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What I learned from designing women’s shoes about manifesting desires.

Early in my career I worked with my father in the creation of women’s fashion footwear.

I started that journey in Florence, Italy, where I studied design under the tutelage of a middle aged charismatic fashion footwear designer.

Massimo would roll into class around 10 and give the assignments for the day. He had a disheveled look like Nick Nolte but his flair was effervescent.

“ Toodaya you weel create a plain pump weet a fiva eench heel”

And off he would slip into the Piazza Del Signoria to chat with his other designer buddies over espresso, coming back in time for lunch!

Back in the day, CAD software was not available to facilitate the conception for a 3-dimensional shoe from a 2-dimensional piece of leather.

The designer had to use masking tape to cover the surface of the 3-dimensional form that was used to mimic the foot (called a “Last”). Once the wooden last had been given a surface skin of masking tape, the lines of the shoe were drawn.

“Taping” a “last” required precision because if there were overlaps or folds in the tape they would create inaccuracies in the final look and, more importantly fit of the shoe.

Methodically I would tape the last and then set about drawing the lines of the shoe I imagined on the tape over the form.

When the shoe was drawn on the last I was then required to carefully peel off the tape in one full piece and lay it flat on cardboard to create a 2-dimensional pattern from which a sample could be cut.

Gone is that process today …all is done with the click of a mouse! But you can well imagine the connection footwear designers had with their collections as they repeated this process hundreds of times, twice per year for each collection.

Holding the last in my hands as I would outline the ornamentation really allowed me to feel what I was trying to draw.

While there may have been others who had more of a natural ability to draw, there were none who were more passionate, even obsessive, about details of their collections than I was.

In so many ways this process is coming back to me now – it’s the alchemy of manifesting the imagined into life.

The first similarity between shoe design and life design is that every great creation starts with an inspired thought.

We all have our share of inspired lightbulb moments, in fact while the scientific community still struggles with the exact number, it’s been quantified to be between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day.

That’s a lot of ideas to sift through to arrive at the one that has legs.

Add to that, some people seem more adept at transforming a thought into a physical reality which has lead me to believe that those who are great at manifesting their dreams must have a heightened ability to focus on the one thought amongst a myriad of others.

Now here’s my little hack for that challenge.

The thought focus ability can be at least partially simplified by remembering a couple of other mental fun factoids: up to 85% of those 12,000 thoughts are from the negative view, and 60% of those are repetitive!

The brain then turns the 12,000 total thoughts into roughly 60 original positive thoughts an hour. Conversely, this also means I need wade through 510 negative & repetitive thoughts per hour.

If so many of my thoughts come in the negative form, clearly the first place to uncover my next full life enriching experience may simply be by fostering a clear awareness of the flavor of my reflections as I watch them surface, remembering that only 1 in 10 thoughts won’t be some version of the same dream killer that I already came up with yesterday (and those thoughts will come at a relentlessly feverish pace).

“ I’m gonna be late”

“ Sales will not come in the second half”

“ This job is making my toes curl upward”

“ I’m fat.”

Hotels are so impersonal…Many people just want a neighborhood experience when they travel … you could use the Internet to bring people with rooms to rent and travelers together”

“ I’m not phat”

I suck at math”

We are going to be late”

Now here’s the tricky part – you can’t make a better past by trying to disown your very own negative thoughts.

Contrary to the folklore, it’s not about silencing the negative thoughts… it’s not about whistling the “Happy” tune by Pharrell Williams and having a shit eating grin on my face 24/7 as the world circles the bowl.

Nope, it’s about being the Observer, the witness of ALL those thoughts and recognizing each one for what it is BEFORE I allow it to inspire action from me.

Talking with a friend lately, he shared that during a recent busy period in his life his wife offered the insight “Focus on what YOU want”

I could see that he felt liberated from trying to figure out how to avoid all the negative outcomes and instead had more energy to focus on the outcome he envisioned, by simply focusing and acting on the non-negative thoughts.

This made a lot of sense, just as in design I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying that my “Fiva eench heel” would end up a loafer.

The point is: a lot of our time is spent circling the same old negative thought patterns, so if we can develop the ability to discern and release the negative preoccupations, we stand the best chance of focusing on our truly limitless potential.

Ok so what’s this got to do with taping a last to design a shoe?

Not much.

And everything.

Sometimes in the cycle of fashion there are pointed toe shoes, sometimes the trends demand a more rounded look, other times there’s a squared toe look (think Frye boots), whatever the shape of the form required to create the design, the last must receive a micro thin layer of tape, perfectly mirroring the form beneath in order to create an accurate final prototype.

It was the designers’ responsibility (and no small measure of his talent) to see how flawlessly the tape could be stretched over the form to best represent what lies beneath.

Each new season brought new styles and shapes with influences from around the world, and with each season the process began again.

I never got tired of trying to perfect my pattern skills because each time I held and taped a last I got to understand its complexity better.

I knew what styles would be good fitters on a particular last and what would not work.

But the only critically important aspect of the entire process was how effectively the tape mirrored the form beneath once it was peeled off and laid flat on the cardboard.

Equally, what will next be manifested in my life is a direct reflection of how accurately I represent my truest self to those around me.

It’s only when I really know who and where I am today, and where I envision I can be tomorrow, complemented by the courage to fearlessly represent all of that, that I stand a chance to be “in the flow” amidst all this chaos.

How can I be expected to be recognized if I’m not prepared to commit to – and reveal myself?

It’s only in so doing that life ever seems to fit like of a comfortable pair of well designed shoes.


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