Once again, I’m flooded with stuff happening around me that has nothing or very little to do directly with sales… and I cannot help myself but to connect these thoughts and events to what I love to do – coach and teach sales and sales management.
I think it was 1992 when Pat Riley, as part of a speaker’s event, came to Cincinnati and spoke at the convention center. I don’t remember a thing from his speech other than his comment about being taken to the cleaners by the media after losing the 1984 NBA championship to the Celtics. He said (paraphrasing): They [the media] just don’t understand that the NBA Championship is in the Toy Department of Life.
For reasons unknown to me at the time, that line has stayed with me all this years. As I approach the completion of my 60th year, I think I understand that what I thought Coach Riley was saying is that basketball - and in fact, any sport - is just a game.
At the same conference, Steve Palermo spoke. In July of 1991, after umpiring a MLB game between the Rangers and the Angels, Steve and a couple of other umpires were dining at a local Dallas restaurant when they heard a couple of waitresses being assaulted in the parking lot. They rushed out, a shot was fired, and a bullet struck Steve in the spine. After surgery, he was told that he would never walk again.
The day that he spoke in Cincinnati, he approached the podium using two crutches. He stood there, talked to the crowd and, when he finished, he took questions. Someone in the crowd asked, “When do you think you will be able to walk well enough to umpire another MLB game?” Steve responded, “I don’t know; maybe today.”
It was more than just a hopeful response; it was a response of commitment and conviction that, if he continued to do the things he needed to do to walk, then maybe, just maybe, today would be THE DAY. I thought he was saying that pursuing your professional career is something that requires constant vigilance and work. But, I was wrong.
So, in walks Lauren Hill. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. She isn’t just making the news on ESPN and other sports media outlets. She’s being seen and heard everywhere. She’s a freshman basketball player at Mt. Saint Joseph, here in Cincinnati, Ohio. But, she’s a freshman with a difference; Lauren has an inoperable brain tumor. It was diagnosed in her junior year of high school. They told her at that time that her life expectancy was 2 years. Last year, she played basketball her senior year in high school. This year, she enrolled in Mt. Saint Joseph and joined the basketball team. An updated MRI earlier this year changed her prognosis. She was told that her life expectancy was now December of this year.
Originally, this season’s first game was not scheduled to be played until December. However, Mt. Saint Joseph, working together with the NCAA and Hiram College (their first opponent), made arrangements to get the game played this last Sunday. As soon as the game day was set, news spread like wildfire and everyone wanted to come show their support for Lauren. Normally, the Lions play in front of about 100 fans, but the amount of interest in tickets for the game required a change of venue. Xavier University stepped forward and provided the Cintas Center which was sold out in less than an hour. Local and national stations made arrangements to televise the game to include thousands who were unable to get tickets. All of the workers who normally help stage events at the Cintas Center volunteered their time for the game. So, instead of just a few family and friends, over 10,000 people in the Cintas Center and millions nationwide watched Lauren’s dream of playing college basketball come true as she stepped out onto the court and, in the first seconds of the game, shoot a left-handed lay-up to score.
How does all this come together for me and what can the message be for all of us?
Selling and managing sales people isn’t a lot different than playing and coaching. You recruit the best you can find. You coach them, you practice the strategy, you go into the market and find people to play/sell to and, when it’s over, you either win or you lose.
I thought Pat Riley was saying that winning the NBA championship was in the toy department of life. I was wrong. I believe that he was saying that losing the NBA championship was in the toy department of life. Winning is important. Winning sales is important. But losing one? No one will ever remember the ones you lost.
Steve Palermo wasn’t talking about working hard to walk again because of his pursuit of his professional career. He was talking about working hard, having a “can do” attitude, and an attitude of “MAYBE TODAY’ because he was in pursuit of doing something he loved to do. Aside from his wife, baseball was the love of his life. He could not imagine a life without baseball. Steve later became a supervisor of MLB umpires.
For Lauren, there will be no championships or second chances. This is her life. Playing in a college basketball game was her dream and eventually her dream came true. For Lauren, playing basketball was/is in the toy department of life. At age 18, it’s supposed to be. Everything else pales in comparison to the fight she now fights – to keep breathing.
I ask you to stop and think a moment when you read this. Not for me, but for yourself… and for Lauren. Pat and Steve, no reason to worry about them, they are fine. But for Lauren and her family, there is a very rough road ahead. For you? I don’t know what your dream and goals are. I don’t know what you aspire to, but I would suggest the following:
- Make sure you are waking up every day and getting a chance to do what you love to do
- Make sure that you put losing in perspective – it’s never fatal or final.
- Winning is fun; it’s exciting. In sales, it pays the bills and helps you accomplish the dreams and aspirations you have come true.
- Ask yourself everyday – What’s Important Now (WIN) – and then go do what’s important now.
- Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to pursue what appear to be insurmountable goals and achievements. You never know what you can achieve if you don’t give it a shot.
Don’t miss these!
Tony Cole video: Someday
Mark Trinkle audio: What is Your Dream?
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