This morning, I was sitting at our kitchen table reading some headlines to my son, Anthony, as he waited for the transportation van to take him to the Goodwill CARE program that he participates in every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I said goodbye to him as he left for the day… and then continued to browse through Sunday’s Cincinnati Enquirer.
I forget who the comedian was, but I remember the line, “I read the obituaries every day. If my name isn’t in there, it’s a good day.” Sounds like something the late Rodney Dangerfield would have said. I’m flipping through the paper, come to the obituaries and I instantly recognize a face, a young face. Joe Rippe, Jr. passed away on July 30th after his long battle with brain cancer. It startled me, saddened me and frightened me.
You don’t expect to see a picture of someone you know in the obits. Joe and I knew each other a long time ago, and though I hadn’t seen Joe in years, I considered him a friend. It’s startling to read that he is no longer alive. I am saddened for his family. Loss is never easy no matter how you try and paint the picture of “now he’s in a better place.” Yes, Joe is in heaven. That has to be better than battling cancer. That doesn’t mean he won’t be missed and that there won’t be sorrow this year and every year around special dates and holidays.
It definitely frightened me. I’ll be 60 in December. (Now, THAT is out of the bag, let’s move on – save all your smart comments for later... ha-ha) My very good friend, David O’Dell died of brain cancer when he was only 40. Another great friend and business client, Jay Irwin, died of a heart attack between the 9th and 10th hole of a golf course when he was only 55. I admit this isn’t a LONG list, but it’s a list. I’ve had polyps removed, had radioactive seed implants for prostate cancer and, two years ago, had an eye biopsy to check for ocular cancer. It’s frightening to think about all the things that can take us from this world.
In the same paper, in the sports section of USA Today, there was an article about Paul O’Neil - formally of the Reds and the NY Yankees. In a ceremony on Saturday, they placed a plaque with his likeness in Monument Park behind center field of Yankee Stadium. He will be there with other greats like Ruth, Demaggio, Gherig, and someday, Mariano Rivera. This honor must have given him and his family great joy.
I met Paul 14 years ago when we were sharing a small gym coaching elementary school basketball. I was coaching my daughter’s team and I assume he was coaching his son’s. My son, Anthony, was about 15 months post-cardiac arrest and anoxic brain injury. Before his health ‘accident’, he loved sports. He thought Paul O’Neil was great! I approach Paul one evening at practice, I told him about my son’s condition and inquired if there was anything he could sign that I could give to him. He said he had the perfect thing and he would bring it next week to practice.
I missed the follow week’s practice due to illness. I returned the following week. As we were beginning practice, Paul walked into gym, saw me and came right over. He said, “I brought something for your son last week but you weren’t here. I have it at home I’ll be right back.” I didn’t even have time to tell him it could wait till next week, when he was out the door.
15 to 20 minutes later, he came in with a signed baseball bat. I brought it home to Anthony, told him the story, and he smiled. He hadn’t regained his ability to talk yet, so he just smiled. Not just any old smile, but a great big smile of real joy. He was grateful that I had thought of him and that Paul O’Neil thought enough about him to provide him with this bat.
Reading this article I felt joy for Paul. Not for what he did on the field or in the clubhouse, although I’m happy for his accomplishments, success and this recognition. But, reading the article brought back a memory of joy for what he did for a family he didn’t even know. I still see Paul drive through the neighborhood. When I do, I wave and he waves back politely though I’m sure he has no idea who I am. And that is okay.
This is a sales management blog… so you must be wondering, “What is the connection between Joe Rippe’s passing, a baseball bat from Paul O’Neil and selling?”
Selling and managing sales people is similar to these events in that they can startle, frighten, sadden and bring joy all in a matter of minutes. The key here is that the world doesn’t stop and wait for you to recover from any of these events. The world just turned a couple of more clicks as you read this today. The world will keep on turning as you deal with something that startles you, saddens you, frightens you or brings you joy.
Take them all in stride, keep an even pace. Don’t get too frightened, too sad or too joyous. Life is life, selling is selling. When it is all said and done, you will not be remembered for the sales you made or the ones that got away. You won’t be remembered for the failed sales people or the successful ones. You will be remembered for the impact you had on people’s lives. You’ll be remembered for the time you took, the caring you had, and the effort you put into doing your best.
You get the chance every day to influence. How you do that will eventually show up in the papers.
Did you like today’s post? If so, you’ll love our weekly audio Sales Brew and monthly newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive Tony Cole’s eBook, Why is Selling So #%&@ Hard?, as our thanks to you!