For a long, painful time I tried to make a living by selling people what they desperately needed. I had a unique, powerful program that solved some of the toughest problems people face. And I knew many, many people needed that program. I heard stories every day of lives being devastated by choices and behaviors that would be easily overcome by what I was ready and able to teach in that program. And yet I struggled to sign people up for it, and I also struggled to pay my own bills and provide for my family.
It was an incredibly frustrating time in my life because I knew I could help people live far more powerful lives. Yet in my own life, I felt powerless. I was working so hard to keep my own business going, and at the same time, my wife and I were both working full time at other things. And with all of that, we still weren’t paying the bills. I was working a third shift job while I worked to get and keep clients during the day, and slept whenever I could. And even with two incomes, the cost of starting the business and raising three kids was too much. We had been living as modestly as we could. We had moved into an inexpensive double-wide trailer in a kind of sketchy neighborhood. And the house was literally falling down around us. The roof was caving in because of how poorly built the place was, but we couldn’t afford to move any place better.
I came home from a ten hour night shift, right after my wife had gotten the kids off to school and had gone to her job, and I collapsed for a few hours before I got up to work on the business. This was my usual weekday routine. But when I got up to get back to work, the power was out. At first, I was frustrated with the power company, thinking about how this was going to mess up my day since most of my work was done online. But then a frightening thought occurred to me. And a quick check looking out the windows at my neighbor’s houses confirmed my fear. Ours was the only house without power.
I knew we had been struggling with paying the bills on time, but I didn’t realize how close to the edge we had slipped. As it turns out, our little municipality dictated electrical service with no margin and no mercy. And I was in the dark, with no way to do my work, no way to heat the house. And the one thing I couldn’t accept was having my wife and kids come home to a dark, cold house that afternoon.
I wandered through my cold, dark house for a little while, feeling sorry for myself and trying to figure out who I could borrow some money from, and building up the courage to call them. And as I did, I wandered past my bookshelves.
It was a cold, overcast winter day, and it was dark enough inside the house that reading most of the titles on the spines of the books, let alone the books themselves, was impossible. But as I wandered back and forth by the shelves, I ran my hand over the spines of the books. I had (and still have) thousands of nonfiction books. I’ve been an avid reader ever since Stephen Covey suggested I should be in "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People". And after I had read every nonfiction book about business, marketing, and human behavior in every library within a reasonable drive I began what I could, when I could, to feed my thirst for knowledge.
I wandered from spine to spine, thinking about what Covey had taught me about habits, what Pine and Gilmore had taught about the economy, what Maslow and Jung had taught about behavior, what Ziglar had taught about sales. And I couldn’t believe how little all that knowledge had actually served me.
I not only knew the ideas and concepts all these great authors taught, I had put them all together to create some really great ideas of my own. And I knew those ideas were helpful to people because I had seen people change their lives with the ideas I had shared with them. But myself, I couldn’t even keep the lights on.
I did manage to get some money and get the power restored before anyone got home that afternoon. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way I felt that morning. In those quiet, dark, desperate moments, I felt afraid, embarrassed, disappointed, and very alone. And there alone, I had a ‘Popeye’ moment.
All the old Popeye cartoons followed the exact same storyline. Popeye and/or his girlfriend Olive Oyl would get bullied, harassed and intimidated by the same big bully every time. And Popeye would take the harassment civilly, even timidly for a while. But right at the halfway point of the cartoon, Popeye would always have his moment. And he would declare that he had had enough. “I’ve had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more.” Every time. And then he would pop open a can of spinach and kick some ass.
It really wasn’t the most creative or entertaining cartoon, but in that moment, in the dark, I could relate. I had had all I could stand, and I couldn’t stand no more. I was sick and tired of being timid about how I could help people. I was sick and tired of playing small. And most of all, I was sick and tired of shortchanging the people I loved, by not creating enough value to provide for their needs and wants. And I was determined to learn, change, and grow.
I had been so focused on providing what I knew people needed, that I failed to see or accept that they simply didn’t want what they needed. They didn’t want what I was selling. They didn’t care about improving their own ability to relate to other people. They wanted other people to get along with them. They didn’t want to learn how to create solutions or opportunities, they wanted solutions and opportunities to come to them. They (and I) didn’t want to learn the skills to sell their stuff to people, they wanted people to buy stuff from them.
I had to stop trying to be so damn nice. I had to stop trying to sell people what they needed and didn’t want, and instead sell them what they wanted, but couldn’t have. I can’t give you lots of clients, or lots of money, or a fantastic lifestyle choosing your own hours and income, and doing whatever you want wherever you want. There is no way I can give you those things. But I can teach you the mindset and thinking that can get you all that and more.
The problem is, you don’t really want to learn new mindsets, or practice new ways of thinking, or work hard, or change your habits. And if I try to sell you mindsets, ideas, or habit change you won’t be very keen to listen to me. You need those things desperately so that you can experience those other things you want. But you won’t buy those things.
What you may do is reluctantly accept and pursue these hard things if I sell you the easy things you want, and then continuously reinforce the hard things you don’t want as the pathway to the easy things you do want. So I sell people the clients, money and lifestyle, and I deliver the mindsets, ideas, and habit change. I sell you what you want, then deliver what you need.
And if you want to experience high-level success, you’ll do the same.
The 9th Day - 7 Ways