An Encounter with a Worm

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While this is a blog about sales, the title of this post does not refer to an interaction with a ’wormy’ salesperson! I’m referring to an actual worm. In fact, this post doesn’t really have to do with sales at all – yet it has everything to do with sales.

This past weekend I took part in a sesshin, a zen meditation retreat that typically lasts 3-5 days. It’s an amazing opportunity to quiet your mind and confront reality in a way that we’re not able to do during our typical day-to-day lives. The daily schedule for a sesshin can vary but, in this case, was about 10 hours dedicated to zazen (zen meditation); in other words, sitting on a cushion and staring at a wall.

I’m thankful to my teacher and fellow travelers from Soji Zen Center for this amazing experience. Below is a picture of the group (that’s me on the far right) after a ceremony signifying one of our members achieving Senior Student status.

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During one of the break periods I was sitting on a bench overlooking a beautiful garden at the retreat center. The sesshin is also almost entirely silent so I was in a quiet, introspective state – no phone, no emails, no book…no distractions. All of a sudden I felt something drop onto my hand and looked down. It was a small worm that must have fallen from the ceiling and landed on the top of my hand. It was a dark color, blunt on the ends and no more than half an inch long.

Given my calm state I simply noticed the worm and began studying its movements. The worm didn’t seem particularly stressed out about this encounter either – but was proceeding to make his way across the back of my hand. Slowly and deliberately I stood up and made my way to a nearby door, opened it and walked out into the garden. I bent down and gently nudged the worm onto the grass. There, I watched him curl, then uncurl and move around in the dirt.

I sat there for another few minutes and just watched. Most notably I felt a deep sense of gratitude toward the worm and silently thanked him for the brief interaction.

Once the worm was gone it struck me that things come and go from our lives on the time – people, situations, experiences. And all too often we don’t take the time to appreciate these things for what they are and what they give us. I could have dismissively flicked the worm off of my hand and perhaps would have in my ‘normal’ headspace. But, this thing seemed important – felt important – and I couldn’t help but spend a few minutes to study this worm.

I’m sure there are other ‘worms’ that enter my daily life all the time – things I don’t pay attention to or dismiss too quickly. But, what if we could appreciate these things more often – whether it’s an annoyance at work, a pesky email from a vendor or even just a random moment like the one with the worm?

By cultivating a mindset that everything matters, our lives, our work – even our sales – can and will improve.

Getting Through The Tough Times

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“The advertising agency man and the media salesman live much of the time under a tight wire that stretches between hope and despair.”

– Fairfax Cone, 1969

If you’ve spent any amount of time in a sales career you’ve undoubtedly had a bad month, a bad quarter…maybe even a bad year. Those times can be hard – pressures mount and doubts can begin to creep in (“am I any good at this?”).

Most salespeople I know – myself very much included – tend to be be harder on themselves than anyone else could possibly be. So, it stands to reason that during a tough stretch self-doubt can be a regular passenger in your daily life and ‘that’ voice in your head can be particularly loud.

This voice, though, isn’t real and is just one more thought. Zen is constantly trying to remove deluded thoughts and get us intimately involved with just this moment and with what is actually happening. What is most definitely NOT happening is that voice telling you that you suck.

But, during a tough stretch is incredibly hard to recognize this and it feels natural to be down on yourself. It’s important to try to remember – and zazen (meditation) helps you do this – that that voice in your head is just your ego. And here’s the hard truth – even during good times your ego will never let you be happy. You might win President’s Club, you could be top biller for months on end and, guess what? It’ll never be enough…our egos will never let us be truly happy.

So, what do you do about it? Simple…just let it go. Let it go and just do the work. Every day.