There are hundreds of examples of things you should do and just a many of things you should not do. If we just look at what we don’t want to have happen, we usually arrive at the path of what it good for us. Of course, when that path reveals itself, we, at times, don’t really want that because it sounds like hard work. Should I go to the gym or the bar? We know we should go to the gym, but the bar sounds like a lot more fun. Should I have the grilled chicken or the fried chicken wings? They are both chicken, right? One sounds like a much better time than the other. If we look at sales in general, we know there are some things we should be doing that are real work and others that sound like real fun. It is mostly the work that is good for us. Let’s explore that idea of what not to do.
Business guru Jim Rohn is famous for saying “Never begin a day until it is finished on paper.” Have a plan as planning is half of the battle. But you must plan with balance. At some point you have to start the work. Some will spend an inordinate amount of time in the planning stage and not enough time on the execution stage. In a recent management meeting, one of my teams was guilty of that crime. Lots of time discussing plans until another manager pointed out that we spend too much time discussing tactics, get nowhere and then rush to do the same things we have always done. Here’s a hint, don’t do that. Set a planning deadline that meets your executional need. Back up to give yourself enough time as a good plan, well-executed beats the perfect plan never executed.
When you are ready to get started make sure you have that good plan. While there is something to be said for putting things in motion, it was writer Ernest Hemingway who said, “never confuse movement with action.” You could put yourself in motion just for the sake of motion but that is not always productive. Without that good planning stage, you are wandering aimlessly. So plan accordingly, but then execute with purpose. Set your goals and draw your path toward those goals. A plan without a goal is just hope. And you have heard me say before hope is a good girls name but a terrible business plan. Make your plan with the end result in mind. Then you have the goal, and it is up to you to draw the road map.
I have a minor in Eastern and Central European history. I studied it in college. I had never really intended on doing that, but I found it interesting and by the time I had taken six or seven classes in the subject matter, I discovered with just a few more I could achieve a milestone, so I did. This was the thing about history. I only had to learn this stuff one time. Once I learned it, it never changed, ever. There are no new discoveries, like science, no new inventions, no technology. It was still the same the next day. We weren’t suddenly going to wake up and find that King Leopold I was not a shrewd operator. Here is the other thing about history. Study it sure, so as not to repeat it, but don’t let it vote in the future. The old American proverb is “never let yesterday use up too much of today.” In the sales department, that is a reality. Every day is new opportunity not a history lesson.
History is great but it can’t be the path of the future. That reliance on the past is what has gotten us this point. If we truly want to be relevant and shape the future, we have to leave the past where it is and begin working on the future us. Baseball great Satchel Paige is most famous for saying, “Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you.” More eloquently stated by Henry David Thoreau, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” And in business looking back may not be the wisest of endeavors. Keep your eye on the horizon. We just experienced years of innovation crammed into eighteen months, what do you think will be next? If we look at the future, with the eyes on the horizon for what is next, perhaps we will be better equipped for what is coming next than we were this time around. The chances of a societal disruption happening again in our lifetime are pretty high.
If you read my writings, you know I enjoy George Bernard Shaw, my favorite drunken Irish writer. He advocates for motion in a different way. He claims you should “Never stagnate. Life is a constant becoming; all stages lead to the beginning of others.” Stagnation may be the worst thing we can do. We get stuck in a rut, a boring routine and continue doing the same things over and over again. I once had a man of the clergy tell me, “People will stand in $*&^ until it hardens.” What he meant by that is most people don’t start something new because they don’t know how to get started. I have never been accused of being that person. Crave new experiences. Try new things. I would tell you that the desire to try new things makes me about seventy/thirty in my success to failure ratio, that thirty percent failure rate does not stop me from trying something new. It shouldn’t stop you either. Don’t worry about failure, worry about lack of imagination and stagnation.
Learn how to take that first step to the future. That should be what drives us; the opportunity to be better than we were, yesterday. We do not have to be in competition with each other, only ourselves. And by making that bar the only bar we set only for ourselves, our benchmarks can be clearly outlined. Many get to a level of comfort and then never get above it. They cannot get out of their own way and in fact do not want to as they are content standing still. Former Dodgers owner Branch Rickey, who helped break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, said, “Never surrender opportunity for security.” Keep pushing forward. Look for new opportunities, as the future history will be written by those who push for the new, interesting, and daring. Leave the 35th annual pancake breakfast to the Lions Club.
Some are afraid of failure while others are afraid of success and for both reasons many won’t try something new. I give my teams permission to succeed and permission to fail. Try something new it is ok. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” That ability to get up, every single day, and move forward to the future, with enthusiasm, is a skill many do not possess. If you ever get to that point where you don’t look forward to the opportunity in front of us, it may be time to go do something else. When we get to a point of contentment, we settle for adequate or good enough. Those that possess innate curiosity are not satisfied with the status quo. Those are the ones who look at what not to do and do the opposite. For sellers, pay attention to what not to do. Challenge yourself to be better and look for new and different ways to present the same thing, twice! It is not hard to do. Selling is work, but it is not brain surgery. I have had that, and I know the difference.