Careers rarely go according to plan. In Job Hacks, we shake down experts for the insights they cultivated on the way to the top of their field
Name: Carole Shashona
*Original Hometown: New York City
Job: Wellness expert, feng shui guru, CEO of her own lifestyle brand. She is also a designer who has worked with Melissa McCarthy, Julie Chen, and Beverly Johnson, among others.
How did you get your start?
I’m really pioneering wellness along with fashion and styling as well as home design. I began my career in show business. I was a dancer; I knew the anatomy of the body. After I married, my husband and I lived in Hong Kong and Japan and I began doing hospitality. I found by working in the field of design and living in other cultures, such as Japan and Hong Kong, it opened me up to the art of feng shui long before it was here. I had no idea what it was before. So I met my master, who trained me, and I became the only female American grand feng shui master. I still hold that title.
I began working with the art of feng shui in Hong Kong, Japan, and England. Then I came back to the States and started working in the field of interior design. I started doing a lot of lectures and many conferences, and I was surprised, because I thought my solo designers would embrace feng shui, but they did not.
What did you do when nobody was interested in feng shui? Did you have to adjust the path you’d chosen?
I continued meeting different clients and I started seeing that feng shui was much more than just about the home. I started seeing their lives changing. I came from the feng shui school and tantric buddhist — I was trained to be both. When I started working with these clients, slowly they evolved. And as they evolved their style evolved as well. So it started incorporating itself more into a lifestyle. My clients were embracing growing and changing; so did I.
What do you think is a common misconception about feng shui?
Everybody thinks feng shui is “I too can rearrange my furniture and get wealthy.” But feng shui is much more than that. It’s a philosophy. It’s a structure for how to move through obstacles with positive thoughts and what works for oneself and what does not work. One’s interior is one’s exterior, so to speak. So as I started rearranging homes and furniture and so on, there is an emotional approach to it as well because I found that you go into a home and open up the door and you see certain furniture in disarray or certain blockage. So literally as you start opening up the space you’re opening up things for different people.
If they did not want to change, then of course their life didn’t change. But by moving things around, they started opening up. So I found as life is very chaotic, people really want to find how to make the most out of their lives and what will work for them. Everyone has a different approach, everyone has different lessons, and feng shui helps to not only declutter the space, it helps to declutter the mind.
You work with individual clients as well as companies — do you find that one is more challenging than the other in terms of being receptive to your ideas?
It’s problems and solutions. In today’s world, people are trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Corporations are now seeing changes. They need to find what will work for them and it’s bringing them out of an old format. The old school would probably not be embracing certain things. But nowadays we’re finding we now need a new way of communicating, we do need a new way of working, and our cultures are changing. It’s embraced more than ever.
More than it was embraced when you were first starting and nobody would give you the time of day?
I remember going into corporations and they were looking at me like, “uh-huh.” I was not taken seriously. What happens sometimes when people don’t understand — they would rather ridicule than be inquisitive or be open and try to find out more information. That surprised me, because even in the design world I thought it would be something that would be embraced because the true art of feng shui was really trying to find harmony. That’s the poetry of it, living a life in harmony. Most people couldn’t understand that and rather than embrace it they would want to ridicule it.
So you’ve found the world is more open to it moving forward than they were years ago?
In today’s society, we can’t sit there and meditate every day — that would be delightful, but we all have lives. We have to travel, we have to communicate, we have to work, we want love, we want all these things. We’re no longer as we were generations ago where we lived in small communities where you walk to work and see your neighbors. It’s altogether a different lifestyle. I am evolving into what I call wellness.
I feel that people learning to meditate, learning that certain colors will improve one’s mood, using it as a conduit for wellness, and I found it works with great success. The candles, the sprays, I always recommended the sprays. I worked in a hospital — Miami Project for Paralysis — and I found you can light sage sticks to clear the space. So that became the beginning of the blue empower.
I took the formulas that were given to me and I tried to make it a tool for people on the go. So the mist is something you can carry. Through inhalation of certain scents, you can uplift your spirits or you can calm yourself. I’ve had clients spray it on some sheets, pour it into the bathtub, spray it in the showers. Originally the sprays were meant to cleanse the face, but I found it was so much better to energize yourself. It’s the person that needs to be energized as well.
With fashion, what was interesting was I started working with realtors and I found that realtors wore a red jacket on the day of their closing. Oftentimes they ended up in an argument and they didn’t close on the house. I started finding that color was very important. To be quite frank, I love fashion, I come from that world, and I found a way of incorporating fashion with wellness. When you come into an office or when you’re going out on a date, what you’re wearing makes a statement before you even walk in and lingers after you leave.
So with matching colors to energy, does your job have a large psychological component as well?
Absolutely! We celebrate green as the dollar bill, we see red for stop signs: We look at color and there’s an automatic response. I worked with autistic children and I found that a lot of times, the caretakers were wearing red. Simply telling them to wear blue and khaki — there was a tremendous response. Think of a movie theater with red seats, or red stage curtains, or the red carpet. It’s a color that shows you want to be noticed. Color does have tremendous impact.
For any young entrepreneurs who are looking to get into the wellness industry, what advice would you give them?
Stamina. It’s a wonderful field. The more education we have, the more longevity we have, the more we can feel empowered. When we’re not eating right, we drain. When we don’t take time to meditate, we drain. We have to keep our energy up, we have to feel good. We have to be kind to ourselves and embrace ourselves and love ourselves by taking care of ourselves and others.