The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. -Coco Chanel
Like it was yesterday, I will never forget my first day of beauty school. Butterflies, fear, excitement, and awe, how was it possible that I was actually going to live my dream? OMG.
Getting to this day was far from easy. And I mean FAR FROM EASY. Just to give you some context, I was a very lost young person, nearly failed out of high school, was forced into the college experience for which I was far from ready. It was 1987. I had run out of options. Totally cut off financially as I chose to leave college, I mean, when you get straight F’s, what else are you supposed to do?
My namesake asked her hairdresser about schools, and just like that I got a referral to Potomac Academy of Hair Design in Falls Church, Virginia. But the battle was far from over. I was broke, working as a school bus driver, yes, that is not a typo, and could not qualify for any financial aid. My family was “too rich”, lol. So my awesome Mom found someone who would help me get a personal loan, as I needed money for school, plus living expenses for one year, and because of that dear family friend, I began to live my dream.
The thing was and still is, nothing has ever come easy for me. Not even beauty school. I was always kind of a tom boy, and hardly ever used a curling iron, blow-dryer, etc. But I did manage to cut the hair of every single creepy doll my Mom ever put in front of me, cause I mean, dolls were meant for cutting hair, not for playing with. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, because of my choice to leave college and pursue my dream, some family members stopped talking to me. For reals. It was sad, and odd, and typical at the time…1987. But I carried on, and became one of the best students in school. Getting all A’s and stuff like that. I also caused a bit of drama as I at one time decided to challenge the school on some things, got all “we the people” on them, but luckily that sorted itself out and I was not kicked out of school. Mind you, I had some experience getting kicked out of schools, as I was suspended twice in elementary school. Don’t ask, those stories may show up in my next book though.
Here are 5 lessons I learned from my beauty school experience…
1. Show Up
And I mean really show up. It’s hard, I know. I worked part time while going to school full time, then worked full time while finishing up school part time. It’s hard. Anything worth having is. Do whatever it takes to show up physically, emotionally and mentally.
While we may think we know everything, we do not. We just don’t. And there is always something to learn. Always. To this day, with all of the success and experience I have, I study every day. Yes, every day. Well, except Sundays, where I basically spoon my dogs all day.
Connect with every human you possibly can that has what you want. Teachers, other students, owners, artists, leaders, educators, everyone. It is one of the biggest reasons my career took off so quickly, as I made a huge effort to connect with those I wanted as mentors. And I still do.
Still to this day, one of my favorite jobs ever was when I was a shampoo girl all through school at a very successful salon, The Falls Salon in Great Falls Virginia. I learned so much there. The wisdom and experience I gained was only attainable by being in the salon, working my tail off, learning the ins and outs of everything from operations, to pace, to client care, to booking, to inventory, to blow-drying, to client building… and yes, sweeping, shampooing, ordering lunch, answering phones, doing laundry… All of it, priceless, and is one of the reasons I have been so successful in the professional beauty industry. Perspective and context, and it began by being a kick ass shampoo girl.
5. Follow Your Heart
As I wrote in my book Follow Your Heart, living a life of purpose and awesomeness is the greatest gift in the world. But it also takes a ton of work, and I don’t mean busy work, I mean smart work. Getting still and getting clear on what your heart + gut are telling you, then creating a road map to get there. The challenges will always be present, it is not the easy way, but it is the only way that will ever have true fulfillment. I implore you to stick it out, to surf the waves, to know that even when the road is bumpy, if your heart feels it, then you stick with it. No. Matter. What.
While I am no longer a licensed hairdresser, and have not done hair in the salon since 1991, my genetic code is set in stone. My purpose in the world has evolved to coach + mentor the people I love, and I am so grateful.
No matter what path you are on, it’s gonna take a ton of courage. So get ready for the ride of your life, and hold on tight, cause it’s gonna get bumpy, and even better, it’s gonna be awesome.