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Queer Eye Star Bobby Berk: Getting An Upgrade; How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus

Be kind. It’s way harder, it’s way more energy to not be kind, than it is just to be kind.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bobby Berk.

Bobby Berk is the star of Netflix show “Queer Eye.” He is a designer, known for his passion for sustainability and reusable materials. He worked his way up in a variety of home brands before opening his own showroom in New York City. He now owns his own bespoke interior design practice.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Bobby! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

As a child, I always loved design, even though I didn’t know that it was design. I decorated my room when I was little. I remember when I was four or five, finding this dinosaur poster at the local Ben Franklin and talking my mom into letting me get it and designing my room around that poster.

I was always the one changing the furniture around in my parents’ house and moving the sofa from one side of the room to the other. So yeah, it was always something that I loved, and I was passionate about, even though as a child, I didn’t really know that was a thing. It was just something that I found interesting, that kept me from being bored.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Martha Stewart was always a big inspiration to me. She was kind of the first person to get on TV and to teach people that they could do it themselves. So, it definitely inspired me that I could do it, as well.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

As mentioned above; Martha Stewart had a deep impact on inspiring me.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I don’t know if I can think of a specific mistake, but there was something that the old director of my company used to say to me. He had an MBA. I’ve always made sure I’ve hired people to do things that I feel I don’t know how to do. Back then, I didn’t think I knew how to run a business. So, I hired people that had master’s in business degrees.

He used to always say to me, “What I find really interesting about the way you do business, is all these ideas that you say, ‘oh, we should do this, and we should do that.’” He’s like, “My education is telling me no, no, no, no, no. That’s not the way you do it. That’s crazy. That’s going to fail. What are you thinking? No, my education tells me this, this and this.”

He’s like, “I think that you’re successful because you don’t have those voices in the back of your head going, no, no, no. That’s not the way it’s done. Here are the steps to business success that you learn in school, and these are the steps that you should take.”

I didn’t know any of those steps. I didn’t have any of that education. I was just like, yeah, let’s try it. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll try something else.

He’s like, “I think one of the keys to your success is you didn’t have that fear of doing something different because you didn’t know you were doing it different. You were just trying any way you could, to make it work.”

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Martha used to say, “fake it till you make it.” Just because you don’t know how to do something, don’t allow that to be the thing that stops you from moving forward. Figure it out.

Especially these days, with YouTube and Google, there’s no excuse to not figure something out and to find that next venture or project or challenge.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I don’t have a specific book, I would say, that’s made an impact. I’m a huge sci-fi book fan. I wouldn’t necessarily think that sci-fi books have a huge impact on me.

But growing up, I read a ton of John Grisham books. John Grisham made me want to be a lawyer. My dream was to be an attorney, not a designer. A lot of times, people don’t necessarily let their kids read more [00:11:30] adult books, even though… Not adult, like in a bad way, but these were books about science fiction, about science and genetics and space and mystery and law.

I think it definitely broadened my mind, to want more and to want to learn more.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Don’t take no for an answer. If you believe you can do it, convince everyone else you can do it. And if you can’t, figure it out. A lot of things that I took on in my career, I had no idea how to do, when I said I could do it. But I would then figure out how to do it, and I’d make it work.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I just launched a new rug collection. A big majority of the collection is made from recycled water bottles.

Creating product, it’s always been bittersweet to me because I love designing. I love creating product. I want my lines to be successful, but I also have always felt a little guilty being like, “Here’s more stuff to buy. Yay. You need a new rug, even if you don’t need a new rug.”

But with my rug collection and a big chunk of them being made out of recycled water bottles, we’re taking pollution out of the environment, and we’re turning it into something pretty.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

I think that when you try to do too many things to be eco-conscious, you fail. I think that goes in anything in life. When you try to do too much at once, when you try to put too many restrictions on yourself, you get overwhelmed and then you stop doing all of them.

So, I think doing small little steps, like buying a toothpaste that has a recyclable tube.

Making sure that you are consciously thinking about the items you’re putting in your shopping basket and the impact of where those items are going to end up, when you’re done with them. I think that’s a really important point to make.

Be conscious about a product’s journey. Did it start out being made by a new raw product or is it made out of recycled materials? Did it have a life before? Will it have a life after, or is it going to end up in a landfill?

So, I think you don’t have to give a lot of pointers on, oh, you should do this or you should do that. Just think about the journey your products are having, from the start of their life to the end of their life. That will really help you make decisions on what to buy and what not to buy.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Because of, like I mentioned before, the impact that the building and design industry can have on the planet, I always try to make sure that I’m looking at other things in my personal life, where I can have a small impact, because small impacts turn into big impacts.

So, using things like toothpaste that has a recyclable tube, is one of those small impacts that you can do, because that way, like I said before, when you try to force yourself to do too many big impacts, we always fail. We’re so busy in our lives.

So, these little impacts are things that you can do that are easy to do but that add up.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

As mentioned above; taking small steps with a bigger end-goal in mind.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

For me, one of my main concerns and it’s always been that way, my mother drilled into our heads, no pun intended, a lot when we were little, about oral hygiene. So much so, that she would brush our teeth occasionally, up until we were about 12 or 13.

So, oral hygiene has always been a big importance to my family, and it actually affects a lot of things. It can affect your self-esteem because if you don’t have good oral hygiene, you have bad breath.

A lot of times, people don’t think about a simple thing like brushing your teeth, can have a huge effect on your mental health, on your relationships and of course, on your own oral health.

No one wants to have to get root canals. No one wants to have cavities filled. I didn’t have a cavity until I was 30-something because my mom really drove home how important oral health is.

Taking that 30 minutes every morning and making sure that time is yours. That can include taking time for your oral health. It can include making sure that you moisturize your skin every morning. That you take care of your face, that you take care of your hair, but making sure that you give yourself that and however long it is.

30 minutes might be a bit long for some people. So, even 10, 15 minutes, but making sure you don’t steal that time away from yourself. If you have dedicated that time to you, and that is your time, don’t let your kids take it away. Don’t let your spouse take it away. Don’t let your employer take it away. Give yourself that time, because that will make a huge impact on not only your physical appearance and how you feel about yourself, but also your mental wellbeing.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

With Queer Eye and how much we film and how exhausted we are all the time, we ended up drinking a lot of coffee.

Drinking a lot of hot and cold coffee was starting to make my teeth get sensitive. I thought I was getting cavities. So, I went to my dentist.

In fact, I was not getting cavities. I was just getting sensitive teeth. So, she told me that I need to start using Sensodyne. That’s one of the ways that I have taken care of myself and my sensitive teeth. It’s allowed me to keep drinking the ice coffee that I need to drink.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

I think it kind of goes back to the personal things: taking time for yourself before and making sure that you’re ready for the day. Giving yourself affirmations in the morning, giving that self-care time in the morning, because if you don’t set yourself up for success at home, you won’t have success at work.

I think, for me, it’s not necessarily about your habits at work. It’s about your habits at home.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

As mentioned above; actively take the time for yourself and go out of your way to prioritize your time for self-care.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

I like to listen to books. That helps me focus. When I’m driving, I like to listen to books. It kind of re-energizes my mind. It allows me to focus on what I need to do when I get to where I’m going. Because otherwise, my mind just runs all over the place.

So, it’s better for me to focus on one thing, like a podcast or a book on tape. And then it helps me to kind of clear my mind and be able to focus on what I’m going to do next.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

As mentioned above.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

I think honestly, a key to good flow is to know when turn off, know when to not work. Because if we’re just constantly flowing with work, and I find that a lot now with working from home a lot, that we just keep working, instead of there being that time where work is done, we’re not going to do this anymore.

I think learning when to turn that flow off is how you continue to have a good flow and not get burnt.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Be kind. It’s way harder, it’s way more energy to not be kind, than it is just to be kind.

I see so many people out in the world, just going out of their way, to just be assholes. I’m like, you’re going to be so much happier yourself, if you’re just kind.

So, I would love just to create the movement of everybody just being kind to each other. The world would be a whole lot nicer place.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

Barack and Michelle because I love them and because they’re amazing. I almost got to meet and hang out with Michelle. I was staying at the Park Hyatt in Shanghai… not Shanghai, Vietnam, in Saigon, Vietnam.

I ended up, every morning in the gym with this girl. She was super cute. She seemed really cool. So, I struck up conversations with her and we became friends.

The morning I was leaving to go to the airport, she texts, me, “Bye.” She was like, “Oh, it was so great meeting you.” She’s like, “By the way…” I didn’t even think she knew who I was, which was great, which is why we clicked.

I’m like, she doesn’t even know who I am. This is great.

She’s like, “By the way, my whole team just saw you at breakfast, and they were freaking out. They’re such big fans.”

She’s like, “Also, I’m the communications director for Michelle Obama. She’s actually on a flight here right now. She loves your show and would love to meet you.”

I don’t fan girl out about anybody. I could care less. I had a meltdown in the car because I had to get on that plane. I had a gig I was contractually obligated to be at, in New York. And I was just like, “Please, tell her how much I love her, and thank you for what her Barack have done for the community and the world and blah, blah, blah.”

I saw that she saw it, but then didn’t respond. And I was like, oh my God. Oh my God. I went too far. I fan-girled out too much.

But then when I landed, she was like, “Oh my God. I sent it to Michelle. She loves you. She wants to hang out at some point.”

Yeah. So, I’m just like, I’m this far away from being friends with the Obamas.

How can our readers further follow your work online?
Instagram: @bobby

Twitter: @bobbyberk

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.



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