By Lisa Leady
There once was a girl I knew a long time ago. This girl had mild brain damage from the use of forceps at birth and was later diagnosed with ADHD/ADD. School was difficult because she needed the visual aspect of learning as opposed to auditory. The damage was done to the auditory part of her brain.
Growing up, she was made to believe she had limitations. There were many things she couldn’t do because of her “handicap.” Most of the world had her believing in a terrible phrase: “I can’t.” She grew up in a dog grooming shop and was told from early on that grooming was all she was going to be able to accomplish in life. That decision was made for her.
The words “I can’t” became words she lived by whenever something was difficult. Those words became a crutch. There were other things she wanted to pursue in life. She wanted to work with handicapped children or perhaps do something in criminal justice. She wasn’t allowed to pursue either at the time, as she was told the schooling would be far too difficult for her. When she was 17, she swore off grooming to try other things. After graduation, she became a pharmacy tech for a couple of years then went on to work in retail management.
Unbelievable to even herself, she soon realized the void in her life from not working with dogs. Luckily, there were two people in her life who always believed in her: one being her sister and the other being an amazing man she had met. This man taught her she could be anyone or do anything she set her mind to. She married him after a year of dating. At 22, she worked for a local shop and loved what she was doing. She loved it, because it was her choice to groom. It was no longer the job she had to do because that was all she was capable of.
Some of her family had moved out of state for a few years but had since moved back. She was told flat out that she could come back as a bather but not a groomer. She had learned so much on her own already, so of course, “no” was the answer! A few years down the road, the girl opened her own salon. Again she was told there was no way she could handle it. One of her sisters, who was like a mother to her, came to work in the salon with her. It flourished! She had set out to prove that she could do anything she set her mind to. Over the next few years, the girl came to love herself more and more with the help of her loving husband and sister. She and her sister began competitive grooming. She no longer needed validation from anyone.
I am sure you have realized by now that the girl I knew long ago was me. Once I lost the negative influences, the passion came alive in me. I was now doing this for myself. I have been very blessed with all that I have accomplished. I could not have done any of this without my sister, Sue, and my husband, Eric. They taught me how to catch the dreams that had eluded me.
These adversities fueled my passion to strive to be my best. Even though I’m retired from the ring, the passion is alive and well. I want groomers to aspire to be their best and not settle for just “alright.” I love to help groomers succeed. Whether it’s competitive grooming, certifying, or anything else, that is your passion! It’s an honor to give back and be your cheerleader just as it was done for me. I don’t want to hear “I can’t.” I want to hear “Oh, yes I did!”
Is being passionate in life necessary for excelling at what one does? I think it does to some degree. I think most people (like my old self) wanted to reach for the stars but are just too afraid to begin the process of pursuing them, mostly due to fear of rejection, failure, or ridicule. It can be a potentially ugly experience at first—you know, leaving our safety net of what we do well and are comfortable doing. But of course—nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Being passionate in what you do is truly the driving force behind not accepting average work out of yourself, especially when you know what you’re capable of. Is my daily grooming always show ring ready? Of course not! I would be lying if I said it were! That said, I do try each and every day to keep my work up by challenging myself to not send ANY dog home with a grooming job that I’m not proud of. This alone helps keep my technique sharp so I don’t disappoint myself. Would the vast majority of my clients even notice if the grooming were mediocre? I’m certain they wouldn’t. But worst of all, I would know. What’s the point in spending years acquiring knowledge and skills if you only put them to use occasionally? It seems a waste, doesn’t it? This is where your love and passion sets you apart.
Your passion, like mine, can be expressed in many small ways. If you have a customer that is open minded and willing, ask them if you can try something a little different or new once in a while. Of course, I like to push the pencil myself, as my personal favorite saying is, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask for permission!” What’s the harm? You can always fix your own mistake next time. Well, hopefully it’s YOU fixing it!
But seriously, ask that client if you can try one of the new Japanese style trims on their dog this time or add some color or blingy tattoos to their dog. Why not keep yourself entertained as well? We have chosen this as our career, so don’t always turn it into a JOB. Have fun along the way as well. Of course there’s many a day when all we want is to get done and get the heck home and into our pajamas, and we surely don’t feel like working later and trying new things. Allow yourself those days as well, but keep forcing yourself to learn and try new things to keep your own batteries and creativity charged! Remember, we are in this for the long haul.
Your passion, like mine, may drive you to do crazy, irrational things–if you’re lucky enough to allow it to get out of hand. This meaning, of course, competitive grooming! So you’re a shop owner or mobile groomer who’s doing well enough. You’re content and happy doing what you’re doing, but once in a while, you feel like there must be something more. Maybe you’re falling into a rut like we all do in life. You start thinking, how am I going to do this for another 20 years before I retire? Maybe you stopped pushing yourself some time ago. Maybe you haven’t made the effort to keep up with new trends, etc. Why not try a competition or two?
No one says you have to shoot for GroomTeam, for goodness sakes! Simply find a high-quality dog (even I can find them in my rural location) that you’re comfortable with… and go for it! If you can’t find a suitable dog, why not look into entering one of the Rescue Rodeos that many of the shows are now offering? The satisfaction of knowing your cute trim may help get one of these grateful dogs placed into a loving home is unmeasureable. Trust me—even though you feel like the whole world will be watching you (the nervous first timer), they’re not. They have their own problems out there in the ring! Meet some new people, attend a seminar or two… but most of all, have fun while inspiring yourself. Let your passion be the guide that sets you in motion!