Changing Your Focus

When Delsa and I were first married, I was in graduate school and had a very heavy course load.  Yet I needed to earn enough money for your mother and me to survive.  I knew I could not do it on the minimum-wage jobs available in a college town.  I decided that I would work for the Fuller Brush Company.  This meant going door to door and selling brushes and other home care products.  Selling door to door is difficult because it means experiencing rejection many times a day.  Each night I would leave the apartment at five, drive to the neighborhood, and sit in the car.  Hating what I was about to force myself to do, I would drag myself to the first door.  I would usually do about ten doors and get ten negative responses.  Finally I would stop and tell myself that I was wasting my time.

It was tempting to tell myself that I had been assigned a bad neighborhood.  But I was also experienced enough to know the problem was not the people.  I was the problem.  I was following a normal script and getting normal results.  I was not willing to step out of that normal script.  I needed to make a big change.

In that situation I had a trick I would use to help me make such a change.  I would stand on my toes, close my eyes, squeeze my fists, and bounce up and down until I could feel the energy flowing.  Then I would run, not walk, up to the door and knock.  (Sounds silly, but it always worked.) When people came to the door, I would bowl them over with positive emotion.  With great enthusiasm I would hand them the free sample of the month and tell them how glad I was to be of service and ask how I could help them most.  Most nights I would make sales at seven of the next ten doors.  No matter how many times I tried this, I was always amazed at how well it worked.

Why did it work?  Why did the same kind of people who had been rejecting me suddenly become good customers?  What was different, the people or me?  Obviously, it was me.  If it was me, then there is an important implication.  I was in control.  The normal assumption to make is that the people in the houses are in control.  They can choose to slam the door or invite me in and let me demonstrate products.  An ordinary person in an extraordinary being state alters the routines of the people encountered.  The choice to call forth our best self changes the external world in which we exist.

Now there is one thing I do not like about the preceding example.  The example is about sales.  In sales, people often talk about techniques for manipulating people to buy.  This tendency leads to a false conclusion that goes something like this: “We need to be positive thinkers so we can manipulate people to do the things we want.”

When I was selling Fuller brushes, I had one motive in mind — to make money.  I was there to sell and earn a living.  Now notice that as long as this was the primary motive, I failed in my intention.  I did not make money.  I did not sell very much.  I was an ordinary salesperson generating ordinary or predictable outcomes.  When I took control and went outside my comfort zone, I became more inner-directed.  That’s the being state where something else happens.  We become more other-focused.  We become more concerned about the needs of others.  The person who answered my knock was no longer a neutral object who was going to buy my products and pay me money for them.  Rather, I was now glad to see this person and was there to “serve.”  When my purpose (making a living) was supplemented by a focus on others (love), things changed.

(Letters to Garrett, pgs. 39-41)

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