The New Yorker: Personal Best

I remembered reading this fascinating New Yorker article in 2011 about a very successful surgeon at the top of his field. One day he realized that he needed a coach in order to continue to improve his work. It really struck me that everyone can benefit from coaching, not just professional athletes. Mentoring is something I have been doing throughout my career. The article has inspired me to offer coaching in an official capacity and I will be sharing more information on my website regarding opportunities to work with me soon.

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On Mentorship: Gina, Dante, and Gerard

We recently asked some of the people Michael has mentored throughout the years what this experience has been like. Below Gina, Dante, and Gerard share their stories and some of Michael’s best advice.

Interviewed and Edited by Cat Meyer and Ella Chodos-Irvine


Gina Schiappacasse

Social Media Consultant & Illustrator

How long have you known Michael?
I met Michael in early 2012 at an event he was speaking at for Cutler salon. I was modeling for a hairstylist friend and he struck up a conversation with me while we waited backstage. I was very impressed with his knowledge on the subject of fashion illustration (as I am a fashion illustrator) and thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him. We exchanged contact info and kept in touch for a bit before he offered me a job managing his social media at Hairstory.

What areas of your life has Michael offered advice or guidance?
Primarily professionally, as an employee of his and as an artist, but he has supported me through a lot of things over the years.

What is some of the best advice he has given you?
There have been so many gems over the years that I’ve been lucky enough to work with Michael, but one of the most recently memorable was when I was struggling to decide whether to take a job solely for the money and he told me, “There is a lot of power in learning to say no.” I declined the opportunity, and I couldn’t have felt better about the whole experience. There truly is a lot of power in knowing your worth.

What benefits have you found from Michael’s coaching/mentorship/advice? Anything else you’d like to add?
Having a sounding board in Michael has been so valuable because I truly respect him in many ways and so his guidance carries a lot of weight for me. He is also deeply compassionate and really takes the time to understand what you want and how you operate. Having someone really listen to you and take your ambition as well as your needs into account is invaluable.


Dante Pronio

Hairdresser & Educator

How long have you known Michael?
I have been coming to Michael for career advice and support at every turn of my career lately. Since I have followed Michael's advice my path has become much more straight and narrow. I have focused on the important aspects of my career and remained persistent to achieve goals because of the guidance Michael has given.

After I experienced some low points I connected with Michael to seek some professional advice; not only was I given solid advice to reinvigorate my career, but I also shared laughs and friendship on a more personal level, which goes a long way. I have known Michael for close to 20 years now. He has seen me through many relationships, jobs, and eras of my life. In respect to all, he has been very transparent with his advice on any and all of those topics. Michael is honest and doesn't pull punches; he’s not afraid to tell the truth even when it hurts, and that takes courage.

What areas of your life has Michael offered advice or guidance?
Michael has been especially helpful in guiding me to create my personal brand. Whether it's leading by example or direct guidance Michael has helped me focus on brand strategy and direction for my education business and salon business.

What benefits have you found from Michael’s coaching/mentorship/advice? Anything else you’d like to add?
Because of my opportunity to work with Michael I have learned what it means to be good at the craft of hair. Michael has shown me the importance of a sharp eye, which makes a great hairstylist, and why it's important to elevate the craft. Without this knowledge, I may have had a lesser view on the overall craft of hair. His exposure and sharing of the best and most elite corners of the industry have been of incredible value to me. Michael has truly shown me what it means to be a great hairdresser and the paths needed to be taken to get there. For that, I am forever grateful.


Gerard Scarpaci

Hairdresser & Hairbrained Co-Founder

How long have you known Michael?
By reputation, professionally since 1991 when I began as a New York City based hairdresser. I first met him personally in 2003 as a Bumble Network salon owner, and truly got to know him on a personal level in 2015.

What areas of your life has Michael offered advice or guidance?
Perhaps some of the most important guidance I have ever received in my life came when I asked Michael what his key to success in business had been and he replied… meditation. I was so lifted by this unexpected response that I set out on a regular practice, which has greatly improved not only my business success but my entire life and the lives of those who are closest to me.

What is some of the best advice he has given you?
Michael encouraged me to infuse more of myself into Hairbrained. He suggested that the more personal I made our content and the more our community felt connected to me personally the more we would grow. It has proven to be true.

What benefits have you found from Michael’s coaching/mentorship/advice?
In all honesty, I am truly a happier, better person, due to Michael’s suggestion to take up meditation. It is as if someone gave me the keys to limitless clarity and a whole new perspective on life and success.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I have so much respect and admiration for Michael, I don’t know if our industry will ever see another hairdresser who will reach the same heights in business again. The landscape has changed so much, but I hope we all can benefit from his wisdom and experience and make a go at it!

Fast Company: How our brains process praise and why it’s killing our potential

I’ve recently recommended this article by Art Markman to people I coach or mentor. I thought it was a great piece to share here.


By Art Markman.

When your brain gets a reward (and your brain treats praise from others as a reward), what it learns is to do that action again. But, repetition builds habits, not growth.

News flash: People love praise. They love being told that they’re doing a good job, that their effort is appreciated, and that they are a valuable member of the team. They love it so much, that we have embedded praise deeply in the culture. Our schools provide plenty of opportunities for students to get recognized for achievements large and small. Parents proudly display sportsmanship awards.

The problem with praise, though, is that we don’t learn much from it.

When your brain gets a reward (and your brain treats praise from others as a reward), what it learns is to do that action again. If you want to reinforce a particular behavior, then praising that behavior is a great way to make that happen.

But, repetition builds habits, not growth. Chances are, your ability to advance in your career (and your ability to help your colleagues to advance in their careers) rests on improvement. You need to discover what skills you don’t yet have. More importantly, you need to find out which skills you think you have mastered that actually require improvement.

The most skilled people in any endeavor have something in common. They love to be critiqued. They want to know what they can do better in the future. And they use criticism constructively–regardless of how it was meant by the person giving it.

In order to use criticism effectively, it is crucial to start by understanding your own reaction to it. Often, you start by feeling a blow to your self-esteem. It can be physically painful to find out that you need improvement.

That pain can quickly turn to anger directed at yourself or at the person who gave you negative feedback. To recover, you start to defend your actions or lash out at the other person. Those bad reactions will lead anyone to think twice before pointing out something that needs to be fixed in the future.

Instead, when you get a critique from someone else, you have to start by smiling (even if you have to force it at first). Thank the person for the feedback. You might even ask more questions to understand more about what they noticed and what they were thinking. Resist any urge to explain why you did what you did. Just listen.

Then, don’t do anything with that information for about a day. In the moment, you might be tempted to stew on the criticism and even nurture the hurt or the anger.

Instead, get a good night’s sleep. It turns out that sleep actually helps you to separate the emotional reaction you have to a situation from the conceptual content of that event. So, after you have slept, you’ll actually be able to think about the criticism without feeling as badly about it.

Next, pay attention to what you were told. Is this something that you have heard before? Perhaps you are learning something new about yourself. Start to pay more attention to that aspect of your performance and see if you notice for yourself what you were told by someone else.

Then, work to improve. In some situations, you might know exactly what you need to do to get better. In many instances, though, you will need some assistance. Find a colleague, friend, coach, or mentor. Have them work with you to develop a program to support your growth.

If you put this plan into action, you’ll make three remarkable discoveries. First, you will get a lot more productive in your work, because you will repair some of your inefficiencies. Second, you’ll learn to be less sensitive to other people’s criticisms. You might even find you no longer need to sleep on someone’s advice before being able to think about it without frustration. Finally, you’ll even notice yourself becoming more self-critical. After all, you observe more of your own behavior than anyone else. The more you notice limitations in what you can do, the more opportunities for growth you create.