A big part of being successful at anything starts with getting your mind right. Like the body, the mind doesn’t remain in a static state for long. I can’t just work out really hard and “get in shape” and then stop all exercise and stay in shape. Same for my brain. That’s partially good news, because if someone has, for example, PTSD, they are not condemned to suffer from it for the rest of their lives. The mind heals, just like the body.
I think many of us are currently suffering from a form of PTSD. How could we not? Between the Pandemic, nationwide riots, a new flurry of mass shootings, high inflation, a potential recession on the horizon and all the political stuff, there are a lot of dramatic and disruptive things going on, and a lot of uncertainty lies ahead. It can be hard to manage that.
Someone reached out to me a few weeks ago with a message that I’ve been ruminating on since I received it. Below is an excerpt:
“The pandemic changed me. A few different values of mine changed. I feel different, heck- I even look different (covid gains), and I just do not feel like the person I was prior to 2020 in the sense that my motivation or drive fell flat and considering if it’s time to redirect energy into something else versus staying in sales.”
“Has something ever in your life changed where you feel you are not the “same person”, and it took some time and/or tools to get you back on track to perform?”
I relate. I really do. My mother passed away a few months ago. My aunt just passed away this week. This caps a period of several years of living through a Cat 5 hurricane destroying my house, business going down to zero because of a global pandemic right as I was recovering, losing several friends, including two to suicide (one as recently as a few days ago). It would be impossible not to suffer some level of trauma from all of that. We’ve all changed in the last few years. I think most of us have some sort of PTSD. We’re all dealing with the “Mind Monster”, that voice in our head that’s always asking “What’s the point? Why bother? Why not give up?”. We’re all that athlete who faces a serious injury and can’t perform until they heal. However, time alone doesn’t heal things. The right practice has to accompany the passage of time. Here’s my list of things to get back on track.
1 – Focus on what you can control. There’s already a golden rule, but this might be the diamond rule. The supreme court will do what the supreme court will do. Same with the government. Either run for office and change it, or focus your time and effort on things that actually influence how your day goes. You only have a limited number of hours in the day. Don’t waste ANY of them working on things you can’t influence. As Dr. Jordan Peterson says, “If you want to clean up the world, start with your room”.
2 – Diagnose the problem accurately. In the message above, the author doubts if he wants to be in sales any longer. OK, fair enough, but if the product/service he is selling is inferior or has become obsolete, is sales the problem? If his boss is a jerk, his company is poorly run, and the commission plan is unfair or badly designed, is sales the problem? I’ve had bad sales jobs. A few times in my youth I thought sales was no longer for me. Then I run into a company selling something that really helps their clients, and I get all amped up to sell again. Changing the tires won’t do anything if the axle is broken.
3 – Take action. Yes, do SOMETHING. It’s a whole lot easier to feel powerless sitting at your desk or on the couch than when you are moving. Fix something small, enjoy the boost you get from it, then tackle something else. Something as small as cleaning up a closet, catching up on expense reports, or organizing your files creates positive momentum, and that builds on itself. I recommend starting small, because it’s easier to get a win that way.
4 – Change it up. A few weeks ago I was coaching a very demoralized sales team. They were all burnt out on email blasting people, and the low response rate. No one was excited about a new email template. As a group, we committed to no less than 12 connects per day, ON THE PHONE! Yeah, the phone. Remember those? You might have one included in that texting/tik tok/camera/alarm clock you carry around in your pocket. Check out the instruction manual on those. Most have a feature that allows you to……gulp….actually TALK to someone. Once the team got over their fear of actually speaking with someone, they all were rejuvenated by having conversations with clients. A good sales process and sales plan helps with this as well.
5 – Get disciplined! Discipline is the secret sauce. It always has been. There is no shortcut. Show me a successful person and I’ll show you someone who’s disciplined at their craft. The author Jocko Willink is one of my favorite sources for this topic. He often states that skill is worthless without discipline. I’ve seen evidence of this being true in sales regularly. Not kidding, I’ve witnessed sales people who were barely intelligent enough to fog a mirror out perform amazingly intelligent colleagues, simply by the volume of activity they were disciplined enough to do. The best part? Gaining skill usually comes from the repeated execution of tasks. Discipline powers talent, not the other way around.
All of that being said, some of you may have come to the realization, partially from all the disruption, that you do not love what you do, and that it is time for a change. For those, I remind you that it is NOT giving up to decide to make a change. Sales isn’t a lifelong pursuit for everyone. You might have learned what you can from your time in sales, and decide it’s time to apply it to marketing, finance or management. As long as it’s a deliberate choice, it isn’t giving up. But if you are making a change because your “motivation or drive feels flat”, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Unmotivated dentists or pilots tend to not succeed any more than unmotivated sales people.