I was looking for a job in the classifieds in the newspaper because that’s what you did back in 1998. Beaner’s Fun Cuts for Kids was looking for hair stylists. I was 17 and had spent my childhood chopping my barbie’s locks and, so far, I was the go-to-girl for hair and makeup with my girlfriends (although I royally screwed Camille’s bob, you have no idea.)
I had a flicker of excitement, how cool would that be to go get a job as a hairdresser!? But I had no training or experience. About to pass over the opportunity that I was totally unqualified for, my father spoke up.
“You can cut hair can’t you?”
“Dad, I have no licence.”
“But you can cut hair can’t you? Is there any difference between you and someone who has a licence?”
“Yeah, they have training and experience. I don’t”
Dad’s a ‘fuck-the-rules’ kind of guy.
At the end of the interview, after prattling on about all my dreams for the future and why I loved people and art and creativity and practicality and how hair dressing brought all these things together, my future boss says to me, “you can’t teach someone who knows how to cut hair how to have the right attitude. But you can teach someone who has the right attitude how to cut hair.”
She took a chance on me and after butchering the shit out of a few kid’s mops, I was as fast and as good as anyone in there. When she sold the company and the new boss went bankrupt, my brother suggested that he spot me some money to open my own salon. Clearly he was raised by my dad.
“I know nothing about running a business and I don’t know how to colour hair yet.”
“But I want to open a retreat centre one day, not a hair salon.”
“It’d be good practice and you could totally do it.”
So we pulled together friends, family and finances. I spent my 19th birthday laying in the back yard with one of my fellow hair stylists from the salon sketching out ideas of what we’d build and why it would be amazing.
People took chances on me. I felt so supported, so encouraged, that I just kept stepping up. Over the next eight years I built an exceptional team of stylists, taking chances on hair-school drop outs and girls who were just getting started. I almost sobbed with joy the first time I got to say “Well, you can teach someone with the right attitude how to cut hair, but not the other way around.”
A friend from high school volunteered her time on Friday afternoons. Within a few years she was managing the place full time with a healthy salary. She’d had no experience managing a company but became utterly indispensable, her work exceeding expectations every single day. She was the only reason I could stay home with my son after he was born and know that business would go right on humming.
I discovered that taking chances on others created an incredible degree of loyalty, deep intimacy and a collaborative culture. By putting faith in them, by trusting them, they brought their best work and most trustworthy selves to the table.
Glass ceilings and upper limits and ideas about what we can’t do because someone or something says there’s a barrier there, are all opportunities to work our edges. We can go for the thing that we know we can get, that we know we’re qualified for and have experience with, or we can take a chance on ourselves and go for what makes us quiver with excitement and possibility.
I realize not everyone has a family who’ll back them up like this, so let me do that for you instead.
You may not know what you’re doing. Yet.
You’ll learn. It’d be good practice. You’ve got this.