When I saw this sign, it occurred to me that it’s risky for snakes in the Rocky Mountains to simply cross a dirt road in search of food—but if they want to survive they’ll have to take that risk. For you and me, there is also some risk in simply living life each day. But if we want to move beyond surviving to thriving, more risk is what we’ll have to choose.
It was February of 1986 and I was leaving a secure salaried job with benefits at Cargill to sell management development systems for an unknown training firm of twelve people. Risky? Well, married with daughters, Kristin, age three, and Tara, eight months, it felt like it. But Karen and I decided I should go for it, so I called my dad to tell him of my career move and this exchange took place:
Dad: “So what will you be doing?”
John: “I’m not totally sure, but my new manager says I’ll be ‘cold calling.’”
Dad: “What exactly does that entail?”
John: “Well, I think it means that all day long I’ll be calling people who don’t want to speak to me.”
… long pause …
Dad: “Well, son, I think you’ll be very good at that!”
And that’s what I did, from the furnace room of our Brooklyn Center, Minnesota home—asking for appointments with managers at all levels. And …
Learning how to get past receptionists and assistants. Having people hang up on me. Hearing prospects gruffly ask, “What do you want!?” or “What are you selling!?” And if they were nice: “Call me in a month!” These prospects thought I wouldn’t follow up. But I did.
Persistence does pay.
To be truthful, it was the hardest, most emotionally challenging work I’ve ever done. In fact, just plain scary at times.
So when my son, Michael, founder of Sun Prairie Films, told me that he was going to walk up and down Main Street in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin to knock on doors of businesses to see if he could make a video to place on their website or Facebook page to help them “tell their story to the people who need to hear it,” I inwardly cringed.
Outwardly, I said, “Go for it, son!” I even gave him a few “sales manager to sales person” tips.
In the final chapter of Outstanding! titled “Try! Risk! Grow!” we stress how critical it is to try. And do. Thus risk. Otherwise, there is no growth.
I recall in January of 1986, when my soon-to-be sales manager, Jim, was interviewing me for that sales position I left Cargill for, he asked, “John, how do you feel about cold calling?” I responded this way:
“Well, Mr. Strutton, I don’t think I’m going to like it.” Then I added, “But I’ll do it.”
And now Michael is doing it, too. Is this dad proud? You bet. But this message is not about selling, managing, or parenting. It is about this truth:
When we do not TRY and DO, we do not RISK. With no RISK, there is no GROWTH. Life then brings fewer REWARDS.
But if we seek new results, rewards, and riches—no matter how we personally define them—doesn’t it behoove us to look for ways to s-t-r-e-t-c-h ourselves?
To try, risk, grow?
Yes, I believe it does.
Several years ago, Michael, bound for college and a musical theater degree, said, “Dad, I’m not like you. I’m just not a salesperson.” Now, at 25, he’s knocking on doors to sell a service that he believes in.
That’s trying, risking, and growing. And, it is … inspiring.
How about you? If Mike can try and do new things, so can you. I say … go for it!
If you always do what you’ve always done,
you’ll always get what you always got.
Points to Ponder:
What do I need to try? What actions do I need to take? What risks would bring new rewards into my life?
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