One Step Towards Happiness

March 23, 2010

Do what you do best. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met along the way that fail to follow this simple advice.

Everywhere I’ve been I’ve found sales people who think they can run the operation. Operating people who are sure the sales people aren’t doing anything, or see the commissions they make and think they can do that. Everyone thinks the marketing and financial staffs are a waste of money.

Have you ever seen someone cross over? How did it work out? Well I can tell you that most of the time it doesn’t. If the person is really good at what they do they probably won’t be a failure, but they will struggle. My experience tells me that nine times out of ten times this type of move will only make you miserable.

To illustrate this let me tell you a story about one of the nicest people I ever met. Early in my career I was supporting this sales guy, let’s call him John.  John had been a successful sales person for over 10 years. He seemed to truly love his job and life in general. He was a truly enjoyable person to be around, and you really got the sense that he had it all. I remember my wife and me driving by his house before we got married and commenting that someday we’ll have that. I wasn’t just talking about the house.

John inspired me, but about a year after I started working with him our manager changed. This was common at our company; I had eleven managers in my first six years. This time the manager was someone who was in John’s training class when he joined the company. This shook John at his very core, because it made him feel he could have done more with his life.

Suddenly enjoying life and being successful was no longer enough. John needed to be a manager. Now almost every sales manager would tell you that if you are consistently successful in a direct sales position stay there. You make more money and don’t have half the hassles of management. John knew this, but it didn’t stop him.

Becoming a manager involved going to corporate for a couple of years. We use to joke that they sucked out half your brain and then sent you back as a manager. John took this path and about two years later he became my manager.

John was a truly uninspiring manager. Not only did he seem to be missing half his brain, but he also lost a great deal of his passion. The reason for the loss of passion was simple: John hated being a manager. John was a sales person. It was truly who he was and the only thing that really made him happy.

The point here is that a sales person enjoys the thrill of the hunt. He enjoys knocking on doors, competing, and most importantly winning. Most are very focused on the money and fame that comes with the job. On the other hand a manager needs to be nurturing, and understanding. The manager is satisfied by getting the most out of the team. Fame and money go to the person who got the deal, not the manager.  This is why most successful sales people make lousy managers.

This isn’t exclusive to sales, as I found this simple philosophy applies to most people and jobs. I’m not advocating settling, but I am advocating personal awareness. My advice is be very careful at each step. It is important to understand your core skills and what makes you happy. If you can marry the two you can be successful and enjoy it, and I believe this is a key to a happy life.


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