Melissa Verplank discusses the three stages of learning and how continued education plays a long-term role in your grooming career. Tune in for tips about how to hold onto the joy of learning, plus some snack ideas for the Westminster Dog Show!
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There’s so many new breeds that are being introduced to the American Kennel Club, and sometimes I don’t always know what that dog should look like, what nice specimens are. As long as I know what the dog should look like, more than not, I can make that dog, if I were to have a pet one walk into the salon, I would have the resources and knowledge to know how to make that dog look like it should. Every single year, I always love watching Westminster. I can’t remember when I’ve ever missed one in the last almost 30 years.
But while I was sitting there watching the show, it’s a long show and it goes over two nights. We had had dinner my husband and I, and I had that inkling for something sweet. I really wanted something, but at the same token, I eat keto. And keto is a pretty strict diet plan that eliminates a lot of different things. What I wanted to have and what I could have were two totally different things. I wanted brownies so badly, but I couldn’t. That just wasn’t in my eating plan, and I didn’t want to break.
So I went upstairs and I was kind of rummaging around and I thought, “I’m going to make some fat bombs.” I love chocolate chip cookies, so I thought, “I’ll make some chocolate chip fat bombs.” So I pulled everything out, I was mixing it up, but I didn’t have any soft butter. What I ended up doing was throwing the small bowl in the microwave, melting the butter, and then I added the rest of my ingredients. When I got done with it and I’m starting to mix it up, it was just runny. It wasn’t like a normal cookie dough-type fat bomb. So I thought, “Hmm, this isn’t going to work. This isn’t coming out the way that I really wanted it to.”
Then I took a piece of knowledge that I had from another source. My good friend Judy Hudson showed me how to make keto mug bread. I thought, “I wonder if I were to add an egg to this little mix that I’ve got going on and toss it in the microwave for 90 seconds, I wonder if I’d end up with something like a chocolate chip cookie. That would work.” So I did it, and I got to say, I don’t have one to show you right here. But last night during the dog show, I had my little bowl of chocolate chip, kind of like a cookie brownie. It absolutely did the trick. It got me over that craving of those brownies, something sweet that I wanted to just sit there and slowly eat.
As I was sitting there watching this show and enjoying my little treat that I had made for myself, I realized that I was still being true to my diet plan, but it also related to what I was doing as a career move as well. I think it would apply to you guys, too.
When you first start learning, I’ve always compared a brand new learner to a dry sponge, and there is so much to learn with professional pet grooming. You’re just soaking it up, soaking it up, soaking it up. With the Paragon training programs, one of the things that I’ve always tried to relate it to is, we take in a 600 clock hour program and compact what it took me three years to gather on my own and push it down into just 600 hours. So it makes the learning a lot more concise and a lot more pointed. I mean, we know exactly where the learner needs to go. But I look at those new learners as dry sponges and how much information they need to absorb until that sponge is pretty moist. You could wring it out, and then it would absorb a little bit more, and it would wring out and absorb a little bit more. When I think about learning, I think about that brand new beginner being that dry sponge.
Then you’ve got that intermediate phase. That phase can go for a really, really long time. Sometimes it never goes away. But I call that the intermediate level. That’s where you’ve got enough knowledge, you’re not learning like a dry sponge anymore. But all of a sudden, you’re going to hear something, and you’re going to go, “Hmm, I wonder if that would work.” You start putting things together. But there’s always another something you can learn, and there’s something else that you can put together to make your job be faster, be more effective, be more rewarding. It really helps minimize the burnout if you keep realizing that you’re not going to come to an end of your learning.
Even when you hit that top level, which I would consider mastery, the learning really starts to continue forward, and that’s where you start putting new things together and making it work for you, kind of like what I did with those brownies last night. Or not the brownies, that’s what I wanted, but those little chocolate chip keto-type cookies. I thought, I have been dealing with my diet since my late 20s, and I’m approaching the late 50s now. I didn’t just flip over to keto and flip a switch and knew how to eat this way. It’s been a really long journey, and I’ve learned and I’ve learned and I’ve learned how to tweak my diet to make myself feel better. I’m constantly making adjustments and changes to it based on more information that I learn.
But bottom line is, now I can take something, I can look at a recipe and adapt it to what I need it to be. I can look at grooming, I can look at business, and I can pull, and I can model, and I can get ideas and inspirations from other areas and pull it into my businesses. Or for you guys, you might be able to pull some new something that you’ve heard, that you’ve read, that you’ve seen, that somebody told you, and apply it to your everyday grooming. That’s going to make your day go so much easier.
It’s just the little things. No longer are you making these big leaps in knowledge, but you’re making these little fine adjustments to get to that mastery stage where you’re just getting better and better and better. You’re really being able to put together a lot of different things together to make it work for you.
That’s what’s so cool about professional pet grooming is that there’s no absolute black and white. There’s no point where you get where you don’t know everything. There’s always more to learn. There’s always more things that you can change, that you can adjust, that you can apply to make your day just go a little bit easier and to get that satisfaction, that reward that it worked. Or even if it didn’t work, kind of like my cookies. I mean, I want to make a little changes in that recipe that I did last night, but you got to start somewhere. Then it’s just a matter of tweaking it and tweaking it and tweaking it until you can get it absolutely perfect.
That’s what I challenge you guys to do, is to stay on that quest for information, to gain that knowledge. It just really helps make your day be more interesting and for your career to be more satisfying.