I was sitting in my barber’s chair today as he took the first pass at my beard. I was looking myself in the eye and trusting Matteo to do what I’ve trusted him to do now for over two years: make me look a little more fresh and little more clean. But this morning, I gave him a little more to work with than normal, it’d been at least two months since I’d been by and my beard was drawing the wrong kind of attention. As one of my investors said last week, I either had lost him all of his money or I was doing so well that I could no longer be bothered to care.
While sitting in the chair and trusting my face to someone else, I thought about the first time a couple years ago when I’d first entrusted him with my beard. I’d spent a couple months reeling from some personal changes in life and living the way I imagined Hemmingway spent a couple months every now and then: I woke up and wrote in the morning, went to the gym and boxed in the afternoon, and I drank bourbon at night. (That on repeat for a couple of months and you too can have a great beard.) At a certain point, I realized that my beard had grown longer than what my beard trimmer could handle. Notch number 11 was no longer an option but neither was looking like a hipster Paul Bunyan. But more on that in a second.
Have you seen the show Billions? Several people that know me pretty well had recommended it so I got my free month’s worth of Showtime on my AppleTV and started watching it. Damian Lewis plays a beloved billionaire, Bobby ‘Axe’ Axelrod, with a squeaky clean reputation and Paul Gimatti plays a shrewd US Attorney of New York intent on taking down Axe Capital. Fun twist, Giamatti’s wife Wendy works for Axe as their head of HR and internal professional coach. Now, there a ton of reasons as an ambitious professional that I like the show, but the lingering question that I had was about Wendy’s role in Axe Captial’s success. She knew how to get inside the head of top performers and help them find a new level of growth. She knew how to hear what they were saying but actually listen to what they were inferring and “fix them” by the end of their one on one sessions. They’d gotten as far as they’d gotten on their own, but to grow further would require trusting someone else. She was grooming them for the next level.
And that’s why it clicked this morning as Matteo finished up and put his straight edge razor back in the drawer. There are a ton of guys running around with hair on their face but most of them keep their beards at a length they can control with a $19.99 beard trimmer from Walgreens. The reason that people stop me and compliment my beard (I know, I know, but they do!) is that it has been maintained and groomed by someone other than me.
That brings me back to my question about the show Billions and the firms like Axe Capital currently operating around the world and the role of coaches or mentors in their success. My question was also compounded this week when tech icons and actual billionaires Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos and Ben Horowitz paid tribute to their recently passed professional coach, Bill Campbell; could any of these top performers have made it to the level they did without the grooming of their raw talent by someone else? At what point did the grooming begin? How frequently would they come in for a session? Who is out there now serving a similar role and bringing up the next generation of legends in the world of innovation, finance, and tech?
Where do you go when your growth has outgrown the do-it-yourself maintenance?