Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.
I remember seeing this quote as a kid and not really getting it. But the more life unfolds I realize how much my quality of life is controlled by my response to it. Recognizing that what is happening is only a fraction of the equation and the real power is in my response.
Sometimes things will happen as a direct response to our actions and sometimes things will happen that are completely out of our control. But the one thing that always remains the same is the choice we have to react or respond.
For the first few years in my career i remember getting so upset at all the “mistakes” I would make while doing hair. I felt like I’d never get it and just when i thought i was starting to get it, something would happen to knock me back down again. I started to feel that somehow I was destined to be a failure.
I was so hard on myself!
Recently I saw a quote that said "Mistakes are proof that you are trying"
The best thing about continuing to try is that you grow and learn each time a mistake happens. You take that experience, and what you learned, and remember it next time you're faced with a similar situation.
Like many other industries, being a hair stylist doesn't always allow me to guarantee an end result. Over the years I've learned to make a habit of telling this to my clients when they are in my chair. I can make predictions but that's all that they are.
Take, for example, hair colour:
I can have the whole science right. The perfect equation. But each person in my chair is a variable. They have their own chemical make up and unique biology. Medications, diet, hormones, and deposits on the hair such as iron or chlorine all play a part.
There is no way to to know 100% how everything will react.
When I was younger I didn't think to factor these things in. I always banked on best case scenario, but over the past 16 years I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge and have learned to ask more questions as well as present more realistic expectations to clients.
My past mistakes, due to a lack of experience, have all taught me the best lessons of all.
And in case you don't believe me, let me get vulnerable and share with you all one of my biggest mistakes.
Almost exactly two years ago I was doing a lovely young lady’s hair. I was taking her lighter.
I’d done her hair before and she loved it, so I was feeling pretty confident.
About 10-15 minutes in she told me her neck was feeling really hot, and she could hear crackling.
*cue panic mode*
I leaned down, and I could feel the heat coming off her hair and hear the crackling like I was sitting in front of a fire. Her hair was the palest yellow as if it had been sitting on her head under heat forever (for you stylists reading this, I was doing hair painting, using mesh to keep the sections separate but no foil, or anything that should conduct heat).
I quickly took her back to the sink and rinsed it off. When I combed her hair I saw a piece at the nape of her neck break off mid strand.
My stomach flipped, and I nearly threw up I felt so sick.
Thank god the damage and breakage was at the nape of her neck. I had literal nightmares for weeks, dreaming of what if (what ifs are a terrible place to go down, and I often find myself spiralling there). I had started at the front and a piece framing her face had broken off.
I double checked everything I’d done and nothing was adding up.
I’d remembered seeing the same thing happen before to a coworker’s client years ago. It wasn't a pretty situation. I remembered her talking about a heat reaction.
I read up on it to try to find more answers.
Heat reactions were something I was taught about in school, but because they were so rare, I had never fully understood them.
They can be caused my a number of different things, but basically heat reactions occur due to something as simple as the person’s chemical makeup, or a deposit on their hair from their household water that can cause a reaction with lightener.
I wasn't about to put the responsibility on my client however. I felt entirely responsible. It had, after all, happened on my watch. How could I have known this would happen? But I should have warned her that, even though it’s rare, these risks exist. I continually questioned myself with “was there some way that I could have avoided this from happening?“ I wanted definite answers.
My biggest mistake was not educating her on all the risks that are involved with hair colour, regardless of how minimal.
I felt terrible for my client. She didn’t deserve this. I apologized profusely. I took responsibility for it. I gave her weekly treatments and paid for extensions in her hair. I felt like a complete and utter failure. I debated quitting hair all together. I felt like if this information got out everyone would believe I was a fraud. I thought that if this can happen on my watch then I shouldn't be doing hair at all. I took it all on myself. I worked myself into so much anxiety that I literally made myself physically ill and even threw my back out and was bedridden for 3 days (side note, I just learned that back pain is where our fear is stored, which makes total sense with this scenario, right?). Amazing what stress can do.
What did I learn from this situation? While, other than unpredictable things can happen even 14 years into your career, was that I need to prepare my clients for the worst case scenario. Not because I want to scare them, but because I want them to walk into their appointment fully understanding the risks, no matter how minimum they are.
When I had laser eye surgery I had to sign off on the possibility that I could go blind. Obviously it doesn't happen often otherwise no one would get the surgery, but the risk exists so they presented it to me to cover their own ass. It’s all about educating and communicating the risks so that my clients can make an informed decision.
So, to all you new stylists out there, don’t get discouraged when you don’t get everything right the first time - us seasoned stylists don't either. The only thing we’ve got on you is time and practice and even then we still don’t get it right every single time. Time is the one thing you can’t rush, but if you quit now you’ll never get to where you want to be.
No matter how long you’ve been doing something, there will always be more lessons to learn and more mistakes to be made.
We are all human after all.
I could have let that experience stop me from ever doing hair again, and it nearly did, but I picked myself up again and I’m so glad that I did.
Remember in life it's not what happens to you, but how you choose to respond that's important.