Success is Not an Accident

There was a professional coach I met who admittedly, was older and more experienced. He had more formal training and a higher level of education than myself. Our backgrounds were different and so was our experience. He was a big finance guy and I had been working in the blue collar section for a long time.

Our lives were different in more ways than one. We were generationally different. We were economically different. However, the one similarity that brought us together was that we both wanted to improve ourselves on both a personal and professional level.

There was a time when I believed that there was a split between the white collar and the blue. There was a time when I believed that money made things different. Positions made us different. Job titles made us different and of course, bank accounts made us different. 

Although mismatched in some ways, the coach and I would toss business ideas back and forth. We talked about wellness plans and focused on the betterment of self and our financial perspectives. Since the focus was on our similarities to improve instead of our differences, the two of us learned to work with one another. Although anonymity and confidentiality is important to me, for a better understanding, I will affectionately name this coach Jim.

One day, Jim was explaining the importance of empowerment in business models. Jim was talking about discipline to change and discipline to improve and grow. This is when Jim mentioned something to me that I have not forgotten since the day we met.

“How you do one thing is how you do all things,” said Jim.

I have thought about this for a long time. I thought about the way people respond to criticism. I thought about the way some cashiers are able to smile at the rudest customer and how others would argue or fight back. I thought about the difference between some of the salespeople I’ve met and how some are more successful and others are struggling to cover their draw vs their commission. I thought about this idea and applied this to myself and the emotional spectrum that comes with life.

An old supervisor of mine used to sell cars. He talked about one of the car salesmen who used to have a prosthetic leg. One of the techniques the salesman would use is when someone sat at the table and the sale was close; to ensure the sale, the salesman would pull out a calculator and start punching numbers. The numbers had nothing to do with the car and once finished, the salesman would look at the numbers he just added.
He would celebrate, “Yes!”
When the customer would ask about the celebration, the salesman would apologize and explain that this helped him with a personal goal.
Usually, the customer would ask, “What’s the goal?”
“This is the sale that puts me over the mark,” said the salesman.
“What mark,” was the usual response from the customer.
“This sale puts me over the mark. Once I get this I can get my new leg.”
Then the salesman would lift his pant leg to show the customer the plastic from his prosthetic leg.

I told this story to Jim.
“How you do one thing is how you do all things,” said Jim.

The ability to endure and overcome is not a task that is matched by everyone. On the same point, our abilities to deal with or overcome adversity are not the same either. We have strengths and weaknesses. We have our breaking points as well. Either way, attitude is training. Perhaps the leg trick for the salesman might not appeal to others but to the car salesman, this was his way of doing things.  For him, this was his way of compensating. To him, this was his way of beating the competition, which, ethically speaking is something that comes into question, especially since the salesman never went out to buy a new leg.

There were years when I worked in sales. I remember when I was a baby-faced 19 year old in a suit and tie with a briefcase and packages of samples. My first sales job was in the garment district. I sold for a company that manufactured identification items such as woven labels that go in the back of a shirt or embroidered emblems and appliques. This position was the lowest of the low in the garment industry. I ranked with the annoyance of telemarketers and basic door to door salespeople who are often brutalized by rejection.

In fairness, I was young. I was unsure how to approach certain topics or handle certain dilemmas at the workplace. There were other salespeople that were earning a decent six-digit salary, and yet, I was struggling to buy the cheap burger and fries from the .99 cent place over on 7th Avenue.

What was it about the other salespeople? Was it age? Was it our differences that helped them to perform better than me? Or, was it their ability to compartmentalize and detach from the emotional hang ups that come with frequent rejection?
How did they learn to endure?
How did they learn to navigate away from certain conversations and not take loss personally?

I was never trained for this. I was never properly introduced to the sales team. I had no way of understanding the different responses and options to rejection. Eventually, I took on the emotional draw that comes with screaming, angry production managers who shouted insults at me when I walked through the door.

There were different sales programs that I knew of. There were also the catchy little slogans that other salespeople would tell me. “Just keep plugging” or “A.B.C.” as in “Always Be Closing.” It wasn’t the rejection; however, it was my reaction to the rejection that stunted my growth in this industry. This was contingent upon my attitude and my approach to my everyday life and thinking. I was caught up in the emotional whirlpool and frustrated, which distracted me from the few accounts that needed my full attention. Eventually, those relationships ended as well. And at the time, I wasn’t sure why.

Allow me to take a stab at this from a different approach:
Like many people in this world, my first car was not the cool car. I never drove the nicest car in the parking lot. Most of my first few cars were old and in need of constant care. My friends called my cars “Shit-Boxes,” but hey, at least they got me around.

I was told that since I owned a high mileage car that I had to take special care of the car. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have a car at all. I was told to pay attention and that if one thing went wrong, I should pay attention to this immediately. The reason for this is problems can add up. If one thing went wrong with the car and went unaddressed, something else could happen. Then there would be two issues with the car. Two issues can quickly become three. Three issues become four and next, what the hell, right? It’s an old car. It’s gonna die anyway, so might as well drive it into the ground. This was the case for me and for one of my old Fords and the Chevy that I drove into the ground.

There was an attitude here. There was an adjustment and there was a change. There was emotion and a connection with pride (or the lack thereof) and there was an outcome that was eventually unavoidable. However, months later, I saw someone else driving one of my old Fords. The car was driving well. The interior was well-kept. The “check engine” light was off and the car was running well. The new owner followed the same suggestions. Take care of the car and the car will run as long as you want. There was nothing wrong with the car. There was only a complication with my attitude.

Companies such as Deloitte have been around for a long time. They have over 330,000 employees and a revenue of an approximate $47.6 billion. How does a company like this achieve this kind of growth?

Obviously, there is competition in the consulting, risk management and risk advisory business, yet somehow, Deloitte managed to reach an extraordinary level of success. But how?

I was told about a training course that is given to employees of the firm. I was told this program is to help them both understand and overcome adversity. When something unfortunate happens at work or if a client is unfriendly, unhappy or if a client is unable to handle themselves appropriately, the employees are trained to handle the inflection points and both deal, as well as compartmentalize, this problem before allowing this to become personal.

By focusing on the improvements and understanding the possibilities of unforeseen difficulties, the employees were empowered to expect these dilemmas and understand how to work through them. For example, this same process is used in mixed martial arts. There are experts in these arts who became this way because they learned how to overcome adversity in a fluid-like motion by creating a muscle-memory. “If this, then that,” and the movements become second nature. Therefore, improvement becomes second nature when we train to constantly improve.

My friend who told me about the car salesman with one leg laughed about the story and said, “It’s just business.” Then I thought about Jim. I thought about the idea of “How we do one thing is how we do all things.” I thought about my old cars and my attitudes towards them. I also thought about some of my old sales jobs and how in some cases, I believed as if I were being thrown to the wolves, so-to-speak. There was no training, no role-plays, no attention from my supervisors to support my success.

What is it that makes people successful?
What is it that makes people wake up each morning, earlier than sunrise, and get out of bed to jog or exercise?
Why is it that some people can diet and lose weight, and with all other things being equal, a similar person will work the same diet plan and not lose the same kind of weight?

It is certainly true that our physical body is interconnected with our mental being. We are all looking for satisfaction and gratification. We want rewards and want life to work out as planned. However, life will not always adhere to our schedule nor does life work out as we plan it to.

My Father used to talk about something called stick-to-it-iveness.  


[ stik-too-it-iv-nis ]

noun Informal.
determination and persistence, especially in spite of difficulties; perseverance

Call it stubbornness or stick-to-it-iveness, but she eventually won support for the proposal.

Stick-to-it-iveness is the root of endurance. To find a way; to make it through, to learn to navigate away from the negative inflections of the workday or home life. But yet, stick-to-itiveness is also a skill. And skills need to be nurtured.
This is like a muscle, in which case, the muscle needs to be exercised. Same as physical exercise strengthens the body, mental fitness helps us improve our performance, behaviors and skill sets.

Deloitte figured out that if they helped build resilience within their team and encouraged their employees when they faced adversity on the job or inflection points, which are difficult to work through; Deloitte created wellness classes to help their employees improve their overall performance. 

. . . Willpower and endurance need to be exercised . . .

I was thinking about Jim during my exercise time this morning. I was thinking about what he taught me.
How you do one thing is how you do all things.

I was thinking about the habit loops and the improvements of old habits that no longer serve me. First, I realized action and behavior reflects self. Empowerment and improvement comes from the encouragement of newly trained behaviors that feed our personal reward system.

When trained to improve, we improve.
When trained to quit, we quit. 
It’s that simple.

I will leave this thought before I go. Years back, I used to drive into New York City from the Queen’s side of the Manhattan Bridge. There was a sign in fluorescent lights that shone in the nighttime sky. The sign said, “Perfection is not an accident.”

Therefore, success is not an accident either.

Neither is our physical or mental health. All of our successes require work. The reason why some people are more successful than others is they learned to accommodate the work. They understood how to organize their emotional structure and how to place strategy over emotion.

And like Jim says, “How they did one thing is how they did all things.”

Successfully . . . .

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