I get my haircuts in Los Angeles because my best friend Sharon cuts my hair for free, which means the cost of the plane ticket to LA is cheaper than paying for cut and color in Chicago.
Sharon is a color specialist. This is Sharon picking color for a client who Sharon is trying to focus on while I disrupt her.
She started out just being a hairdresser. That's how I met her. I had a boyfriend who had a terrible haircut and I walked into a salon that looked expensive because he was paying, and I asked for anyone. We got Sharon because she had just learned to cut hair and we didn't request anyone who had experience.
Now I know better. Now, twenty years later, Sharon is my best friend. At some point, I don't remember when, Sharon started cutting my hair for free. I asked, like a jealous boyfriend, which other friends she cuts for free. She said no one else. That's how I feel okay telling you she's my best friend.
She became an expert in people who are difficult to please. She can make anyone happy with their hair. Then she became so great at dealing with the difficult clients that she specialized even more—people with messed up color. Or people who can never be happy with their color. It's Sharon's job to tell you bad news like, “You cannot go any blonder or your hair will fall out.”
When I met Sharon I was a volleyball player. Now, we are both entrepreneurs. She has her own salon—Forme, in Santa Monica—and she is constantly amazed by my ability to get funding for companies that don't have revenue. I am amazed that she always makes payroll, no matter what happens in the business.
When I get to LA, I go straight to her salon. I have mastered the one-day-to-LA trip. I leave luggage in the middle of the salon and she tells me I have to be less disruptive. She moves it to the side. In a neat pile. Then, without thinking, I throw my shirt onto the pile…
…and miss. And Sharon picks it up and tells me that being tidy makes me less disruptive.
I try to be non-intrusive. I take photos of her mixing my color and she tells me not to get any of her clients in my photos, no matter what, or she'll kill me.
She mixes my color like she's an artist. And I'm blown away that she can be so good at business and painting, which is what good hair color is. But the cost is that Sharon and I almost never talk with each other.
We don't like the phone. At first we worried it meant we are not friends, but now I'm used to it. I tell myself that a friendship between two women with young kids and their own business is going to have a time commitment issue—there's no way around it.
I think about what it means to have a friend. Because the friends I talk to all the time are people I'm in business with. I was thinking, when I was thinking of what my next company should be, that I should do one with Sharon because then I'd get to talk with her a lot. But I couldn't think of a business model for us.
Then I thought about how I didn't have a business model when I had Ryan and Ryan relocate to Madison to do a company. I just knew they'd be good to do a company with and I needed a social life and I can only really get a social life through my work. So I needed work. And I'm unemployable due to eccentricity, so I had to start a company.
I do a bunch of career coaching. I almost always fall in love with the person I'm coaching because here's what happens. First of all, people self-select. I don't advertise that I coach—in fact, I think this is the first time I have mentioned it on my blog—so the people who ask me to coach them tend to be creative, independent thinkers. And I like those people.
And I like the process where we don't have smalltalk—people don't do smalltalk when they are paying hourly—they just tell me things that are painful, and dreams that are big, and the real truth about their roadblocks, and I fill in where they are stuck, and the conversation is so interesting because when people want to be coached, they are so engaged.
So I get overly invested in people I coach and I give them ideas to help them reach their goals but then I want to know how they are doing, how I can help them more, I get invested in their goals and I think about them all the time.
Here's an email I just got from Clara Vaz. She has a job as a part of the Court Watch in Swaziland but she wants to shift into work at a nonprofit that helps girls and women. Last Friday Clara sent her resume for me to review and she wrote:
Please don’t feel pressed. There’s supposed to be some mass uprising next Tuesday and the King has sent police and military into every corner of the country so most likely we won’t be at work until at least Wednesday again. But given the general apathy and greater issues (we need to live today, not worry about politics) in this nation, I doubt anything will happen. That and a lack of funding and interest by the middle class. But who knows! The prayer is that no one dies.
These people are not my friends, and they are not my co-workers, but they make my life so much more interesting. And it's hard for me to understand what a friend is, because Sharon is always there for me, but on a daily basis, things are not more interesting because Sharon is in my life.
I am convinced that many people who were close to me when I was working with them were just work friends. The friendship did not go beyond work. The thing is, it was intense and fun and I liked it. I'm not sure that I mind that it didn't last.
I like that Sharon's friendship does not go away when any given job does.