Barbershop Theology: Ritual of Preparation

Spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation.”  Roger Staubach

I looked at the clock and mercifully it read, 5:35. Dad would end his day by putting away his scissors, resting his clippers, counting the cash in the drawer, and writing something in his ledger. But he would do that no earlier than 6pm.

I knew I could make closing much faster if I would begin the Barbershop Closing Ritual. That meant all the dirty towels had to be placed in a hamper, the floor had to be swept, ash trays cleaned, lather dispenser filled, and magazines organized. It meant being alert to any signals from Dad pointing me to a detail I had missed, (a nod, a glance, or a subtle point with a comb).

The final act of the day was watching Dad slightly open the door to the back of the shop, reach behind the wall and turn off the lights. Turning the Open/Closed sign was a quick trick and I hustled to jump into his pick-up truck parked just around the corner. If we hurried I could catch the last episode of the Flintstones or maybe shoot some baskets before dark.

Ready for Business

I do remember arriving at Caldwell’s Barber Shop in Apache, Oklahoma to open for the day. I can still recall the order of businesses opening as lights flickers and store-fronts came alive. The barbershop opened at 7AM.  On those occasions when I went to work with Dad, learned how closing the barbershop was related to opening the barbershop; I learned to appreciate The Barbershop Closing Ritual and how it was absolutely the key to a great start. When Dad began his day he was ready. And the barbershop —much like Dad— was fresh, rested, and fitted. There was cleanliness and order; I learned to value the beauty and even the symmetry of preparation.

Are You Ready for Business?

When we have the right rituals in our lives, when we pay attention to the right details, we too are better prepared for the business of life. Good habits (brushing your teeth, going to church, regular oil changes) net good results. The ritual of preparing the barbershop could have been put off, after all, Dad usually did it by himself and he had just worked a ten or eleven hour day. He did not delay, he held to the “ritual of preparation.”

A ritual is a formal act, institution, or procedure that is followed consistently, it is a “form of religion” or otherwise solemn practice prescribed to order one’s life. Why Do It?

Why go to church, read the Bible, pray on our knees, and memorize Scripture; why take communion or thoughtfully recite the Lord’s Prayer? Why work to establish healthy habits, practices or routines? We do it because preparation matters. In Dad’s case it was so he could be ready for the next day. It’s a value that I learned as the son of a barber in the little town of Apache, Oklahoma. I didn’t get it from Steven Covey or learn it in a Steps to Success seminar. I watched my dad.

There’s a story in the Bible called The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-46). Jesus pointedly addresses the importance of spiritual preparation. It’s a Kingdom value. I pray for the wisdom, discipline, and grace to be a steward this day. 


Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success. Henry Ford 

Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: ‘Are your ready?


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One thought on “Barbershop Theology: Ritual of Preparation”

  1. Although (as a life long Redskins fan), I am always suspicious of anything that starts off with a quote by Staubach, I have to say THANK YOU for this post.

    “Discipline” is a scary sounding word, but its amazing how much value it adds to our lives, and how much more content we can be when we have it. Its not easy though, so this incredibly encouraging to me. Thank you!

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