I remember one of my first pair of “cool” tennis shows. They were comfortable and oh-so stylish. But that was not all. On the inside of the tongue, there was a message stitched. It was perfect: “Feet that feel good fly” . No truer words have been spoken. I was fast.
I am sure each of you can envision yourselves burning up the asphalt with your new kicks. This memory jumped into my mind the other day, when I had a similar “grown-up” kind of experience.
I had been feeling a bit down and things had not been going as I hoped over a couple months. Suddenly, there was some positive news that gave me the jolt I needed. Not so strangely, I had the best sales day I had in months. I felt alive and in “the flow”.
Like the way a new pair of comfortable shoes that make you feel speedy, so too do positive events cause us to drop the lead boots and float. This is due to the fact that our thoughts do not exist in a vacuum. We are creatures of interpretation. When things are down, everything can start to feel down. On the brighter side, when good things happen, it lifts all areas of life. Drop ten pounds, you get energy. Close that elusive account, you feel invincible. This is good news. Since we know that our attitude can be affected by positive events, make them happen. Do something for someone else, it makes your situation seem more hopeful. Close a small account and the whale seems more likely. Even the act of smiling has a positive physiological effect. These simple acts all have a profound effect.
If we keep this in mind, we will be flying again in no time.
It is easy to confuse things. I have seen it time and time again, with myself or others I have worked or spoken with. Everyone is rewards focused. It is human nature. Remember Operant Condtioning? Definition: “Whatever behavior get reinforced tends to be repeated.” (Thank you B.F. Skinner). That is Psychology 101, right?
Yes, it is. This truism about our natures can lead us to think about motivation and our tasks the wrong way. In short, a focus on rewards (alone) can lead to poor practices, fool-hearty decisions and a loss of vision.
How so? Rewards are the RESULT of effort done excellently and consistently. In fact, current studies on motivation state after a sufficient standard or living is met, financial rewards start to lose their sway. This is because work that is enjoyed and worked at whole-heartedly has intrinsic reward. Ironically, when this is done it most often leads to the more tangible rewards as well. If we keep our focus on enjoying what we do and why we do it, we never really have think about anything else.
We live in a time when many people lack the joy of seeing those around them. We don’t notice those who remove our dishes at a restaurant. We don’t see the person taking our order in line. We don’t look in people’s eyes or to stop to smile.
This is unfortunate (and unnecessary). Each person has immense value and a history which offers rich lessons to be learned and insights to be gleened. They are treasures.
In our fast paced culture, we have become so hurried that we have forgotten to be human (and humane). We all need improvement, but I genuinely try to make it a practice to ask how each person, who serves me, is doing. It is fun to watch their eyes come alive as they answer (or observe the shock at being treated more than a drone in the hive). I have even had people thank me for treating them like a person. It’s like recharging their batteries and helps them through their day. It’s like having your own super-power.
People’s value is not derived from what they can provide you or the personal esteem they hold. They are people and that is worth seeing. Who knows, maybe one day you will need to be encouraged (and someone will see you and genuinely care)? Seeing people makes each day better and reminds us that life is not all about us. Think of how much better things could be.
Ease is seductive. Secrets are appealing. Nearly every motivational book released these days offers inside tips that will unlock your potential. The longer I am alive, I get more convinced that it is not more technique and nuance that we need. What is a rare secret these days in the old-fashioned, consistent effort. If there is a secret to be unearthed it is the “law of the little”. This is the age-old principle that small actions taken regularly result in large changes over time. This applies to behaviors and goals of nearly all sorts. (I wish I could keep this in mind). Health, wealth and wisdom all apply. Find satisfaction in each step and keep the big picture in mind. Kingdoms are built from such.
It seems that western culture is getting harder to impress. We have nearly 5,000 advertising impressions vying for our attention everyday. Each of these making shallow promises to make us “better, faster and stronger than before”. We have a constant pressure to produce along with public figures who dissappoint us. It is easy to become cynical. However…
As a dose of good medicine, I think we should adopt a micro-perspective on occasion. One way to do this is to choose to ”see the beauty” in every task. This requires a mindful decision to step back a little, but it can be done. I find great joy in encouraging someone, solving problems for a client or helping a company become more profitable (which in turn benefits more people). It is a pleasure to contribute in each of these ways. A painter can see a masterfully finished work of art, a mechanic can hear the gentle rev of a well-tuned engine (or so I am told). For those whose professions provide less clear “cause-effect” relationships, this beauty can be measured in smiles and miles. Stated in another way, by the number of people we have encouraged during a day or by the degree we have stepped into the shoes of another. I rather like the idea of being an earthen vessel. While I am ordinary, I am capable of extraordinary things. There is art in such. Make each day a masterpiece.
A friend of mine has a wonderful entrepreneurial spirit. He has some intriguing tales of wow and woe. One of my favorites is how he turned a simple idea, dreamed up in a garage, into a licensed product in Harley-Davidson stores across the country. Now, he simply cashes the randomly occurring check (and smiles). At one time, he had hopes of franchising businesses that serve the automotive industry. In his planning phase, he contacted an individual who had co-created a franchise in another industry. Were I to mention the company, anyone would be familiar. My friend who is skilled at obtaining unlikely appointments, was able to meet with this wildly successful entrepreneur.
The arrangement was simple: five meetings for five grand. The gentleman no longer needed to work, but reluctantly agreed nonetheless. He would talk, my friend would listen. The knowledge gained would be priceless. Indeed it was. My friend learned the in’s and out’s of building a successful franchise. During one of the meetings, he had to leave to attend his daughters wedding. Upon returning, the business guru volunteered that he and his daughter were not close and that he had lost many things in search of success.
His final piece of advice would be the most cherished. He said, “be careful that in your pursuit of money that you do not trade the things that money can buy for the things it cannot”. My friend took a plane ride home realizing that he was more wealthy than he had remembered. Everything that glitters is not gold.
Today I am reminded of a truth that is obvious, once observed, but ethereal before. This is applicable to anyone who is attempting to achieve a goal, but has a direct correlation to all the professional salespeople out there. (Shout out!)
We have been told to “fish for whales” or to “land sharks”. Of course, this is referring to the trend to encourage all professionals who are trying to make gains (market-share, sales/profits, donors, etc.) to always strive for the largest possible prospect. No one praises the ordinary and high fives for a base-hit are sparse. Let’s keep it real, sales managers, owners and marketing directors do not get excited about small gains. However, careers are made from consistent achievement and kingdoms are built one brick at a time. So don’t be persuaded to fall for the false dichotomy of whales or minnows. There are a lot of sea-bass. In fact, there are a lot more of them in the ocean than whales. My word not enough?
One of the wisest persons in history, King Solomon, stated (in Proverbs 13:11) “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.“ In a world of stock-holder demands and the NYSE, all that appears on the radar is a 30-day window. This post is about building something, painting a picture (not taking a polaroid). If you will allow me to digress, I would like to make the point.
Let say that you wanted to sell a million dollars of product. Not all net sales of a million are the same. Duh. There are margins and flow-through of product, the concerns of making sure that production staff can deliver on time, etc. One hundred, ten thousand dollar accounts, though timely to acquire, can often produce a more ”fair to both sides” return for your investment. This approach also spreads risk of loss across a greater number of customers. A single million dollar account is sought after much more vigorously and will require a much more competitive pricing structure. Chum the waters, just don’t put all your bait in one boat. Need any more fishing analogies?
Someone who routinely wins feels like a winner. Again, duh. The irony is, the salesperson who puts in the effort day in and out for smaller gains is also more likely to hook “the big one” too. When one considers all of this, maybe the adage less is more is sage advice after all. Famed author Louis L’Amour penned “Victory is not won in miles, it is won in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.” While this approach will not garner cheers, you can take solace in the fact that you will be producing consistent, solid gains (while everyone else is complaining about the economy).
I’ll have the sauteed salmon, please.
Yeah. This is more like it. No mambie-pambie complaints about getting old today. No. Today I am sharing with you some real Jedi Mind Tricks. Seriously. The catch is they will only work on someone else (who is not privy to this info). You thought I was going to say it only works on the “weak-minded” fools?
Today, I am going to teach you how to make insomnia or hiccups vanish with a wave of your hand. I mean it. (Disclaimer: this will not work on insomnia resulting from a physical condition like apnea or snoring, etc. Otherwise, it is beautiful.) First, I will explain the reasons it works for the zombies among us.
Mind Trick One: Sleepy heads
Sleep deprivation is awful. Your friend has a few nights without good sleep and this promotes anxiety the next night and so on. So he goes to bed fearful he will not sleep well (and then he doesn’t). He wakes up during the night and feels dread about running out of time for a good night’s rest, which creates an arousal state (which is like a midnight espresso). This is an expectation and outcome negative cycle. So how do you help your friend with your Jedi powers? Simple. Give him a reason to expect a good night sleep. Enter showmanship.
If you can convince your friend that you know a little-known technique that aids in sleep, it does not matter what you do. The point is that all you do is done with intention and care. You can say something like this:
“I want you to close your eyes. Relax deeply and see a grandfather clock. It is very important that you imagine an old wood clock with hands.” (It’s not, actually). “Imagine the hands on the clock ticking away, until they suddenly vanish. It is strange to see that old clock without any hands, but somehow it makes you happy. Just think about that clock now for a moment. Okay, take a deep breath and when you like, open your eyes.”
Seriously, that is it. Now, you must seem a bit mysterious but confident. They must believe you. The script above is merely a metaphor to aid in the anxiety of the clock ticking the night away, while he can’t sleep. If your performance has been effective, it will create just enough of a positive expectation for your sad-sack friend to break the anxiety cycle. After one night, this new-found confidence can create a new sleep expectation. If your friend has a good night of sleep, feel free to repeat the ritual again for good measure. When this works, and it will, be humble with your Yoda-like powers. “Sleep, you will”.
Mind Trick Two: Hiccups
This one is even more simple. During a bout of hiccups tell your friend to look you in the eyes and state:
“You have hiccups? Awesome. Check this out.”
Now, just snap your fingers and wave your hand (in true Jedi-fashion) and you will have cured the condition. This works by ”bumping the record” and getting the breathing pattern back on track. To be honest, it is not quite clear what causes hiccups, but it is fired by an autonomic function of the brain. This “pattern interrupt” promotes a momentary pause, which most often will stop the hiccups. I have done this to a number of people with success (including a pediatrician: you know who you are). At first, people all want to doubt your new-found power, but this will amaze anyone who witnesses. Once done, it will become a laughable routine everytime this person gets hiccups. Soon, the slightest ”knowing smile” and a glance will be enough. It is funny.
Both of these work on the power of belief and expectation. If you give people a reason to doubt their doubts (with some solid acting), the results will amaze the most hardened of skeptics.
May the force be with you
As soon as my middle-aged nose got a whiff of forty, my hair started to disappear like an aviary in the Copperfield Mansion. The reduced number of hairs to groom provided ample time to reflect. This “identity crisis” first made me think about what was vanishing (like: opportunities, hair, my youth and time), then instead (by God’s grace) I began to contemplate what was appearing.
I am overjoyed to have peace and three wonderful children and a ridiculously supportive wife. I love how I make my living and am fortunate enough to see my professional goals being accomplished. To add icing to the cake, I have even had the good fortune to enjoy artistic validation from peers. These are blessings! My mid-life “transition” has certainly given new life to counting blesssings. Since we all have things that are vanishing, it is good medicine to notice what is appearing. There is always something, so wait ‘til the smoke clears.
Tea with Taxes?
Biscotti with Budgeting?
Miles (Davis) with Miles?
Caviar with Calls? …
Ok. That last was a bridge too far. In spite of our young dreams of daily excitement and reaching the stars (literally, for me), much of life is filled with the mundane. In honor of tax day, I would like to offer a common sense approach that really works; “The Pavlov Effect”. (We all know it, but often forget to use it). Oh yes, we all love those pups with the over-active salivating glands.
I was recently re-reading an essay from a highly regarded tome for magicians (“The Books of Wonder”). The author acknowledges the drudgery of practice, while not undermining its necessity. I appreciated his sentiment that anything worth doing is worth doing well. I was also impressed that this world renowned performer would not begin his personal practice sessions until he was in a happy, contented mood. (Which he achieved via good music or any other reasonable accommodations). His lesson is well made. To be excellent at anything, it is wise to achieve and condition the right state of mind first and then the results will follow. There is no doubt this is true.