Today’s Read Highlights from 2019

The fun thing about coming up with a story idea for the Today’s Read feature is you just never know where it’s going to take you. Reminiscing about how you got your start in optical or connecting the dots between the environment and contact lens disposal can take VM’s writers and readers in some pretty interesting directions. As 2019 winds down, here’s a small sample of some of our most popular Today’s Read features.

What I Learned From My First Optical Job

This feature from Andy Karp, VM’s lens and tech editor, takes a look back at his first foray into optical. Having come from the advertising business, Andy thought he knew a thing or two about the “creative” process but came to find out there are all types of creativity. He said, “I was curious about what others learned during the first year of their first optical job, and how it helped them advance their career. Here are anecdotes from five industry veterans who shared their experiences with me.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my first year in the optical industry, and what I learned during that formative period that led me to spend the next 30 years writing, researching and analyzing this business. I came to optical from the advertising industry, where I learned the basics of marketing, market research and business strategy. In advertising, we called copywriters, art directors and producers “creatives.” That term stuck in my mind when I arrived in optical.

But my understanding of who is actually a “creative” changed once I began meeting people in the field. It quickly became apparent to me that not only are frame designers and marketing people creative, but so are the people who design lenses, equipment and software, run prescription labs and research and develop new products. They are all creative in their own ways, and each contribute to the rich mix of products and services this industry produces. That was a powerful lesson from my first year in optical, and I’ve never forgotten it. Read More 

How to Dispose of Your Contacts and Still Stay Friendly to the Environment

I’ve been wearing contact lenses for 40 years and count myself as one of 45 million CL users in the U.S. I was inspired to write this feature after watching an episode on “60 Minutes” titled the Plastic Plague, which offered a sobering view of just how much microplastics end up polluting our oceans and killing off marine life. These days, the environment is top of mind for many Americans and the optical industry is no exception. I reached out to several contact lens manufacturers who are leading the way for environmentally-conscious ways to dispose of contact lenses and their packaging. Their responses were eye-opening, to say the least.

I’ve been a contact lens wearer for over 40 years. I started out wearing contacts that lasted several months and eventually graduated to daily disposable lenses, attracted by their comfort and no fuss maintenance. But looking back, I cringe to think of how many lenses and blister packs I’ve thrown away over the years. Every morning, after inserting my contacts, I put the blister packs in recycling and at night I throw my lenses in the garbage (NOT down the sink or toilet).

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), I am one of 45 million people in the U.S. who wear contact lenses. But after researching this feature, I have to ask myself—is there something more I could be doing when it comes to disposing of those contact lenses, which in a short time turn into hard, breakable bubbles of plastic once they leave my eyes and hit the garbage can. In a word, the answer is yes.

According to the AOA, many patients are unaware that there is an environmentally friend way to dispose of their worn contact lenses. The organization cited a 2018 Arizona State University study, which found “as many as 1 in 5 contact lens wearers dispose of their lenses down the sink or toilet, contributing an estimated 6 to 10 metric tons of plastic lenses to U.S. wastewater each year. Furthermore, those lenses break down into microplastics at treatment plants, posing a risk to marine organisms and food supply, researchers claimed.” Read More

Read Any Good Books Lately? Asking for a Friend

Our senior editor Mark Tosh posed this question to several optical industry execs back in August, the height of the summer reading season. In case you’re interested about Mark’s beach-reading list, he tells colleagues it includes titles such as “Leaders Eat Last.” Mark admits, “But if you’re asking for a friend, then it’s safe for me to say one of the funniest books I’ve ever read has to be ‘100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings.’ As one reviewer noted, ‘I laughed so hard I had to leave the meeting I was in.’”

What are you reading this summer? Well, in some circumstances, this can be a loaded question. If a work colleague or even your boss asks you about your beach reading list, it’s probably best to avoid talking up anything from the science fiction, romance or sports categories on Amazon. Better to choose one of The New York Times’ bestsellers in the business category, something like “Dare to Lead” or even Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.”

But if it’s a good friend who is asking, it’s easier to be honest (mostly honest) with your response, mentioning a book like “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” by Amy Schumer or one of the Daniel Silva thrillers. I always find that it’s a good idea to have a couple of different lists top of mind just in case you get the dreaded “what-books-are-on-your-nightstand” question. Still, given the risks of putting people on the spot, VMAIL Weekend asked several industry executives what they are reading right now. Read More 

A Relaxing Weekend After National Stress Awareness Day

Edvard Munch, "The Scream", via Wikimedia Commons.
From National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12) to International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), there’s no shortage of fun, wacky holidays to celebrate every year. However, the first Wednesday in November marks a slightly heavier holiday: National Stress Awareness Day. Our associate editor Gwendolyn Plummer took a scientific look at the effects of stress on our daily lives. She concluded, “So, yes, stress is real, and it’s stressing us out. But all hope is not lost—not even close. This weekend, take a little time to figure out what de-stresses you, and maybe remind your patients and customers to do the same.”

I think most of us can agree that we don’t need a dedicated day to make us “aware” of stress—we’re aware of it all the time. But even though we’re no stranger to stress, there’s still value in setting aside one day a year to really talk about stress—and how to deal with it. It’s no question that stress can have an effect on every aspect of our lives, but especially on our mental and physical health. Jay Winner, MD, author of Take the Stress Out of Your Life and director of the Stress Management Program for Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, Calif., told WebMD, “Stress doesn't only make us feel awful emotionally. It can also exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of."

We know many of the common physical effects of stress: The Mayo Clinic lists headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset, and sleep problems, and, as WebMD explains, “When you're stressed, your body responds. Your blood vessels constrict. Your blood pressure and pulse rise. You breathe faster. Your bloodstream is flooded with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.” But there are the mental and emotional effects too, from anxiety and restlessness to depression, social withdrawal, angry outbursts, drug and alcohol misuse, and more. Read More