Let's start with something that shouldn't need to be said in 2021: tattoos in the corporate world are no longer taboo. If the idea of somebody displaying some artwork they chose to have on their skin offends you, I suggest you slide on over to the next article, this one isn't for you.

For those still with me, let’s get real about trust for a second.

When it comes to the decision to get a tattoo, there’s obviously a huge amount of trust involved: Trust that you’ve picked the right artist, they’ll do good work, that you’ll be safe and not in (too much) pain, and that you’ll be happy with the result. Considering that the result is a piece of artwork intended to be on your skin for the rest of your life, you ought to be wise where you place your trust.

How to get a great tattoo

  1. Trust the artist
  2. Get tattooed

So let’s start with trust. The topic is fairly frequently spoken about. Two fundamental truths about trust that I like to remind myself of are:

  1. Trust = (Credibility + Reliability +Intimacy)/Self-Orientation
  2. Trust comes after vulnerability, not before.

There’s a tonne to be said about these two points alone that can fill a multitude of blog posts, and maybe at some point I’ll revisit them in greater depth. But I want to talk about an example of trust that I believe we can learn from that exists in a very special place; the tattoo parlour. Only in a tattoo parlour do you truly see complete surrender and trust every single day.

What is a tattoo artist?

Your tattoo artist is a talented creative responsible for the conceptualisation, creation, and delivery of artwork. They’re an artist above all else. They know the ins and outs of skin and ink better than anyone who sits in their chair.

When it comes to building trust, you can refer back to the trust equation. It’s pretty easy to figure out if they are credible and reliable before you show up. As you get to know them, you will build a level of intimacy and understand if their self-orientation (customer service) is up to scratch. The end result is you decide to get a tattoo. It’s pretty basic decision-making based on trust.

Where do you come in?

There’s only one spot where your input is required: conceptualisation of the piece.

Naturally, you’ll have an idea about what you want to have on your skin, but for the love of all things holy, do not design your own tattoo. Self-designed tattoos are, on average, pretty poor (except yours, it’s great). There’s a very clear reason why this is: you are not a tattoo artist, they are. They know the contours of the body, the light and shade that will work perfectly, and the level of detail that will last beautifully as you get older.

Bringing a design to an artist that you won't compromise on is just not a great idea. It's the workplace equivalent of micromanaging a project or person, being unwilling to see others’ experience as a compliment to your own, or barking orders at a dev team without listening to their concerns. The result is the same. You’ll have a finished product at some point, but

the people who delivered it haven’t been able to create to the full extent of their ability.

The idea that you had will rarely be delivered as you expected it.

You haven't allowed yourself to be surprised by something even better.

Your loss.

How to trust like we’re in the tattoo parlour

It’s important to recognise the experts around you. They might not have the equivalent of walls full of artwork or ‘flash’ demonstrating their creativity and skill, but they are experts at what they do. Find out what it is and give them license to operate to their fullest. They’ll deliver something in ways you never thought of.

Delight in the process of trusting others and relish the end-result, especially when it differs from what you had in mind. As tattoos become more commonplace, I’m optimistic that the learned experience of placing complete trust in the expert is something that might catch on in the coming years.

It feels good to trust

And god damn it, placing your trust in a great artist and receiving a tattoo has to be one of the most cathartically beautiful experiences on the planet. I really mean that. I believe that trust in your artist transcends the pain of their needle.

Trust the expert. It feels good.