Cut to the chase

Stilfehler / CC BY-SA

When I visited my hairdresser the other day, I went armed with an idea. Mind you, for nearly twenty years I’ve told her, Do whatever you want. Once in a while I tell her to leave the length, thin it a bit, get it out of my face, but the execution–if not the entire style–is usually up to her. I’m just not very good at this stuff, so why not leave it to someone who is?

Well, after thirteen-ish years of the same hairstyle with only small variations in its length, I thought I needed a change. I’ve been psyching myself up for it for months, but I’ve never quite been able to make it happen. After all, the only place to go was short, and I wouldn’t be able to change my mind once I heard the snip of the scissors. I’m not afraid of short hair; I’ve worn it that way for close to half my adult life. I just…wasn’t sure.

I used the week before my appointment to find some photos of styles I liked and thought would work with my thick, coarse, wavy hair. I sent a few to my fashion consultant (my daughter), who gave me the thumbs up. All systems go, right?

I texted a heads-up to my hairdresser a couple of days before my appointment: This is your fair warning. I’m thinking about going short. I knew she’d have to digest it, and saying it out loud (via text) forced me to make a decision. It was no longer just an idea.

When I arrived at the salon, I nervously showed my hairdresser the photos I liked. I still wasn’t 100% sure and I wanted her opinion. Her initial refusal to make the cut galvanized me.

What?! It’s my hair! What’s wrong with these styles? Short in the back, longer in the front; isn’t that what we’ve been doing, just on a wayyyyyyy different scale? I want my hair short!

She ended up cutting my hair, and I love it–so does she.

What I find particularly interesting about this encounter is that my doubt vanished when my hairdresser pushed back. I realized I was ready and dadgummit, we needed to make it happen. As I laid out all the reasons whey I wanted this and why it was time, my position solidified. Although I can be pretty stubborn and often contrary, I’m fairly certain I would have backed off if I hadn’t been ready to make the change.

When we bounce our ideas, thoughts, beliefs, questions, whatever off others, it helps us hone and understand them for ourselves. We often need to get out of our own heads and test our positions in the real world. Sometimes we’ll end up doubling down, and sometimes we’ll end up rethinking them. Either way, we’re better for it.

Certainly this example is pretty simplified, but there’s truth in it. Aren’t we all better when we’re willing to learn how our ideas stand up to opposition? I challenge you to sit down with someone who doesn’t agree with you on an issue and have a (civil!) conversation about it.

I look like a total dork in pics, but here’s the new cut!

Side note: I DID listen to my hairdresser’s concerns on this, by they way. It turns out that she wasn’t opposed the short style I wanted. She has just been burned by being held to a particular photo when the person’s hair doesn’t behave exactly like the model’s. Once I removed the photo from the equation and told her what I wanted to accomplish, she agreed, as long as she could do it according to her vision. She’s been cutting my hair for nineteen years, so I trusted her to do that. We make a good team, especially when I let her be the expert.

Book learning

Way back in the day, I stumbled across a little secret at my company. Every year at Christmastime, a select group of people received a package from the CEO. It wasn’t filled with candy or fruit or logo-emblazoned business accessories. It contained books.

These weren’t books plucked thoughtlessly from the year’s bestseller lists or some bookstore’s recommendations. These books were hand-picked by the boss, The Big Man, because each one contained some lesson, some observation, some nugget he considered valuable. He was a voracious reader, and he had selected the books from his own literary journey.

There was no particular pattern to the books, which ranged from speeches to biographies to philosophical shifts to business strategies to travelogues, but there was always a letter tucked among them. In that letter, The Big Man gave a brief synopsis of each selection and some insight about his recommendation. This was not some mindless token; the gift was well-thought and meaningful.

Although I certainly appreciated it at the time–the reputational value of being on “the list” notwithstanding–in hindsight I realize that the Christmas boxes were about much more than the content of the books. They reminded people to never stop learning and looking for new ideas. They challenged people to tackle material outside their preferred genres and try something different. They exposed people to conflicting philosophies. They introduced people to parts of the globe otherwise unseen. Together they laid a path that led to the world beyond the horizon as The Big Man saw it unfolding and functioned as a vehicle for his passion. They made people think.

I won’t lie. I didn’t make it through every book that came in those annual boxes. Some were tedious and couldn’t hold my attention. Many others, though, were not just interesting and insightful, but also foresightful. And some I just plain enjoyed.┬áRegardless, over time I’ve realized that the content of the books was unimportant; the thing that mattered most was the passion they brought to my doorstep.

I don’t know how it happened, but I’m grateful my name made it onto that list.