"Do something everyday that scares you"
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
"Go ahead and ask her", I prodded my friend Mark, "there are only two possible outcomes... she can say yes... or she can say no..."
My friend Mark and I were at a restaurant not too long ago when he spied an attractive woman across the room, sitting alone sipping on her red wine, and seemingly waiting for her meal to arrive.
Mark is a recent casualty of divorce and after several months of mourning has decided to once again enter the dating scene.
Like a teenage school boy asking a girl to his first homecoming dance, Mark sat there at our table petrified of the possible rejection he might encounter should he walk over to her table and strike up a conversation.
"What happens if she already has a significant other?... do you think she’ll think I’m a creep for being so forward?... what should I even say to her?", he asked though he didn’t really want a direct response from me.
On the outside, I was trying my best to be an empathetic friend and offered him words of encouragement... on the inside I was laughing hysterically at his outward indecision.
Understand this... Mark, as a professional sales person is not unaccustomed to rejection. He is constantly dealing with people saying "no" to him and his sales pitches. To him, it’s just a part of the job.
He fully understands that most of the prospects who decline to do business with him aren’t rejecting him personally... they may not see a need for his products... or they may have a need, but the timing could be all wrong... or they might have a need, and a willingness to buy, but the pricing, delivery time, or product options may cause the potential client to purchase the product elsewhere.
Mark gets "nos" from his clients all the time... it’s all a part of the sales game...
In a great scene in The Godfather, Sal Tessio (as played by Abe Vigoda) is uncovered as a traitor to the Corleone family. As he is being escorted away to his final fate, Sal responds, "Tell Mike that it was only business... I always liked him..."
Rejection in sales isn’t personal... it’s just business... and it comes with the territory.
Mark, in his business career, had experienced his share of professional rejection, however in his own personal life; rejection was not something he was accustomed with.
This woman in the restaurant would not potentially be rejecting his products, his company, or the price... she would be rejecting him... personally.
It is this fear of rejection that suddenly transformed Mark from a confident and self-assured business person to an unassured and shy wanna-be suitor.
Playing sales coach, I asked Mark to give me his "pitch"... what would his opening line be to the lady across the room?
He looked at me like a "deer in the headlights".
"My pitch?", he asked.
"Yeah... what are you planning to say to her when you finally walk over to her table and what would be a great outcome if you succeeded?"
"I dunno... I haven’t given it much thought..."
"Well... you’re going to have to say something... you wouldn’t show up at a client’s door with no idea why you were there would you?"
"No of course not... that’s silly and a waste of both of our time."
"Okay then, what is your objective in meeting this person across the room... is it to sit down and have a conversation with her right now?... is it to possibly get her contact information so you can set up a date in the future?... or is it to propose marriage on the spot?"
With that last comment, Mark finally cracked a broad smile and the tension between his ears suddenly subsided.
At that moment his confidence had returned as he got up and walked to her table.
I watched as he engaged her in some brief conversation, then she reached into her purse and gave him what appeared to be a business card.
They exchanged a few more pleasantries and he then returned to our table, his face wearing a smile from ear to ear.
"So what happened?" I immediately asked.
"Well... I went up to her, smiled and introduced myself, telling her that I noticed that she was eating alone today and asked her if she ate alone often. She told me that she worked nearby but would enjoy some company in the future. She then introduced herself as Jennifer and gave me her business card asking me to call her if I was interested in meeting her for lunch."
"That’s it"? I inquired.
"Yep... that was our entire conversation".
"Don’t you feel a bit embarrassed for sitting here for 30 minutes agonizing as to whether or not to go over there and introduce yourself and start a conversation?"
"Yeah... I guess that was stupid of me."
"So you’re going to call her and ask her to lunch... right?"
"Sure... the ice is broken now... now it’ll be easy... plus she seems really nice... I’m glad you talked me into it."
As I drove home that afternoon, I couldn’t help but play the events of that encounter over and over in my head.
How often do we fail to find the courage to do something, even something that has no real consequences or associated risk? A positive outcome is only available to us if we take action. In Mark’s case, the only potential downside was if she said "no" and wasn’t interested.
Sometimes the lack of action is due to laziness but more often than not, our inaction is an internal resistance to the possibility of failure.
I suppose this is the very reason that trophies are given to all participants of youth sporting events... as not to potentially bruise the ego and self-esteems of young boys and girls. But this very act of supposed kindness deprives the kids of learning that failure isn’t the end of the world and life will continue on.
Many venture capital backed companies often are looking for leaders that have failed previously but who are willing to learn from their failures and move forward despite the inherent risks ahead of them.
Now I can fully understand a real fear of doing something risky or dangerous. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with only a parachute on your back is a really scary proposal... if you fail... then there are some dire consequences...
The idea here today is that if there is no real penalty to our actions (other than perhaps a bruised ego), what is really holding us back other than ourselves and our irrational fears?
Take the plunge... do something that is a bit scary... something that takes us out of our comfort zone and helps us to grow as a person...
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we are always willing to try something new...
Jim Kalb President
Email - email@example.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com
Twitter - @OptiFuse