I’m a bald man.
Not completely bald, like Moby, mind you – no, I don’t think I could pull that off (my head is shaped too weird) – but bald in a George Costanza/ Jason Statham/ Terry Bradshaw kind of way. You know, where everything’s all fine and dandy right up until you hit the crown of the head, and then it’s like the Sahara up there.
I come from a long line of bald men, and we’re quite adept at making excuses for our barren scalps. My father before me liked to say that us kids drove him crazy until he started tearing his hair out, and that’s why he’s bald. His father before him (my grandfather) said it’s because when he was young, his mother would constantly pat him on the head and say, “good boy, good boy” until she rubbed his hair off.
As for me, I like to joke that I blame my father. It’s funny, and it’s also true. (That’s a genetics joke, for the science nerds in the audience.)
Now, I’m completely at peace with my lack of coverage up north. I mean, the great God of Coiffure may have taken my manly dark locks from me, but in return, he blessed me with a thick red lumberjack beard that gives me the strength of a thousand Vikings – and an easy way to keep my face warm in the winter. So looking back on the other side of hair loss, I can say that I feel great. Plus, there’s a lot of research to suggest that bald men appear more powerful to others – a definite plus when you’re a business owner.
But when I was 19 and hair loss had just started, it felt like my life was over. I worried that my hair loss was a sign of some weird chronic illness or that it would impact my game with the ladies.
(I now know that it’s my puns that are impacting my game with the ladies, not my hair loss. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay.)
I remember looking in the mirror one day, when I was overdue for a haircut, and I looked like Larry Fine – key difference being that I’ve never choked a dolphin with a peanut.
And now, looking back six years later, I can say that losing my hair was the best thing that could’ve happened to me at the time. And it’s not just because I’ll never have a bad hair day for the rest of my life.
See, losing my hair has taught me some critical lessons that prepared me to become a business owner, lessons that I use every day in my business:
There’s No Point in Worrying About Things You Can’t Control
One big lesson that losing my hair early in life taught me is this: Stuff’s gonna happen, things are gonna go all to hell, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it, friend. Sometimes life just decides to crap all over everything you own, because screw you, that’s why. It’s like your whole life is having a bad hair day.
It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn on multiple occasions, like when I sliced my leg wide open and had to be rushed to the hospital so that I wouldn’t die. Or when, two weeks after that, I got evicted and had to find a new place to live – just as I was starting a new job. Or when I was in university and my flight back to campus after Christmas break got delayed and I missed the first two days of all of my classes.
Sometimes, in business, as in life, things are going to happen that you can’t control, and you can’t do anything to stop it. But that doesn’t mean they have to stop you. Which, coincidentally, brings me to my second point…
When Things Gets Hard, You Can Give Up or You Can Keep Going
So sometimes, in this grand banquet hall that is the world, life hands you a plate of dirt and says, “dig in, chump.”
And you can either give up, accept that dirt is the best meal you’re gonna see for a good long while, and swallow that plate full of soil with a dumb grin on your face…or you can tell life to go to hell and cook yourself some freaking steak instead.
Whenever I’ve encountered challenges in my business, I’ve asked myself the same (very simple) question: Are you going to let this stop you?
It’s what I asked myself when I was living in a dank little basement suite, getting by on just $800 a month, cursing the day I was born, because woe is me, my life is over before it’s even begun and thaaaat’s not faaaaaair.
Was I scared when I started losing my hair? At first, yeah. And then I realized there’s no point in worrying about it, because it’s going to happen no matter what, so I might as well just carry on with my life as I usually do.
After all, losing your hair isn’t the end of the world. (Nobody asked for your opinion, Rogaine!)
Just like a bad hair day, the challenges you’re facing in your life or business aren’t going to last forever. Life seems to happen in seasons, doesn’t it? For me, getting out of the basement suite meant I was happier, and it also meant I started earning (a lot) more money. But I had to take that first step and start looking for a new place.
I used to be an idealist, but since then, the hardships I’ve faced have turned me into something completely different – a warrior. And this isn’t meant as a poor me let’s all have a pity party for Mike post. Rather, it’s meant as a sometimes life sucks now get over it and go be awesome post. Because let’s face it; being awesome is more difficult than being pitiful, but it’s also more fun.
You have within you tremendous power; most people don’t even realize it, and of those that do, many choose to just ignore it out of fear. You are completely unique in all the world, with unique talents and gifts that you were meant to share. Life might suck now, but you have within you everything you need to keep going. I know this truth because I lived it. I can’t even tell you how many times I wanted to give up and just get a job, because it’s easier than trying to make a business work.
But this I knew to be true, and it’s as true today as it was when I said it three years ago:
When you betray your dreams, you betray your identity. You betray your very existence. When you turn your back on the things you desperately want, you are essentially committing suicide, very slowly, from the inside out. Some people walk this earth for years after they’ve already died. I urge you not to become one of them.
Change is Guaranteed, So Just Go With It
Losing my hair was a major change for me. I looked in the mirror and suddenly I was someone else – at least, I looked like someone else. At first, that was very strange. But over time, I came to like my new balding look. Over time, I embraced the change.
Which brings me to my next point:
People change. Things change. Circumstances change. Thing is, the wheel never stops turning. One day your business is raking in the dough; the next day, your pipeline is totally dry. Feast or famine. If you’re a freelancer, it’s a cycle you know all too well.
But you should also know that just because things never stop changing, that doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon everything you are. The key to surviving in business? Is to know what changes you need to make in order to stay in the game – and what you can keep the same.
When I was a college student, I worked my fair share of minimum wage customer service jobs. One thing I found rather common in that world was that anytime the business encountered any new unforeseen circumstance, they created a whole policy to address it. They have rules about rules, and people to police the people who are policing the rules. Eventually, these businesses had hundreds of policies, covering everything from where you’re supposed to wear your goddamn name tag to which specific words you’re supposed to say when you thank the customer. And if you don’t do the exact song & dance in the exact right order, you get reprimanded.
This isn’t adapting to new conditions. This is turning your most powerful asset – your people – into your biggest liability.
When people enter a business, they expect to have an experience and form a connection with another human. But by controlling every nitty gritty detail down to how your people talk, you completely remove the human element from the equation. You take away the exact reason people are coming to you.
A better approach?
Deal with new challenges as they arise. Recognize the special circumstances in front of you, do a quick analysis to figure out your best course of action, and then dive in. Embrace the change; it makes you stronger.
See, people talk about the evolution of businesses as if it’s just like biological evolution – a gradual process that takes eons.
But the truth of the matter is this:
Your business is forged, moment by moment, in the decisions you make every single day.
If you continuously resist change in your business, don’t be surprised when you wake up one day and the entire world has gone and changed on you. If you drag your feet, don’t be surprised when everyone else leaves you behind.
I could’ve spent years trying to grow my hair out and master the art of the comb-over. I could’ve invested hundreds of dollars into folk remedies. I could’ve bought boxes upon boxes of Rogaine.
But instead, I got a buzz cut and just went with it.
And as soon as I stopped worrying, went with the change, and decided it wasn’t the end of the world – that’s when I stopped having bad hair days.
What bad hair day is your business having? Are you trying to stock up on Rogaine, or are you enjoying your business’ new ‘do? What concrete step do you need to take right now to move past an obstacle or embrace a new change?