Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nothing Extra Added

"A Good Walker Leaves No Tracks" ~ Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching

Life in general, and sales in particular contain one challenge after another. There are moments of incredible success and beauty, and other moments of substantial challenge, disappointment, and loss. And the only constant is change.

I have observed that many people seem to hold a belief similar to the following:

"If there are no observable signs of stress when a person is dealing with a challenge, obstacle, or goal, then that person is not taking the situation seriously enough."

I would argue just the opposite. If one is fully engaged in facing and dealing with whatever life throws at her, then there is no energy left for indulging in self-defeating thoughts or actions. Observe any athlete at the top of his game (for instance a Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan). Don't we say about such people that they make their incredible feats look easy or effortless? This is because there is "nothing extra added." Just as a fire that burns hot enough leaves very little ash, a person who brings the totality of their attention, resources, and presence to the task at hand, leaves no trace of herself in the process. This is a shift toward pure action, and is similar to what has been called "being in the zone."

In training salespeople, I have often taught them about the concept of "Present Time Consciousness." All that we do in sales must be focused on our ever changing relationship, on the spot and in the moment, with our prospect or client. It's like in the the martial arts or the boxing ring. If I drop my guard for a split second, and get hit with a jab, I don't have any time to start questioning myself, or for getting angry at my opponent for hitting me (when I should fully expect him to do so), or for beating myself up about my poor technique. Beating ourselves up is the most destructive of these three responses, as now the fight becomes two against one. In any case, allowing our attention to wander in any of these directions simply enlarges the gap, allowing our opponent to hit us again, and again. If you question what any of this has to do with sales, ask yourself if you have ever felt beaten-up after an interaction with a prospect or client.

The key to this, and the thing that we have control over, is where we choose to focus our attention. The human mind has a tremendous capacity for imagination. In any given moment our attention can be directed to a past memory, future dream, some fictional story. To use another analogy, the movie screen can show an infinite range of images. Some images can be attractive, and some repulsive. But if we want to be maximally effective in our action, our attention must be focused in the here and now, on the spot. Try hammering a nail into a piece of wood. What happens when we allow our attention to wander?