Going to college can teach you a lot of important things, and one of the biggest lessons in business that I learned was when I was in my third year at college. That said, it was not at school rather at home during the summer break.
One of the most memorable trips I have been on was to Bali, Indonesia in the early nineties. It was not only the beautiful coastline, incredible surf, and $10 massages on the beach, but also the unpleasant memory of the aggressive beach vendors who preyed upon each tourist from the moment they stepped off the airplane.
I will never forget that first day when I was swarmed by at least 20 vendors outside of the airport who were looking for that moment of weakness from me. The moment I said those deadly words “how much?” Once that sign of interest appeared, they would not leave me alone until I bought something from them, or I could escape into a taxi.
Photo - Ned Overend
It was over 8 years ago at the NorCal High School Mountain Bike Race League fundraiser event when I received a shot in the arm that was almost as exhilarating as my recent Covid vaccination shot. I was approaching 50 years old and wondering if my competitive years as a cyclist were officially behind me. I often struggled to suppress the words I would hear my father say during his waning athletic years as an older man – “I’m getting too old for this.”
As a native Californian, I have become accustomed to shallow phrases such as “We should catch up sometime” or “Let’s try to connect sometime soon.”
These statements might appear to be genuine but are often as passive and hollow as the common question “How is it going?”. A question that typically generates a “Good” response and then you move on.
These statements have become part of our passive language that is acceptable to most people. The only sad part is that these statements often do not advance the relationship or provide important feedback on the next steps to grow that relationship. They are well-intentioned remarks that can often float for months without it ever happening.
It was the summer of 1992. I was driving a casual 110 mph on the German autobahn for a 3-hour stretch in my company-issued BMW 3 series. I was on my way from Munich to Aachen, Germany to meet with a prospective client in anticipation of landing one of the largest clients in my vast 4-year sales career. I was 29 years old and the sales manager of a small German technology distributor. My German language finally reached a level of business fluency well enough to persuade any client to buy our products and services.
Several years ago, when I was ramping up my consulting business and I was feeling the pressure of putting food on the table for my family, I received some sage advice that changed the trajectory of my business.
Up until that time, new clients seemed to only trickle in. I looked at every opportunity as a must-win situation to pay our mortgage. The stress and test of my patience only made it more difficult to win new clients. The classic symptoms of a professional trying to grow his or her practice.
As an avid NFL football fan, I watched both playoff games over the weekend even though my team was no longer in contention. The winners were advancing to the big dance, the Super Bowl.
Although both games were exciting to watch, I was still amazed to see how many seemingly simple mistakes were made by players who get paid an unfathomable amount of money each year. Multimillion dollar contracts that could support all the small businesses in our town of Truckee, CA throughout this pandemic.
Countless times, wide receivers dropped passes that could have been caught by high schoolers.
Did these mistakes deter the quarterback or wide receiver to move on to the next play and try it again? Absolutely not. In fact, many times, that same receiver would make an unbelievable catch on the next play that made you appreciate how driven and determined they are to help their team win.
I recently caught up with an old friend of mine, Tom P., who is the VP of Sales for an international electronics company. I asked Tom how his sales team is weathering the Covid storm. Tom responded:
“We initially didn’t know how to adjust to the changing market, so we just threw enough sh!t against the wall to see what would stick. Some of our ideas failed, and others were successful.”
We both laughed, and I applauded him for getting creative and trying new things without worrying about the possibility of some of their ideas failing. In this new market, you need to change it up and not worry about the outcome.
How many of you sat down this time last year, put together a well-thought-out plan for 2020, had a strong start to the year, and then saw it all unravel in March?
For those raising your hands, how many of you adjusted your plan soon thereafter to adapt to the new market?
It was not an easy task for most of us since we felt like we were flying without instruments in an unpredictable storm. Who would think that our grandiose plans could be uprooted from something so unexpected? And the scary thought today is that we are still in the thick of it, yet many have learned to fly without instruments. Others have even been able to fix the instruments to allow them to fly above the storm.
How life evolves since the day we were born. At the sweet and innocent infant stage, everything starts out simple – eat, sleep, poop. In adulthood, we face the daily stresses that can wear us down over time. We are often tested on how to face adversity.
The current divide in our country is a reminder of how people cast opinions and view situations through different lenses. Some people are driven by fear and anger, while others are fueled by resolve and confidence.