I once kicked off my week with a particularly stupid mistake.  I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I knew better, and I cost myself a sale.  My mistake wasn’t caused by lack of knowledge. It was caused by lack of judgement at that specific moment in time. Fortunately, having a strong ego and a good sense of self awareness, I know that bad judgement at one moment does not mean that I’ll always have bad judgement. I moved on.

It is not an easy thing to let go of past failures. Sometimes, the smaller the failure, the harder it is to let yourself off the hook for it. After all, shouldn’t you get the basic details right? How can you mess up on something so small and basic? This feeling in the wake of a mistake can cause a personal and negative”Trophic Cascade” in your mind.

A trophic cascade is a theory around nature and ecosystems that has really changed the way scientists look at nature in the last few decades. It involves a large event or switch a the apex predator level and the effect it has on an entire food chain. For example, when wolves were removed from Yellowstone National Park, the deer population drastically increased. That caused a drop in grasses and shrubs (more deer = more grazing) which in turn caused a rise in erosion along the rivers, which in turn destroyed habitats and caused a drop in the number of beavers, weasels, mice, and the birds that feed on them, and so on.  Remove the apex predator in an ecosystem, and countless negative consequences come from it. Wolves actually impact the way rivers flow.

Confidence is the apex predator of the ecosystem of your mind. It keeps everything else in balance and if you remove it, the consequences are extensive. Here’s the catch though, only one person can influence your confidence.  The greatest enemy of your confidence is you, and the self talk that happens in your head. According to studies, over 70% of self talk is negative. That little voice in your head is usually critical, mean, and overly harsh. It attempts to bring up past transgressions as evidence that your mistakes are the result of you being a bad person, versus you just making a bad decision in any given moment. It judges you in ways that you would never inflict on others and usually not tolerate from other people. There’s very little filter on your self talk. Your subconscious tends to accept anything and everything your little voice states.

I was once at a Rotary lunch with a collegiate national championship basketball coach. When I asked her for one trait, attitude or skill that she thinks has the greatest importance for success, she didn’t hesitate before answering.

“Being able to wipe the slate clean. Everyone fails at some point, everyone falters. Being able to learn from it, and then wipe the slate clean and go back to work is one of the key traits of champions.”

She went on to share a story about one of her players making a critical mistake that cost them a very important game, only to come back the following week and sink 4 three pointers in a row and qualify them for the playoffs.

The team, the coaches and most important of all, that player, all had to be able to let it go, forgive, and wipe the slate clean to be able to move on.

In Sales, I think there is tremendous value in knowing your basic sales skills and process. ROI conversations, time qualifying, setting an agenda, having a solid 30 and so on. The only way to get fully competent at those things is to commit yourself to doing it, allowing yourself to fail, learn and then do it again. Even if you only get it 50% right, it is still better than not doing it at all.  Not doing it at all because you are afraid you won’t get it perfect is the worse kind of mental trap that stalls your confidence. That negative cycle creates the trophic cascade of your mind.

Sales isn’t complicated, but it is hard. Hard in that it demands a tremendous amount of personal vigor in the face of constant and steady rejection. That rejection can easily start to turn into that little internal voice of criticism and doubt. Like an ecosystem, removal or reduction of the apex predator (confidence) through doubt is going to lead to a lot of negative thoughts, additional doubts, and affect your behavior, like letting go of best practices (process).

Mastery of anything comes from repetition. Awareness of our failures, embracing the lessons we learn from it, and wiping the slate clean reverses the Trophic Cascade, or causes a new one that is beneficial.

Confidence does not come from skill. Skill comes from confidence.

When they re-introduced wolves into Yellowstone, the positive consequences exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Below is a quick cool video with that story that I found online. Wolves can change the path of rivers. Learn to care for and protect the wolves in your head. You won’t believe the results.