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  November 11, 2011
Death of a Salesman...

 
Our greatest glory comes not from never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was growing up, music was a big part of my family’s life.  I suppose this was the reason why, at the age of 10, I asked my parents to allow me to take guitar lessons. 

Although we didn’t have many financial resources, my parents bought me an old second-hand (or perhaps it was even third-hand) acoustic guitar and enrolled me in a guitar class taught by our local YMCA.  The group consisted of one teacher and about 35 beginning students.

The teacher did her best to teach us some basic notes and chords, but in the end, I didn’t learn too much other than the fact that I didn’t have any real natural talent for music.

I explained to my parents that it must have been the large class size that limited my progress (not the fact that I rarely practiced anything that was taught in class).

My parents, not wanting me to give up so easy, enrolled me in private lessons at our local music store.  I attended a 30-minute private lesson for nearly two years and by the end of this time, I could just about play Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star by heart.  The lack of practice and dedication proved my downfall.

The primary problem of mastering an instrument is that learning is very slow in the beginning.  Certain basic techniques need be understood and mastered before any real music can be played.  Holding the pick, positioning the hands and fingers, and even learning how to tune the strings are fundamental skills that need to be learned before the first note is even played on a guitar.  There aren’t really any shortcuts in learning these skills, it just takes time and consistent practice.

I still had the guitar and from time to time over the next 5 years, I picked it up and tried playing a few chords and notes that I learned in the first group class.  Although I really wanted to know how to play the guitar, I still wasn’t prepared to devote the time and effort that was needed so I never did.

Some years later, I left home to go to college in San Diego.  One of my two roommates, David, was an accomplished guitar player who agreed to give me some lessons for free in return for two promises: 
  1. That I will practice at least one hour each day
  2. That I would someday give free lessons to someone else if asked
I agreed to his two demands and he spent an hour each week teaching me to play. 

At first there was little music coming from the instrument, but this time I was truly committed to learning how to play.  Each night I practiced the lesson of the week as well as continuing to practice the lessons of the previous weeks.  Every day I got incrementally better than the day before.

After a few months a funny thing happened, there was actually some music coming from the instrument.  I started playing with other friends...learning some new skills and techniques.  My skills continued to grow after a few years and eventually I found myself playing with friends in a band playing for beer money at local clubs.  The band experience was short-lived as it became more work and less play.

After 30 years, I still continue to play my guitar several times each week learning new songs and playing old favorites, mostly just to entertain myself.  People who hear me play often tell me that they too wished that they could play.

Learning and mastering new skills take three things:
  1. Commitment
  2. Practice
  3. Perseverance
Learning a new skill is hard because in the beginning, there is so much failure.  Trying really hard and still failing is a recipe for people to give up and stop trying altogether.  Those people will say that they gave it their "best shot" after attempting something only once or twice.  They are quickly discouraged and quit shortly after starting.

This tends to be the main problem with new sales people.  They see the potential earnings of the top sales people and decide that they want to share in those riches.  They start out full of enthusiasm as they attempt to make a few appointments but find that cold-calling prospects is hard work.  They have trouble navigating voice mail and email systems designed to keep out sales amateurs.  Even if they eventually do get an appointment and are able to make the sales call, they try to shortcut the process by trying to immediately sell a product and/or service rather than trying to uncover and solve customer problems.  They end up with no sales and lots of rejection despite some initial efforts.

After a few weeks of this type of rejection, they just stop making sales calls altogether and soon announce that a sales career isn’t for them as they leave the company. 

Professional sales people earn a lot of money because they have continually worked hard toward honing and mastering their sales skills over a long period of time.  There is no such thing as a natural born professional sales person.  Professionals just make it look easy... but it is really a culmination of years of commitment, hard work and perseverance that brings them success.

In the coming year I hope to begin a new journey to learning yet a fresh skill.  After many years of wanting to speak Spanish, I am finally ready to make the commitment to doing so.  Like first learning to play the guitar, I expect it’ll be very difficult at first, but I am dedicated to making it happen.  Finding time in my busy schedule to go to class and practice what I’ve learned will not be easy but that’s what it’ll take to become proficient and so I’ll find a way to make it happen.  Most importantly, I won’t give up.  I’m fairly sure that I’ll never really master a second language but I hope to continue to improve a little each day, each month and each year.  After a while, I hope to be proficient enough to be able to hold a conversation with native speakers.

Recently a young friend of mine asked me if I could teach her to play the guitar.  Remembering the second promise I had given to my former roommate, I’ll probably agree to give her free lessons...provided she of course that she agrees to my two conditions...

Thank you very much for your continued and unwavering support of OptiFuse where we vow to never to give up trying to serve our customers better. 


Jim Kalb
President
OptiFuse
jimk@optifuse.com


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