Perfection can get in the way…
Years ago, I had this young staff member who had every attribute to become a good hairdresser. Well, almost every attribute.
Her problem was she was a perfectionist. Nothing wrong with that, you might say, but let me explain.
You would try and teach her a haircut, for example a simple one length bob and she was such a perfectionist that all she could see was what was wrong with it.
I don’t think that she ever finished a haircut on training night because she was so obsessed with it being perfect that it always ended in tears [hers not mine] and I would have to finish it off.
I used to say to her that learning to cut hair and eventually becoming a productive stylist was a series of 4 steps.
Step 1. Learn how to do it.
Learn how to do it from beginning to end. Understand what the steps are, what are the tools and technique needed to get to the desired end result.
The first step is simply learning ‘how to do it’, and developing the insights and understanding of how it works. In that first stage I don’t care that it’s not perfect or how long it has taken you. I just wanted her to complete it, to understand it from beginning to end.
She never did.
Step 2. Learn how to do it better.
Once you understand how to do something, then you need to learn how to do it better, that’s when you can start to strive for perfection.
That is essentially the philosophy at Sassoon, they strive for perfection! But in my 10 years working there, no matter how many ‘bobs’ I cut, or how many assessments I took… the haircut was never perfect, you could always be a pedantic pain in the arse and find something wrong with it.
But none the less, once you have mastered step 1 which is, ‘Learning how to do it’, you need to master step 2 which is, ‘Learning how to do it better’.
Once again, when you are learning how to do it better, it doesn’t matter how long it takes in that all elusive pursuit of perfection, because the distinctions you make, and the attention to detail that you start to see is where the valuable lessons lie.
Step two is all about turning your technique and disciplines into a habit. Committing to the practice of doing it again and again until you’re good at it, and until it’s part of who you are and what you do.
And that takes us to the third step…
Step 3. Learning to do it quickly
Whilst it might be nice for you to spend a couple of hours in the pursuit of perfection, it’s not financially viable, and rare is the client who wants to sit there for two hours whilst you cut their hair.
So, like it or not, ‘commercial reality is a necessity’, and learning to get the desired end result to the right standard within a time constraint, is the third skill.
It takes time to develop the third step. It’s a case of, ‘the more you do the better’, and as time passes you will become more efficient with your time, and more confident with your technique, and as a result the quicker you will become.
Step 4. Learning to thrive in the salon situation
Step 4 is the final step. I used to teach people to cut hair on a dolls head, or mannequin head because the dolls head doesn’t talk, it isn’t getting married next month, they aren’t in a hurry, they aren’t growing out old layers and they generally don’t have a dad or a boyfriend waiting for them.
The upside of all that is that you can focus on understanding technique. But once you have mastered the technique on a dolls head, of course it is much harder dealing with all the issues that a real person brings, whilst having to be charming and talk about your holidays and home haircare and recommend colour…
But that’s where the real success comes. When you master that you are on your way to becoming what I call a Super Stylist.