December 2008

Jerry Tyler

Blue Highways | by Jerry Tyler


Inspiration in Being a Mentor

Over the last five months I have spent numerous hours in our beauty schools fulfilling what I feel has been a long neglected focus. I have been bringing true industry perspective to those who will stand side by side with us as future industry professionals. In this endeavor, I have found true inspiration and a renewed faith to know, if we shepherd those new to our craft, our amazing industry is in good hands.

When I look into the eyes of that student or apprentice, I see so much. I hold my hand out to guide them, to provide all the knowledge and expertise I have accumulated along the way. They, in turn, ask me to share it unselfishly and provide it unconditionally. Placing myself in the shoes of the night-school student, I imagine already having finished a full work shift, or perhaps having waited to be relieved of childcare responsibilities so they can to go to night school and take their life to the next level. Many second career choice students are banking on the creative freedom and unlimited financial abundance available our industry. For some of them, corporate culture has left them longing for something more meaningful and fulfilling, so they come to us.

The mentoring of those new to our industry is probably the greatest unspoken need I have seen in my educational travels. In an industry that so defines itself by individual achievement, the idea that the road to achieve one’s goals and dreams might be less rocky with a mentor to sweep away the stones, and sometimes just listen, is often an unknown concept to those who wait to embrace it. In my classes I always ask, “Who here has a mentor?” Sadly, in each class, some attended by more than a hundred students, only a handful raise their hands.

The good news is that these few know what a mentor is when I ask them. The language differs and sometimes so do the specifics. It’s the industry professional who went the extra mile to answer some questions or the family member you can always rely on no matter what. It’s the 2 a.m. phone call that always gets answered no questions asked. I use modern examples they can identify with, “Where’s Oprah without Gail? Where’s Kobe Bryant without Phil Jackson?” Even the most notable and powerful know the power of a true mentor. They are truly life’s coaches.

Mentors are always there for us and know the true potential we often don’t see in ourselves. They will not only catch us when we fall but help us get back up and assure us we will move forward without fail. There is never a louder applause than that from a mentor at our successes and victories. They do not say, “I didn’t think you could do it,” no, but they are always affirming they knew you could do it all the time. They knew it just came down to you crossing the finish line to prove it. They remind you that the biggest smiles or greatest tears for you and your dreams come true because you made it happen.

Life by design not default gains greater ground with the aid of a mentor. They see that last bit of strength you thought you didn’t have. They let you use it to your benefit, and counsel you if they think you are misusing it. They challenge you, focus you and keep your boundaries in check.

Being a mentor costs little or nothing but not being one is a cost our or any industry should never have to bear. The dividends paid can never be truly measured, but if smiles, hugs or just the simple nod after hearing “well done” were counted in dollars we just solved the national deficit.

At the end of my classes, I always have a question and answer period with the students, which is my favorite part. Virtually at each class, the question always is put to me, “Who is your mentor?” I always explain that I have many mentors for the various aspects of my life, to maintain balance. And to them I am forever grateful. I have mentors in business Like James O’ Regan and Russell Hersovitz, the president and executive director of Carlton Hair’s 32 salons whom I have known and served with for 25 years. My industry advocate mentors, Fred Jones, Alex Irving and Bob Gross, they guided my industry passion to becoming the president of the largest beauty board in the U.S.

I also have inspiration from people I have mentored. Much inspiration comes from my two children Annie and Austin whose unconditional love requires me to always be my better self no matter what. There is my Nephew Jeremy, who followed me into this industry, who is now one of Austin Texas’ rising star stylists and his sister Christina who inspires me always. There are also the apprentices and assistants I mentor day to day in my salon who never let me forget what I came here to do and have never let me stop teaching for over 35 years.

Lastly, they ask me, “Isn’t there that one person who has it on all levels, professional, personal, private that mentors and guides you in all ways and situations?” I tell the students that 15 minutes before every class I get a phone call, it’s simple and straight to the point with words like, “Knock ‘em dead baby, have a great class! Rock the house!”

I got that phone call at the first class and the 25th class, each time a little different to fit the situation. Each class would present itself as a challenge, and sometimes the call would be person-to-person and sometimes straight to voicemail, but the unconditional love, pride and faith in that 30-second call from my greatest mentor, friend and life’s partner one could hope for meant the world to me. The final act is always the same; I make a phone call to my mentor at the end of class to say I’m done and to share the good, the bad and what I’ll do different next time. Mentored while mentoring, what a concept.

In conclusion, I want to take this opportunity to thank all my industry family that has graciously allowed me to share my road less travelled dialogue from the Blue Highways of the beauty profession and to have an amazing Holiday season and New Year full of personal and professional abundance.

Jerry Tyler’s column Blue Highways is his “Road Less Traveled” perspective on the solutions and challenges facing the beauty industry. Jerry Tyler has been a stylist since 1975 serving as the former artistic director for Vidal Sassoon Academy and currently as Director of Education for Carlton Hair salons. He is also a licensed cosmetology instructor and has served as President of the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.