June 24th, 2013. Speech at a sales conference for Cutco representatives:
I, I never thought I’d be in this situation. I remember sitting at my kitchen table, across from this curly haired man named Jeff, listening as he read my mom some of his poetry, before he sold her a set of knives.
I’m guessing you never thought you’d be here either. Selling knives. Yet, here we are, at this conference, learning how to get better. At selling knives.
I hope you guys are loving this conference. I’m having a blast. Which is good, because if I wasn’t having fun, I know no way anyone else is listening to me.
I know you guys here in this room, are taking complete advantage of this conference. You made the decision & commitment to be here, so feel good about that. The best investment you can make is in yourself. It’s the only one you can 100% guarantee to pay off.
As I’m fond of saying, I was not born to sell knives. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll go sell $90,000 of kitchen cutlery.” I just kept showing up, to meetings, to conferences, I kept bugging my manager on PDI. As Babe Ruth says, “It’s hard to beat the man who never gives up.”
I would encourage you, Don’t be the cynic at this conference. When you see massive success, someone who maybe sold twice or three times what you did, it’s easy to just write them or their success off.
There is a great scene between Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Catch Me If You Can, where Hanks asks DiCaprio, “How’d you know I wouldn’t look in your wallet?” And DiCaprio cooly responds with, “The same reason the Yankees always win, nobody can keep their eyes off the pinstripes.”
So don’t just look at the pinstripes & trophies. When you witness others’ success, consider it for yourself and ask, “how’d they do that? How did they sell that much Cutco? How did they get to that level and perform that well? What are they doing that I’m NOT doing?”
It is important that we see & recognize others’ achievements. As Ayn Rand said, “The sight of an achievement is the greatest gift a human being could offer to others.”
Take advantage of people who sold more than you did, corner them and ask them questions about what they did differently. And then beat them with it for the SC2 push. Steal from the best, and then do it better.
I think one of the biggest things we all gain from this conference is doability, the attitude of, ‘If they can do it then so can I.’
But, unfortunately, knowledge is not power. It’s not so much what you hear & learn today, as what you use tomorrow. This conference is partly to celebrate you pushing yourself for the last two weeks.
But more than that, think of it as the beginning, of a beautiful, improved way of living YOUR LIFE. It’s not so much the training you receive, as the training that you use. The life you’re living is YOUR life. There is no other some other future life; it’s the 6” in front of your face.
The feelings you have when you leave this conference, the energy, the excitement, the do-anything attitude, THAT IS THE REAL YOU. That is you at your best. And you have absolutely everything you need inside of you.
Your job, and your manager’s job, is just to draw out the best from inside you, to draw out the best version of yourself. Most people have what it takes to succeed, sometimes we just need someone to show us we have it inside.
My belief is that a leader’s greatest obligation is to see the best version other people can become, and then help them close that gap.
My measurement of is success is, ‘How many people can I bring to the top WITH me?’
And that’s simple, but it’s not easy. But you need to take that excitement, that energy, and take it from the white-hot spark of this conference, and turn it into a slow burning hot ember. You need to take the sugar of excitement, and melt it into the protein of resolve, of grit, of passion.
Because when you go home, you might experience what I’ve often experienced after conferences, somewhat of a motivation hangover; that’s the sugar-high of the conference wearing off.But if you change that to resolve, to a willingness to do what you maybe don’t always want to, then you don’t have to rely on the sugar of motivation.
What ties this together? What am I really talking about? You. I’m talking about how to work yourself, how to get the most out of yourself.
I have a great relationship with my dad; I almost feel like I let him down by not making life harder on him growing up. But you know, the one time I remember being really upset with him, just so frustrated, was I had asked him if I could go to the midnight premier of the Harry Potter movie. And he told me “No.” And then he said to me, “Buster – which is his nickname for me – you’re not exactly grabbing life by the balls.”
And that just drove me crazy – it just gnawed at me and I couldn’t let it go! ‘Not exactly grabbing life by the balls.’
And now I finally realize why – why he said it, and why it impacted me so much. It’s because I believe, at our most fundamental level, mankind’s biggest drive, is to FREAKING CONQUER SOMETHING – that’s when we feel the most alive.
It’s when you set a freaking scary goal, and chase down some badass dreams. And since we’re no longer chasing down prey on the African safari, sometimes the closest thing we can do is pick up the phone and MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.
There is risk by the way; to this job. And you guys already know that, you come face-to-face (literally) with rejection. They say if you want to double your success, you have to triple your failure.
But could you get the thrill of a big sale, or the thrill of having to fight for a trimmer, if everything was certain? Can you get the thrill of knowing you’re truly alive, if everything is certain?
One thing you have to latch onto here, with this company, is that you have the ability to dream. You know in most jobs, there’s just not that chance to dream. No one shows up to McDonalds and says, “I was dreaming last night that I punched the numbers of the register with great agility, and that I got high-fives from all of my customers.”
A question you have to ask yourself is, ‘What is the opportunity cost of not following your dreams?’ Not just monetary, but as a human being? What kind of life are you willing to settle for? We are all self-made, but only the successful will admit it.
Most people in life ignore opportunities because they see only danger. Entrepreneurs – and I consider every single person in this room to be an entrepreneur – entrepreneurs ignore danger because they only see opportunities.
But at the same time, everything you want is just outside of what you’re currently capable of, right? If you were capable of it, you would already have it in your life.
In the last year I traveled for eight weeks out of the year, while going to school full-time and selling $35,000 in about eleven weeks. And I don’t say that to impress you, because many people, including many in this room sold more than I did, but I say that to impress UPON you, that everything you want IS possible. But it won’t just magically happen on its own – YOU are the crucial ingredient, YOU are what it all hinges on.
I was in a Caribou coffee the other day, and one of their signs said, “Life is about more than coffee. That’s why there’s coffee.” And I just thought, ‘Man, that is so true, so appropriate.’ And it translates perfectly to what we do: ‘Life is about more than selling knives. That’s why we, or that’s at least why I, sell knives.”
On the other side of fear – fear of your friends thinking you’re weird for selling knives, fear of a customer saying “no” or someone rude on the phone, fear of not being talented enough to sell 3-5-10 grand in a week – all these fears, on the other side of them, lies freedom.
Be willing to push past your fears, and just attack life with the biggest balls, and you will grab freedom.
Sometimes I’ll ask reps, “Have you ever sold 2k in a week?” And they say “No, I haven’t” And I’ll ask them, “Well have you ever done 20 demos with qualified customers in a week?” And the answer almost always is “No.” The truth is every single one of you is capable of selling 2k THIS week, you’ve just never given yourself a shot.
Be open to the idea of selling 2k-5k-10k in a week. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
If no one’s told you the way you’re living is crazy yet, you might need to work a little harder, so that you then you know that you’re doing something significant…I would write that down if I was you.Life is only as weird as you make it. So dive in. Swim naked. Just because you can’t dance, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance. Because life is short.
This past New Year’s Eve I spent sleeping in a train station in Austria. And besides it being freezing cold, and there being a homeless guy with no socks on sleeping there, I vividly remember the song lyrics I was listening to, saying, “One day we’ll be old, and think of all the stories we COULD’VE told.”…………………..I want to be the one to tell those stories. Live so you can tell a story.
Your friends maybe told you were crazy for doing this job. Mine did. They still do. But I drown out their voices with the words of Gandhi, who said,
“First they IGNORE you,
Then they LAUGH at you,
Then they FIGHT you,
And then you WIN.”
Or I just say back to them: “You know what? No balls, no babies” Credit Mark Cuban for that one.
I’ve always believed that what you do with your life is far more inspiring that what you say in your life; And that our dreams are closer than we think – you just have to be a little bit crazy to grab them.
Flirting with danger requires a good opening line. And in April I did just that. In case you were wondering, I don’t speak French, and I don’t speak Italian. And the furtherst I had ever ridden a bike was fifty miles, one time, four years ago.
So naturally, in April I decided to buy a bike in London, buy a tent & sleeping bag, and ride my bike over 1400 miles to Rome.
And it was terribly difficult. And it was challenging. It was completely 100% off-the-wall crazy, and that’s exactly why I did it. But all that matters is how big you want to dream and how hard you want to work.
I’ll be completely honest, I was terrified the first three days of the trip, it was unlike anything I had ever done before. But I figured I’d give it a shot. I didn’t know if I’d make it all the way to Rome or not, but I decided to just take the first step.
In the words of my good friend Bert Wicks, “Let your dreams be bigger than your fears, and your actions louder than your words.”
I knew no matter what happened, I would grow a ton in the process, and that’s what I was really after – a period of intense self-discovery, I wanted to find out if I had what it takes and see what I’m made of.
And it was far from perfect; traveling by bike is not the least bit glamorous. For a month straight I had only two pairs of clothes, I would shower every third day, and I ate about 25,000 calories strictly of croissants. But Life isn’t perfect, because it doesn’t need to be.
I was willing to make myself uncomfortable. I wanted to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Felix Baumgartner, the man who skydived from space, 128,000 feet high, said, “Learn to love what you’ve been taught to fear. It’s a small price to pay for living the dream.”
The bike trip was the craziest, scariest thing I could dream up, and that’s precisely why I did it. Life demands more than we can handle, that’s why we have to continually grow. Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first man to climb Mount Everest, said “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
You were born to be wild. Be a maverick in life. When you decide to play full-out, life will never be the same again. I truly want our generation to go down as the one that changed everything… We have a lot of work to do. In the words of Rachel from the movie Batman Begins, “It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”
One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Charell, who said, “Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations.”
Whatever you sold for SC1, no one can else can define it as a quote ‘success’ or ‘failure’; that’s up to you to decide. And be honest with yourself. But I really think there is no such thing as failure; there are only actions, results, and then your choice of how to respond.
‘Failure’ is an excuse the weak use to quit. They say, “Oh I failed at that, I probably shouldn’t try again.” Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, “My greatest concern is not whether you’ve failed, but whether you are content with that failure.”
Unfortunately, most people never learn the art of transmuting their strongest emotions into dreams of constructive nature. So many people live in constant battle with themselves: “Should I or should I not? Should I make phone calls or should I just do it tomorrow? Should I do my homework now, or should I watch some TV and then do it?’ That’s no way to live, in constant argument with yourself. Most people live in this grey, where if you ask them how their day is going, they most often say “Good” or “Fine.” People just have this casual commitment to themselves and to their goals.
I’d rather live in extreme pain – pain of regret of not working hard enough to hit my goals, the pain of getting up early, the pain of saying no to a party and doing an appointment instead – OR live in extreme pleasure – enjoying the rewards that result in working your absolute butt off. But most people live in this constant grey area of good but not OUTSTANDING, fine, but never mad enough to do something radical to change their life.
Recognize if you didn’t hit your goal for the PUSH, recognize that massive pain from not hitting your goal is a GREAT thing. Why? I bet you will work a lot harder for the next push.
One of the biggest problems we have, is thinking that we’re not supposed to have problems. And that’s a completely natural thought by the way. But I guarantee the representative who sold 10k had twice as many no-shows, reschedules, cancelled demos, small orders, than the representative who sold 5k did. The reality is, the bigger the life, the bigger the problems you’re going to have. That’s life.
Chances are also that however you’re feeling, others have felt the exact same way at some point in their career. Never forget that every representative who is at $20k, $30k, $50k, or $100k in sales was once at $100, $1,000, $10,000. We’ve all been in your shoes.
Would the game of life be worth playing if the outcome was certain?
The ability to take action – even in uncertainty, when nothing is guaranteed, to perform under pressure – which is what you just did & continue to do everyday in this job – that is what executives & leaders are paid handsomely for.
But if you’re not as persistent as the guy in the Christmas song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” You might be doing it wrong.
So, moving forward: What’s next?
Whether these last two weeks were a win, loss, or draw, how fast can you get back on the horse after being knocked down, to go from zero to hero, to turn any setbacks from this push, to a comeback for the SC2 push?
I like to run, and I bet if you and I went for a run together, you would probably beat me on the first mile. You might even beat me on the second or third mile. But I promise you this, you would not beat me on the last mile. 90% of growth comes from the last 10% of performance.
You just have to keep pushing, and eventually you will have a breakthrough. There is a very well respected running coach named George Sheehan, and he said, “At first it’s hard to understand the idea isn’t to beat the other runners. Competition is against the voice inside your head that wants to quit.”
Again, I’ll ask, and think for yourself, “What’s next?”
We’re coming up on the Fourth of July, which is a great lesson that nothing in the world is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. All achievement, no matter what may be its purpose, begins with an intense, burning desire for something definite. The whole world gets out of the way for people who know what they want or where they are going.
Right now I want you to close your eyes. Close your eyes and just think for a moment how much you’ve grown as a man, or a woman in the last two weeks. Through the highs – and what were they – and the lows – and what were they? The really hard parts of the job, and the really fun parts. And if you haven’t gotten to the fun part yet, keep working, it’s out there. How much more confident you feel, how you’ve made progress in other areas of life, how much more fun you’re having.
With your eyes still closed,
Let’s talk about the rest of the summer. Where do you want to be at the end of August? What do you want to accomplish? When you look back on the summer, what is the EMOTION you are going to use to describe it? Will it be, I am so glad I CRUSHED this summer? Or will you have to admit to yourself you left some on the table?
Will you be different? In what ways will you have grown? How much closer have you gotten to the best version of yourself, the REAL you that is waiting to be unleashed? Will you be invited to Leadership Academy this fall? Or will you fall just short of your goals?
With your eyes still closed,
Let’s move closer to the present, and put some pressure on, where do you want to be one month from today? Could you double your career sales by then? TRIPLE them? Think about what your biggest week is currently, what would it take to make that number double? How would you act differently if you were 100% certain that you could make that happen?
With your eyes still closed,
What are you going to do THIS WEEK? What are you going to do differently than last week to have your biggest week ever? Ask yourself HOW can I do it? Deep down, you know the answer. What would it mean to you as a man, or as a woman, to grow by 100% from one week to the next? Yeah in sales, but you would also have to grow as a man or woman. And maybe you don’t know exactly right in this moment, but you’re committed to taking the first step.
With your eyes still closed,
I want you to stand up. And now I want you to imagine you’re on a beach. You’re on a beach, barefoot, you can feel the sand between your toes, and the surf is coming up to your ankles. You’re on a beach, with someone you love, or maybe all by yourself. You feel the sun beating down on your skin, and the wind in your hair.
With your eyes still closed,
And just for a moment I want you to think about what it would be like to step into that life, where you take what you sold this week, and you DOUBLE it for next week. And then the next week you DOUBLE it again. How crazy would that be?! And then there’s a little voice in your head that says, ‘That’s not for me.’ And you quickly drown out that voice and say to yourself, ‘That is ME! That is the REAL ME!’
With your eyes still closed,
You hear the surf breaking on the rocks down the beach, you think of the power of the waves, and the relentlessness of the tide. And still you feel the sand between your toes. And now I want you to take your foot, and draw a line in the sand with your heel.
Do that right now, draw a line on the ground in front of your feet.
And now I want you to step over that line, step over that line in the sand into that new life – the life where you commit to being outstanding, to not accepting anything lest than your very best. The lift where you grab life by the balls.
Congratulations, and welcome, my friends.
Grab a seat.
Here is my advice. Commit. Go Pro & Be a hero today. Never let it be amateur hour in your life.
You know my biggest motivation while I was biking, was to try to inspire other people to write their own story and live their own dreams. Don’t wait. Don’t just keep preparing your whole life. At some point, you just need to build your boat and sail out.
Now is the time. This week is a critical week. SC1 was your preparation, now you everything you need to crush this job the rest of the summer.
If I could say anything, it would be this: Dance with your fears & set the world on fire with your life. Let the record show that you won, or that you lost. But don’t let it show that you never swung the bat.
The writer George Bernard Shaw said: “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
You know when I was biking, I was in southeast France, and I could see mountains in the distance east of me. And I wasn’t going to cross the Alps; I figured it was too difficult. I found myself saying, ‘You can’t do that, you should just take the easy way down to the coast.’ But there was a little voice inside that said, ‘If you think you can’t do it, then you must. You must try.’ So then I told myself, ‘Well shoot, now I don’t think I can do it, so now HAVE to do it.’ And so I turned east, into the mountains, and never looked back. I wanted to see if I was the real deal, if I had what it took.
I don’t know about you guys, but I want to be someone who gets on in this world. Because you can play Angry Birds on your phone, or you can go to work on changing your world. But you can’t do both. You have to live IN the now, or IN the moment, but FOR the future.
Life demands you make a lifelong commitment. To test your limits. To reinvent yourself. To separate yourself from the pack. To go beyond exhaustion. To approach challenges with a growth mindset – life itself is a test to see how badly we want it.
So I invite you to join me, to grab life by the balls and play full-out. To bite off more than you can chew, and then chew like hell.
And when I can look myself in the mirror and say I’ve given it my all & if I still don’t win, I haven’t lost. Others might remember winning or losing, I remember the journey. Just make sure every new adventure is bigger than the last one.
And so I’ll leave you with a few lines from a song called The Fire by The Roots:
Don’t say good luck.
You say don’t give up.
It’s the fire, inside you.