By Frank J. Rich
A quick trip to the atelier of the mind, the deepest corner, where processing occurs, might reveal the quick-trigger attitude of The Old West. A reactive habit, threats are paid in like currency. The mood of most finds what’s wrong with others, our towns, and the world. A quick-draw fever heats the blood if not good sense. The result, the fulminating ire of our protective urges, albeit absent the recovery that forms relationships.
If you’re finding the soliloquy above a bit angular, consider the opportunity in all things. Time with Springer, Montel, and Povich insinuates, and fans and closet clones homogenize, while thinking machines (robots) everywhere mark time for sapiens. People are people.
On a recent road trip, my wife and I listened to the whining on local talk shows from North Carolina to Georgia. The fascination was in hearing the most spectacular stories told by the mordant and abused of simple sense. We took to repeating what one commentator prophetically dispensed as the solution for this largely unhappy group of complainers. “Jes’ shoot ‘em,” he said, and we broke out laughing. Perhaps insensitive to the plight of those in need without awareness of it, we took fun as relief before finally switching to music and conversation. But nearly every time we touched this divining rod of American culture—the complainer—we broke into laughter.
So, what does this have to do with the marketplace? Is there really opportunity in all things or is the idea merely the Pollyanna of antipodal minds?
Assume the principle veridical. When we find opportunity in everything and everyone, what happens? When taking to the road we find reason for unkind behavior. Fair enough, the impatience of one may teach patience in another. The “teacher” notwithstanding, what’s taught is prescient, if not habit-forming. Parking fury has its own motivators, “me firstedness” not least, but what would the obverse side look like?
“Go ahead, take that space, I’ll wait, ask for your cart, return my own, carefully open my door and avoid scratching yours even if my neighbor does not, and count the small percentage effect on good neighborhood that informs a gentler approach.” What happens when we give instead of take, respond not react, calm anger not fuel it, liquidate expectations in favor of hope in another, and step expectantly into next moments looking for what’s “right with the world”?
The marketplace is teeming with salespeople. They perform the necessary (and honorable) job of informing their customers of the opportunity and value in their products and services. Most complain that there are “too many salespeople,” and wish they would go away—salespeople, who have happier and longer marriages, are emotionally more stable than the general population, raise well-adjusted children, and enjoy more hobbies (that balance life) than all other professions, according to studies that go back many years. Attorneys might wish for a similar profile, despite the large numbers of them and their “rabbit habit” of multiplying quickly.
People are to be enjoyed for many things, the things that qualify them uniquely. What do we say to a child who decides on a career in sales (are any really not in sales)? “Become the best salesperson you can be, and be happy with it”? Sound like something you’d say?
When a salesperson knocks at your door, tell him frankly of your interest, after learning of his purpose in calling on you. Try to find the human quality in the person, that which seeks to satisfy the same urging in all—the fulfillment of active engagement in meaningful work. Ask him to be as brief as possible in summarizing the “value” (to you) in his purpose and product/service, even asking if three minutes of your time is enough. Then listen, ask questions, and speak honestly of your interest. When he persists, as many will, remind him of your contract to spend just three minutes. Tell him why you would like to continue, as easily as you might tell him why you do not see opportunity in his offering. It is at this moment that you are equals—you have asked of him the same that he has asked of you. This “agreement” will work better to grow mutual respect and regard and prepare the two for a fair exchange.
If you have doubt of this, consider how America grew—by its penchant for commerce in a free market society. “Doing business without advertising (sales) is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but nobody else does.”