Ultimate Guide to Becoming A Rock Star Optician

What if you could choose to love your work? What if you could derive real meaning in the learning and growth achieved through your work and service to others. What if you thought of your work as craft and developed it into art in the service of others? And what if that art and the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with it, brought you more opportunities, happiness, and success?

This is what drives the rock star optician.

Are you good enough?
Most people are not willing to take the risks or do the work necessary to become a rock star. They’re content to get through life being good enough. The majority of people out there dread Mondays, complain about the boss, and countdown until Friday want to do the bare minimum, maybe just a little more, to at least give the appearance of caring.
Good enough—it seems like an easy path, a survival mechanism even. But, by setting your sights on good enough, you head exactly where you’re sure to find most competition. We fall into the trap thinking, if we can just make it through the day, the week, we might find solace in a few hours of television. Even if we have meaningful hours outside of work, how many are wasted, waiting, biding our time, complaining, wishing we were somewhere else? By settling for average and not truly caring about what you do, you are asking to be unhappy for most of your waking hours and at the same time, throwing away a huge opportunity to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.

On the other hand, if you set your goals high enough, dare to think for yourself, and actually do the work to become the rock star, you’ll find you can earn more, be happier, and make a difference.

“As a rock star, I have two instincts, I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. I have a chance to do both.” – Bono

A rock star optician? R U serious?
Well, let’s look at it another way. The world is changing fast and unfortunately, much of it is not good news for opticians. Online sales, race-to-the-bottom pricing, and vision plan reimbursements are keeping wages down and making employers less willing to hire qualified opticians. Your customers now have the ability to instantly find better options and lower priced alternatives. They are choosing online optical and big box stores as a shortcut to obtaining eyewear for three reasons:

Alternatives are cheaper,

more convenient and

going to the doctor is not fun.

Being good enough, how do you compete—lower prices? Can you “out-Wal-Mart” Wal-Mart? How long can you compete on price with online retailers that don’t have the overhead of a store front? If you do manage to capture customers with a lower price, are they the type of customer you want? Will they’ll be loyal? Or are they gone the second something cheaper comes along?
So, what is the answer?
In order to succeed going forward, you have to be more than a decent optician. You have to strive to be the best you can be and deliver an experience that will draw people away from their screens. You have to find the courage and creativity to be different and rise above mediocrity—to become a rock star optician.
The path is not easy, but if you stay with good enough, you’re likely to find yourself frustrated with your customers, your boss, and your job; all of which will have negative consequences on the other areas of your life.
You have the tools and ability to create the future you want for yourself as well as the future of the eye wear business. The internet, social media, and changes in the way we shop have closed the door for all but the biggest retailers that specialize in good enough. But the door is open for the little guy (even the one inside the big corporation) willing to rise above, become the best at something, be a reason for people to show up.
It might be risky, but is it more risky than good enough? Six months, a year, 5 years from now, which path would you have rather taken?
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger [it’s impossible], but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Who should use the Rock Star steps?

The steps are written with the independent dispensing optician in mind, however the principles can apply equally effectively to corporate opticians, lab opticians, optometrists, or anyone that wants to get the most out of their working life; whatever that may be.

How to use the Rock Star steps

The steps do not have to be performed in order, although you may consider Steps 1-3 prerequisites. Most of these steps are not intended to be “checked off”, but rather thought of as projects that will help you grow personally and professionally. Read through all the steps and choose which ones are appropriate for you at this point in your career. You may find yourself working on a particular step for months or even years. Don’t let that discourage you. Don’t try to tackle it all at once. As with anything in life, it’s about the journey not the destination.

Each step is followed by a suggested action. These actions are intended to get you moving in the right direction. You should use them as a launch pad and come up with actions of your own. In fact, when you do, we would love hear about them and the progress you are making. Shoot us an email!

Depending upon your work environment you may not have the freedom or support to take significant action on all of all 15 steps. Do as much as you can, start small, develop the proper mindset, prove yourself and your ideas over time. If you happen to reach a place where you no longer have an opportunity to grow, it may be time to move on (the steps will help prepare you for that too). But when in doubt, the first step to more freedom is always to take more responsibility.

Revisit these steps frequently. Print them out. Assess where you are in the process. Make notes of what you have accomplished and set goals to take yourself further. If you keep a journal, use it as you work through the steps. If you don’t, now may be a good time to start. Many of the steps require some kind of writing.

The Optician Success Newsletter will help you on along the way by providing weekly content from around the internet, handpicked to give you knowledge, inspiration, and ideas to help you become the best you can be.

Be present and enjoy the journey!

Step 1: Develop The Right Mindset
There are three essential mindsets you need to develop, as you begin your journey to rock stardom. In fact, these mindsets are so important that, if you read them and find you already have them, you can stop, because you either are already a rock star or are well on your way to becoming one.

Essential Mindset 1

You are capable of more than you believe. No matter what you have been told in life or what you think you are “bad at” – you CAN become better at these things, if you choose to. This is not the falsehood of, “You can become anything if you put your mind to it.” It is the proven fact that with effort you can become better at things, even those that you think you can’t. The mind is a powerful tool that can work in two-directions. The power to believe you can do something better and the equally powerful notion to believe you can’t. Which notion you follow will determine your life.

Essential Mindset 2

You are self-employed. Even if you work for someone else, you need to take responsibility for the success of yourself and your business. The era of the gold watch and pension plan is over. Your future is not guaranteed and no one cares about it as much as you. You choose whether or not to invest in yourself and whether or not you invest in others. You have more control over your destiny and choices than anyone else. Therefore, as the CEO of You Inc., you must accept 100% responsibility for yourself. If you find yourself going through the guide thinking, “That’s not my job”, return to Essential Mindset 2.

Essential Mindset 3

For rock stars there is no such thing as failure. Don’t confuse this with: “you must succeed at all costs.” When you make a decision or take a risk, you either win or you learn… period. Things will not always go the way you plan. In fact, if they do, you are not trying hard enough. If you are doing this right, you will almost certainly go down in flames every now and then. What is most important is that you learn from your experience, come back stronger and smarter, knowing what not to do next time. Failure only happens when you learn nothing (usually signaled by blaming someone else) or give up. Rock stars accept neither.

How to put Step 1 into action:

Read Step 1 again.

Step 2: Start with The End in Mind – Where Do You Want To Go?

What does success means to you? Does it mean fame? Money? Travel? Helping others? Supporting your family? Enjoying your work? Feeling accomplished and fulfilled?

Knowing exactly what you want to achieve will give you clarity and purpose on on your journey to optician rock stardom. When you are faced with decisions, simple or difficult, you can look at your most important goals, then ask yourself, “Which option brings me closer?”

How to put Step 2 into action:

This step requires you to know and be honest with yourself. Of course, it’s easy to say, “I want to be rich and famous” …and it’s not that you can’t be either or both. But, the world is full of rich and famous people that lead hollow, unfulfilled lives. So, spend some time on this one. Don’t be afraid to set your sights on things you might feel are too big or too small.

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,”
said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Exercise 1: Keep a notebook handy for a few days or even weeks. Start with a list all the things you’d like to have, do, or accomplish in your lifetime. Don’t rule anything out, no matter how small or frivolous it may seem.
Exercise 2: Imagine yourself on your deathbed. What might you have done or achieved that would leave you most satisfied? What do you think you might regret not having accomplished? Without being judgemental compare these things to your first list. Small, seemingly inconsequential or even selfish things can be worthy, if they matter to you. Which are most important? Did you miss anything? Write them down.
Exercise 3: At the end of each day, for a week or so, take a moment to reflect and ask yourself, “What did I do today that I am proud of?” or “What did I do today that made me happy?” “What could I do better?” Write the answers to these questions.

After awhile, you’ll start to have a clearer sense of what is most important and your vision of success. It may not be what you initially thought.

Exercise 4: Once you have a reasonable definition of success, on another piece of paper, write down what you have determined to be most important. Now, since you know these are the most important to you, put a date next to each item, that you now commit to having them by. Put the paper somewhere you’ll see it each day. Over time the list may change, but It will serve as a guide post, helping to fuel your growth and simplify life’s decisions.

Step 3: The Basics – You Don’t Start at the Top

All mastery begins with learning the basics. As with anything, there are basic skill necessary to be an optician and a number of ways you can go about acquiring them. You can go to school, study on your own, find a mentor, become an apprentice, join OpticianWorks. Most likely it will be some combination of these. It doesn’t matter if your state requires a license. Licenses, degrees, or certifications may be a step in your path, but none make you a good optician, let alone a rock star. Your skills and ability to apply them are what matter.

How to put Step 3 into action:

Read everything you can get your hands on. Have discussions with your peers. Practice what you learn. Don’t be afraid to fail and always learn from your mistakes. If you are new, it all may seem overwhelming. Try to make it a habit to learn something new every day. Step 3 will take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Of course, joining OpticianWorks.com will give you a leg up!

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Step 4: Love What You Do

We’ve been sold the idea that we should do what we love. What you don’t often hear is that we can instead, choose to love what we do. In a field like opticianry, one that combines the technology, creativity, and the opportunity to help others, it’s not even that hard.

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” -Steve Jobs

Did you know that in a recent survey, opticianry received a 100% rating as the most highly recommended of any US job?

The truth is you are going to find it impossible to put in the time and effort required to be a rock star optician unless you can find passion and learn to love what you do. Even if you are not exactly where you want to be, be thankful for where you are. Get the most out of the time and opportunities you have right in front of you. Never stop growing.

How to put Step 4 into action:

The most direct path to loving your work is thinking about how you can make the lives of people around you better. Ask yourself “What difference can I make, that other people will love?” Focus on the recipient of your work—your customers fans; coworkers, who depend on you; leaders, who trust you; the community, who expects your support or others who benefit from your work. When you love what you do, people notice and it’s contagious.

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
- Groucho Marx

Step 5: Stop Complaining
This goes hand-in-hand with Step 4. Unfortunately, we all like to complain, it seems to be in our nature. But, just like your mother told you, no matter how bad you think you have it, someone else has it worse (that person may even be the one you’re complaining about). So, while whining about work, the boss, online sales, and stupid customers may seem like time well spent and even “a healthy way to vent.” It is anything but. First of all it is an unproductive waste of time and energy, and second while it may feel theraputic, it may actually be damaging your mental health.
“Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.”
-Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

How to put Step 5 into action:

Try to be conscious of your complaining. If you catch yourself whining, immediately turn it into a positive by coming up with a possible solution. Rephrase your complaint, by ending it with “but, next time, I will try to do x to avoid the situation” or “maybe doing y could have resulted in a better outcome.”

Avoid other complainers. Misery love company, yet it is bad for everyone involved, even the passive listeners.

Check out: I Went 21 Days Without Complaining and It Changed My Life

Step 6: Own Your Profession
Eyecare is a nearly $40 billion per year industry. Eyewear sales make up well over half of the optical revenue pie. That’s a valuable slice! Looking at it another way, 64% of Americans wear eye glasses (that’s over 200,000,000 people). From these numbers alone it’s pretty easy to see a rock star optician does not need to look to healthcare for respect. Nor do you need governments or other groups to lift the profession. All you need to do is look to yourself to become the best you can be and help your peers to do the same. A great optician has a unique skill and huge market worthy of respect on its own. You bring in money and make people happy. So, own it! Take responsibility for finding your success and contributing to the betterment of the field.

billion dollars spent on eyecare


need corrective lenses

million Americans wear eyeglasses
“Destiny is in our own hands, if we don’t succeed, it’s our own fault.”
- Elon Musk

How to put Step 6 into action:

As your skill set and fan base grow, you will begin to see and the value in what you do. Share your experiences through social media. Our profession is in desperate need of fresh voices with new, positive ideas. Try Optical Mentors on FB, OpticianWorks VIP on FB, or your favorite social hangout.

Plan and eyewear “focused” event. Make that change to the store you always wanted. Take pictures and tell us about it.

Step 7: Draw a Line Between Optical and Healthcare

This one may be tough. So many opticians identify themselves as “healthcare professionals.” At some level, it makes sense. Opticians work closely with and in most cases directly for doctors. Typically, doctors want their staff to reinforce the professional, medical atmosphere people come to expect. Likewise, opticians often believe that being closely aligned with medicine gives them a higher purpose and more respect than “a salesperson that makes pretty glasses.”

But here’s the big problem, people don’t like going to the doctor! To be a rock star optician, it’s kind of important people want to see you. So, you need to work towards creating an experience that people will be drawn to. As difficult as it may be, if you are a “dispensing optician”, start to push the idea out of your head that you are a medical professional; you are not. If that’s a hard pill for you to swallow, think about how you might have a greater effect on people’s lives: in a service that people are forced into by regulations and vision problems, or a service that people want because you help them to feel better about themselves, have fun, and see better. Eventually, you may find the idea suits you. This is important. Remember, you are no longer working with patients, you are building fans!

How to put Step 6 into action:

You may not have the freedom to act on as much as you like. But, when possible, work towards putting as much separation between optical and medical as possible (without defying your boss). Avoid scrubs and lab coats. If you have a medical office, separate entrances are ideal, even if not always practical. Build a unique environment and style for your optical. Refer to and think of your patrons as valuable customers whom you want to become loyal fans, not patients. Think about attracting shoppers and cultivating passion for eyewear, not just attending to people with a “medical need.”

Step 8: Identify your ideal customer to build your fans

There’s a saying in marketing, “If you target everyone, you attract no one.” In any business, there are customers you look forward to working with and those you don’t. There are customers that are great for business and those that are more trouble than they’re worth. If you take the time to identify who your ideal customer really is, you can tailor your offerings, messaging, and the experience you deliver to attract the good ones and discourage the bad. Basically, figure out how to work more with people that are good for you and your business. But, we really want to take this a step further.

Years ago Wired magazine co-founder, Kevin Kelly wrote an article entitled 1000 True Fans that became the stuff of legend among creatives and freelancers. The idea being that an artist, musician, or craftsperson needs only 1000 true fans to make a living. With true fans being (my definition) those that use your products with pride, talk about you, want to hear what you have to say, buy from you often, and feel like they are part of something. Every rock star needs a core group of raving fans. The best way to get them is to first figure out who they are.

How to put Step 8 into action:

Spend some time thinking about and writing answers to the following questions as they pertain to your ideal customers who you would like to be your biggest fans. Be very specific.

Who is my ideal customer in terms of age, gender, education, location?

What other products do they buy that relate to mine?

What do they wear?

What activities do they participate in?

Where are they most likely to get their information about brands? Online? Print? Television? Friends?

How did they find me?

What do they value?

What do they think of the value of my product(s)?

To gain additional insight, when you encounter an ideal or near-ideal customer, spend some time getting to know them and ask them some of these questions.

Now, write a personal profile, sometimes called a buyer persona. The profile should be a detailed description of a single individual that embodies the answers to the above questions. The person you describe will be the focus of your efforts in the next step.

Step 9: Draw People In

Forget for a moment recalls and new Rx sales. These are important, but to be a rock star optician, you need to go beyond that. Work towards building an experience that will be enough for people (in particular, the person you described in step 8) to visit your store. Think about what you could deliver on a daily basis, that might make people go out of their way and bring their friends on a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon. Hint: Wearing scrubs and being all, “Let me tell you about the importance of your medical device.” might not cut it.

How to put Step 9 into action:

Think big: Your options are literally endless and depend very much on who you identified in Step 8. Keep your buyer persona in mind as you think “What would Disney, Bass Pro Shops, or the Apple store do?.” I know you won’t have their budget, but be creative. Take baby steps toward your big goals. Start with the environment. Obviously, it should be attractive and inviting. But, really what you are looking for is creating something unique, something your ideal fans will remember and then tell their friends about. Your window should draw attention. What people see beyond the window should make them want to come in. What they experience inside, should make them want to stay.
Think small: Go one step further in at least one customer interaction this week. Offer to rebuild a three-piece mount that is a little loose. Clean, adjust and refurbish an old pair so your customer has a back up. Offer to let a customer take a frame home for spousal approval. Design something unique for a customer. Do little things that turn your everyday customers into fans and make them want to come back.
Think fun: Throw parties not trunk shows. What kind of event would your ideal customer die to go to? Get people inside your shop and talking about it. Don’t expect them to buy anything, they’ll come back! From your parties, figure out what gets people excited and engaged and bring some of that into your daily operations.
Step 10: Build Relationships

There is no way to overstate the importance of building relationships. There have been volumes written on the subject. The old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” pertains to so many areas of life. Care about people, be generous with your time and attention.

How to put step 10 into action:

If you’ve not read the timeless “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, that would be a great place to start. On the other hand, if you think you might struggle with the language of 1937 (it’s really not that bad), here are the cliff notes.

Get to know people in your field, get to know your customers, find a mentor inside optical and maybe one outside of optical. The best way to build relationships is to always consider what you can do for the other person first.
The relationships most important to your work, will obviously, be those you build with your fans. So, think about ways you can stay in touch with your most loyal fan base. Start a VIP email list where you can let them know first about new frames or special events.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
- Dale Carnegie

Step 11: Look Outside of Optical

All of retail is going through massive change. Look to other sectors for businesses that are finding success. The issues you face with customers and sales are not unique. Online sales, showrooming, falling margins, customer education are all being struggled with and handled successfully and unsuccessfully in other retail sectors.  Learn from both.

How to put Step 11 Into action:

Fast Company and Wired magazines are great sources for keeping up with trends in business and technology. I also suggest seeking out information from the general retail trade to keep up to date on consumer trends and ideas for building a more successful optical. Podcasts are another amazing resource for learning new things and being exposed to people and ideas you might not otherwise be exposed to.

The most fun… go shopping! But, instead of looking for what you want, look at your surroundings, watch how you are treated, look how the merchandise is displayed. Leave your comfort zone. Find business that are doing things differently and doing it well.

Step 12: Stay on the Cutting Edge
Or, at least keep up with it. Know what is going on. Be open to change. This doesn’t mean reacting to every trend or shiny object on the horizon. It does mean staying informed and keeping a close eye on what is going on. It means looking for innovation and being open to it instead of immediately criticizing it. Learn and try new things even if they might not work. Why? Because, they also might.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
- George Bernard Shaw

How to put Step 12 into action:

Read trade magazines, go to trade shows, talk to vendors. Look beyond the marketing hype in search of real innovation. If you do this for awhile compare what you find to things that are working outside of optical, you’ll be able to anticipate trends and even get out in front of them.

Step 13: Build a Personal Platform
A website or blog is the best place to start here. Wait! Don’t skip this one. It may sound unimportant, but an online presence or personal platform (one that you own, not Facebook) will act as both an investment in your career and an insurance policy for when it’s time (forced or chosen) for a change. A personal platform is a networking tool, a portfolio, a resume, and a gift of your knowledge to the world. It’s a way to develop your thoughts, share your body of work, and show the world what you have to offer. Not a soapbox or bragging device, an effective personal platform will showcase your abilities through your willingness to help others, thought leadership, and creativity without having to tell them outright. There aren’t that many optical blogs out there and even fewer good ones. On top of that, it’s a very small industry, so if you create anything of value, it won’t be that hard to stand out.

How to put Step 13 into action:

Start a free blog. You don’t have to write every day. You can start with once a week. Don’t know what to write about? Write what your are passionate about. Remember those complaints from Step 5? Offer solutions or effective ways of dealing with them. Now, there’s a healthy way to vent! Write about things you learn each day or resources you discover that others might benefit from. Write about the new things you’ve tried from Steps 11 and 12 and how they worked or how they totally didn’t. Include pictures of amazing eyewear you helped to create and the happy people wearing them. Write about your successes AND your struggles on your journey to optician rock stardom! Then, if you are so inclined, share the good stuff with your optical friends on Facebook.

Step 14: Be a Leader and Build a Legacy
If you’ve been around for any length of time, you know that opticianry is flush with apathy and mediocrity. This is why it is so important for you lead and build something larger than yourself. Look for opportunities to take actions or build something that will have an impact beyond your tenure. Being generous with your knowledge and hard-earned wisdom is one way to build a legacy. They say that you never really learn something until you can teach it, so teaching not only helps others, but helps you grow as well. What’s more, if you remember from Step 4, giving of yourself and making a difference in the lives of others will bring you greater satisfaction and personal fulfillment. While it shouldn’t be your motivation, if you dedicate yourself to helping others, it will come back to you in the form of even greater success.

How to put Step 14 into action:

Think about this, “What can I start or build that would somehow make a lasting difference in the lives of my family, coworkers, customers, community, business, or future generations?”

Find some time and teach something you’ve learned to someone else.

“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”
- Bruce Lee

Step 15: Keep Going!

If you’ve made it this far, you certainly have what it takes to become an insanely successful rock star optician, and this step is a no-brainer. You have the desire to become more than you are, so never stop growing, never stop being curious about the world around you, and never stop giving to others.

How to put Step 15 into action:

Try new things, inside of optical and out. Travel, read, paint, sculpt, dance, hunt, fish, whatever! Most importantly, share what you learn with others (remember your platform!). Who cares if you aren’t great at it?

Make a living, be proud of your work, and enjoy what you do. Most importantly make a difference in the lives of the people around you. It will come back to you.

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

- Albert Einstein

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