An education in candor

October 10. 2012 9:00AM - Last modified: October 10. 2012 9:07AM

Patrick Morin

The reception was in full swing. An open bar, luxurious hors d'oeuvres and a list of attendees that read like a who's who of the industry were all commingling to create a wonderful energy.

The setting – one of the best hotels in San Diego – lent itself to the mix and added to the warm atmosphere. It couldn't have been more inviting.

The trip to the West Coast, while largely uneventful, had left me wanting to clean up a bit and change into some fresh clothes, so I arrived a bit late and at the peak of the event. I hadn't yet had time to check in to the conference and receive my credentials or to catch up with the the guy who had hired me to deliver the keynote address.

I had known Steve for 13 years and, while I hadn't seen him in five, we had spent a fair amount of time together earlier in our careers. With an undergraduate degree from Yale and a master's from Princeton, Steve's intellect, insight and analytical skills were widely known and highly regarded among industry leaders.

What I always admired was his ability to ask penetrating questions with diplomacy and to convey his observations with candor and tact. He could get to the heart of most matters quickly and easily.

Entering the room, I didn't see him right off but after a few seconds made a beeline to him and the small group around him.

"Steve!" I exclaimed, extending my hand.

One-Mississippi ... two-Mississippi ... three-Mississippi ... four-Mississippi ...

"Patrick?!! Hey, man! It's great to see you! Really glad you're here!" Steve responded after the quizzical look on his face was replaced by a grin.

We continued to talk enthusiastically as we went to the bar to get a couple of drinks. We settled in to the kind of great conversation that old friends do, enjoying the occasional treat of the passed hors d'oeuvres.

After recapping the ins and outs of our last few years, Steve asked, "Are you still on that program where you eat six meals a day?"

It was MY turn to pause.

One-Mississippi ... two-Mississippi ... three-Mississippi ... four-Mississippi ...

Suddenly, it hit me like crowbar falling from a skyscraper. The LAST time I had seen Steve, I was 210 pounds and had 8 percent body fat. I was training for triathlons and eating six meals a day to keep my calorie count and fitness high. At that time, I had zealously explained my program to Steve, and it had apparently made an impression.

A year or two later, a shoulder injury had knocked me off that plan. I ballooned to 291 pounds and, while being 6-foot-3 hides a lot, it couldn't hide that much change. It also explained Steve's reaction.

Steve hadn't recognized me when I walked up to him. I was still using a five-year old picture when booking speaking engagements, and that's what he was used to seeing. Frankly -- it's what I was used to seeing.

Can't similar things happen in a person's sales career? We start out with a new company or product and an infectious enthusiasm that generates terrific results. We experience "injuries" along the way and get derailed. Over time, we no longer look (to ourselves or to others) the way we once did. We aren't generating the same results that our potential once promised.

When someone we respect and admire can point out the change (with a dose of candor and genuine concern) – and we can listen without being offended – positive change is imminent. We can return to those high levels of achievement. Frankly, we can exceed them if we are truly candid with ourselves.

Since confidence comes from planning, I returned home and planned out the next 12 weeks of diet and exercise. Fifty days later, I am 32 pounds lighter. I wonder if Steve will recognize me when I'm back at 220!

That's what candor bought me. What will it buy you?


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