I’m usually afraid to talk to strangers because, well… I’m an introvert.
But lately, I’ve come to appreciate the joy of random conversations with people, hearing their stories, and picking up valuable lessons along the way. Because I’ve noticed that there’s always something to learn from a person.
And that’s what happened today when I slumped on the chair in this local barbershop. I was getting my hair sorted out, and so it was one of those times when you can’t do anything. You have to act paralyzed. And that’s really boring.
The barber was busy with his job. He was a friendly guy, somewhere in his mid-thirties, with a warm smile, an oval body, and acne scars on his cheeks.
He combed through my hair, carefully considering the style we discussed. He snipped away at the excess length on top. Then, the sound of the scissors and clippers filled the air, and I could feel the hair falling away.
As I gazed into the mirror, a thought struck me. That cutting hair is his skill– the thing that keeps his wallet happy and food on the table. So I was curious to know how he learned it.
I gathered all my courage to break the silence (introvert, you know) and asked him how he got into this business. I caught his reflection in the mirror, and I could see he was a bit puzzled at first. Maybe nobody had ever shown interest in his story before.
“Me? How did I learn barbering?” he asked.
I nodded, and then a smile spread across his face.
“Well… my father taught me the basics of using scissors when I was… I think… 13,” he said.
“When did you give your first haircut?” I asked.
“That’s a funny story. Um… it was 24 years ago,” he said with a broader smile. “There was this day when my father had gone home for lunch, and I was the only one at the shop.”
“What happened then?” I inquired.
“A customer walked in, looking for a beard shave. Since my father wasn’t around, I told him I would do it,” he replied. “You see, I didn’t have any shaving experience… I was just interested in the money. And the customer was in a hurry, so he agreed.”
“So, you pretended to be experienced, huh?” I remarked.
He gave a short laugh and said, “Well, what happened next really freaked me out. I accidentally made a cut on this customer’s throat, and blood started gushing out. I was so scared I couldn’t say a word for a while. The customer got furious and scolded me for being careless. Somehow, I gathered my senses to apply the alum and stop the bleeding. Then luckily my father showed up and took over the beard trim.”
“Oh, that must have been really tough! What happened next?” I asked.
“I gave up on beard shaving, “he replied. “My confidence took a serious hit, and I thought I’d never get the hang of it. I even considered switching careers… thinking maybe barbering wasn’t my thing.”
“So, how did you end up sticking with it?” I asked.
“I decided to give it another shot, but this time, I kept it simple — just haircuts,” the barber explained. “It wasn’t smooth sailing, though. I made a cut on someone’s neck again. I was terrified. So, I stuck to the easiest thing I knew — shaving heads completely bald. I started being super careful with my work. Over time, with several trials and errors, I mastered the craft and moved on to more complex haircuts and beards. It’s been 24 years since I started, and now I can handle scissors like a pro and whip up any haircut in minutes without even thinking. It’s become second nature.”
I was inspired by his story. You see, the barber didn’t have much education — he didn’t go to any school or college. But he learned a skill in a way most smart people are too scared to try.
He dared to give his first haircut when he had zero experience. Sure, he messed up several times at the start, but he didn’t let it get to him. He stuck to the game, starting with the easy stuff and slowly leveling up.
Learning something new isn’t always comfy and smooth. You’ve got to be okay with making mistakes, a bunch of them. Show up daily, fight your inner doubts, and keep making little progress. Then there will come a day when you will suddenly realize you’ve become a champion at the craft.
Walking back home, I thought, what a great day it was! Apart from the nice haircut, I got a remarkable story and an eye-opening life lesson.