In 1960, Al and I were young, full of ambition and ready to set our life’s career in motion. We attended a sales meeting for his company in Vail, Colorado. Insurance salesmen were immaculately dressed to impress, wearing $300 suits, long sleeve white shirts with gold cuff links and a perfect knotted tie. And of course, their shoes were shined.
As Al always contended, “No one will buy from you if you have run over shoes with a hole in them. You have to look successful.”
Salesmen came from all over the region and were blowing and going; shouting rah, rah, rah and quoting slogans of Positive Mental Attitude. They stood in a circle known as the Round Robin and yelled with enthusiasm, “I feel healthy, I feel happy, I feel terrific.” Al and I bought it all. We chased the carrot.
An older, white-haired gentleman was invited to speak. Nearly twice the age of any one in the room, he modestly wore a white starched shirt with an opened neck, minus a tie and jacket. He stood out as one who didn’t belong with the up and coming crowd. He had already arrived. He had the confidence of success. He didn’t have to impress. He already knew who he was.
He came to the front and spoke. The rowdy bunch of salesmen quieted themselves for a few moments and then yelled, “Yes we do!” But they really didn’t.
I leaned forward to hear more, he had something worthwhile to say. But in the midst of so much hype, no one seemed to hear him. Speaker after speaker continued building and plumping up the salesmen. They all had the answer as to how to make their millions.
The gentleman’s words were established deeply in me. He wore success on the inside. I knew I wanted what he had and I also wanted something worthwhile to say one day. I wanted words with grit which would go beyond the hype just as his words did for me.
Would people ever lean forward, cup their ear, just to hear me say something of value?
Quite the contrary, I have laughingly made the comment many times over the years,
“I know how to empty a room. When I start to talk, everyone scatters. I don’t know what it is.”
The trip I went on recently was no exception. I felt I shared some deep things, thoughts of great worth; but I noticed no one prompted any interest to carry the conversation any further. What is with this? What’s the problem?
I remembered the older gentleman who stood before a rowdy bunch of insurance salesmen. He didn’t have to strut his stuff; he knew he had a lot more on the inside, but he probably wondered if anyone was listening or if anyone even cared as he packed up his briefcase in disbelief. He might have discounted an eighteen year old wife of a hotshot salesman in the audience.
Well, Al and I grabbed the carrot; the gentleman’s words lay dormant for many years in both of us. We continued to do what we were programmed to do. Al drove a new black Porsche. He left our family every Monday morning and came home every Friday night for over eighteen years. We had money in the bank, a big house and a noisy life of success, and it almost destroyed our family. In all that noise I have never let go of the words, “Do you know yourself?”
Final brushstroke: Is anyone listening? A person can impact lives without knowing it. I am thankful for the man who had the courage to speak truth.
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’“Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.” — Jim Rohn.