You take a deep breath and walk into the room. The woman sitting behind the table with the name tags greets you with a polite smile but only a hint of familiarity.
You quickly spy the bar and, deciding that it’s a good place to start, make a beeline toward it.
Halfway there, you’re intercepted.
“HEY! How are you? I haven’t seen you in years! You look so different."
So go the next three hours. Semi-fun, semi-painful. Reliving glory days, renewing friendships, retelling your story, hearing theirs and ... wondering.
You’re wondering exactly how some of your high school classmates managed to become SO outrageously successful despite early indications to the contrary.
The next question popping into our collective heads is this: “Is there magic formula I've missed in my own life?”
"Could I use it to amp up my own sales career even more?"
I've been to that reunion many times – albeit vicariously – through interviews of hundreds of successful people. Interestingly, a pattern, a cycle – some may call it a formula – does emerge. And just before the formula appears, a "truth" does:
It’s hard to become dissatisfied enough to change unless you have something better in mind.
That’s the first step your "against-the-odds successes" at the reunion had taken. At key points in their lives, they had something better in mind. Enough better to make them shift from their satisfaction with their current realities to relentless zeal for something better. Maybe it was a better house, better schools for their kids, better clothes, a better car.
But better. Clearly and specifically better.
They deliberately choose what they wanted. More importantly, they decided WHY they wanted it. The “why” was pivotal. The "why" launches us forward from the comfort of the known into the uncertain. It's the emotional fuel that that keeps us advancing in the face of adversity.
Next, they determine what skill sets were required to get what they wanted.
In sales, it might be a better rapport-building, closing, asking questions, prospecting, or presenting solutions. Regardless, they knew that mastery of those skills would set them on a different path. A faster and more likely route to the “better thing” they had in mind.
Three questions and one statement dominated their conciousness:
• Do I really need to improve to get what I want?
• Do I really want to improve?
• Can I really learn these skills?
• "Yes, yes, and yes! Show me how to do this. I will."
Those three "yeses" kicked them into an active, almost maniacal, search mode. Devouring books, tapes, and seminars. Seeking out mentors and people who have walked the path before them. They took in vast amounts of data looking for best practices. They became active learners – going to school on other people’s experiences both good and bad.
Now for the turning point and the REAL differentiator between people who achieve and the also-rans: They leapt over the “knowledge sewer” – that hole into which many pour the education they paid for (in time and money) but never apply.
Unlike so many, these achievers took what they learned and immediately put it to use. They dove in and applied. They practiced their techniques. Adapted them. Improved them. Over and over, until the theoretical knowledge that they acquired became a skill set that they could execute repeatedly.
They threw out what didn’t work and enhanced what did. When something produced a desired result, they truly examined how and why and added it to the arsenal. When something failed, they didn’t lament it – they moved on aided by a boundless energy to achieve something “better.”
The “why” was driving them.
They also find good coaches or advisers. “Sherpas” of sorts. Those who had been to the top of the mountain, knew the path, and kept optimistic world views. They listened to them and acted on their advice. They discarded hubris and continued to learn. And implement.
Results began to appear. Slowly at first, then geometrically. Until they achieved the “better” they had in mind and reveled in the accomplishment of their “whys.”
They were excited. They achieved by choice.
But at that moment, something else occurred. Even bigger. Sure, their lives had changed, but so had they. They realized that they could repeat the process. At will. They could continue to build more “betters” and more “whys” into their lives, until they decided to stop.
Now when they go to reunions, people ask them how they “did it.” They explain the process to oft-puzzled looks. "That's how?! It seems so easy," come the responses.
It's simple. Not easy.
• Define your “what.”
• Understand your “why.”
• Begin mastering your skills.
• Find your sherpas.
• Act and adapt.
The best news? Anyone who wants to can. You still have time.