Old Dogs, New Tricks, and the Attitude That Will Make You a Sales Super Star.

You’ve been there before.

You’re right in the middle of building a plan and all of a sudden everything you thought you knew about what you were doing seems upside down.  You have managers telling you that you have it all wrong.  You have co-workers raising eyebrows and shaking their heads.

Heck, even your client is a little confused.

And instead of being an all-star, your natural reaction is to dig in your heels.  To resist learning something from the experience.

“That’ll never work…”

It’s the first words you hear coming out of your mouth.

And you’re not even really sure why that is.

Despite the valuable feedback, the experience, and your goal of closing a deal, some things are just “off limits” in your mind.  They are what you call “impossible”.

Negative beliefs limit you from being the all-star that you really want to be.  That you really can be.

You don’t “really know” that what you just heard won’t work.  Right?

You probably haven’t tested it seventeen ways to Sunday in a secret underground laboratory.  You haven’t visited the Library on Congress to read every book known to man on that particular topic.  You haven’t given that idea more than two seconds of thought.

And yet you have an opinion (and a particularly strong one at that).

Here’s why.

You don’t like new ideas.

That’s actually part of being normal.  If it’s new, it’s scary.  That’s how your brain was built.

And it kept your ancestors alive when wandering too far from the village might mean stumbling into a hungry saber-tooth tiger.

But that same attitude might be costing you high performance.

Being willing to learn might just be the single biggest differentiator for you accomplishing outrageous acts of sales super stardom.

That’s how amazing things happen.

Three days into 1870, John Roebling began work on a suspension bridge that would connect Manhattan to Brooklyn for the first time.  It was a project that would take more than thirteen years and cost the lives of almost thirty workers.

Nothing like this had ever been done before.  

It was a massive feat of engineering complexity.

For five hears ahead of this launch, John and his team worked tirelessly.  Without the aid of computer systems, John created new ways to explore underwater and measure the bedrock in order to place the foundation in key locations.

Workers began to get sick and die from decompression as the heavy diving bells that John designed dropped too quickly into the river.  John’s own son, Washington Roebling, suffered an accident deep under the ocean.  It would leave him with shattered health, mental issues, and bed-ridden for the rest of his life.

But John didn’t even see the accident.  In fact, he didn’t live long enough to see the beginning of construction on the bridge.

In mid-1869, John was working on the edge of the dock when an arriving ferry crushed the toes on his right foot.  Instead of giving up, he requested that his toes be amputated so that he could continue working on the bridge.  He spent the next twenty-four days of his life in excruciating pain, refusing treatment and pouring water over his foot as the only treatment he would allow.  

Tetanus would take his life.

His son, Washington, took over the project as Chief Engineer.  A few months later, he would suffer the crippling underwater accident that made him an invalid for the rest of his life.  But he was the only one with the knowledge to keep the project on track.

And so he had to learn everything all over again.  Rather – he had to teach it all over again.  As he lay in bed, far away from the site where construction was taking place, Washington taught his wife higher mathematics, calculations of curves, and the fine details of steel cable construction.  Emily nursed her husband and became the liaison between her husband and the engineers-on-site.

Washington became so sick at times that he lost the ability to speak to his wife.  And so he kept learning.  He taught himself Morse Code and tapped out instructions on Emily’s arm.   Every step.  Every day.  He patience tapped his way to success.  

Nothing would stop him from finishing his project.

And so slowly but assuredly, he spent the next eleven years working from his bed with politicians, engineers, and competing companies trying to steal the spotlight and his project.  He learned his way around politics, technology, and his own impairments until the bridge was finally completed.  On May 24, 1883, Emily would be the first person to walk across the finished bridge.  Washington was too sick to attend.

And if that wasn't as staggeringly successful as one man might attempt, John didn't stop there.  He learned biology.  That quest consumed the next 43 years of his life as he collected rocks and minerals all over the world.  His scientific collection of over 16,000 specimens would become an important part of the Smithsonian Institute.

John was a man who just never stopped learning.

So what are the lessons?

What can we learn about “learning”?  And what does it matter?

  1. Being willing to learn is different from hoping you learned something -- It takes massive and relentless focus on you being a learner to end up being a success.  Learning is about you looking to find answers from everything around you.  You aren't waiting for answers to magically appear.  You are actively asking yourself hard questions about what you want for you, and taking in all the baggage from your past, and channeling your dreams into effort and the mission to keep trying.
  2. Sometimes you need to learn the same lesson a few different times -- We all like to think that when presented with the right facts, we magically learn all the right lessons the first time around.  Sadly, that's not usually how it works.  We need to learn the same things a few times before we store them away in our permanent memory.  It's OK (and perfectly normal) to be a little thick at times.  The key is keep learning -- even if it means the same lesson over and over again.
  3. Learning is about who you are not something you do -- You don't learn when you feel like it.  You  don't learn the lessons that you feel like you want to learn.  Being a learner means that you take what life serves you (fair or not...) and turn it into the best choices for you.  It means that you stand tall and smiling in spite of the pain you may be feeling inside.  Learning from everything means that you take your worst moments in life to plan out your future best moments.

You need to be learning.  And you probably already agree with that.

But here's the real question for you:

Are you learning?

The other option is to stay stuck.

And that just sounds like the worse of the two options.