Workaholics in Mary Kay

Written by Raisinberry

It occurred to me the other day that Mary Kay Ash transferred her unhealthy workaholic tendencies to thousands of women all over America.

What seemed like good counsel was her notion that each achievement one attains should only be celebrated, briefly, with the next goal clearly in view. I believed this wholeheartedly. I won my first car in Mary Kay back in the days when they sent you a small car poster cut in 4 parts, and as each month of $4,000 wholesale was completed, then sent you the next part.

You were building a 4 part, 4 month, $16,000 finished picture of the Grand Am in all its glory. The minute the month was done, the next month was up. Before that, when I got into my Red Jacket, I remember the letter I got from Mary Kay telling me all I needed was 2 more to become a Team Leader. And before that, when I had one recruit, the letter mentioned getting into my Red Jacket as soon as possible.

There was my secret to success! Never sit on a new accomplishment. The minute one thing is achieved, it’s onto the next one. Run, run, run, to the top. Don’t think, just do!

I wonder if this mentality is for everyone. If we achieve something and enjoy it for a while, are we underachievers bent on personal laziness and unable to motivate ourselves for the next challenge? Does the leadership of Mary Kay secretly feel that those of us who do not want the stress, and pressure of blindly racing to the top, are sub-par consultants and directors, failing to stretch and “set goals that make us sick”?

Are we supposed to be striving and churning and racing and sick because our goals are so big we are in a constant state of nausea? Because this is the picture of leadership training in today’s Mary Kay. The best of the best FLY to the top and work like crazy to enjoy the fruits of living on the mountaintop.

Some of us valley dwellers are probably pitied in their eyes. We don’t “get it.” We were not willing to “pay the price.” We do not have that “executive income” because we rested on our laurels and they no doubt, wilted. Or did they?

Were all our achievements supposed to lead us to $20,000 monthly commission checks? Did each previous goal that we reached become meaningless because we stopped and evaluated where we were and what we had become? Does it really make sense to have “success” defined for you by someone other than yourself, whose life you do not admire?

If not resting on your laurels means you keep moving no matter what and never evaluate what has resulted in your activities and behavior, then those who have reached the pinnacle of success in Mary Kay are profound failures. They have failed to enrich the countless numbers of consultants who were never taught to operate a real business, never taught “real” selling, never took “real” stock in their operations, never evaluated “real” skills development, never assessed strength for directorship, never course-corrected low selling volume, never sent out evaluations or opinion polls of their consultants’ successes or failures and disappointments.

Racing blindly to the top speaking only slogans and platitudes, and stuffing their ears and humming out loud to the concerns voiced by Directors and consultants drowning in inventory debt, they parade their “achievements” for all to see and admire.

And beneath them is a sea of women, being told and believing, that they just didn’t do “enough,” they lacked commitment, they needed “bounce back ability” and failed to “believe and achieve.” The achievements waved above for all to see represents the hundreds of thousands of dollars of credit card debt, coast to coast, of women who were enticed by recognition, and prizes, and guilt, and manipulation, and wanting to help, and being a team player, and chasing a goal, and not wanting to rest on a laurel. Go! Go! Go! means you never THINK, THINK, THINK!

Sometimes racing helps a person quiet and calm a doubting soul. If you can’t think, you do not have to face the reality of your situation… your disappointments… or insecurities.

What drove Mary Kay herself, might have been after all, a childhood need for significance. Caretaker for her father who commanded much attention and a mother who was not there, were always expressed to show us her maturity and ability. Never have I ever heard how it may have shaped a driven personality, a wounded soul.

Not “resting” on a path to personal achievement is applauded in Mary Kay. That might be because if you did, you would see, the lack of success in your Unit and downline, and slowing down to course correct would mean loss of profits. Slowing down also reveals how fragile the MLM model is because the drop out rate of a unit’s attrition is chasing behind you. Unit attrition is not resting on its laurels either! If you slow down, it catches you. Therefore you must strive and work and move and go and achieve and race and press on in a flurry of IPA’s till you collapse at the Summit.

For a company that prides itself on Godly principles, one wonders how this passage escapes their notice:

“I am entreating then, first of all, that prayers, pleadings and thanksgiving be made for all mankind, for kings and for all those being in a superior station, that we made be leading a mild and quiet life in all devoutness and gravity, for this is ideal and welcome in the sight of our Savior, God, Who wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth.”

Paul is urging his listeners to appreciate and pray for those in authority over us for the purposes of the “ideal.” A mild and quiet life! A mild and quiet life, devout and serious in its intent seems to be a vehicle for honoring God’s will and realization of the truth.

Funny but, we are told in Mary Kay that our striving and racing and excellence in acquiring the next achivement is what honors God. In fact, the counter verse used against a “mild and quiet life” is Paul’s word to “run the race with endurance to obtain the prize.” The “prize” mentioned in the context, for those who run a race is a “corruptible” wreath. Something earthbound and decaying. Paul, by contrast, is asking us to pursue another type.

Paul prefers we win an “incorruptible” achievement… accomplishments that reflect a Godly life. How ironic that Mary Kay’s NSDs use a verse whose context defeats their teaching. The acquisition of all things material in a life devoid of personal evaluation and introspection, chasing the next goal and the next, is the opposite of a Godly life.

To be able to think clearly, one must stop, and calm and quiet the soul, and rest and evaluate. Have I lied? Have I been self-serving? Have I wounded anyone? Have I hurt another? Have I misrepresented myself and the facts? Have I manipulated someone for my own gain? Have I become greedy and materialistic? Have I lost my integrity?

Turns out that the wilted laurel, the one that represents stopping and reflecting with a view to a mild and quiet life, away from striving, honors God in truth. It is “the ideal.”


  1. What an excellent article. Ironic that the main goal of so many who join Mary Kay is to have more free hours to spend with their family.

  2. Such a great post Raisinberry!

    I do think that a version of the Sunk Cost fallacy comes into play here as well, not just in actual money invested, but also with the precious investment of time. Like, if you’ve spent so much so far in DIQ and are *almost* there, don’t walk away now or you lose your investment! So you invest even MORE. Or if you’ve worked nonstop hours for months/years on your MK “business”, don’t cut back on those hours NOW when you’re just so close to *whatever goal* you’ve been hustling for! It would be a total waste of those hundreds/thousands of hours, so keep committing even MORE time! Ad infinitum, even when you reach NSD…just look at the Verge (barely) National Area.

    • Intermittent reinforcement for when you actually see lots of sales. It could happen one time and then you keep thinking it’s going to happen again if I just hang on

  3. Who else remembers MK’s “Five O’clock Club?” I tried to get up that early, especially with a small child, to do the things MK suggested — do the things before your children and spouse are up for the day. Guess what? My kiddo started getting up with me because hey! Mom is up, so I need to be up, too! That lasted only a few days before squashed.

    Now when I get up at 0500, it’s for work. I go to work, come home, and leave work there. Sure, I bust my hind end there for the 13-14 hours I’m there, yet I only do this 3-4 days a week. MK would ensure that I did this every day, 24/7. No thanks.

    • Does anyone else remember the story from her autobiography about bringing her work home at the end of the day, and it becoming so normalized that everyone else at the office did the same?

      I’m sorry, writing note cards at night while you’re hanging out with your husband in front of the tv does not sound like balance or creating the life of your dreams. As Raisinberry rightly calls out–it’s workaholism, and it needs to end.

      • I do homework in the family room while hanging out with the hubs… he’s okay with it, though, because he knows with my doctorate, the juice is TOTALLY worth the squeeze.

  4. I won my first car in Mary Kay back in the days when they sent you a small car poster cut in 4 parts, and as each month of $4,000 wholesale was completed, then sent you the next part.

    Mary Kay: Treating grown women like 7-year-olds since 1963

    • How about the juvenile tracking sheets?
      — The sheet with 30 blank faces: draw in the facial features/hair as you book “30 Faces in 30 Days.”
      — Cross off the lipsticks to track progress toward a tin bracelet.
      — Red Jacket Tracking Sheet: color in the different parts (sleeves, etc.) as you add recruits and earn an ill-fitting, cheap-looking, “one-size-fits-no-one” jacket.

      Taught at Harvard.

      • That sounds like the “make work” my former supervisor used to dole out at 3.30 on a Friday afternoon to stop us logging out at 4pm which was the earliest our flex clock allowed.

  5. Outstanding post, Raisinberry!

    We were told to put our blinders on and not be distracted by the Negative Nellies. We were told not to worry if we weren’t the selling type, because MK wasn’t about selling. We were told not to recruit, but to ‘share the opportunity’. We were told that success would come when we stopped focusing on the money and started focusing on changing women’s lives.

    When we did ask questions, like how far was our unit from car production, we were told that we didn’t need to worry about that, and in the next breath, we were asked to place more orders to increase our car production. We were told to always be ready to share the product and opportunity, whether we were at family gatherings, our children’s events, or even our J.O.B. (which, of course, we were only working at until we made directorship).

    We made trick or treat bags with samples to hand out at Halloween. We gave our children’s teachers MK Satin Hands sets and other product gifts. We wore MK head to toe (except for the director I saw at a Gloria Banks event years back who pulled out a MAC compact to touch up her face) and made sure our spouses and kids did as well. We were told not to EVER break up the skin care set, because it only delivered results if clients were using every step.

    We were told that no meant “not now” or “I need more information” and we should try for 100 no answers every month. We were told to only tell our husbands of our accomplishments and how much money we made. We were told if we had more month than money, we just needed to sell something–we had an automated teller machine right there on our product shelves.

    We were told that everything could be written off as a business expense, from electricity to internet access, to gasoline, to ribbon and decorative bags for packaging. We were told to set up a business checking account, and not to embezzle from our business. We were told to reinvest every penny in inventory until we had at least $3600 in retail product on our shelves. We were told to do whatever it took to get the $100 for our starter kits–find change, ask a friend or family member for the money, take out a short-term loan (for inventory too, of course), use savings bonds or other savings to cover the cost.

    And if we remained coachable and trainable, took God as our business partner, and did everything ‘the Mary Kay way’, we would surely succeed in our business. This business that was not about sales or recruitment would bring us choices in our lives.

    I’m eternally grateful that I chose to leave the pink bubble.

    • “Except for a director who pulled out a MAC compact to touch up her face”. Until Mary Kay events, I’ve never seen so many women touch up their make-up in public, at the dining table or their seats at whatever conference we we were at. So many touch-ups! It was surprising to see. (Although I can’t fault women for avoiding the Seminar bathrooms.) Also, if you need to re-apply eye shadow at noon, maybe you need a better quality eye shadow?

  6. Excellent essay, Raisinberry. SuzyQ wrote about the phrase “on target” a bit less than 3 years ago:

    The weaponized phrase “on target” is designed to keep every Mary Kay Consultant, Red Jacket, Director, etc., constantly striving to move ever upward. Tough to do when it takes so much energy to tread water in this pretend business.

    • Yes, Mary Kay set up the steps to success like an escalator to the top, only it’s running downwards a skosh faster than the average person can run upwards. You might make a little progress at first, but sooner or later you’ll be moving backwards even though you’re running full steam ahead, then you’ll hit the bottom and fall ass over teakettle.

      A few might manage to get their Usain Bolt on and get to the top and hold it for a while, but one missed step, one pause to think about what you’re doing, and ker-plop.

      Naturally, all the bling and fooferaw around and above you is meant to get you to run blindly for the top without paying attention to Jesus tapping you on the shoulder, because then you might listen to him and just decide to turn around and ride carefully back down and walk away.

  7. My heart truly weeps at all the positivity that could be used for so much good and is instead used to warp fulfillment-seeking women into tools of manipulators. Spiritual criminals.

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