We Are Our Choices – The Stories of Steve, Richard, and I

As I have discussed in my previous posts, reaching your potential is a long journey that will most likely last a lifetime. Your future is not necessarily in your control, but throughout each day we have the opportunity to shape it by the choices we make. At times you will be tested, self-doubt will creep in, and you will want to give up. In those moments believing in yourself is vital, but the next most important thing is the choices you make to continue to move forward.

Today, I want to share a personal story and examples from others on how much power you have at this very moment to make a choice that can alter your future for the good or the worse. 

Let me start by asking you this:

Do you ever wonder why some people in your group of friends in and outside of work seem to progress their life or career faster than you?

To be honest, it’s simple and truthfully outside of any external factors it has nothing to do with luck or fate. The answer lies in the choices they make.

Years ago, I was like most people. Waiting for others to help me reach my potential. I remember being at my first job out of college, sitting at my desk, waiting for the next 1-on-1 with my boss to get feedback or waiting for the leadership team to give me training. The classic line that every single experienced professional will tell you is “Be proactive, go talk to your boss. Ask if there is anything you can do more of”. We have all been there, sitting and waiting for someone to tell you how to get better.

One day, while I was waiting for my 1-on-1, I had this feeling like this moment had already played out so many times before. Now looking back, I realize of course it has. The feeling that I remembered was how I felt after a 1 on 1 with my boss or after training or doing what everyone tells me to do. I felt good, and at times I learned something. But I started to wonder: Is this the rest of my career, waiting for someone else to help me?

So I made a choice. Instead of waiting for my boss to give me training, or teach me something, I realized I must take ownership of my own development. If I couldn’t do that, then nobody would ever be able to truly help me reach my goals. I decided I would learn as much as I could about business, sales, and leadership by myself, and then record and apply my learnings to my day to day job.

What choice did I make to start to improve myself?

You have many different ways to learn and get better. I decided books were the first and best route at the time. Sales books, biographies, self-help, business, non-fiction, whatever I could get my hands on. The key was not necessarily in the books themselves, it was the choice I made to take control of my own improvement that was important.

For me, books were helpful; for others, they might respond more favorably to something different. Whatever it is, the point is that I stopped waiting for others to help me and took matters into my own hands.

How did this choice to read books impact me?

I wanted to be in sales since I graduated college, but due to the economic climate in 2009 I took the first job I got offered. My passion was sales but sales jobs were hard to come by at the time for entry level reps. After a ton of hard work, I was given the opportunity to join a top tech company in Chicago to do sales. My very first sales manager told me something that I will never forget. He told me he hired me because in the interview process he was so impacted by the amount of effort I put into reading books about sales. He had interviewed candidates who had more experience than me, but I used my knowledge that I acquired from the books I read about sales and business to show him that I could learn quickly and apply it. This made a lasting impact and helped me to get the job over others with more experience. Looking back, my decision to start reading was the best thing I ever did, because ultimately it launched my career.

One of the early books I picked up was Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin.” After reading it, I took away two stories that are now the foundation of my life, and my sales team. It is the stories of two men named “Richard and Steve” and how their choices will impact their careers.

The Story of Steve (Seth Godin’s Book: Linchpin)

“Steve works at the Stop and Shop near my house. He hates it. He works at the cash register, and it seems as though every ounce of his being projects his dissatisfaction with his job. Steve won’t make eye contact. Steve takes a lot of breaks. Steve doesn’t start bagging until the last possible moment. Steve grumbles a lot.

The thing is, Steve spends as much time at work as his co-worker Melinda. And Melinda is engaged, connected and enthusiastic. Steve has decided that he’s not being paid enough to bring his entire self to work, and he’s teaching all of us a lesson. Melinda has decided that she has a platform, and she uses it to make a tiny difference in every customer’s day.

The sad part for me is that while Steve is busy teaching the store a lesson, he’s teaching himself that this is the way to do his job. He’s fully expecting that his next job, or the job after that or the job after that is when he’ll become the linchpin. If he waits for a job that he feels deserves his best shot, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever have that job.”

The Story of Richard (Seth Godin’s Book: Linchpin)

“Forty years ago, Richard Branson, who ultimately founded Virgin Air, found himself stuck and most likely to be late for a business meeting in an airport in the Caribbean. They had just canceled his flight, the only flight that day. Instead of freaking out about how essential the flight was, how badly his day was ruined, how his entire career was now in jeopardy, the young Branson walked across the airport to the charter and inquired about the cost of chartering a flight out of Puerto Rico.

Then he borrowed a portable blackboard and wrote, ‘Seats to Virgin Islands, $39.’ He went back to this gate, sold enough seats to his fellow passengers to completely cover his costs, and made it home on time. Not to mention planting the seeds for the airline he’d start decades later. Sounds like the kind of person you’d like to hire.”

So, I leave you with a question: Who do you want to be? Richard or Steve? It’s up to you to decide. You are in control of your destiny. This world owes you nothing. You must take ownership of your choices. No one else will help you unless you start to help yourself.

Now WAKE UP! It’s Day ONE. May the choice be with you.


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