In any walk of life, there are instances where we cant perform for one reason or another. Every venture is not a success and every encounter with opportunity doesn’t always come out smelling like roses for us.
Writers Block is a state of being that we can be in whether we are writing or not. It’s gotten attention over the years in the world of creative or artistic expression but it could be used for anything.
When we are in a headspace that is not conducive from performing at our highest level, that is when some of the “brain fog” sets in and we can’t see the path clearly.
It is important for us to recognize what our bodies need to be optimal and when they are not in that state we need to recalibrate and ask questions.
What has our sleep looked like?
Have we been eating properly?
Did we get exercise recently?
Have we taken some brain breaks?
And then start to take small actions to adjust. These do not have to be grandiose.
Get a workout in
Take a break from the technology
Listen to some music
No matter what you personally need to do, we need to tune our bodies so they are primed for the best output. If we understand our baselines, recognize when we’ve shifted away from them, and admit that we need to recalibrate then we will be able to get back to a better state of being and our “writer’s block” will miraculously go away.
I had a chance to get back out to Umstead Park today with my son to go for a nice trail walk and enjoy some of the beauty nature has to offer. As we were about halfway through the walk he started to ask the age-old question, “Are we there yet”, which prompted me to share some insight about life which I’ll share here.
The trail is a metaphor for life and the only thing certain is there is a beginning and there is an end.
We all start out the same way, through birth, although everyone’s trail looks different.
My perspective on the trail and the difficulty in certain spots is based on my experiences in life up to this point. I might be able to easily navigate certain terrain more easily because I have come upon similar things before and can use those memories to help me get through. There will inevitably be spots though where I need to pause and consider a plan of how to get to the next step; which rock should I step on to propel me forward, should I jump or take a long step, is there any spot that looks slick. All of these types of things come at us at different speeds and at different times, too. You have to be ready to seize all of the opportunities when they are presented to you and make the correct calculation and best decision with the information you have to go in the right direction.
My son has a different perspective. For starters, he is much shorter than me so his view on the world is already different. Everything looks bigger and scarier and his footing is a little unsteady because of the surface area of the roots and rocks. It’s not harder, it’s just different. But he also doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. The things that I am looking out for, right or wrong, may not be things that he even considers and that can work in his favor, too. There is also a lot more fear of the unknown because he hasn’t seen as many paths as I have and hasn’t climbed as many hills so his mind isn’t callused as much as mine is. That will come in time and he’ll have to endure these when they come upon him.
That’s why support systems and having people you trust are so important to get through life. We all need mentors and guides at various times and those lessons taught (like Yoda on Luke’s back during Jedi training) will come in handy as we are on our own and have to make decisions in real-time. You can walk the trail of life alone and maybe do just fine but it gets lonely and dark and depressing that way. Finding purpose is a lot harder.
You won’t always know if this path will lead to the right spot but if you continue to evaluate the terrain coming ahead you can try to get back on course if you happen to veer. So this hits another parallel, what happens when you get way off course?
We all get deep into situations we shouldn’t have whether it is a poor career choice, poor health, or a poor financial situation like when I was in $18,000 of credit card debt. That sucked. I couldn’t believe I got myself in that big hole on top of the car payment and student loans that needed to be paid off. Not to mention the other bills that had to be paid each month.
But I had a choice.
I could continue to go down that path even though I had a feeling of where that was going to lead me; more stress, more anxiety, more frustration, less happiness, or I could alter course and use my judgment and newfound experiences to lead me in a better direction.
It wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be quick but for me to get back on level ground I had to keep chopping away in small increments. I had to choose that new path every day. In order to tackle newer challenges that were important to me then I had to make the sacrifices in the short term to help me out in the long run. Eight years later, I was completely debt-free, over 50k paid off, and I felt back on track to conquer new adventures.
And so that’s the moral here, as I told my son, the trail is the fun part and not the destination. Oh, you’ll certainly get somewhere someday but what stories are you going to be able to tell when you get there and what level of pride will you have that you navigated tough terrain and not only achieved your goals but worn the path just a little bit more to help people that are coming behind you.
That’s what I wanted him to learn and I hope it’s a great lesson for you reading this today.
Enjoy the peaks and valleys because they are inevitable.
Stop and smell the roses and don’t be in such a hurry to get somewhere.
Help others by being a guide and marking the trail with your experiences.
Don’t let fear guide you on your path but the belief in yourself that ultimately you know the direction if you just trust your own judgment.
Good luck as you navigate your own trail and hope to run into you at some point on the journey!
We all deal with stress in our own way and I’ve found that most of the “dealing” is rooted in childhood behaviors and situations that are not going away any time soon. There is hope though that you can change those behaviors and become a person who can deal with stress much better or whatever challenges you’d like to overcome.
I got to thinking about this with a work situation today when I was trying to get some information to a potential client and was waiting on others to finish their side of it before I could send it over.
In the past, I’d get anxious and be stressed out if things were taking a bit too long. I’d be checking emails or refreshing salesforce or whatever to help me cope and feel like I was at least checking and would be ready to pounce when needed. This was rooted in a lot of childhood issues I dealt with around wanting to make everything perfect because I was always fearful of being judged and not being good enough. I was always someone to go above and beyond in many situations especially when it was with people I didn’t know because of this need to make a good impression. Not a bad thing, I guess, but I’d get stressed and worry a lot. As I got older, this worry continued to transpire into my work and always having that fear of judgment in the back of my mind I’d bend over backward to get things done so quickly.
I still like to try and get things done quickly, that’s just how my personality is and I have a hard time sitting around when things aren’t complete. However, I recognized that it didn’t make any difference for (insert a given task) to be done 2 days earlier, for example, and therefore I became much better at prioritizing and staying patient.
What I have come to understand is that I need to prioritize very quickly the tasks coming across my desk and make lists / time stamps on when these need to be accomplished. If urgent, then let’s get it done but if not then don’t fret so much if it’s sitting there to do in a couple of days. This is where the patience comes in. One of my best traits I’ve learned as an adult and it transfers to many areas especially when dealing with stress and getting things done. It wasn’t always this way but as I prioritize things more clearly I don’t let my mind get cluttered anymore with focusing on it and I move on to the next important item.
The big step to make all of this possible was to address those feelings as a kid that I had to please others and look good in their eyes or I wouldn’t be worthy enough. Although I am continually working on this, I’ve all but conquered that tall mountain. My self-confidence is at a high level and I’ve come to grips that I’m not perfect and will never be. I’ve realized that if I am true to myself and the others around me that’s all that matters and I can hold my head high that I am living the life I want. Trust me, this took many years to work through and it’s a continuing process.
Here are the steps I’d go through and still do:
Sitting in thought and reflecting on my past
Have the self-awareness to recognize where I need to improve
Have the courage to make changes, slowly if necessary, to move in a better direction
Keep checking back in with myself and repeating this process to build a more solid foundation
There is no “easy” button, that’s for sure, but dealing with stress and anxiety and worry has been a big issue in the early part of my life and I made a commitment to change this, among other things. It took time and patience but I had a vision for where I wanted to go and trusted the process of getting better every day.
One last thought, I’d encourage a read of the book “Awareness” by Anthony De Mello as a starting point as it was a welcomed addition at the right time and helped a lot in these areas above.
I hope my story helps you in whatever areas you are trying to improve and please reach out if I can be a resource at all.
As I continue to go through this reflection period and have dipped into the memory bank of my earlier days it never dawned on me how many obstacles were in my way to grow as a person. Some of them I conquered, others it took many years to overcome, and others were sheer luck when they were removed for me, hence is the case with my older brother.
As a middle child, it was a brutal upbringing. Never feeling adequate enough as the 2nd son but certainly not new or different enough as the younger daughter. I felt stuck. I didn’t have many friends outside of school and hung out with a lot of my brothers’ friends. It’s funny now, really, but back then I looked up to him as an older brother and wanted to do the things he did. That’s pretty natural in most families and definitely wasn’t different in mine. Being only 17 months apart, we were close enough in age to play a lot of sports together and enjoy some of the same things. But we were so different it wasn’t even close. We thought similarly as we do to this day, but our actions were different which makes sense with his position as the first child and my place as the 2nd fiddle.
It was like that all the way through school. He was the cool, obnoxious, funny kid and I was, well, Nick’s brother. I played the role well and hid my feelings which most kids do and went on with it. What else was there to do.
But then my chance came to break out of the funk. A glimmer of hope to break free from the shackles of that existence. My big brother left for college.
So here I was, atop the mountain I so desperately was looking for. Finally, I took advantage. From afar you might not have noticed, but I knew there was a change. I was more outgoing, more sure of myself, and more the life of the party. See I too had quite a sense of humor, self-deprecating at times, and since I had forged my way as the “everyman”, I fit into many groups. I could hang with the athletes, spark conversations with the smart kids, and didn’t have a hard time talking to the girls (well unless it meant asking them out!). Still, some work needed to be done there.
What I noticed looking back is that I had built the tools in place to “win over” the crowds and be very likable and fit in almost anywhere.
I had learned emotional intelligence from being the quiet one and observing my surroundings.
I built my confidence slowly from working hard on my golf game and earning my own money through various jobs.
I learned empathy and compassion from hanging around with my grandparents
I learned to listen from watching a lot of interview TV from Regis and Kathie Lee, David Letterman, and Oprah.
It was only when the main obstacle was moved to the side that all of these things, that I didn’t really realize back then were strengths, came to life, and allowed me to open up as a person and spread my wings.
I think this can be a lesson for anyone out there struggling to find their own way. You may have what you need already to push forward and succeed but maybe there is that one obstacle standing in your way. Maybe it is the wrong job, wrong city, wrong group of friends, or something completely different. I got lucky that my big brother went to college, but you may have to pull back the layers a bit more to find what is holding you back.
Look at all the clues and whiteboard it if you have to but more times than not the most logical answer is probably the right one. The right answer may not be the one you want it to be but at least you have identified the problem and can take action to overcome it.
Once you get that boulder out of the way I’m confident that you too will be able to spread your wings and fly.
Before you go grab the latest and greatest sales book, understand you already have most of what you need to be successful at sales. You’ll learn a ton through experimental trial and error but I think a few suggestions below can get you started on an easier path as well.
In my opinion, I believe there are a lot of things early on that make sales hard for newer folks that don’t have to.
Too much information – product knowledge, value statements, sales playbooks and frameworks
Too much bad direction – poor training, unproven sales templates, bad call scripts
Bruised confidence – Overwhelming expectations, high activity metrics, poor personality fit in the role
There are good intentions behind all of these, especially from organizations facilitating these practices, but oftentimes it comes in the form of misguided or misinterpreted information and that can cause a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for reps, especially new to the game. Now, throw in all of the sales books out there that sales reps are suggested as they start down this path. A lot of this information and the strategies or practices are outdated and what has worked for some that wrote the books may not work for all using its teachings.
I personally believe there are other things you can do first to help you get on your way and be a more well-rounded sales professional.
Learn How To Write
Most sales are done through phone or email so those are the two powerhouses, to begin with. This is not about “sales tactics” or anything like that. This is about proper grammar, word usage, paragraph length, bullet points, and all other things around professional writing. It’s vital because you will write thousands of emails and other documents in your career. Learn how to write in a clearer form and this will help when you start slipping in your sales language. Also, it translates well into your spoken word.
My Suggestion: First, I’d take a few writing courses online for free or jump on YouTube and type in How To Write Better. It also doesn’t hurt to download the Grammarly plugin for Chrome as this will help instantly as you begin to type. Next, I’d look at the emails you write to people and which ones tend to get the most positive responses. Remember, the tone is very tough to pick up in an email so how you write can be taken in multiple ways if not structured correctly. That’s why I say positive responses. Also, emails tend to grab your attention from people. Are they short, bulleted, bolded, etc? Chances are, if they catch your eye then they probably will to your future clients as well.
Learn How To Listen
Listening is hard and can be much harder when you are trying to think about the next question to ask without paying attention to someone. Stop that. You’ll have plenty of time to ask questions and a gentle pause isn’t so bad. Being able to dissect a conversation and pick up the undertones of the language as well as the social awareness piece all at once is a masterful skill to have.
My Suggestion: There are a lot of ways to do this and it could be as simple as turning on a Podcast to try and observe the conversation or you might call a friend or family member and interview them. Try to catch yourself when you lose focus and attention as well as when you start to think ahead too much and forget to stay present in the discussion. It can be much easier to lose focus over the phone without someone watching you being visibly distracted so keep an eye on this.
Learn How To Learn
When was the last time you actually learned something new that you knew nothing about the topic beforehand? It’s a No for most people, too. However, the great thing is you can start today. Pick something you are curious about and learn about it. For instance, during my Dozen Months of Discovery, I learned Spanish for a whole month. My sessions with the tutor were really difficult especially the first few days but it got me attentive and feeling like a beginner learner again. You may even sign up to do a demo of a product you are interested in. Whatever gets you into the mindset of knowing nothing and then having to take in information for the first time.
My Suggestion: When you are demoing a product, think of the person on the other end that has no idea what your product does, how it could help them, or is able to visualize use cases to help a problem they might not even know they have. You have to do a great job of communicating properly and simply and your messaging has to help them come along for the ride otherwise you’ll lose them. By going through this prior, you’ll be able to anticipate the challenges the future client might have during the call and it will help you navigate better. (i.e- Slowing down, fewer mouse clicks, reiterating key points, pausing to ask questions and get clarity, etc.
Learn How To Get Uncomfortable
The best sales reps and leaders I’ve been around have taught me how important it is to “own the room” in any conversation. Sales conversations can get uncomfortable really quickly. You need to be confident in yourself and believe that the product can truly help the client to solve a problem they have. This is tough when you are new to sales because you get nervous or timid or fearful or (insert appropriate word here). Heck, even I have these feelings every now and then and I’ve been doing this for a dozen years.
My suggestion: Figure out how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Put yourself into situations when you get really nervous or anxious and try to navigate yourself through that process. Even if it’s a big struggle, you’ve grown a bit and it will help you on the next try. This could be as simple as asking a person out on a date randomly that you see out somewhere, taking an Improv class, or signing up for a Public Speaking course. Many of these options cost minimal dollars and the experience gained is priceless.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deliberate skill practice and the beauty of all of these is that whether you choose to remain in sales or not, these are very transferable in almost any other career you go into.
So, think a bit differently as you look at a sales role. This can be valuable for anyone doing sales especially entrepreneurs or company founders and, yes, even seasoned sales professionals. You should always be looking to refine your skills and improve your communication and I hope some of this guidance will be a big help in your life.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions and I’m happy to be a resource.