Get Out of Your Own Way – and Get Healthier Now

I just returned from Serious Business, the leading conference organized by Neill Corporation, and the brainchild of Debra Neill Baker and Carol Augusto. This year’s theme was “Get out of your own way,” a powerful reminder that despite our best intentions, we are sometimes our own worst enemies…  

One of the keynote speakers was Ben Greenfield, who spoke about habits to enhance health and longevity, as reported in the book Blue Zones. This resonated with me particularly strongly as I recently read the book Ikigai, which touches on the same theme, and am in already struggling to keep some of my New Year’s resolutions.

The list of healthy habits below may not be new information, but I know I get in my own way, and needed the reminder. Here are Ben Greenfield’s healthful recommendations for cleaner, better, longer living.

  1. Don’t smoke. (If not for longer living, do this for better skin)
  2. Avoid sugar and vegetable oil.
  3. Eat dark colored fruits and vegetables, like purple cabbage and blueberries. (And put them on your skin too!)
  4. Eat legumes.
  5. Implement 12-16 hours of intermittent fasting in your routine, to help your body “clean up the trash.” That may mean giving up breakfast…
  6. Go to the gym, yes. But beyond that, incorporate low impact movement every day. (Walking or gardening come to mind) 
  7. Ensure you have a strong sense of community. (When is the last time you called your best friend?) 
  8. Possess a strong life purpose, what the Japanese call “ikigai”
  9. Ruthlessly eliminate the sense of hurry to minimize stress.
  10. Engage in a spiritual discipline, religion, or the belief in a higher power.  
  11. Remain reproductively useful. (Yes, he did tell the audience to have more sex) 
  12. Drink a little every day, mostly wine, preferably red.

Vidal Sassoon: A Legend Remembered

A couple of years ago, during Neill Corporation’s Serious Business conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Vidal Sassoon. This week, as the entire beauty industry mourns the loss of this legend, I realize how lucky I am to have met this industry legend. While I am no hair industry expert, I did know that he was the one who had been responsible for Mia Farrow’s hair in Rosemary’s Baby, one of the scariest movies I had watched as a teenager. We chatted briefly at a cocktail reception – a conversation I am sure he would never remember, but that I have re-lived in my head a few times this week. We talked about contemporary art and about our “Harvard” connection (he told me he always thought of his Academies as “the Harvard of hair”).

Any “rags to riches” story fascinates me, and his is certainly that. He was born on January 17, 1928, in Hammersmith, London, and spent his early childhood in extreme poverty. His mother placed him in a Jewish orphanage early on, where he stayed for seven years. He left school at age 14 to start a hairdressing apprenticeship, eventually training under flamboyant hairdresser Raymond Bessone. Sassoon opened his own salon on Bond Street in the 1954. In 1957, he began a collaboration with Mary Quant, the British fashion designer widely known as the “mother of the miniskirt.” Moving to the US, he opened his first US salon in New York in 1965. From there, he built a multi-million dollar hair corporation, whose slogan “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good” is said to have inspired L’Oreal’s “Because you’re worth it” slogan.  In 1982, he sold his business to to Richardson-Vicks, which was then bought by Procter & Gamble in 1985.

What Vidal Sassoon may best be remembered for will be liberating women from weekly trips to the salon and hours spent under hair dryers. Indeed, when he created his iconic geometric “Bauhaus inspired” five point cut in 1963 (first modeled by Grace Coddington), he brought freedom to hair – no longer did hair sit atop the head like a hat. His “wash and wear” philosophy meant that hair could now move with its owner. He brought hair’s natural movement and shine to the forefront, revolutionizing the hair industry, and the lives of women everywhere.

BeautyView: Debra Neill Baker, Chairman of Neill Corporation

I am writing this from Las Vegas, it is day 2 of the International Spa Association annual conference. The week of ISPA is always dear to me, not only for the industry learning, the visits with my favorite spa people, but also because ISPA has played such an important role in my relationship with my husband Edwin. After the BeautyView on Susie Ellis of SpaFinder (who is responsible for my meeting Edwin), it seems only fitting to interview my step-mother-in-law, Debra Neill Baker, Chairman of Neill Corporation, also referred to as Chief Energy Officer and self-declared Beauty Evangelist. I remember the first time I met her, at ISPA 2005 in Dallas, TX; I remember she was wearing a gorgeous white pant suit (she usually wears Aveda black on black); I have learned so much from her, still feel like I have so much to learn… starting with striking the word “favorite” from my vocabulary…

AP: What city were you born in? DN: I was born in Kansas, farm community…no city within 100 miles.

AP: What city do you live in? DN: I have lived the past 30 years in the country 50 miles outside of New Orleans.  Might sound similar and it’s nothing the same!

AP: What is your middle name? DN: June, after my Aunt Ava June.

AP: What is your astrological sign? DN: Taurus.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty (and spa) industry? DN: it’s life-supporting and gives us the opportunity to truly “touch” others.

AP: Least favorite thing? DN: favorite is not a word I use much…”least favorite thing”…even less!

AP: What is your most prized possession? DN: My home.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? DN: That I freak out (inside) when I speak in public… I seldom appear to be nervous. I move right through the fear   and use it to create energy!

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? DN: Yes. I wear a man’s Cartier that I have had for 18 years… I am practical and extravagant simultaneously, and I value quality and timelessness.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? DN: Definitely diamonds…although I have very few. Jewelry has never been that compelling to me.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? DN: My children, Garrison and Paris… my best work and best teachers.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? DN: I re-framed and re-defined balance years ago. I live a blurred life… work and life are intertwined intentionally. And balance is not a steady state; it’s a dynamic and energizing lifestyle that works for me.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? DN: 1. Let home be wherever I am.  2. Carry my essential oils/botanical aromas for anointing my environment. 3. Be in the Flow: accept delays, cancellations, etc… breathe, hydrate, read…

AP: What is your favorite book? DN: There’s that favorite word again… books have been my primary self-development tool my entire life, including from Your Erroneous Zones to Think and Grow Rich to As A Man Thinketh to anything by Rumi or Thich Nhat Hanh.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? DN: Vodka is my cocktail of choice…for the effect not the taste!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? DN:  No secrets, but rather purposeful decisions, a lifetime of taking care of this vehicle/temple/body, mind, and spirit. I have always had a whole-person approach…beauty/health/energy is an inside/outside process…breathing, moving, hydrating, conscious-eating, and sleeping!

AP: What fragrance do you wear? DN: I haven’t worn synthetic fragrance for over 30 years…Horst/Aveda created an awareness and sensitivity that has influenced my olfactory system forever! I wear Aveda aromas.

AP: Botox or not? DN: Why not?!

AP: Hair color: natural or not? DN: naturally, haircolor!

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. DN: Peter Gabriel/New Blood, my old stand-by Al Green, My Morning Jacket… I thrive on diversity.

AP: Quote to live by? DN: “Relationship is the key to the Universe … and the relationship with Self is at the source of it all.”

AP: Who is your mentor? DN: I have many… from my grandmother to my late husband Edwin to my present husband Michael to my children and too many in-between to list! When I was in my early teens I decided that I wanted to learn from everyone, from many teachers and Gurus…and ultimately be my own Guru! That may sound like a bit of arrogance… and truly, it’s about being a self-control freak!

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today? DN: Be clear about your values, what is truly important and meaningful to you, what gives you a feeling of fulfillment… that will lead you to work that expresses who you are and who you want to be!