Sunday, January 20, 2008

Never, never ever give up... on excellence thru education

F. Scott Fitzgerald was quoted as having said… Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat”. I think that in this day of up and down life this quote is magical. It gives us the fortitude to ‘get over it’, what ever ‘it’ is.

I am an avid reader of quotations attributed to leaders. Often, when they are written or spoken, these quotes emulate from deep thought, and perhaps, have endured to the point where they appear in books of quotes, on daily quotation lists and yes, in blog posts, because they have influenced other’s successes. The rebirth of Fitzgerald after his death, as a great writer is testament to how we should never give up.

When I started out as a young sales person, I had few of the clinical skills that it would ultimately take to be successful in the medical industry. Several things ultimately allowed me to find a modicum of success... persistence was one of them. It often fell to me to do things I had no previous experience with, and little of the training necessary to accomplish various goals. Early on, I had failures, and as my frustration grew unfortunately, so did my anger. The company gave me training in selling and some clinical education. Yes, some successes came with time, but always there was failure that set me back... even as I started to rise through the ranks of selling to sales management. Promotions need not be confused with success...

It was not until eleven years into my career, I met another manager who seemed to have things very much under control. I asked him how he stayed calm in the face of the failures he and I faced... some due to competition, some to our company, our people and often due to our own foibles... he introduced me to a book that helped change my outlook and my actions. It was by a writer with a strange name, one I have never forgotten... Og Mandino. The book was one of eight or ten of his that I would end up reading, but always I came back to this...

The Greatest Salesman in the World.

Don't worry, I am not trying to turn you into a salesman... in all honesty this is not a book about selling as a function... it is a book that I return to when I need to fix things that aren't working in my life. Here is a passage from early in the book that might remind you of what Fitzgerald was trying to say...

"the prizes of life are at the end of each journey, not near the beginning; and it is not given to me to know how many steps are necessary in order to reach my goal. Failure I may still encounter at the thousandth step, yet success hides behind the next bend in the road. Never will I know how close it lies unless I turn the corner.
Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step at a time is not too difficult. I will persist until I succeed"

My big problem always seemed to be my clinical excellence... I didn't have it! So, over the years, I tended to hire and promote people who had a great deal of both clinical excellence and the experience to know when to use it. I spent a lot of time teaching them the things that I did know well... persistence, and a level of selling expertize that allowed me to find success through their excellence and our product/company capabilities. This lead me to thinking about ways that I could help folks understand how important education, persistence and excellence are in overcoming our limitations... certainly I knew my limitations but I was and am set on going beyond them.

First, I learned from my good friend Danny Cox ( who is, if you check out his web site, one of the great 'people accelerationists' of our time. He was the first person to show me this cartoon

I learned much more from Danny, who was my guest speaker at several of the companies with whom I was hired to do sales, service and marketing turn-arounds. I began challenging myself to find tools with which I could express ways to help people 'get it' regarding the need for persistence, and especially education. Among others, it is education, and its extension, excellence (which I am still looking for in my own journey) that will help us through life's challenges... all of them... personal, business, political, diplomatic and so on.

One of the analogies I am trying to expand is to consider a ladder leaning against a wall. The length of the ladder is akin to personal potential we have when we start something as complex as life, or as simple as painting a building. How far up the wall we achieve, is the limit we place on our success. The distance from the base of the wall to the foot of the ladder is how much learning we to have to accomplish in order to achieve our potential... no, I can't upload the diagram, you have to imagine the ladder against the building. As we learn more, we can put the foot of the ladder closer to the building, and therefore, reach higher... does this make any sense? As we learn more, we can move the base of the ladder closer to the building, and the result is the ladder goes higher... toward success.

How do we get to the highest rung of our own ladder, and how high up the wall will it be? Certainly we can't always get there on our own! I found that I couldn't learn close to enough clinically to satisfy the needs of customers... but I was able to surround myself with specialists who were able to move me along the continuum of life. That was business, what about life's challenges? That's what friends are for... surrounding ourselves with friends who know how to help us... who know that that's when friends are real friends.

How do you feel about persistence... let us all know by commenting below, and please remember that there are many who want to know... that a SUCCESS NOURISHES HOPE.

Note... The Greatest Salesman in the World, Og Mandino, Bantum Books
ISBN 0811900673 Normally found in the philosophy department of book stores.

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!