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4 Lessons Body Art Taught Me About Decision Making – A True Story

Michelle Dale - Friday, November 18, 2011

Reality Friday guys, I am going to tell you a story today about my slightly reckless behaviours as a teenager, and the things it taught me later on in life about decision making. Some of you may understand where I am coming from, others may not, but hey, it’s just another blog post in the archives, and you will likely know how I feel about sharing personal experiences that have been of some value to me in the past. If anything this will stop people from making a hash of their body if they are thinking of getting a tattoo!

When I was 17, quite young and rebellious, I walked into a tattoo shop, sat down and asked for a tattoo, the guy showed me a book of designs, and honestly, stupidly, naively, I really hadn’t thought about what I wanted, other than I wanted a tattoo of some sort. I ended up picking a small heart shaped design with a little tail that crossed over. He asked where I wanted it, and I said, my ankle. And so the lesson begins…

Lesson 1.

I walked out of that tattoo shop very proud of myself for going through with it, but upon having my tattoo for a few weeks, there was something that didn’t feel right, I looked at it and wondered why I chose it, I am not particularly a “heart” kind of person, I didn’t love it, and it didn’t really mean anything to me.

I jumped straight in, without really knowing what I wanted or where I wanted it and I ended up not feeling like the tattoo was personal to me. It just didn’t work for me…

The Moral.

When you do anything in a business, you need to really want it and be clear on the reasons why, and what you need to do to get what you want, or you could end up, weeks, months down the line wondering why you ever started it. What I should have done is talk to someone with experience who had tattoos, ask them how they went about choosing the ones they wanted and where they wanted them.

 Find yourself a good mentor with experience.

Lesson 2.

A year or so passed and this thing on my ankle really started bothering me…. So I thought that I would get a new tattoo, somewhere different. It’s one of those things where if you don’t get it right first time, you learn from your mistakes and give it another go, so I walked into the tattoo shop and looked at hundreds of patterns and designs.

After a long while, learning from my previous error, I spoke to the girl on reception and said nothing is really grabbing, did she have anything else. The girl told me she was a budding tattooist there on work experience while she was in college learning how to be a tattooist. She said she had done some designs herself, which nobody had seen, and would I be interested to take a look. I was, and I did, and immediately I was drawn to a collection of tattoos which she had drawn from shape formation.

One of them was a curvy line with a circle, it had smaller circles inside it, here is the weird moment I had… The small circle reminded me of me, standing alone on an island, looking out onto the surrounding mainland, wondering which circle I should pick or direction I should take. It was a symbolic sort of thing which only my crazy brain would understand, and that’s what made it special, I swear I wasn’t on anything… I looked up and said, I want this one.

She was really thrilled that I chose one of her designs, and I was thrilled that I had found something unique, which I loved, and really wanted, and I still love it.

The Moral.

Take your time, and chose your moment. For me it wasn’t having the tattoo that I got wrong first time, it was having it when I wasn’t sure that that was what I wanted, I rushed into it foolishly. Sometimes we look around at what other people are doing and then somehow follow along like sheep. I got a heart first time round because it seemed like it was the ‘done’ thing to do, instead of going out and taking my time to find something that meant something to me.

Patience is a virtue.

Lesson 3.

It bugged me so much that I hadn’t thought it through properly the first time, that a couple of years later I decided to try and ‘fix’ it, not with tattoo removal, because after all I wanted a tattoo, but with a band aid, I was going to patch it up with something else – ink over it.

So I went to a tattoo shop and explained my predicament, and asked the tattoo guy if he could ‘do something’ with my tattoo, because I didn’t like what I had. He asked me if I wanted anything in particular, but I was very restricted by the shape, because it had to be transformed from a heart, so I said whatever he was able to do with it, I showed him the one on my shoulder, I told him what I loved about it, said perhaps he could do something ‘matching’ and then he did his thing… He inked tiny little balls inside the heart shape, that matched the one on my shoulder.

Well, I was pleased that it was different, walked out of the shop, and after having it for a few weeks I got frustrated again, people were asking me what it was on my ankle, and really I had no clue, it didn’t look like anything anymore, I couldn’t win, I had fudged my ankle…

The Moral.

I should have had a consultation and discussed the possibilities of my ankle transformation before I went ahead and made the change. Not only that, I learnt that trying to patch something up is not going to work, I asked him to do something small, not to go crazy, it provided a temporary solution which quickly wore off and left me at square one, only worse! This time, I had lost all direction and focus for the tattoo.

Really think about things before you take the plunge, decide on a course of action that feels right to you, and commit to it. Don’t half-heartedly walk into business.

Always do things properly, there are no quick fixes or temporary patches – they wear off.

Lesson 4.

At age 24, after some travelling, pondering, living in a 3rd world country and starting my business “Virtual Miss Friday”, I walked again into a tattoo shop. For those of you who don’t know, my business “Virtual Miss Friday” was a variation on “Man Friday” from Robinson Crusoe. I had started to use the tagline “It’s not only Robinson Crusoe who has everything done by Friday”, and that gave me an idea. I loved my new VA business so much, that I would honour my initial mistake, with what was to be, my final visit to the tattoo shop.

I walked in and asked the ‘body artist’ if he could change the appearance of my botched ankle into something meaningful, a palm tree on a desert island, very Robinson Crusoe…I was telling the guy while he was doing it that I also loved to travel to hot countries, he said, ‘can I put a sun in’ I said yeah, go for it. Knowing it probably couldn’t get worse than it already was…

The Moral.

I do regret not thinking things through when I was 17, but then again, I don’t regret having that experience, and if my children happen to come to me one day, asking me if they can get a tattoo, I can redirect them to this blogpost to tell my story.

I also realised that at the end, I needed to make a drastic shift in direction in order to put this thing right, and really step out of my comfort zone. I was very afraid of what the hell would happen to my ankle after the last time, but I knew I didn’t want to live with it the way it was, and at least this time it would look like something!

Sometimes you have to take risks and accept change, even when you don’t like it. There is no going back.

Several years on I still have both my tattoos, and they remind me of the morals of this story…



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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.



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