What I Wish I Knew in Barber School: Rodrick Samuels

Samuels during his “barber school days” (left) and today’s Samuels (right).

Rodrick Samuels (@rodricksamuels), barber, educator and owner of Hair Lab Detroit, learned at an early age that success doesn’t come easy. Here, he reflects on his experiences and what he wished he knew back in barber school. 

Dear “Barber School Rodrick,”

When you’re 19, your mom and sister will set you up with the guy who cut your hair when you were a little boy. His name is Anthony, and working for him will make you realize your potential. It won’t be ideal—it’s not formal schooling, after all—but the discipline and structure will keep you in line. Appreciate it for what it’s worth. 


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You’ll complete your hours under Anthony’s watch and you’ll feel on top of the world. You’ll think you’re ready for your state exam, but you’re not. You’re going to fail, not just once, but twice.  Mom might be disappointed, but you just need to buckle down. You want to take the elevator to success, but sometimes the stairs are the only option. Your third time will be the charm and you’ll be well on your way. 

Now you’re 26 years old and you’ve spent the past nine years working at Unique Cuts, honing your craft, dreaming and knowing you want more. So, you go after it. You open a school. There you are—a college failure with no proper schooling, opening an institute of higher learning. Who would’ve thought this was possible? 

That’s the biggest lesson you’ll learn in life: You’re going to fail time and time again, but the failures will set you up for successes greater than you imagined. You’ll weed out the people who don’t believe in you and you will build a core network of people who push you to be a better barber, educator, dad and man. 

If I could tell you one thing, it would be to pave your own path. You don’t find success by following the crowd; you gain success by doing something better than anyone else. Aim to prove why you are the best at what you do, and success will come. 

I’m rooting for you, 

“Future Rodrick”