[partially reprinted with permission from Post Magazine Oct/Nov 2013]
Inspired by the questions French novelist Marcel Proust made famous with his thoughtful and insightful answers, our Proust questionnaire borrows from the original while adding a few ideas of our own. Meet Helen Miller.
Your favorite food and drink?
By far, my favorite food is pizza. My favorite drink is red wine, pinot noir.
Your favorite color?
Your favorite flower?
Your idea of happiness?
Is being at home with family, preparing dinner, drinking some wine, and just having great conversation.
Your favorite author?
My favorite writer is probably Paramahansa Yogananda. I love his books. To me they speak the truth about love.
Your idea of misery?
For me, it’s negativity. Being around people who are filled with negativity and feel they need to share it.
Your favorite qualities in a man and a woman?
I think generosity, an ability to think more about the other person than themselves, having the understanding of what it takes to really be in a loving relationship. Compassion, forgiveness. I think someone has to know how to say they’re sorry, for a guy. For a girl, it’s probably the same thing. I don’t think those qualities are gender specific. So I would say having gratitude, being loving, being able to say “I’m sorry,” having forgiveness, and one of the most important things is taking ownership of your stuff.
What character in history do you hate the most?
Hitler. That’s easy for me. My parents were in the Holocaust. I don’t want to say “hate.” That’s a strong word. Ideally, we shouldn’t hate anybody, but if I had to speak of a character that I would say was despicable or unlikeable, I would say Hitler.
Your favorite names for men, women?
I hadn’t really thought of it, but I think I like the name when I know the person, so Scott, Michael, Alex …
If not in Rochester, where would you live?
Somewhere by the water: I love the beaches in California, Italy, the Amalfi Coast, but I think I could be happy anywhere.
Your favorite artists?
For painter, I always liked Picasso. For photographers, I’ve liked Mario Testino, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz. I love photography books in general; a lot of ‘70s stuff has always been very intriguing to me.
What do you appreciate most in your friends?
Generosity with their time, with their love: The ability to give in situations when it’s more about the other person than yourself. Love becomes that as well, but I think generosity is the opening of your heart. I think that’s very admirable in people.
What is your main fault?
I’m a perfectionist, and I think I’m a little hard on myself sometimes. I’m hypercritical; I’m always trying to work on it.
If you weren’t co-owner of Scott Miller, what would you like to be doing?
I always wanted to be an actress. I actually studied theater for two years of my college experience, but my parents were not in favor, so I had to pick something else. I ended up with a degree in economics, but I always wanted to be an actress.
Who are your favorite heroes and heroines in fiction and in real life?
Heroes aren’t really something I look to — even as a kid, I don’t remember having a hero. I would look at Mother Teresa as a hero, or St. Francis of Assisi. But in fiction, I have no idea. My mother also was a role model or hero. She was faced with the greatest nightmare that anyone could ever experience, yet she was one of the most loving people I ever met. We can endure a lot of pain and suffering and filter it out and still have a lot of joy and love in our hearts. I think that’s what I look for in people.
If not yourself, who would you be?
Amma the Hugging Saint. I think a lot of people haven’t been hugged that way. Or Beyoncé. She can sing, dance and act amazingly. Besides who doesn’t want to be Queen B?
If you could have dinner with any two people, one living and one dead, who would they be?
Eckhart Tolle, and dead, Paramahansa Yogananda.
Do you have a favorite movie star?
I’ve always loved Barbra Streisand. I just loved the way she was: a singer and actress, the glamour in movies like Funny Girl. I would say she’s always been a classic favorite of mine. For a male, I think it’s Robert de Niro. He can cross the line from crazy to fun.
What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
Singing. Everybody in my family is going to laugh at that. When I wanted to be an actress, I could dance and I could act, but singing was not something that came easily for me. When you have all three talents, you’re much more marketable.
For what fault do you have the most toleration?
People who have not been exposed to certain things or haven’t experienced certain things, so the expectations shouldn’t be there. So if they don’t follow through or do what’s expected, it makes no sense to fault them — whether it is age or lack of experience or exposure.
What is your current state of mind?
Elated. We got great news today.
How do you wish to die?
Peacefully and knowing that I have given the people in my life a bit of something, a lasting legacy of some sort — that they felt loved by me.
What’s the most important thing about running a successful business?
The owners need to be able to understand their role. To provide an environment where people feel safe, loved, respected and cared for. They must keep their own emotional stuff outside of it (it’s never personal) and bring the best of themselves to work every day so that the people there feel empowered to be their best. No drama, anger, frustration or disappointment as these will never yield the results you want. Rather deliver messages with love and bring love to the workplace. I know a lot of people are afraid of that, but that is the key. You want to make sure that the people who work with you, who ultimately provide a service, clearly feel the love and are able to deliver a continuation of that amazing feeling. All your coaching has to come from a positive and constructive place to ensure all involved will have a successful experience.
What makes a successful marriage?
It’s similar to running the business: we have chosen to take ownership of our own stuff and realize that it’s more important to be more concerned with the other person than ourselves, and then again, nothing gets left undone.
What is your motto?
I have a few, but the one I probably use the most is: “When the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change, we change.” The other one is: “No self, no problem.” I say these to myself. You have to say all of this to yourself first. Whether you’re in a marriage or at work, if you don’t model the behavior you would like to see, then it’s not going to work. You have to be what you expect.
:: image courtesy of carrie mateosian photography