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Tennessean Column- Sunday, March 9th

Posted on: March 07

Author: Tom Black
Tennessean Column- Sunday, March 9th

The Tennessean - Sunday, March 9th, 2014


“There are two kinds of people.  One looks for a way the other looks for an excuse.  I want you to be the kind of person that goes over, under, around and through any obstacle that stands in your way.”  That is one of the first things my mentor, Sam Johnson, told me when I was 18 years old.

Over the years I have learned that in every walk of life there are those that make excuses and those that find a way.  In the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio tells his new salespeople “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the B.S. story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”

After my second summer selling books for Southwestern my sales manager came to me and said, “You can be #1.”  I was sure a light out of heaven had shined on me.  How else would he predict I could be #1 out of over 6,500 students?  Later when I was a manager I learned that you go to all your second year salespeople and tell them they can be #1.  I was drinking the Kool-Aid.

So I made a commitment to be #1.  I did not say I would be #1 if my car didn’t break down because it did.  I did not say I would be #1 if my roommates didn’t quit, go home to their girlfriends and leave me alone in Virginia to sell on my own. Because they did.

I did not say I would be #1 if I didn’t run out of territory.  Because I did.  I went back through territory where another boy had been selling the same books.  I did not say I would be #1 if I didn’t have a death in the family.  Because I did.  I did not say I would be #1 if I didn’t lose my voice because after 12 weeks of working 15 hours a day 6 days a week my voice gave out.  The last week on the field I whispered my sales talk and carried a jug of salt water in the car to gargle with between calls.  I said I would be #1 despite my circumstances and I was.

In life there are internalists and externalists.  The internalists say, “I control my destiny” the externalists say “It is my product, it is my territory, it is my family, it is my company, it is my manager and it is the economy that is holding me back.”

The world does not care about the storms you encounter.  They only want to know “Did you bring in the ship?”  Everyone has circumstances.  For the most part, I do not believe in circumstances.  The people who get on in the world find their circumstances and if they cannot find them they make them.

I have never met one great salesperson who was successful because they caught all the breaks.  They won the prizes and received the awards year after year not because they were lucky.  Sure we all face setbacks, detours and problems.  That is life.  The more challenges you face the more alive you are.  Consistently, the great salespeople are those that look for a way not an excuse.

At the end of that summer I was #1 and they gave me a t-shirt.  N.E.A.T. was written on the shirt.  I still have a t-shirt with those letters.  The initials stand for No Excuses Accepted Today.  This is the best lesson I can give you.  Write it on your heart.  Now is the time.  Today is the day.  Within you is the ability to win.

For more information on The Tennessean, visit www.tennessean.com 

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