional development better this way.
|Photo Credit: Photo by Renee Marchol of Latrec’s Painting of a Dog at UCLA Hammer Museum|
4. Make art part of weekly routine. Just as in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, most comedians are musicians and most musicians want to make people laugh.
Likewise, in Los Angeles most people have a creative outlet in addition to a day job. This includes those who are not aspiring actors. I’ve met coworkers and friends who played in bands after work, added chapters to his/her novel, did theater productions on weekends, and stand up on weeknights.
Socal custom encourages pursuing music after the 9-5. It encourages reading during lunch break and talking about art as a spectator. In Norcal, art is something you experience during summer vacation, when attending a gala, or it’s something that is outside of your social circle. In contrast, those who have Socal jobs outside the entertainment industry are also performers or spectators.
You’ll hear violin, keyboard, piano and drum playing from apartments in Los Angeles though you know that the tenant’s job title may not be musician.
This means that people write two hours a day, compose, and practice their musical instrument frequently because they have made art a priority. In contrast, in Norcal, unless it’s in your official job title people will question why you “dabble” in art/music if it does not contribute to your income. Also most Norcal residents will complain of the noise such a neighbor would create whereas in Socal such noise is tolerated.
For instance, I’ve met Socal residents who salsa dance weekly while working on his/her doctorate. In another example, someone who is a nanny sings daily and teaches herself the guitar.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Fowler Museum Courtyard|
I’ve agree with Kaiser Permanente and conclude that integrating art into the workweek creates a healthier body and mind.
So attend that free concert, go to someone’s kid’s school rehearsal of “Hairspray”, and listen to a band warm up. Art is portable and you can get nourishing bites of it Monday through Friday whether you are the artist or spectator.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Hydrangeas in a Teapot as Art|
5. Let your guard down. This relates to #2 communication again. I’ve noticed individuals with Socal jobs are less sensitive than those outside of Socal culture. For example, you’re more likely to hear, “You might be right” in Los Angeles. I call this letting your guard down because Socal people are comfortable with you not seeing things their way. They’ll concede that you might have a valid point and move on to finishing their vegan cookie and soy matcha tea latte without becoming riled. I conclude that this is confidence. Socal culture is confident without being riddled with the anxiety to convert or defend.
So know that you are not somehow less if the other is not a clone of you. Shrug and continue to do what you are doing. You’ll feel more rested if you do not perceive disagreement as a challenge to your character.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Paper Art to Practice Matching|
As an analogy, the retort “I guess we don’t have the same taste in clothes” suggested by American Girl’s A Smart Girl’s Guide to Style by Sharon Cindrich is a similar non-defensive concession.
I mention this because I wanted to add the disclaimer that though Socal has many virtues its culture is fashion-obsessed. So if your value system does not allow you to make designer brands a priority, treat the study of fashion as art that is part of your week. That’s why I borrowed Cindrich’s book from the library to learn about the science of matching.
6. Recognize fails as funny. Socal residents laugh at themselves at a frequency that I have not witnessed in Norcal. I notice that although Socal has the reputation of being occupied with status, individuals confess to the indignity of life and allow others to laugh too. For instance, I’ve met several single twentysomethings who could laugh at their tough circumstances of being temporarily homeless or down to their last $300. They said, “Things will work out. Right now this is funny. Don’t you think so?”
If someone is confident he/she has hope. I’ve met individuals in fashion, writing, acting and academics who invite others to laugh about their tough spots. This is Socal culture positive thinking. It surpasses understanding but I like it. I conclude it is healthy. Psychologists encourage this as resilience, to be able to laugh at one’s circumstances.
So check out baking fails, newscasting fails, proposal fails and laugh. When it’s your turn to tuck your skirt into your pantyhose, laugh too.
7. Hang out just because. This is a radically different concept from what I’ve witnessed in Norcal. Socal culture teaches that sometimes it’s okay to be unprepared. Relaxation and recreation is not 100% scheduled.
|Photo Credit: Renee Marchol Yarn Doll made during hang out|
Socal residents trust that friends will bring refreshments. Socal individuals create an open house window of 4 to 8 hours to let guests drop in and leave whenever.
Though Socal is active in fundraisers, environmental projects and entertainment individuals make time to just hang out without a work project, without a deadline and without a checklist.
For instance, I’ve been to an autumn Socal event where new actors review Marvin’s Room over ebelskivvers and non-dairy pumpkin pie in an apartment. Spontaneous group trips to Natural History Museum and Tar Pits in the winter and impromptu frisbee on the beach in spring were also common. No pressure.
I’ve concluded that this is restorative and fosters community rather than competition. In Norcal, you are likely to discover that such an invite turns out that he/she is selling something such as a pedicure product. Since Socal is a “conversion-free” zone a social invite really is a social invite not customer recruitment.
So when you make new friends just enjoy their company. Don’t worry about impressing. Don’t be overly concerned about networking with the “right” people. Be content with just breathing the same air.
As a fun note, during my two-years in Los Angeles, I also saw:
- a SVU actress as a food bank sorting volunteer
- actor Ricky Schroeder getting frozen yogurt in Malibu
- Zombie elves in Santa Monica for my first Christmas in Los Angeles