Turn-Off

Selling is partly about reassurance.

If you’re hoping to create trust with a potential customer, reassuring them that you consider their judgement sound is a good start. If I’m in the market for fruit and you want to sell me oranges, it ill serves us both for you to criticize the bag of pears I’m carrying. When you criticize my choice of fruit, you criticize me; not a good start.

The conceit of the insensitive salesman is that his choice for me is better than my (current or past) choice for me. He might well be right, but the logic of any new decision must accompany the emotion, a process that’s murky enough for it to be mostly art.

I saw one of my “supervisors” go about this entirely the wrong way yesterday. A customer wanted a specific type of coal for his wife. (Important that it wasn’t for him, which moves the whole transaction away from the head to the heart.) I’d met this guy before, and knew the story, but “Superman” launched straight into a pitch for different coal.

Our guy’s disdain was all over his face, like he’d just swallowed a lemon. Without any basis for trust, the chance of any future sale reduces just a the magic barrier between us increases. Why should he change when we’ve denigrated both him and his marriage?

Men: Change or Die

Skyler and Walter

The open secret is that men are less skilled at adopting to change than women. As a matter of generalization I guess men know this, but on an individual basis, probably not.

So let’s state it out loud: Men, you must learn flexibility in your work and professional life, or risk irrelevance or death.

Yes, that sounds dramatic, but it happens also to be true. We risk death at our own hands at an increasing rate.

They are all part of a “sandwich generation”: they sit between the baby boomers and the digital natives. And they are a group who have, according to recent statistics, lost their way. The Samaritans Suicide Statistics Report for 2014 shows that men aged 40-44 are the demographic group with the highest rate of suicide, nearly four times that of women the same age; for those aged 45-54, the rate is roughly three times higher for men than women.

This is from an article that, if you are, or know a middle-aged man, is worth a read. In my social and work circle, the biggest underlying phenomenon is this notion that women have adapted to the enormous changes in work and money-making in the last thirty years: men remained the same.

And because we stayed the same we are “remaindered”. No-one much needs the qualities and skills we have any more. We’re powerless and therefore have fewer freedoms than our fathers’ generation. The modeling we had from our fathers and grandfathers is not useful any more…but we are often too lazy or unwilling to see it.

I think this is a good summary from the article that I paraphrased:

Men need relationships, men need to be connected, men need to be heartfelt.

Whatever the opposite of bah humbug is to that.

Reservoired

Spend a few years dabbling around the edges of the workforce and you cannot help but notice the blokes struggling to make it. Males between the ages of thirty and sixty used to be the bedrock of the economy mostly because they would fill the entire spectrum of jobs from miner to missile-maker. We were the mortar of the labor market.

Beginning in the seventies, when global markets and global production reduced geographic and political impediments, the jobs went global too. In the fight to the bottom of the cost curve, where skills are either irrelevant or easily taught, the willingness to work is no longer enough. Capital in all its forms will always seek the highest return, so why pay an American worker five or ten times as much for the same output as a Thai or Chinese man? The answer is; employers will not pay, and so we find ourselves with an under-educated, inappropriately-skilled generation of men.

Women have fared better because they’re more adept at the skills that matter thesedays. Communications, design, abstraction and networking (all in the human as opposed to the silicon sense) play to women’s natural strengths. I also believe that women are more flexible, more willing to re-train and adapt to the new needs of business than men. A single skill for life is often a ticket to the poor-house thesedays.

What to do? Well, a lot. Begin with stowing your pride somewhere, guys. Being a “proud” autoworker or steelworker succeeds only in making you look even more of a dodo. Open your mind to the fact of a changed landscape AND the enormous opportunities out there. Jobs for life are gone. Jobs for today and tomorrow are many.

In the longer term, re-educate yourself. No-one likes going back to the starting line, but here’s the thing: once you have a new, valuable skill it takes surprisingly little time to get places. You will look back and wonder at your resistance. And if you don’t want to train, then you have no choice but to be entrepreneurial. Overcome your fear of selling, of being in public, of talking to people, of advocating, of trying the new, of making change.

For the distant future to be different, the state-run education system must go. It is a failed enterprise. I look with admiration at parents who choose not to abrogate their responsibilities by educating their own children. They are in the vanguard of the reaction against the statist indoctrination camps we call schools, calling them out for their corrupted values and self-serving employees. It worked for a few generations: no longer.

Men of that certain age will likely fail at getting past their lowly hourly-paid jobs. Let’s do what we can to ensure the young men who follow have the knowledge to tap into their creativity and application. Otherwise…well, the alternative is just too depressing.

Multiple Personality (But Not In a Weird Way)

I notice the following in myself; that I can hold several different – and oftentimes contradictory – beliefs in my head simultaneously. For instance, I know that I should be making at least five sales calls per week, on my free day, Monday. But I don’t because I justify the fact that I like to go for a swim, have coffee, do my laundry, take time to do some cooking, complete the housework…anything, in fact, to avoid doing the one activity that will change my life.

I feel like there are six or seven different streams of experience going on in my head, from which I can choose the appropriate excuse. There’s the experience of being a child and the modelling of my parents. There’s the lazy Tim who would rather read a book and drink coffee. The other side of that is ambitious Tim, who understands that to make change, I need to make things happen (like sales calls). And then there’s the detached me who can just sit back and philosophize about this.

As an aside, I think that this is a cause of stress in our lives. The greater the difference between our aspirations and what we actually do, the greater the mental friction. But that’s for another post.

So when difficult or new things present themselves, we can choose to face them and do the hard things, or we can choose a different stream of thought that stops us doing so. We’re all capable of extreme avoidance. (And although I don’t know you, I can say that because it’s my blog, plus you know it’s true.) Think of cigarettes. Does anyone believe these coffin nails are in any way of benefit to you? No. It’s the choice of streaming video in our heads that allows us to ignore the horrors and go suck on another Camel.

The secret about this is that it’s no secret. We all understand that most of us tend towards less action than more, to fudging rather than standing up. The folks who really do excel in life are those who seize opportunity, prioritize intelligently and relish the change.

Ah, change. That constant companion from whom we so like to hide.