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I’m fascinated by the Learning Curve.  Maybe some people leap out of bed and excel but the rest of us go through a process and for an introvert, it can be intimidating.

I tested for my hairstyling license on September 11, 2001, at a grizzled 40 years old.    I knew just enough to survive the business and I mean barely, so the following two years the curve was stee-eep.   I didn’t love cutting hair and it was a relief to be done a few years later, but one day Diana handed me this gem of wisdom:

Cutting hair, you learn a bunch of things in a short time so every day you feel more confident.  A day arrives when you think, “hey, I’m pretty good at this!” That ‘Life is a Journey, Not a Destination’ crap–save that for the beginners ’cause baby, you’ve arrived. For awhile all your cuts are more or less good.   Then one day, and there’s probably math to prove this phenomenon but who cares? because what happens next is this:

You’re cutting Mr. Businessman, and whups! there’s a thing in the back that looks like a slash, you’ve cut all the way to the scalp with your clipper and short of convincing  Business Guy to go bald because bald is hot/cool/now, he’s about to walk out looking like the best-dressed gang member in Boulder, Colorado.  You’re frozen in place because this can’t have happened, and as a red tide of horror washes over your vision you hear his voice, underwater, from a distance: “say, are you okay?”

Determined, you get back to your life.   You roll up your sleeves to do another cut and wow she’s got a lot of hair! but you’ve never gotten lost on a haircut before, surely there must be a way to get back .  .  . to where  .  .  . maybe if you hold it up this way .  .  .  oh, no.

Then the highlight dear God, who’d have thought that color was even possible? And it got worse after she washed it, her students, little ones can be so honest, what did they say, it looked like she had strips of bacon all over her head?   The whole time you were in beauty school, no one talked about bacon!  

A theme emerges.   You kick yourself for thinking you were so great, and every day you pick your way through the parking lot, shoulders collapsed.   You stink, truthfully you always stunk, and it’s only going to get worse until they ask you to leave.

“You know what that’s about?”  Di asked me.  (no but I have time; my clients have canceled and even my family seems distant.  The cats, too).   Well, she said, it’s the learning curve.

“Yeah”, she said, “You’ve hit a plateau.   Right now you think, “I don’t know how to  cut hair!’  It’s not one or two clients, it’s a bunch of them.  It’s horrible.   You might even wonder if you should quit.   You slog through it, anyway.  Then one day you do a cut and you’re surprised; you think, ‘that’s the best haircut I’ve ever seen.”

“Then,” she said, “you start thinking you’re great, and you kind of forget.  But you’ll hit another plateau, and it’ll feel hard again.”  She shook  her head.  “You make a lot of mistakes on the plateau.   But it’s the only way to get better.”

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