Episode 211: From Addiction to Service
‘The Men’s Groomer’ Jason Schneidman’s Journey of Healing, Helping, & Giving Back
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing my guest, Jason Schneiderman, also known as The Men’s Groomer. Many of you may have come across Jason on Instagram, where he stands out with his distinctive style and passion for helping others. He roams the streets of Venice, offering haircuts to the homeless and creating connections with those in need.
Jason’s path is deeply rooted in his journey of recovery from addiction. Despite coming from a loving family and a supportive environment, he found himself homeless and struggling with various substances. After 19 years of sobriety, Jason is dedicated to extending a helping hand to others going through similar challenges.
During our conversation, Jason addresses common misconceptions about addiction, sharing personal experiences and shedding light on the importance of service and giving back. He emphasizes that it doesn’t matter where we come from or our circumstances; everyone can make a difference, no matter how big or small.
Jason’s story serves as an inspiration and a reminder that empathy and compassion can transform lives. So let’s tune in and learn from his insights on supporting those in need and cultivating a culture of service and kindness.
Jason’s approach is truly remarkable. Rather than claiming to hold all the answers, he humbly shares what worked for him and offers assistance to anyone willing to try it. A significant portion of the proceeds from his men’s grooming product sales goes towards providing scholarships for those in need.
He actively collaborates with various organizations that offer scholarships and grants. He is in the process of establishing a mobile hair truck that can accommodate up to six people simultaneously. Despite these ambitious projects, Jason continues to hit the streets of Venice, offering haircuts to individuals experiencing homelessness.
Browsing through Jason’s Instagram account, The Men’s Groomer, one can’t help but be moved by the videos and photos showcasing these encounters. It serves as a poignant reminder that those on the streets are not faceless strangers but individuals with their own stories, loved ones, and temporary struggles. Jason deeply understands this, having experienced it firsthand.
What resonates most about this conversation is the universal desire to help others. Whether driven by self-interest or pure altruism, we all desire to make a difference. Not everyone may possess Jason’s unique skills, but that doesn’t diminish the value of our contributions. The key takeaway is that every act of kindness can have a profound impact, no matter how small. Let this conversation inspire us to find meaningful ways to lend a hand wherever possible.
Another crucial takeaway from our conversation is the reminder that our identities and circumstances don’t define us. No matter who we are, we wake up each day and strive to do our best. Jason’s journey serves as a powerful testament to this truth. He embodies resilience, determination, and the unwavering commitment to make a positive impact. His story is truly inspiring, and I hope you enjoy the conversation.
Welcome to the Gabby Reece Show, where we break down the complex worlds of health, fitness, family, business, and relationships with the world’s leading experts. I’m here to simplify these topics and give you practical takeaways that you can start using today. We all know that living a healthy balanced life isn’t always easy. Let’s try working on managing life a little better and have some fun along the way. After all, life is one big experiment, and we’re all doing our best.
“I have so much energy from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep. I found riding Harleys. I bought boats; I was jet skiing, surfing, and constantly trying new things, you know? And constantly can’t sit still. I wanted to feel. I went into gambling for a while because I was feeling. The guy that was helping me was like, you’re going to keep doing what you want to do until you’re sick of doing it. And that was the best thing I heard because you can’t change somebody unless they’re sick of doing it. And I just got sick of doing the unhealthy stuff, and I started doing more healthy stuff, and now I’m really excited.”
Okay, Jason, I’m so excited. Usually, we’re here to get Laird a haircut. And today, we are at your office, where you created this beautiful place. Like so many people, I was familiar with who you are because of your Instagram and some beautiful things you’re doing. You have a very compelling story that we can learn so much from. Could you share your journey from your addiction issue? Just take me there first.
Absolutely. Addiction is a common struggle that affects many individuals. It’s a story that resonates with countless people, and I understand the significance of sharing experiences and offering hope.
In my journey, addiction began at a young age. As I progressed through elementary school, I felt a sense of being different from my peers. At 13, I turned to smoking weed and drinking to socialize and quiet the racing thoughts in my mind. It seemed to fill a void within me.
I’ve realized that I am wired differently from others, and I believe this applies to many individuals grappling with addiction. While some people can navigate their day and unwind with a glass of wine in the evening, I question how they can “come down.” For me, the desire to remain in an altered state becomes all-consuming, as if I never want to return to reality.
Certainly, addiction can manifest in various ways and affect individuals from different backgrounds. In your case, you seemed to have loving and supportive parents, so the environment was not abusive. Instead, it may have resulted from inherent wiring in your brain.
I can also relate to this, as I am married to someone who has battled addiction. In Laird’s case, it was alcohol, specifically wine. He would drink it every day, go to bed early, wake up early, and perform at a high level. However, it was still an addiction and an altered state.
He referred to his alter ego as Larry, who drank excessively. It’s interesting to explore these dynamics and the reasons behind addiction. I observed that creative and sensitive individuals may be more susceptible to addiction. The way the world impacts them and any childhood trauma or emotional pain can lead to seeking solace in substances.
While having a nice family is a blessing, there may still be internal factors that drive one towards addiction. What were you trying to manage?
In addiction, one of the key lessons I learned is that it is often described as a selfish and self-centered disease. When someone is sensitive, their focus tends to be inward, constantly thinking about themselves. Whether they are thriving and achieving great things, they tend to seek validation and attention, saying, “Look at me; I am amazing.” Conversely, when they are in misery, they may adopt a victim mentality, thinking, “Poor me, poor me, pour me a drink.”
From the moment they wake up, their mind becomes chaotic and intimidating. Even now, as I prepared for this podcast, I felt the overwhelming pressure to perform well and sound good. However, before entering this interview, I humbled myself and prayed, acknowledging that it was not about me. Instead, I asked for guidance, for the words to flow through me, and for me not to hinder the purpose of this conversation.
Therefore, addiction can be seen as a disease driven by self-obsession and self-centeredness. The constant desire is to silence the noise within, and for creative individuals, this struggle is intensified. It becomes a delicate dance between creativity and self-absorption, shaping the dynamics of their journey.
So 19 years of being sober now. You’ve built a business; you have a family; you have three children. And you’re telling me with all that you know, you still constantly manage and practice.
I’m not really going to talk about my recovery because of anonymity. So, basically, I was taught a formula. And it’s called contrary action. So it’s a daily reprieve upon spiritual maintenance. So every day, my alter ego shows up in me. I have to apologize, and I have to make amends. I have to continue to look at my behavior and my actions and do contrary actions.
It’s like I text you in the morning and say, “Hey, I need this.” And then the second text is, “Oh, hi. How are you doing?” It’s so apparent to me that most people say, “Hi, Gabby, how are you? Hope you’re well.” And then send what they need. I send what I need, and I hit send. And then I’m circling back, “Oh yeah, by the way, how are you doing?” So that’s contrary action. I am mindful of my actions and hence my service work. If I am doing things for others and not thinking about myself, I feel good about myself at the end of the day and don’t have to drink and use. So that’s the way it works.
It’s interesting to reflect on the point you made. Alfred Adler, a philosopher who lived during the same time as Freud, has written numerous books. When you distill his ideas, he says that if we want to experience a sense of happiness, we shouldn’t fixate on achieving a permanent state of happiness. Instead, he suggests that we can find fulfillment by engaging in acts of service. Regardless of who we are, being of service to others plays a significant role in feeling good about ourselves. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures; even small acts of service count. For example, your wife caring for your small child is a meaningful service to the family. It’s important to remember that acts of service come in various forms.
How long did you battle addiction?
I hit rock bottom in 2000. I was hooked on crack cocaine.
How does that happen? It goes from one thing to the next, to the next?
My journey started with partying and waking up on people’s couches in my late twenties. It wasn’t glamorous, and I could tell people didn’t want me around anymore. It all began with after-hours parties and indulging in cocaine. Eventually, I found myself smoking crack, intensifying the euphoric feeling I experienced with cocaine. The initial rush from smoking crack was unlike anything I had ever felt. It was an overwhelming sense of pleasure and an intense desire to connect with others and start businesses together. However, this high lasted only a few minutes, followed by a devastating crash that made me feel like my world was collapsing. I felt trapped, paralyzed, and consumed by negative thoughts. The constant cycle of chasing that initial high, enduring the crash, and desperately seeking more became exhausting. It was a never-ending cycle that left me drained physically and emotionally. The temporary moments of high were overshadowed by the constant pursuit and the toll it took on my well-being.
Your family doesn’t give up on you, which is another challenge that outs someone – the connection, the friends, and the family of someone going through this. What do they do?
So first of all, the addict’s great at hiding it from everybody and making people believe. We’re king manipulators. We rationalize everything. So when I talk to these people on the street, you might see me diving in and getting gnarly and talking to people a certain way, but I’m not after that person. I’m after the disease.
So, my parents – I hid it from them. I lived down in San Diego, so I was miles away. Anytime I’d come up, I’d hit the tanning bed, and I would eat and sleep for maybe a day and try and look better. And then I would show up and hide everything.
They did an intervention on me. My mom was crying, and my sister, whom I looked up to, said, “When you’re ready, hit me up.” And then I hit her up a week later, and I was ready because I was done. And that was in 2000, but it took me four years of going in and out, and I put some time together, and then I’d relapse because of my disease. As much as I resisted the urge to seek drugs, there were moments when I found myself driving toward the familiar spot involuntarily. It was a bewildering experience, feeling powerless to stop the pull. It’s truly mind-boggling. This phenomenon is often called “white knuckling,” where one tries to resist the cravings without a solid foundation of support.
If you have a friend going through addiction, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy and understanding. While your straightforward approach may effectively engage with strangers, dealing with a friend requires a different approach. Similar to what your sister did for you, are you offering your support and letting them know you are there for them when they are ready?
There is a unique power in one addict working with another. It’s a gift that comes from personal experience and understanding. I have been fortunate enough to find what worked for me, and it feels like having a magic wand in my hands.
I recently encountered a guy who said, “I think my contractor is using, but he was claiming to be sober, but I noticed beer cans and confronted him about it. He became defensive.” Of course, he did! But coming from someone who has walked the same path, I could connect with him on a deeper level. I told him that the charade was up and that I understood where he was. He tried to lie, but I wasn’t interested in hearing it. I could cut through the excuses and get straight to the heart of the matter.
I often receive messages from people on Instagram asking for help for their struggling family members. My response is always the same: have the person reach out to me directly. I believe in the power of taking the first step and seeking help. If they are ready to ask for assistance, I am there to support them.
I received a phone call recently, and it took a surprising turn within just five minutes. This guy started sharing his personal drama, which overwhelmed me. Even though I didn’t know him well, I wasn’t interested in hearing about his problems with drugs and alcohol. I asked, “Your problem is drugs and alcohol, right?” And he was like, “Define what an addict is.” I said, “If you pick up a pipe and a drink, is your life unmanageable? That could be a sign of addiction.” However, he insisted that his addiction wasn’t the main issue. As he continued talking, he mentioned his involvement with gangs in the past. I reminded him that all of that was in the past and that what matters now is the present moment. I emphasized that if he can put down the drugs and alcohol and put in the necessary work, he can find a way to overcome his difficulties.
Personally, I haven’t been to jail in the last 19 years, even though I used to get picked up for various offenses. It’s a testament to the possible change when we make positive choices and commit to personal growth.
If someone is listening to this and saying, “Hey, I haven’t personally experienced addiction,” it’s common to have misconceptions about it. Many people believe that individuals struggling with addiction can stop using substances or that it’s something to be feared when they haven’t gone through it themselves. They may observe how you approach the topic directly and wonder what they’re missing. So, what is it that we don’t fully understand but is so crucial about addiction?
That’s a thought-provoking question. As an addict, I often feel wired differently from others. There’s something unique about our experiences and perspectives. I mentioned earlier the formula I follow: getting out of ourselves, taking responsibility for our actions, and ensuring that we keep our side of the street clean.
It can be challenging for someone unfamiliar with addiction, a “normie,” to grasp these concepts fully. Sometimes I’m working with another addict, and they almost convince me otherwise. However, I remind myself not to buy into their rationalizations.
Believing that addiction is a disease is a crucial aspect that some people may not understand or accept. Some believe that if someone stays clean for long enough, they can return to using. I tried that approach for four years, and I ended up with nothing on the streets each time. I realized that the only way to maintain stability is by admitting and accepting that my life becomes unmanageable when I drink or use drugs. I’m not willing to risk going down that path again.
After 19 years of sobriety, one day at a time, I am committed to maintaining it no matter what. While I don’t attend many meetings, I prioritize my recovery and the lessons I’ve learned. It’s a continuous journey that requires dedication and vigilance to keep moving forward. Nowhere does it say that you have to go to a meeting, but I take that back. My foundation was everything. Taking myself out of the equation, I used to say, “Drop me off on the moon, and come pick me up in a year because that’s how, how much it’s going to take to get me sober.” But what worked for me was emerging myself in a fellowship where there were other people that I was checking in with, and it was being accountable. Meetings were important for my foundation because sitting alone and isolating is the devil. It’ll take you out because you’re sitting you’re stuck with that selfish, self-centered head.
I remember a conversation with a friend where she jokingly said, “I’m never in good company when I’m in here,” pointing to her head. It made me realize that none of us are immune to the battles within our minds. The voice of addiction can be louder for some of us than others.
As for the protocol that you advocate for, it’s based on personal experience.
It’s what worked for me. It starts with going through a detoxification process to rid the body of substances. This step is crucial in preparing oneself for the journey toward recovery. The process of overcoming addiction takes time and dedication. In my case, I went through a six-month program, recognizing that true change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s like working out in a pool – you don’t become buff and strong after just a month.
A crucial part of my journey was being surrounded by fellow addicts in a supportive and accountable environment. Living in a house full of individuals going through similar struggles meant that we held each other accountable. We would call out any actions or behaviors not aligned with our recovery goals. Having a manager or someone in charge was important to maintain order and structure within the group, especially when many individuals are involved.
During these six months, the focus was on building a foundation of sobriety and changing our behaviors. There were consequences for our actions, such as writing essays to reflect on our choices and their impact. This emphasis on accountability played a significant role in our progress.
My peers and fellow housemates held me accountable for my actions. They would notice if I didn’t properly organize my belongings or if I was fantasizing about past indulgences. These discussions would take place during dinner, and there would be consequences for my behavior. One of these consequences involved writing essays on various topics related to sobriety. These essays served as a means of reflection and helped reinforce the need to change my behavior. It wasn’t about punishing myself for severe actions that would trigger a relapse. Instead, it was about taking responsibility and actively working towards personal growth.
Action and behavior were at the core of this transformative process. I stayed within the structured sober living program for six months without engaging in any work. This allowed me to focus solely on my recovery and learning to be accountable. Daily tasks like making my bed, doing chores for the house, and cooking for a group of 20 people became part of my routine.
I attended two meetings each day and returned home for dinner. Every aspect of my life was scrutinized, and I could see the positive changes within myself. During this time, I truly began to mature and take responsibility for my actions. I learned to open doors for others and engage in acts of kindness that didn’t come naturally to me.
In the subsequent six months, I transitioned into the working world while applying the principles and lessons I had learned in the structured living environment. The foundation built during the first six months continued to guide me as I navigated my new responsibilities outside the program.
Sometimes, we overlook the importance of life’s simple and mundane actions. It’s not always about the flashy or glamorous things. It’s about quiet acts of kindness, like opening doors for others or putting things back in their place. These seemingly small gestures can have a significant impact on those around us.
Society often celebrates the loud and flashy aspects of life. Still, at the core, the foundational acts truly matter. I recall hearing a piece of advice that resonated with me. It emphasized the significance of taking responsibility for small actions, such as returning your grocery cart to its designated area instead of leaving it by your car.
These seemingly insignificant acts are opportunities for personal growth and self-accountability. I’m just curious do you instill any of this into your own children?
Absolutely! We’re actively working on instilling values and teaching my son important life lessons. It’s never too early to start teaching financial responsibility, even if it’s as simple as understanding how a debit card works. We take him to the bank, and involving him in the process is a great way to help him learn.
He’s already taking the initiative and doing tasks like cleaning up the backyard for a small reward. Teaching him the importance of earning and valuing money will serve him well in the future. Being present and supportive of him is crucial, especially during these formative years. Leading by example and guiding him through life’s challenges will have a lasting impact.
It’s important to cherish every moment. Your perspective as a parent is precious, and it’s beautiful to still see your older children as the little babies they once were. Being fully present in the here and now is a gift to keep showing up, being there, and embracing each moment with love and attentiveness.
Based on your journey and experiences, what are some valuable tools or insights that have helped you become a better parent?
It’s truly remarkable how selflessness often comes naturally to those who become parents at a young age. Speaking from personal experience, I have learned the value of taking contrary action and being actively involved in my children’s lives. Being a hands-on dad brings me immense joy and fulfillment. My love for my kids is indescribable, and it’s a privilege to be able to show up for them every day. Parenthood is an incredible journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
So like cutting hair, being in the fashion business has exposed me to many hairstylists. But out of all the hairstylists I’ve encountered, only three possess a unique talent for cutting hair, and you happen to be one of them. It appears effortless and comes to you so naturally. It’s truly impressive. Did you discover this talent at an early age?
It’s not about a specific technique but rather the natural intuition and speed I bring to the process. It may appear effortless as if I have an innate understanding of what needs to be done. The concept of shape sense refers to an understanding of balance and energy within different hairstyles. It involves recognizing how various elements combine to create a harmonious and visually appealing result. It’s like having a keen fashion sense applied to hair.
When it comes to cutting hair, reflecting on my journey through hair school is fascinating. While some of my peers may have thrived in understanding geometric angles and measurements, I discovered that my approach to haircuts was different. My brain doesn’t naturally work in terms of geometry. Still, I soon realized that what truly matters is my clients’ results and happiness. It’s liberating to understand that there isn’t a single right way to do things and that success can be measured by the satisfaction of those I serve.
How old were you when you went to, you went to beauty school?
I started cutting my friend’s hair when I was 13, 14. I remember those days vividly. I had a pair of clippers, and my parents were taking me to New York City and Venice. I grew up in a quiet little surf town called Seal Beach, where everyone seemed to have the same Laird Billabong blonde haircut. It was all very L.A., you know?
But I wanted something different. I decided to take matters into my own hands. We experimented with various styles, from new romantic to mod, adding egg whites to our hair and donning black eyeliner. And guess what? It actually worked! The girls loved it, and my friends started asking me to do their hair again and again. They’d give me five bucks so I could buy a dime bag, but that’s how it all started.
Meanwhile, as my passion for surfing took over, I often found myself ditching school. From the ages of 12 to 20, I only cared about partying, catching waves, and, well, you know. School wasn’t my thing, and the thought of my future made me incredibly nervous. I wondered what to do after high school, knowing that more schooling wasn’t for me.
That’s when my parents stepped in. They suggested I choose a profession, and they would support me financially. At first, the idea of cutting hair didn’t sit well with me. I was worried about what others would think, fearing they might label me as gay or something. Back then, being a hairstylist wasn’t seen as a cool profession like today.
But eventually, I decided to give it a shot. I enrolled in hair school, and to my surprise, I was the only guy there surrounded by a sea of talented girls. However, my unconventional approach to education resulted in me getting kicked out of five beauty schools and a year-long program. It took me five long years to finally graduate.
What would be a reason one gets kicked out of the beauty school?
Doing what I do. Drinking, using. Not showing up. Surfing.
The cool thing was I could clock in and clock out, and I would get more time. So I got kicked out with 400 hours, and then I would take that time card and leave, surf and party and do my thing, and then get some more hours.
Then I graduated and put that on the back burner. I was selling drugs, I was a club promoter in San Diego, and I was doing all the surf ASR trade shows. And then the wheels fell off at 30. Then I decided to put both feet in the boat and become a hairstylist. I moved to Beverly Hills and met Chris McMillan, who did Jennifer Aniston’s hair. He was also sober. I told him I needed help. And he took me to rehab. And this was in 2004.
He paid for your first month, is that right?
The first month of rehab, yes. And he went to this behavior modification one-year program, which worked for him.
It’s crucial to address these experiences because there are likely listeners who can relate to or know someone going through similar challenges. It’s important to recognize that there is often a hidden potential for greatness behind the struggles and destructive behavior. If individuals can learn to channel and transform those negative aspects into something positive, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
100%. They say that the most exciting person to hang out with at a bar is often the one struggling with alcoholism. It’s like they have this wild energy that draws you in, while the “normie” sitting quietly can seem dull in comparison. I used to have that crazy energy, but once I channeled it in a positive direction, there was no stopping me. I’ve built a successful business, created my own product line, and now I go out and help others. It’s truly amazing to see how everything is just growing and evolving.
When you went to school, people must have said you were talented. Were you never able to hear it?
Never. There were moments where I was like, “I’m the shit.” And then there were other really low moments where I said, “You’re nothing, and you’re just fooling everybody.” And that’s because I was living a lie. I was constantly one step forward and three steps back because I was hiding. So, a lot of these people on the street are just hiding, and they’re not living up to their potential.
So you come out of treatment for the final time. Who gives you a chance?
Chris McMillan, the hairstylist in Beverly Hills, played a significant role in my journey. Before joining his team, I already had skills in cutting men’s hair. However, when I started working with Chris, I hadn’t touched a pair of scissors for a year. During that time, Chris would attend meetings and meet guys who would complement my haircuts. He would say, “Jason did my hair, and he works for me!” I believe he did that because he saw potential in me. Whether it was during my time at rehab or when we crossed paths at a meeting, I saw an opportunity to approach him and express my interest in joining his team.
I went up to Chris and confidently told him, “Hey, I want to come to work for you. I’ve heard great things about you.” He asked me how much sober time I had, to which I honestly replied, “I have a week.” Chris advised me to get more time under my belt before considering the opportunity.
Would you suggest that someone get a little space between them and the program before they get back to the real world?
That’s what I was talking about. You need to go through sobriety college. You need to eat, sleep, do sobriety every day, and consistently get good out of it, just like working out. Once you start building that foundation, you can realize who you are, and people gravitate toward you. As you do the contrary action, your life gets full. For me, my life got really full.
Were there things you found supportive in either exercise or nutrition that supported the quest for sobriety? Or did that not come until a little later?
For me, I never liked working out. I have so much energy from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep. I found riding Harleys. I bought boats; I was jet skiing; I was surfing; I was constantly trying new things. I constantly can’t sit still and want to feel; you know what I mean?
I went into gambling for a while because I was “feeling.” Going to addiction. The guy that was helping me was like, “You’re going to keep doing what you’re going to do until you’re sick of doing it.” And that was the best thing I heard. Because you can’t change somebody unless they’re sick of doing it. And I got sick of doing the unhealthy stuff, and I started doing more healthy stuff. Now I’m really excited about what I’m doing.
Did you have any practice with food, or was that just later?
I learned a helpful acronym, HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. It reminds me that when I’m in any of those states, I tend to make poor decisions. So whenever I feel uncomfortable, I try to analyze the situation. I ask myself why I feel this way and what I might fear.
Fear often stems from the fear of losing what we have or not achieving what we desire. So I start by addressing my basic needs, like nutrition and hydration. Then I delve into the root of my discomfort, which may be related to concerns about appearance or other factors.
To navigate through these challenges, I follow a simple framework that divides the world into three types of business: God’s business, my business, and none of my business. My business involves improving my situation and alleviating discomfort as quickly as possible. If the circumstances are beyond my control, I recognize it as God’s business and focus on what I can learn from it. Lastly, I acknowledge that I cannot change how others treat me, but I have the power to choose who I surround myself with.
In this 3-D world, where you have a business, a product line, a foundation, and various personal responsibilities like three children and a wife, it’s natural to experience stress. I’m curious about your coping mechanisms and how you developed your coping system to handle the many things you deal with.
I have learned not to let things affect me and to stay focused on the present moment. There are always things that need attention right now, and I simplify things as much as possible. I live by the principle “Keep it simple, stupid,” which has proven very effective.
I am grateful for the tools and teachings that have helped me along the way. It’s amazing how freeing it is when I apply them. Sometimes I laugh because I feel so liberated, even though nothing external has changed. It’s all about shifting my perception.
In the mornings, I wake up with a loud mind, but taking a shower with hot water helps soothe me. Then, it’s onto my coffee, which I love. It’s a little pick-me-up, although much milder than drugs like cocaine or Ritalin. I make calls, connect with loved ones, and plan my day.
Once at work, I engage in creative activities like doing hair and interacting with people. After a fulfilling day, I return home to spend time with my family, have dinner, and finally rest my head on the pillow. Life is so much easier now compared to the past.
You worked with Chris for a long time, around 20 years, while in Beverly Hills. Then you decided to branch out on your own and create this beautiful place here in Venice. You also have a line of amazing products, which even Laird finds unbelievable. Where did the idea come from to reach out and help your fellow brothers, connect with people, and make a difference?
It wasn’t a decision that came from me alone. It was like one of those profound moments, you know, where it felt like a revelation. I woke up one day and realized how amazing cordless clippers are, something we didn’t have when I was a kid. That’s when the idea struck me – I wanted to visit the beauty supply store. I called my business partner and shared the idea, warning him that it wouldn’t be conventional. He wasn’t from the streets like I am, so I expected some resistance. But to my surprise, he said, ‘I’ve come this far with you; let’s do it.’ That’s when I decided to go out and cut homeless people’s hair, engaging in conversations and offering transformations. He joined me, holding the camera, and we documented our journey on Instagram. The response we received was heartwarming, and I felt an incredible sense of fulfillment that night. It was clear that something greater than myself was propelling me forward. There was a higher power at work guiding me on this path.
I do love the story, and this is not a reason to be of service, but that a lot of great things happened. Famous artists reach out to you to come to do jobs and…
The impact of Instagram and social media has been incredible. It’s astonishing; how I showed up to do Michael Buble’s hair, and I was amazed when they told me they found me through my Instagram. It’s like self-promotion led me to gain such a high-profile client. But beyond that, the service work I do on social media is much more significant than I can comprehend. I find myself helping people who are grieving the loss of a loved one or supporting those with suffering family members. Through my posts, I carry a message of hope and inspire others. When someone on the street or a struggling parent sees what I’m doing, it gives them hope and encouragement. To be honest, I don’t fully understand the impact I’m making. I’m just following my instincts and doing what feels right.
One thing that stands out about you is your ability, to be honest with people while still showing them love and care. It’s remarkable how you create an environment that not only restores their dignity but also helps them see their own beauty and worth. You go beyond just having straightforward conversations; you genuinely love and appreciate them. Alongside your candid discussions, you encourage them to be honest with themselves and to ask for help when needed.
I believe my gift lies in connecting with men on a deeper level, which we don’t often do as guys. It’s like we’re stuck in a cave-man mentality, avoiding important topics like prostate health, even during Movember. But when a guy sits in my chair for 30 minutes, it’s truly special. I can create a space where we can have meaningful conversations and go beyond surface-level interactions.
I’ve noticed that people trust me, and I take pride in making them feel better about themselves. Feeling good, both inside and out, is everything. I know firsthand how impactful it can be to hear positive feedback. Back when I struggled, weighing only 137 pounds and battling addiction, no one told me I looked amazing. Instead, I faced rejection and judgment. Having experienced that, I see my gift as a purpose. I’ve dedicated myself to this work for seven years now, and I’m thrilled to see how it has grown. We have a foundation now, furthering our impact and reaching more people.
It serves as a powerful reminder that we all can support one another. Sometimes, how we can help may take time to become apparent. Still, if we take the time to reflect and consider, we can find meaningful ways to make a difference. That said, I’m curious to learn how you established your foundation. What steps did you take to bring it to life?
So I have an amazing business partner with a different brain than me. He can actually see the business side of things. And so we’re a great dynamic, and I think everybody needs that. Having a great business partner with a different skill set has been instrumental in my journey. While I excel in creativity and generating ideas, turning them into reality requires different skills. That’s why finding someone who complements your strengths is crucial. Whether it’s a spouse or someone you connect with professionally, having that dynamic partnership can make all the difference. Together, you can bring your ideas to fruition and manifest incredible things.
This realization inspired me to start a foundation. Why not leverage our combined abilities to raise funds and support those in need? Why can’t we raise money and be able to help people? The need for more resources for people seeking detoxification is concerning. There are very few options available, like the Tarzana Treatment Center, which I am familiar with. It emphasizes the importance of our foundation and highlights the urgent need for more accessible resources in this area.
What does that mean? Like they offer a scholarship?
Creating a nonprofit organization that can assist is a crucial step in addressing the challenges those seeking help face. It’s disheartening to see that most resources come with a hefty price tag, ranging from $10,000 to $60,000. I was fortunate to have insurance coverage when I went through detox. Still, I’ve learned that Medi-Cal and other insurance options are often insufficient. Changing one’s situation, even if they desire to, can be incredibly difficult due to these limitations. That’s why I want to make it easier for people who are tired of their struggles to find a way out. I believe there is a formula, a systematic approach, that can guide individuals toward recovery.
It’s concerning to read about how funds meant for public welfare are misused or allocated inefficiently. Instead of focusing on addressing the root causes, such as addiction, money is directed elsewhere. This reinforces my belief that homelessness is not solely a housing issue but also an addiction issue. There are different aspects to this complex problem that need to be addressed comprehensively. There’s mental health, but I also think a great deal of it is the new drugs that have been filtered into the U.S., like meth…It’s not the same as when I was using meth. And I was on meth.
It’s this fentanyl, the issue of the opioid crisis, and the dangers of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Fentanyl, which is a highly addictive and potentially lethal drug, is being misused due to its availability across the border. Additionally, the impurities in methamphetamine are not being removed during the production process when it’s smuggled across the border.
We need to provide resources for rehabilitation rather than just housing for individuals struggling with substance abuse. My plan involves working with wealthy individuals and organizations, such as SRVC.co, my foundation, to provide support and funding and collaborate with the city and county to implement our approach.
We are going to use a barber truck that I helped design and convert into an open space where we can provide haircuts and engage with people on the streets. Through this interaction, we hope to connect individuals with the necessary resources for detox, clothing, hygiene, and, ultimately, a one-year rehabilitation program. The program would focus on accountability, job training, and reintegration into society. This approach has been successful for me and many others, and it can positively impact addressing the challenges caused by addiction.
It’s inspiring to see the hope in your words. Addressing the opioid crisis and providing support to the homeless population in Los Angeles, where there are approximately 75,000 individuals experiencing homelessness, may seem overwhelming to many people. However, it’s important to remember that every small step counts. We can make a meaningful impact by focusing on individual stories and working together as a community. It’s crucial to provide resources for addiction recovery and rehabilitation and address the underlying issues that contribute to homelessness.
You mentioned SRVC.co; managing multiple responsibilities can be challenging, especially as things get busier. How do you do it all?
I prioritize tasks and delegate when necessary; I need to delegate more. When it comes to what people can do to support your cause, they can contribute in various ways. For example, they can assist by driving individuals to the appropriate resources or volunteering their time and skills in different capacities. As your initiative continues to grow, more opportunities for involvement will likely arise.
SRVC.co is currently focused on serving this local area, but is there an opportunity to explore the potential of expanding and adapting the template to other locations?
Last month, I had the opportunity to connect with a business based in Nashville that reached out to me via direct message. This company specializes in chartering private jets for wealthy individuals. What impressed me is that every time they book a jet, they set aside a portion of the proceeds for a foundation.
The company’s owners are both in recovery, and they expressed their admiration for my work. As a result, they generously offered to donate $10,000 to support my cause. I asked about their location, and it turned out they were in Nashville, a city I love. I immediately thought about the homeless population in Nashville, particularly a tent city with approximately 400 individuals in need.
I wasted no time working with an event planner to organize a significant outreach event in Nashville. Within just two weeks, we arranged for a laundry truck, a shower van, a church, and a food truck to be present at the event. Additionally, numerous hairstylists showed up to lend their support. Despite the rain, we persevered and made a meaningful impact on many people’s lives in the tent city.
While I cannot take credit for founding the tent city or the ongoing efforts there, my vision is to continue making a difference by taking a mobile unit across the country, bringing people together, and showing them how they can contribute to their communities. We want to inspire others to take action and make a lasting impact by leaving a significant footprint in each place we visit.
The concept of self-grooming has always been present in society. In today’s world of social media, appearance has become a prominent focus. It’s common for individuals to obsess over their looks and seek validation from others. As a female, I personally combat this pressure and strive to instill healthy self-care practices in my daughters. Self-care rituals can be a powerful way to cultivate self-pride and acceptance. It’s about taking pride in oneself without letting the ego take over. Embracing self-acceptance means acknowledging the perceived flaws or unique aspects and embracing them as part of one’s identity.
In the context of your outreach work on the streets, there is a connection between self-grooming and self-acceptance. By offering grooming services such as facial hair removal or hairstyling, you help individuals present their best selves while encouraging them to appreciate their unique qualities. It’s about empowering people to see the magic within themselves and fostering a sense of self-acceptance through this process.
We helped this woman, and she hit us up a year or two later. It was in Venice, and one of the stylists came out to help with our events. And this girl, a really sweet stylist, came, and there was a woman who sat in her chair. She was living in a tent with her boyfriend. And the girl was like, “So what’s it going to be today?” as the sweet little hairstylist. And the woman sent me an email, saying that was the moment when everything changed. She remembered she was human. She remembered she was spoken to like that in the beauty salon early on, and she hit me up. She said she was pregnant, living in a tent in Venice with her boyfriend, and now they were in New Mexico. She was trying to start getting a job driving Lyft. And so our foundation bought her a car. We flew out there, met her and her son, bought her a car, and she’s been driving Uber in New Mexico. That’s what we did.
Let’s talk about hair for a second because I have you in front of me. Who cuts your hair? What do you do with your hair?
It’s weird. I’m like the most ungroomed groomer.
What are the mistakes that most people are making with their hair?
One common mistake when it comes to hair care is shampooing too often. Over-shampooing can lead to lifeless, flat, or frizzy hair. That’s why I created Days of Dirt, an amazing product that has become our hero product. You can purchase it online, preferably on our website, as it enables us to make more money, which we use to help people in need on the streets.
Days of Dirt is designed to give your hair that perfect look without having to shampoo every day. It allows you to go a week without shampooing while still maintaining fresh and styled hair. Your hair doesn’t have to smell like it’s been unwashed for a week. It’s a game-changer for those who prefer a less frequent shampoo routine.
Another mistake people make is getting stuck in a rut and doing the same hairstyle every day. That’s where my catchphrase, “Different ways, different days,” comes in. People crave change and enjoy seeing something new. You can create wow moments and get noticed by experimenting with different hairstyles or hair routines. It’s not about achieving a perfect, cookie-cutter look but embracing uniqueness and adding some messiness to make it your own.
What if they have to go to some office, or they’re an attorney or something?
In this day and age, it doesn’t really matter. What truly matters is embracing your authentic self and being cool in your own unique way. When you allow yourself to break free and be true to who you are, your energy shines brighter. Putting yourself in a box and conforming to certain norms can limit your expression and authenticity. It’s important to let go of those constraints and be comfortable in your own skin. Doing so exudes a positive and genuine energy that resonates with others.
One specific example is women straightening their hair when they have naturally curly hair. Embracing your natural hair texture is a powerful way to celebrate and honor the beauty that was bestowed upon you. Instead of fighting against it, embrace your curls and work with them. Your hair is a unique gift from nature, and by embracing it, you showcase your individuality and radiate confidence.
Now, let’s talk about men’s grooming. Hair loss can be a sensitive issue for many individuals, impacting their self-confidence.
So I’m not a doctor. I always tell my clients to talk to their doctor. Don’t believe the snake oil. I’m not buying into anything. But the good news is there are hair transplants now. It’s like buying a new car. Get a CareCredit, where you can make payments on your hair! So it’s about 60 grand. You go through three treatments. And you can have a full head of hair if you have a big donor area. There’s no scarring, and you don’t have to go out of the country anymore.
And hair color on men – I don’t mess with it. It’s a dead giveaway.
What about supplements? Do you know of any supplements that actually help your hair?
So there are supplements. There was a multivitamin-type thing, and they claimed there was lots of hair, thicker hair growth.
I’m going to ask you a really simple question: What is something that has really been helpful that you’ve learned as a husband and as a father?
I’ve been married for 17 years, and one of the significant realizations I’ve had is the acceptance that there will always be a desire for more and something different in life. It’s not about finding perfection but embracing the joy of growing old with someone. Recognizing that no matter who you’re with, there will always be challenges and new problems to navigate. When I decided to surrender to this understanding, I realized the beauty of an imperfect but fulfilling relationship. It was a moment of vulnerability when I asked my wife to marry me, feeling scared but also knowing that the desire for more and different would always be there.
Taking it one day at a time and striving to be a better person has become important. The cliché saying “happy wife, happy life” holds some truth in prioritizing the happiness and well-being of your loved one. It’s an ongoing journey of daily reprieves and a commitment to nurturing the relationship.
It’s interesting to hear Laird’s perspective on choosing monogamy to avoid hassle and find happiness. There’s wisdom in that mindset, recognizing the value of simplicity and contentment.
As for being a father for almost 13 years, being present is indeed crucial. In addition, one approach I’ve learned is seeking permission when engaging with my teenagers. Asking if it’s okay to ask a question or share something allows them to control the conversation and respect their boundaries. This is especially important with daughters, as it helps keep communication lines open. If they’re uncomfortable with something, they can freely express it, which helps maintain trust and openness in the relationship. Is there anything you’ve discovered as a parent that you didn’t initially realize but found helpful or effective?
It’s interesting how roles can sometimes shift and surprise us in parenting. In my case, my wife has taken on the disciplinary role, which I didn’t anticipate. Initially, I thought that I would be the one to fulfill that role, but my wife is the one who naturally assumes it. Maybe it’s better that I’m not doing the disciplinary and I don’t see it. I don’t know. But it’s there on the back burner. But my thing is love, love, love, love, love, love. I love the hell out of them. And I think if they know that they’re loved, everything’s going to work out. Because I knew I was loved, and I knew I had so much more to offer myself when it was time to get sober. And I had the willingness to say; I know there’s love.
Is there anything you’ve learned as an entrepreneur? You have to manage staff. You have a bunch of people who work with hair. What is the thing that’s helped you?
It’s just the way that I work the program, same thing. It’s delegating, talking to my support group, and that’s the most important thing, asking for help.
So you actually, you get feedback before you manage a situation.
They tell me to pause when agitated because I can dig myself into such a deep hole that I have to do contrary action. So, I’ll run it by people. The other thing is, I don’t want to have to say “sorry.” I don’t want to go back and clean it up because I know I’m capable of making really bad decisions.
Do you have to fire people occasionally?
When I opened this place, somebody told me, “quick to fire and slow to hire.” I’ve done that, and I’m not good at that, So I give people a lot of chances to succeed.
When you mention Ryan Holiday’s book “Ego is the Enemy” and the concept of a body of evidence, it resonates with the idea that having a track record of success and accomplishments can give us the confidence to explore new opportunities and take risks. You relate to it in your business endeavors, where you’ve embraced change and expanded your services over the years. However, amidst all the hard work and growth, there comes a point where reflection is necessary. It’s important to honor the addict to keep these practices and systems that keep things organized and running smoothly in place. At the same time, there is room for redefining oneself and letting go of certain aspects that may no longer serve our personal or professional growth. Have you not let that go? Will that always have to be a part of it?
I don’t think I’m recovered, but I’m in recovery. I think I’m one drink away at any given moment from being completely insane. The way that I was at a year sober and five years sober, and 19 years sober is way different. It’s just life lessons, and you learn. So I’m definitely different than I was, but at the same time, I have to put myself in check the same way, just like I was at the beginning.
Can you do it a little softer now, though?
Early on, it was the end of the world. Like the stupidest little things were so monumental, and people would tell me, in a year from now, you’re not even going to think of that. So now I see that.
In an ideal world, in your dream project, envisioning the future of your business and the services you provide, what does that look like for you and all the people you work with?
Surfing and serving are the two activities that bring me the most fulfillment. There’s something magical about spending a day riding waves and then dedicating myself to serving others. It fills my heart with contentment and purpose.
At 53 years old, I’ve put in countless hours of hard work to provide for my family. While I may not have amassed great wealth, I take pride in knowing that I’ve been able to meet their needs and create a stable foundation for them. It’s a fulfilling journey, taking it one day at a time. Now, I find myself with some extra time to focus on service. It has become a crucial part of my life as I continue to develop my products and seek opportunities to make a positive impact. I’m inspired by the likes of Paul Mitchell, who is renowned for his philanthropic efforts, and I aspire to contribute to the betterment of society in my own way.
This second phase of my life is dedicated to service and growth. It’s an exhilarating path, full of opportunities to give back and support others. The journey ahead may not be easy, but I’m driven by a deep sense of purpose and a desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those around me.
Okay. Justin, you get one question because then we’ll wrap it.
[Did you ever consider leveraging social media as part of your plan to expand your endeavors, or did you approach it with a mindset of “Let’s see what happens”? ]
That’s an interesting question. I remember working as a hairstylist in Beverly Hills, and one of my flamboyant colleagues insisted that being on social media was crucial for success in today’s world. Initially, I resisted the idea because I feared past skeletons would resurface and cause trouble. However, I eventually decided to give social media a try. To my surprise, I discovered I had a knack for marketing and promoting myself. While my initial intention wasn’t focused on philanthropy or doing good, I could feel the impact of positive and validating comments from people. It was like a boost of self-confidence multiplied by ten. This newfound validation fueled my desire to do more for myself and others. It became addictive, like a service-driven high. I wanted to experience that feeling and help even more people. So, while someone else may be driving the boat, I took the reins and steered toward this path of growth and fulfillment.
Well, Jason Schneidman, I’ll see you again and again because my husband’s hair keeps growing non-stop. But if there’s anything I may have forgotten or something you’d like to invite or remind people about, I’m here to provide that space for you.
I strongly believe that if you’re facing struggles with drugs and alcohol, taking the first step is crucial. It’s essential to acknowledge and accept that you are powerless over these substances and that your life has become unmanageable. If you find yourself in a place where drinking or using is making your life difficult, I encourage you to reach out to someone for support. Remember, it’s not about giving up; it’s about surrendering. Surrendering doesn’t mean quitting; it means shifting to the winning side of your battle. Don’t hesitate to contact me through direct messaging or anyone else who can assist. You are worthy of help, and taking that step affirms your self-worth.
Indeed, every person is valuable and worth investing in. It’s crucial to remember this and treat others with the respect and care they deserve. If anyone is interested in donating or connecting with you, remind us of the various platforms where they can find you.
So if you want to donate, it’s SRVC.co. I am on Instagram on The Men’s Groomer. You can get my products on Californiaborn.com. They’re color-safe, sulfate-free, cruelty-free, and vegan. It’s good stuff. I’ve been doing hair for over 40 years and didn’t just order these things from overseas. They’re all made in the U.S., and I had my finger on the pulse, and it’s all the best products I’ve been using, and I’ve made them on my own. And the scent smells amazing, and they work incredibly.
I really appreciate you. Thanks for your time.
Thank you so much. Thank you.
About Jason Schneidman
In everything he does, Jason Schneidman draws inspiration from his Southern California roots and the fashionable surroundings where he still lives, loves and works. It’s Hollywood – both its old glamour and its modern vibe – that moves him and informs his style, his choices and his life.
Growing up on the beaches of SoCal, Jason was born into a carefree, keep-it-simple lifestyle. Surfing, loud motorcycles and fast cars have been lifelong muses as have rock music legends like Jim Morrison, who set a young Jason free with his innovative music and his unstrung style.
Another inspiration was in Mid-Century Hollywood where Jason found heroes both intelligent and rebellious – from James Dean to Steve McQueen.
Jason’s current love of classic Hollywood infuses his work too. Back then, “every guy looked like a leading man,” he says. “And I can do those haircuts. But what really gets me pumped? Mess it up and go!”
Jason cuts and styles hair like no one else. His cuts reflect his inspirations by allowing choice: classic and coiffed or tussle it and go! Either way, it always looks good…and it always, always looks cool.
“A man should look and feel carefree and confident,” says Jason, “in the way he dresses and the way he wears his hair. This is what makes a man genuinely sexy.”
Easy, relaxed, confident and stylish. This is who Jason is and he brings that spirit, energy and attitude to his work with each client, every day, no matter who they are.