I find it funny that many people I meet have a goal of being the best, which I think is AMAZING! The funny part is that my goal is usually just trying to keep up, and honestly, I think it's one of the secrets to my success.
The past month and a half has been truly mind blowing for me. First, having the honor of spreading an idea about The Beauty Of Touch from the TEDx LehighRiver stage, and then two weeks later, I had the honor of being pinned as a specialty member at The Waldorf Astoria Ballroom in New York City by Intercoiffure, and considering I'll be 50 before the end of the year, I think this has been a very good year. But the secret to my success has not been "being the best".
Before we go any further, this does not mean that my goal was to suck either, ever in my life. And the truth is the "entrance fee" to get into a better groups/the next level group is usually being the best in the last group. Think how the best college athletes often can't even make it in the professional leagues or the olympics. So as I grew, my work grew, and things got harder as the people who were in the new groups were better. I always had a strategy, it was one I learned years ago playing golf, if I was just good enough to be a "boogey golfer”, basically 2 strokes or hitting the ball 2 times more per hole than a "great" golfer, I knew no matter what group I was put with I could at least keep up and not make their day worse.
And by doing that, watching them and getting to see what they did, what clubs they used, and how they golfed, I could become better by applying those successes to my game.
When I went to beauty school, I had never used a curling iron, or dried someone else's hair, never mind styled it! Heck, the last job I had before beauty school, I fixed police cars on the NJ Turnpike. But I found that if I had a desire to learn and a love for creating with hair, I wouldn't hold the class back. I was honored when my fellow classmates voted me most likely to succeed at graduation.
When I was 20 I took over running Glemby Salon in the Woodbridge Mall in NJ that had 9 employees and was running 98% payroll. My thought was, 98% payroll! I probably can't make it worse than that, so I took the job met with the team, found out what they hated about the salon (which was, an ugly red paint pattern on one wall, the was no music and no coffee machine).
In exchange for that, the salon team needed to promise to do 2 things, attend an add-on (we would call it an upgrade class today), and we were going to cut everyone's hair who worked at the A&S department store in our salon for free in the month of January.
That was 300 employees cut by 10 stylists in 30 days for free. I had found out that most of the store employees were "afraid" of the salon, so I figured I couldn't make it worse. In one year, I was named manager of the month twice and the salon was at 48% payroll.
When I joined Logics, first as a entry level artist and then as the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Long Island and Westchester County Educator at 21, I definitely was not the best member on the team. I remember Colleen Hennessey, one of the people who trained me, said that just because I could do a 28 minute full head of highlights, did not mean it was good.
This was the time in my life, it was the late 80's/early 90's, that I started hanging out with "famous" people. From getting to share haircolor theory with Maurice Tidy, to coloring hair and doing classes at Pierre Michele, John Sahag, La Coupe, Louis Licari, heck, I was hanging out at the China Club with Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.
I definitely was never the best in the room, but I knew how to keep up and that led me to teaching at Mahogany in England and Pierre Villageville's in Germany on my own at 23 and 24 years old. I started to realize at this point if I made sure that I had what it took to keep up and not hold the group back, I could then work my butt off and actually find or create a space as a principal member of the team! I just had to make sure that there was something I could do that really and truly could help make the team better, but I didn't have to be the best on the team.
It's funny to me that most people know the famous quote about how, "Great leaders hire people who are smarter than them", which means we know that you don't need to be the best to even lead a team! But when I talk with fellow salon professionals and ask them why they didn't try out for a team, or share education, or enter a contest, the number one response is, I didn't think I was good enough.
On the other hand, the biggest mistake I see in new members of a group make is joining a team or saying yes to an opportunity, is then showing up expecting to have the team teach them what to do. Honestly neither works. First, I promise you 100%, if you are still reading this, you have the right to join a team, or share an idea, because hopefully you are reading this to either learn something that can make you better in some way or learn an idea that you can share to help someone else. Either way wanting to make things better is something that all teams are looking for. Now the goal is to balance that with pushing yourself to the point that 100% gives you the ability to keep up and not make things worse.
In the past month and a half, I have had 2 huge honors and both have definitely let me soar with eagles. But the truth is (as I have shared in my last blog too) every time I finished the next step to hopefully be chosen to speak at the TEDx, I called my wife before I was even home to let her know "I probably didn't get it". The difference is I believe, is that even though I knew that for me to be trying to fly with eagles, I know I have to be giving it 100%, 100% of the time, because the truth is that is just enough to qualify to be there, and from there it was all up to me to always give it all, and believe in what I’m doing.