Excerpted from the book on conscious business management, Business Black Belt
Not he is great who can alter matter,
but he who can alter my state of mind.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist and poet
Different people with their variety of baggage come before us in life to teach us something—you can resist them only to have their character return over and over again to your show or you can learn from them and move on.
The concept of seeing a part of ourselves in others—good or bad—is not new, yet it requires some in-depth interpretation to see its benefits. Using this truth to learn more about yourself and your behavior can produce amazing results forever.
My situation was their objection
I was making sales calls one morning and everyone I talked to was objecting with the same reason! These were different people in different companies, but on this day, they each told me that they weren’t sure of the amount of money they had to spend, they hadn’t completed closing the books for the month so they couldn’t make any financial commitments right now, their budget wasn’t complete, and other variations on this same theme. Their objections had nothing to do with the product, the season, or anything else you might expect. And, they were interested in buying. But why was I hearing the same theme? What could I do? I started to wonder what I had in common with these people beneath the surface. I realized that I hadn’t balanced my checkbook or turned in my expense reports for a couple of months—I wasn’t sure of my own financial position either! I could have kept on calling more customers, but my solution was to leave the office, go home, and take care of my personal finances immediately. (I was going crazy making calls and getting nowhere anyway.) Guess what? When I returned to the office early that afternoon, knowing my financial position, an order was on my desk that had just been called in!
What we trip over is our gold mine.
~ Joseph Campbell
Give this seemingly paradoxical approach a try. Instead of lapsing into what may seem like a hopeless situation, look to see what it is within your customers’ objection that applies to you. In other words, if you were making their excuses for not buying, what would you need to do to get yourself past the objection? Put yourself in their shoes and if you were to become a willing customer, how would you change your conditions to enable you to buy? This is easier than it may seem. The first step is to think in very literal terms. In my case, everyone didn’t know what their budget was (they didn’t say they didn’t have enough money). I used their clues as direction for action I needed to take. I took that action (balanced my checkbook) and suddenly they were ready to buy.
There’s nobody else out there.
~ Paul Larson, Founder, The Summit Organization
What others say (especially if it seems to be a trend) reflects what you need to do. Do it and your customers (and others) will miraculously shift. Similarly, if you want to be listened to and understood, the quickest path is to listen to others and do everything you can to understand them.
What you may be angry about in other people’s behavior is an indication of behavioral changes that you must make. Let’s just say that you need to do something different; maybe it’s the very thing they’re doing that you yourself do. You only recognize it when someone else does it, or their behavior is compelling you to mature in a positive way to handle them. Perhaps you must establish that you no longer tolerate a certain behavior—set new, higher standards for yourself and others—and decisively remove it/them from your life. I would even go so far as to suggest that you already know that you need to take that step but have, until now, been unwilling to do so.
As I write this, I’m going through a transition in my management style at my own company. One manager always seems to have an excuse for why things didn’t happen, couldn’t be done, or why current projects should be delayed. I’ve been thinking that if I could get him to change, just see that he’s got everything it takes to make all these projects work, he’d be a hero. I find myself making excuses that our projects don’t get done because he keeps screwing up. If I had a boss, I think he or she would politely explain, “We need this job to get done and be managed with some leadership and attention… and Burke, I think we need to find someone else who can handle it. I think the best solution is to let you go.”
I hate to fire people, but it’s part of a management maturity step I must take. Avoiding it just makes my life miserable. Part of being an effective leader is the ability to choose and recruit talent, it also means removing unproductive people. In this example, the person’s behavior compels me to take an action that actually forces me to grow as a person. If I had had the nerve to do this many months ago, the problem wouldn’t have reached its current size. I knew what had to be done then, but was afraid to handle it. As I take on a more powerful management attitude, these kinds of things will be dealt with more easily and swiftly. If you can avoid getting sucked in to these situations and instead use them as compelling growth experiences for yourself, you’ll expand your repertoire of effectiveness.
Letting this executive was the right thing to do. I needed a stronger, more experienced person in that position. Plus, it let others know that I could and would fire someone.
You’re wrong… and you’re stupid!
I have this employee who is very intelligent and very argumentative. When he disagrees with you, you get the feeling that you’re wrong, you’ve left something out, should do more homework, and that he thinks you’re stupid for ever considering such a project. I, on the other hand, am totally delightful. So, what’s wrong with this picture? What might I have to learn from this employee? OK, should I just go ahead and fire him because I find him so annoying?
After some serious soul-searching to figure out what about me he could possibly be reflecting and what I needed to see to expand my awareness of myself, perhaps perceive things differently and make some changes, I saw an obvious (to me) connection. (Keep in mind, the reason we need the “reflection” is because we don’t see it ourselves—it’s too close to the core of our being. It’s the very filter we see everything and everyone else through.)
Maybe Jack reflects my inner contempt for people’s stupidity and I’m now getting a physical manifestation of my own thoughts and feelings so that I can recognize their power and negativity. Jack has many redeeming features, but there are times when he (I) exude such a violent disdain for other people that seems so overwhelmingly repulsive that I actively want to get rid of him and not be around him. He shows me what my anger would look like if it were to manifest itself in physical reality. My vehement objection to his behavior and repulsion by it must be a reflection of what others perceive about me when I’m that way, (although I’ve gone to great lengths to cover it up!). In his form, it’s loud enough for me to hear, see, and feel what it is that oozes out from my tightly shut container. It’s not pretty. When I listen to Jack, I feel like I work very hard to grasp the value in what he’s saying because there is so much to hear. But the argumentation that’s laced throughout his communications with me and others sometimes makes it unbearable to be around him long enough to complete an interaction. (People sometimes don’t follow my direction or hear what I say because the surrounding cloud of negative energy makes it next to impossible to pick out the gems from the flak.)
The interruptions, non-listening, rejection of ideas, single or narrow mindedness I perceive is only my own, amplified sufficiently to be visible to me. Do I need to keep this person around to have his message rubbed in over and over again? Perhaps I have many of these people around, they just aren’t as forthright as to be recognizable. I appreciate Jack for his volume and visibility. Even if I do let him go, I still must deal with myself.
“There is nobody else out there.” We reflect facets of each other at any given moment. This concept goes a long way toward providing an ongoing learning experience as we evolve.
As I cultivate my own nature, all else follows.
~ Ralph H. Blum, The Book of Runes
I wrote this chapter on a plane after several weeks of extreme frustration with two people. The process of asking the question, “What is it about me?” and following my own advice has been tremendously insightful and freeing for me. I’d been grinding on what I should do, why they were around, what to do with them, and it was driving me crazy. I grind my teeth and want to eat a lot, and I want to go out and buy expensive things, thinking it would make me feel better. (I almost bought a new Porsche 911, but my dog couldn’t fit in the back seat—you should have seen his face—I couldn’t buy the car.) All along, I knew I needed to do something; there was a message I needed to get. Eating or buying something wouldn’t solve my real problem. Going through the process of writing this chapter at least helped me understand. Also, I recommend writing by hand (there’s something about writing long-hand versus writing by computer that’s cathartic), in a stream of consciousness, in private, which will enable you to peel off your thoughts and get down to the core elements of your thinking (assumptions) that you must understand in order to grow, evolve, and move on.
I’ve worked out my differences with Jack—actually I let go of much of my anger and judgmentalness as a result of what I discovered about myself. My problem with Jack has vanished… as if Jack got it. Like I said, when you change where you’re coming from, then others miraculously change in your perception of them. You cannot expect them to change first—that’s what perpetuates your problem with them.
Become your own mental mechanic
How did I get to the bottom of what Jack’s reflection of me showed me? First, I acknowledged that my perception of him had nothing to do with him. Therefore, trying to change him was futile. You see, Jack is not the first and only person to represent this behavior, and, unless I look deeper into the truth about what it means to me, I’m doomed to invite another Jack into my life until I get the message—the understanding of what his presence means to me. Second, what I was being shown about myself had not originated within me. It was something I had picked up along the way in life—perhaps I had misinterpreted a situation in my childhood (based on extremely limited knowledge, information and experience) and had drawn an inaccurate conclusion about someone or something on which I continued to base my assumptions about life.
Or, trying to be cool, I had imitated an adult, not realizing that their behavior was inappropriate—either way, I needed to give that not-so-original idea/behavior up because it was working against me now.
Realizing that this behavior or attitude is not really part of who you really are makes it infinitely easier to let go of it. I think of it like editing my mind like I edit a word-processing document—just overwrite the old thinking like you overwrite a sentence then save the document back into your memory. Anyway, I looked back into my life for the first incident when I had behaved in Jack’s way. That first time is important because it includes all the influential factors that started your point-of-view / thinking / attitude / behavior in this direction. Even though I had repeated this behavior for years, I knew there was a first time. I started by scrolling back through my memory from the most recent situation, looking for the time before that and the time before that until I reached the first.
Pondering that first time, I looked around at my circumstances, the people who were there, what they were doing and saying at the time. What was going on? How did that happen? What did I see? Where did I get my initial direction? What was I told? Then, how did I build on it and perpetuate it throughout my life until now? This will take some quiet time of reflection. When I back-tracked my Jack-like behavior and saw all of this, it hit me like a ton of bricks—it all became so clear. I remember what was going on, who they were talking about, the words, what I was told and how I used my intelligence and creativity to expand on this theme. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I felt intelligent and superior for grasping the concept and building on it. But it wasn’t a healthy, loving way to be. Realizing that I merely recorded someone else’s opinion way back when enabled me to quickly adjust my thinking to a more positive approach—a point of view that I knew would really work for me today given my additional 35 years of experience in life. I’ve gone through this process many times on a variety of subjects and it never ceases to amaze me that what I used to think can be so easily updated to more useful and productive thoughts and approaches to people and situations.
Business Black Belt Notes
- Behavior you see everywhere is an indication of your own current behavior.
- Your customers’ objections are your objections—what can you do to overcome them?
- What can you learn about yourself from the people around you?
- Where did you get your original thought about how someone or some situation is?
These two books will give you another point of view on life and living.
The first one removed my fear of death and dying, the second made many things become crystal clear.
I highly recommend them:
Weiss, Brian, M.D. Many Lives, Many Masters. New York, New York, Simon & Shuster, 1988.
Redfield, James. The Celestine Prophecy. New York, New York, Warner Books, 1993.