This morning as I rode the train to work, I took a minute to look around the car and absorb the expressive faces along on the journey. I thought about the complexity of everyone’s lives, including my own, and I found myself wishing I could sit down with each of them to get to know their quest from the time they were little, to the present. It is rare to meet someone who is confident enough to share their life story, but I am honored to be sharing with my followers the story of my friend and barber, Benson Lam. This is his story of perseverance & triumph.
I have known Benson since 2007 when we first met in high school, and to this day I am amazed by his ability to persist through challenges and remain positive. During the final year of his Bachelor's degree in Law, he and his family were faced with the abrupt departure of his father. Most would crumble at this situation, but he leveraged the dramatic life change as fuel to ignite his passion. Benson stood firmly by his family and commanded the responsibility of supporting his loved ones as the new head of the house, and provider. Balancing two lives at once both as a student in an intense program and as a blue-collar employee, he did what most people could not. He pushed through. Benson didn’t drop out of University, rather he successfully graduated and started his own business, with an exponentially growing client base.
Benson has been cutting hair since early high school out of his passion for the art and aesthetics and in April 2014, he decided to become a registered professional. Despite only recently deciding to attend school to train his craft, he has consistently been booked solid since the first time I tried to get an appointment with him. Makes you wonder: what if we all found our hidden talents? What would happen to our education system? Imagine a world where everyone did what they loved, and they were all exceptional at it!
At first I couldn’t understand how he was able to gather such a diverse and reputable client base. But after sitting for 45 minutes under his skillful hands, everything made sense. What makes him special isn’t just sheer talent, but it’s his value proposition to his clients and the ability to see far beyond the face value of what he charges. What makes him exceptional is a simple fact that he isn’t satisfied until the cut is perfect. He truly demonstrates duty towards his clients far beyond what I have ever seen in this profession - and I can guarantee that it isn't just because I'm his "friend". Every time I walk into his shop it's as though I'm a part of his family. I think everyone who enters feels like a distant brother. Another one of the many reasons that I keep going back there. Even if the client is satisfied, Benson invests time to make the cut phenomenal when most barbers would choose to walk away, favouring volume over quality.
When I'm in his chair, I forget his struggle. In fact, had he not opened up to me about his story I never would have guessed that his choice to be here working in the shop was the deciding factor between a difficult life for him and his family, and the successful life he leads today. Benson has learned how to make the responsibility of providing for himself and his loved ones, into a profitable and enjoyable career. That, is something that I truly respect and aspire to achieve myself.
Sometimes it takes an extreme circumstances to send us towards rock bottom before we realize where our true priorities lie and where our passions stem from. Be it money, work-life balance, status, power - whatever pushes you to get up and go to work each day, to me life is about self-discovery and continuous learning.