Tài liệu

Be The Greatest Before You Are the Greatest

Social Sciences

Terry Robertson was the greatest salesman Charlie knew. He’d been class president at Saint Johns the year before Charlie entered. As a student, he’d sold the administration on diverting money that was planned for a new fountain in the courtyard to instead refurbish the student lounge. In his first years out of school, Terry became one of the top salespeople for a large national computer company. When they cut back his territory because he was making too much money, he quit and bought a failing chain of furniture stores. Seven years later he sold it to a larger chain for a sum large enough to be reported in TheWall Street Journal. After deciding he wasn’t quite ready for retirement, he’d bought an auto dealership which had slipped from first to nearly last in its market, and was in real danger of going under altogether.

“I don’t know, Charlie,” he was saying as they walked through his used car lot. “I’m either crazy or I’m a challenge-aholic. When someone tells me something can’t be done, it’s almost like waving a red flag at a bull. Something in me just has to prove them wrong.”

Ten months earlier, Charlie had opened The Courage Place in his home city by renting space from Nick Amatuzzo at the Downtown Gym. True to his word, Nick had helped him start the ball rolling by personally bulldozing many of his gym members into the program. “Let me take care of you on the outside,” he’d say, “and Charlie will take care of you on the inside. You’ll become unstoppable!” Charlie had also been helped by lots of free publicity, including a visit by the governor, who stated that what Charlie was doing with The Courage Place was one of the most important examples of “entrepreneurship with a conscience” happening anywhere in the state.

Things were going so well that Charlie decided to open The Courage Place-Austin six months ahead of schedule. Bill Keys had helped him find a suitable facility, and had signed up as a member himself, but then gradually drifted out of the picture as he felt the pull of his responsibilities with Body Spirit. After an initial surge of interest prompted by the same type of free publicity he had received back home, the phone had gone deathly silent. He was only half joking when he suggested to his local manager that she go around insulting people the way Nick Amatuzzo had in order to build his health club business. As a result of all this, he was in an anxious frame of mind when he took his car to Richardson Automotive for service. Since the dealership was only a mile from the public library, Charlie had planned to walk over and do some research until they had his car finished in the afternoon. On his way out the door, though, he had run into Terry Robertson.

“Charlie McKeever,” Terry called from across the showroom, “just the man I’ve been looking for!” As he always did, Terry looked like a million dollars. His blue suit coat was perfectly tailored and sported a fresh red rose on the lapel. He strode across the showroom floor as if he owned the place, which of course he did. The two men shook hands, and Charlie was again surprised to realize that Terry was shorter than him. There was something about his bearing that always made him seem taller than he really was. “If you’ve got a minute, I’d like to show you something,” Terry said, pulling Charlie toward his office without waiting for an answer.

“Sure, Terry,” Charlie said, half in acquiescence and half in protest, “but I can only take a minute. There’s a bunch of work I need to do over at the library.”

“The library! What the heck are you doing in the library on a day like this? It’s a beautiful sunny day, and that means people are in the mood to buy something! Why on earth would you want to use up your prime selling hours sitting in the library?”

They stepped into Terry’s office, and Charlie could immediately see that Terry had gone whole hog into the car business. There were auto pictures on all of the walls, and industry books were scattered across every desk and table surface. “Sit down. Just for a minute, Charlie, I want to show you something.” Charlie was about to sit down when his eyes were arrested by a poster of a classic red Ferrari. It had always been the car of Charlie’s dreams.

Terry handed Charlie a photo of a brand new white sports utility vehicle which had The Courage Place logo on the sides. “Where did you get this?” Charlie demanded. “That logo is our trademark. Who’s driving this thing around, anyway?”

Terry didn’t answer, but instead smiled and leaned forward, and in his best used car salesman impression said, “Imagine how many Courage Place memberships you’d sell, Charlie, if it was you driving around town in this beauty.”

When Charlie didn’t smile Terry continued, “I really believe in what you’re doing, which is why I had the fellas down in the graphics shop make this up on the computer for me. We can work out some sort of trade where you give memberships to The Courage Place to my people, and I’ll give you a big discount on the vehicle. Behind the wheel of this thing, you’ll become the salesman of the century!”

Charlie finally smiled and shook his head. “This is very nice, Terry, but you know, I’m really not much of a salesman. I’ve got a lot of other strengths, but that’s just not one of them.”

Terry widened his eyes and let his jaw drop in a look of mock amazement. “If you’re not the salesman for The Courage Place, Charlie, who is? Who is the CSO, the chief selling officer, if you’re not?”

Charlie squirmed in his chair, and looked away from Terry, wishing he were sitting at his favorite cubicle in the library. He’d planned on today being what he called a monastery day – a day where he played like a monk, squirreled away all alone with his books and his thoughts. Instead, Terry was trying to pull him back into the push-and-shove world of business – and of selling. Terry walked around behind his desk, opened the drawer, and took out a set of keys, which he dropped into his coat pocket. Then he walked back around, looked at Charlie, looked up at the red Ferrari on the wall, and back down at Charlie. “There are two kinds of people in the world, Charlie. People who are in sales, know they’re in sales, take it seriously, and get good at it. Those people tend to get what they want out of life – they’re the ones who live the biggest dreams.” Now Terry looked over at a poster of a small family sedan. “And then there are people who are in salesbut think they’re not. They would never think of reading a book on sales strategy or negotiation tactics, would never go to a seminar on relationship-selling, or listen to a tape on the most effective ways to close a sale. And then they wonder why they’re not getting what they want out of life.”

Charlie looked over at the picture of Terry’s sales team behind the desk. There was no doubt that they were all in sales. “You are in sales, Charlie, all the time. Whether you are promoting The Courage Place, raising money for the symphony, or trying to teach a certain set of values to your children, you are in sales. If you want to be successful, you cannot delegate that ultimate responsibility. For sure, you can hire other people to help you with it, but in the end, if you are not selling, nobody else will.”

Charlie knew that Terry was speaking the truth, and it made him acutely uncomfortable. In the back of his mind, he could see the stack of books he had wanted to read today in a neat pile at the library – unread. Books on self-esteem and emotional self-mastery. He braced himself to pop out of the chair and take his leave. As if reading Charlie’s mind, Terry stepped between him and the door. “You know what selling is, Charlie? Selling is the ultimate test of self-esteem. When you get right down to it, you only have one product to sell: yourself. And you really only have one customer to sell to. It’s a tough, cynical, ornery, and negative customer: yourself. If you can sell you on yourself, you can sell dirt to a farmer. Until you make that critical first sale, selling you on yourself, business is going to be a struggle for you.”

Terry stared quietly at the poster of the Ferrari until Charlie’s eyes followed his gaze. “It’s a beautiful car, isn’t it, Charlie?”

Charlie laughed. “I’d give my eye teeth to see that in my own driveway.”

“Would you, Charlie? Would you really?” Before Charlie could answer, Terry walked over to the office door, motioning for Charlie to follow. “I want you to see something,” he said, in a way leaving Charlie little option but to obey. As they walked out into the sun, Terry pointed to a sparkling white sport utility vehicle mounted at an angle on a display platform, as though it were climbing a steep hill. “That’s your SUV,” he said. “All we have to do is put the graphics on it.” Terry held his arms out in front of him, fingers extended, as though building a frame around the vehicle’s image. “Can’t you just see it, Charlie? Parked out in front of your office? A billboard on wheels! I had my guys set it up out here when I learned you’d be coming in today.”

Charlie was amazed. “How’d you knew I’d be in today?”

“Simple. Every night before I go home, I check the service log for the following day. If I see someone I know, I make a point of dropping in to say hi. You’d be amazed at how many cars I sell that way.”

“I hope I don’t disappoint you if I don’t buy a car today,” Charlie said.

“You won’t disappoint me if you don’t buy a car, Charlie,” Terry laughed as he headed toward the lot. “You’ll disappoint me if you don’t buy two of them.”

Charlie didn’t have time to protest, because Terry was already two rows down, making a beeline for the used car lot fifty yards away. Running after him, Charlie huffed, “Actually, Terry, I’m not in the market for any cars, much less two of them.” Terry stopped cold in his tracks, wheeled around to face Charlie, stuck his right fist high in the air, and at the top of his lungs shouted, “I AM THE GREATEST!” Charlie stood stunned for a moment, not sure whether his friend was going crazy or had just attended a seminar on bizarre sales techniques.

“Who said that, Charlie? Who’s the first person that comes to your mind when you hear the words, ‘I am the greatest?’ The first person you think of?”

“Mohammed Ali, of course.”

“Did he start saying it before or after he officially became the greatest by beating Sonny Liston to win the world title?”

“Probably before.”

“That’s right,” Terry said. “In fact, today he says that he started saying it before even he believed it was true. But who was the first person he had to convince? It’s got to happen in your head and in your heart before it happens in the world outside. You’ll never start being the greatest until you start thinking you’re the greatest. And the first step is to sell you on you.” Terry turned on his heels and resumed his march towards the used car lot.

As they walked across the lot, Terry continued his lesson on salesmanship. “When you get right down to it, success in sales requires only two things: preparation and expectation. Anticipate the needs of your customer, put together a package that meets those needs, and then present the package in a way that leaves no room for the word no.”

They walked across the driveway separating the new and used car lots. On the far end of the used lot, Charlie could see that Terry had already expanded the business. A large sign announced the grand opening of the new dealership for imports and exotics. As they walked past row after row of used cars, Terry continued his lecture. “Want me to tell you why I know you’re going to buy a new car today?” Terry asked.

Charlie started to protest, then decided just to flow with it. “Why’s that, Terry?”

“Because when I learned that you’d be coming in, I didn’t sit down and ask myself, ‘How can I sell my old friend Charlie a new car?’ Instead, I read up on what you’ve been up to for the past few years. I learned as much as I could about The Courage Place, including how fast it took off here and the struggles you’ve been having in Austin.” When Charlie shot him a surprised look, Terry shrugged and said, “The Internet can be a salesman’s best friend; simply by investing a few minutes in front of the terminal, I was able to read everything both local papers and Texas papers had said about you and your business over the past year.”

Terry gave Charlie a light punch on the shoulder. “So what do you think was the first thing I did this morning?” Charlie shrugged. “I stopped by the Downtown Gym and signed up as a member of The Courage Place. While I was there, I picked up a few of your brochures and brought them back to the office. I took them down to our paint shop and asked the graphics technician to superimpose your logo on a photo of that new sport utility vehicle you’re going to buy today,” and with that Terry gave Charlie another playful punch in the shoulder. “The monthly payments on your new SUV are going to be one third what you’re paying for the billboard on Broadmore Street, and you’re going to get a whole lot more visibility from it.” When Charlie raised his eyebrows again, Terry said, “Yeah, I checked that out too.” He laughed and shook his head, as if such a thing should have been obvious to anyone.

“So when we go back to my office, I’ll go through all the details with you: the substantial discount you’re going to get by signing all my people up as members of The Courage Place; the tax advantages of owning the vehicle through your corporation; and the superior quality graphics we’re going to apply. But for now, let’s have a little fun.” They were now walking across a narrow strip of lawn separating the used car lot from the new imports and exotics lot. Right up front, parked nose to the road, was an immaculate shiny red Ferrari. Terry walked over to the passenger door, reached his hand in his coat pocket, and tossed a set of keys to Charlie.

Charlie caught the keys, fumbled them, and watched them bounce off his shoe onto the pavement. “I can’t drive this thing,” he said before leaning over to pick the keys up. He was going to toss them back to Terry, but the salesman was already climbing into the passenger seat of the Ferrari. “Let’s go, Charlie – start her up!” Terry pulled the door shut behind him, then leaned over to push open the driver’s side door. Reluctantly, Charlie crawled in. The leather seat seemed to mold itself around him, and for a fleeting second Charlie pictured himself writing a down payment check. That image was quickly replaced by one of him trying to explain his new purchase to Pam; it was not a pretty picture.

“You’ve got to put the key in the ignition, Charlie. Otherwise it won’t start.” Charlie inserted the key, but did not turn it.

“Generally, I find two kinds of people buy a car like this,” Terry continued. “First are those with low self-esteem who need the status symbol to feel better about themselves. Second are people with high self-esteem who couldn’t care less what other people think, can laugh off the jokes about mid-life crisis, and who just love the thrill of driving the world’s finest car.” Terry looked at Charlie with an intensity suggesting that through force of will alone, he thought he could get his friend to start the car. “Which will you be, Charlie?”

“There’s no way I should be driving a car this expensive, Terry. It costs more than my house does! What if we get in an accident?”

“That’s what you’ve got insurance for. I’ll tell you what: let’s play a game. Let’s pretend your business has been so successful that if you wanted to, you could just buy this car outright – pay cash for it. You know you’re not going to buy it, because what you really want is that new sport utility vehicle with your logo all over it. But you decide as long as you’re here, you might as well take it for a spin, since it’s always been the car of your dreams.”

“You’re crazy,” Charlie replied as he turned the key and the engine purred to life. “Seatbelts on?” he asked as he put the car in gear. Easing out onto Market Street, Charlie turned right, heading for the countryside. They cruised in silence for a while, past the city limits sign and past field after field where farmers were cultivating their new crops. Always a careful driver, Charlie had to pay attention just to stay within shouting distance of the speed limit.

“You know,” Terry said at last, “this new job of mine has given me a whole new perspective on the power of high self-esteem. My salespeople who have high self-esteem make two or three times the money that salespeople with low self-esteem make, and without working any harder. If anything, they spend less time trying to sell because they’re spending more time building relationships. And customers who come in with high self-esteem always seem to be more clear about what they want. They spend less time choosing their cars, and end up getting a better deal for them.”

Charlie was silent, so Terry continued. “In fact, I’d go so far as to say that low self-esteem is one of the most debilitating diseases in our society today, and unfortunately it’s at an epidemic level. I’m convinced that just helping people raise their self-esteem would do more good for society and the economy than all of the social welfare programs put together. Low self-esteem is like emotional cancer: too often, it’s an insidious excuse for cowardice and laziness. Because they don’t think very highly of themselves, people assume they will be rejected, and that they will fail. So they don’t even try. If you don’t try to sell something, you won’t be rejected. If you don’t try to start something, you won’t fail. The sad irony is that, because you know you’ve been a coward, you end up being rejected by the most important person of all – yourself; and by avoiding failure at a small level, you end up being a failure at the highest level.”

Charlie looked down at the speedometer and realized with horror that he was going almost ninety miles per hour. The ride was so smooth he could hardly feel the speed. Quickly, he put his foot on the brake and slowed back down to the speed limit. In the other seat, Terry was looking at him and laughing. “What’s so funny?” Charlie demanded.

“What you just did is such a terrific metaphor for one of the most devastating symptom of low self-esteem,” Terry replied.

“You mean speeding is a sign of high self-esteem?”

“Not at all,” Terry replied. “What I mean is that low self-esteem is often reflected in fear of success. What happens is that people get moving too fast in the direction of their goals; they start seeing the tremendous potential they have to be a success, and it scares them silly. So they back off the accelerator and put their foot on the brake, and fall back into their comfort zone. Have you heard our ads on the radio?”

“Sure,” Charlie replied, “who could miss them. You’ve really come up with a catchy jingle there.”

Terry pulled a CD from his suit coat pocket and plugged it into the car’s player, then pushed the play button. It played the familiar music from the Richardson Automotive commercials, but when the announcer’s voice came on, he was not selling cars – he was selling Terry Richardson. The ad was selling Terry, the natural-born entrepreneur; Terry the tough competitor; Terry, the customer service king; Terry, the wise and compassionate leader; Terry, the world’s greatest dad; and so forth. It was very professionally done, complete with music and sound effects.

“Every person on our team has one of these CDs, Charlie, that’s been done especially for them. I had our ad agency do them. They asked us each to describe the ideal ‘me,’ and then made up the tape as though we had already arrived at that point. I ask every salesperson to listen to their tape as they’re driving to work, and then again as they’re driving home. You can tell the ones who are doing it; they’re a lot more confident, and they achieve better results. It’s like I said. The starting point to success is selling yourself on yourself. In my business, advertising is like the fuel that keeps the car running. If I quit advertising, my sales would slow down and eventually the business would coast to a stop. Well, it’s the same thing in our personal lives. Positive visualization and self-talk is the advertising that we use to sell ourselves on ourselves. You need a CD like this, Charlie, and you need to keep playing it until you believe that you really belong behind the wheel of this expensive sports car.”

At the next small town, Charlie turned around and started heading back. Terry continued his lesson. “Whenever I hire a new salesperson, the first thing I do is teach them my formula for believing in yourself. The first step is understanding that faith in yourself occurs in four different dimensions.”

“Four dimensions? It sounds like some sort of science fiction movie,” Charlie said.

Terry smiled. “Well, it does, but I’m actually very serious. It’s what I call The Pyramid of Self-Belief. The first level of believing in yourself is Self-Concept. In other words, what is your picture of the universe and your relationship to it? What is your understanding of the Creator, and does the Creator want to help you be a winner, or to punish you for breaking the rules? The most successful salespeople have a tremendous faith in a loving God who wants them to succeed, and who occasionally will pull strings behind the scenes to help create the conditions for their success. On the other hand, people who view God as a punishing avenger, as an uncaring and anonymous force, or as a complete void, are much less likely to build the foundation for long term success.”

The Ferrari came up behind a slow-moving pickup truck and instead of hitting the brakes, Charlie took a quick look down the road, pulled into the other lane, and hit the gas, pressing both men back into their seats. Terry hardly seemed to notice as he continued his lecture. “The second dimension is Self-Image. What do you see when you look in the mirror? The greatest salespeople have a realistic appraisal of their own strengths and weaknesses, but when they look in the mirror, all they see are their strengths. The also-rans overestimate their weaknesses, underestimate their strengths, and when they look in the mirror see mainly their deficiencies.”

Terry looked down at the speedometer and smiled. “I see that success is beginning to be less of a terrifying prospect.” Charlie realized with horror that he was going over one hundred miles per hour, and yet the car was riding so smoothly he might as well have been toodling down a city street. He took his foot off the gas and began coasting back down toward the speed limit. As the owner of a struggling start-up business, he sure couldn’t afford to blow his life savings on a huge speeding ticket!

“The third dimension is Self-Esteem: do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? I’ve seen people with what you would consider modest capabilities do very well simply because they like who they are. On the other hand, I’ve seen very talented people fail because they just can’t seem to bring themselves to like the person who looks back at them from the bathroom mirror. Norman Vincent Peale used to ask why we so often forget the last two words of the second great commandment: to love your neighbor as yourself.” Terry laughed. “When I told that to my wife, she said maybe that’s why we treat our neighbors so badly!”

Charlie laughed, then did a quick check of the speedometer. “Finally,” Terry said, “the fourth dimension is Self-Confidence. Do you think you’re up to the responsibilities life has laid out for you? Can you do the job? If you want to make a change, this is always the place to start. When I have a salesperson struggling with low self-esteem or a poor self-image, I never try to address that issue directly. Instead, I spend time helping them build their confidence as a salesperson: you know, how to build rapport with customers, how to ask the right questions, how to find out what the customer can really afford and negotiate a fair price, and how to close the sale. And you know what? It’s amazing what closing a few sales will do for someone’s self-esteem and self-image. You want to know the best thing you can do right now today to build for yourself a rock solid foundation of self-belief?” Charlie nodded. “Sure.”

“Forget about going to the library to read books that tell you what you already know. Instead, start driving around town and pay personal visits to the CEO’s of every company you can find, selling them corporate memberships to The Courage Place. Whether you close any sales will be a lot less important than the courage and confidence you’ll build by making each presentation a little bit better.”

“That’s a great idea, Terry, but you’re forgetting one minor detail. My car will be in your shop for the rest of the day.”

Terry laughed. “Actually, Charlie, the guys in the shop told me that your car has a lot more wrong with it than they thought. They’re going to need it for the rest of the week. So this,” and Terry patted the leather dashboard of the Ferrari, “will be your loaner car until next Monday.”

“No way!”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with it, Charlie. And when you go around making your calls on CEO’s, make sure you park right up front and gun the engine a few times before you get out. That will really get their attention!”

Charlie was about to argue when a little voice told him that this was a gift to be enjoyed and appreciated, not rejected, so he simply said thanks. They had just crossed back over the city limits and were driving down Market Street when Terry pointed to the Golden Arches on the right up ahead. “Let’s pull in there. I’m starving!”

Charlie gunned the engine for a downshift, feeling more at home in the seat of the Ferrari. As he turned into the lot he asked, “Do you want to go through the drive through?”

“Are you kidding! To eat cheeseburgers in a quarter-million dollar car!”

“A quarter-million!” Charlie was about to reconsider accepting the offer of this expensive loaner car when Terry directed him to a row of empty spaces at the end of the lot. Charlie parked, and the two men walked in. As they were eating lunch, Terry asked Charlie to look around the dining room and, based upon people’s expressions, to imagine what they were talking about.

“Let’s see,” Charlie said. “The young mother over there is telling her children to shape up or she’ll stick them in the car. Those two workmen over there are talking about what a moron their supervisor is. Those two guys in suits, one is trying to sell a life insurance policy to the other, but it’s not going very well. The guy sitting alone going through the want ads with a pencil got laid off a long time ago, and now he doesn’t even have the energy to shave in the morning. Over in the corner…” Charlie swiveled back to face Terry. “Not a very happy lot, are they?”

“You’ve heard of Maslow’s Heiarchy?” Terry asked. “How it’s hard to concern yourself with truth and beauty if you’re hungry and can’t pay the rent?” Charlie nodded. “Well,” Terry continued, “most people are content to wallow around near the bottom of the food chain.” When Charlie arched his eyebrows in surprise, Terry continued, “I said content, not happy. They’re content to sit in here and yell at the kids instead of taking a class on how to be a more effective parent. They’re content to bitch and moan about their terrible job conditions instead of learning the skills that would earn them a better job. They’re content to sit here reading the want ads day after day instead of having the courage to go start a little business that would let them take some control over their destiny. It’s a paradox, Charlie. Sometimes the more discontented you are, the more likely you are to find the courage to make the changes that will bring you happiness.”

“Would you gentlemen like refills on your sodas?” The attendant was an older woman with a neatly starched and pressed shirt, and a smile the size of Texas. Charlie wondered if she was working at McDonald’s to keep herself busy, or because she had to in order to make ends meet. “Let’s see, you have a Coke and you have a Sprite, right?” The men looked in surprise at this apparent mind reader, so she added with a smile, “I can tell by which buttons are pushed down on the plastic lid.” She returned momentarily, and placed the drinks on the table. “Isn’t this a gorgeous day?” she asked, looking out the window. Then, lowering her voice slightly, continued, “Do you see that beautiful red sports car out there? Wouldn’t that be a hoot to drive?” Her laugh reminded Charlie of the bubbling stream where he and Mitch had spent a night in the Grand Canyon. After she left Terry said, “In one of his books Bill Bennet said that there are no menial jobs, only menial attitudes. Truer words were never spoken.”

Charlie looked around the dining room again. Menial attitudes certainly seemed to prevail on that day. “Before we head back to the dealership,” Terry said, “let me share with you my formula for building solid self-esteem. First, you must understand that there are three elements to having high self-esteem. Begin by accepting yourself as you are, warts and all. We’ve all got warts, but people with high self-esteem are able to accept them, and even laugh at them. People who beat themselves up over their shortcomings and use them as excuses for their failure to succeed, inevitably end up suffering from low self esteem. The second element, however, is a willingness to change, to fix the warts. Any time you’re doing something to become a better person, your self-esteem will go up. If your business is struggling, and you don’t understand accounting, every minute you spend parked in front of the boob tube diminishes your self-esteem; every minute you spend taking a class or studying a book on accounting raises your self esteem.”

Charlie looked out the window at the Ferrari, sparkling in the parking lot. He decided he’d be willing to spend many hours studying accounting to see that car parked in his driveway. “And third,” Terry said, “is to accept total, absolute, and uncompromising responsibility for your circumstances and your outcomes. People with low self-esteem are always making excuses and blaming other people for their problems. People with high self esteem accept that they are what they are today because of decisions they made in the past, and that they will be where they will be tomorrow because of decisions they make in the future, beginning right at the present moment.”

The McDonald’s lady came back and took their trash away. They each declined a third refill, so she gave them a mint. “Let me share with you five self-esteem action steps that I assign each of our salespeople.” Continuing a habit that was becoming more deeply ingrained all the time, Charlie had pulled out his steno pad and was making notes. “The first is to start each day by doing the thing that’s most important for you to do, but which more often than not is the thing you least want to do. In many sales positions, for example, it might be making prospecting calls. I had a poster made up that I gave to each of my sales reps. It’s a picture of a hideous toad, all covered with warts. At the bottom it says, ‘Eat a live toad first thing in the morning; your day can’t help but get better.’ That’s a pretty good prescription for success – do the tough jobs first thing in the morning and the rest of the day will be a breeze. The second step is to program yourself with positive visions and positive self-talk. That’s the purpose of those commercials I make for each of our team members. It’s a wisdom that’s as old as The Bible – your inner thoughts shape your outer world, and the way you talk to yourself shapes who you become in the future.”

“A man becomes what he thinks about all day long,” Charlie interected. “Ralph Waldo Emerson said that.”

Terry nodded thoughtfully then said, “the third step is to pay very close attention to what you do and don’t let into your mind. It’s like the computer programmers say: garbage in, garbage out. If you spend several hours a day watching stupid sitcoms in which stupid people make a mess of their lives, you increase the odds that your life will become a mess. If you end every day by sitting in bed reading horror novels, it should come as no surprise if you begin experiencing a sense of chronic dread punctuated by panic attacks. On the other hand, if you spend your time reading books and listening to tapes that are positive and motivating, you will inevitably find yourself becoming more positive and more motivated.”

Terry’s cell phone rang and he checked the caller ID. “This will just take a second,” he said before answering. He listened for a few seconds, then replied to whoever had called, “Whatever you think, Geri, you’ve got my support. You make the call.” He hung up and said, “the fourth step is related, and that is to stay away from negative people and seek out positive people. Attitudes are contagious. If you hang around with negative, bitter, cynical people long enough, that’s exactly what you will become yourself. Wallowing around in the mire of misery with other petty, negative thinkers is a luxury you simple can’t afford, not even for a minute. Spend time with positive winners, and that’s exactly what you will become. And finally, number five is to be nice to other people, to have faith in them. I once heard W. Clement Stone – you know, the insurance magnate who wrote about positive mental attitudes with Napoleon Hill – referred to as ‘a reverse paranoid.’ He thinks everyone in the world is out trying to help him! With an attitude like that, how can you possibly not be a success?”

“A reverse paranoid.” Charlie underscored the words in his pad. It occurred to him that more often that not, he assumed the worst about other people. When a customer called, he assumed it was going to be a complaint. When he called on a prospective client, he assumed he was going to be rejected. He tended to see other people as potential adversaries rather than as potential friends. He wondered if becoming “a reverse paranoid” could help him change some of his attitudes and expectations. For the most part, his mother used to tell him, you will get out of life what you expect to get out of life. Perhaps his own expectations of other people had been the biggest stumbling block to building his business. Walking back out to the car, Charlie automatically headed for the passenger side, and had to be reminded that he was driving.

“We need to head back to the office so you can sign the forms for this loaner car,” Terry said as they pulled back out onto Market Street. “You also need to pick up a brochure on that new sport utility vehicle, so you can begin telling us the exact specifications you want for the one you order.”

Be a reverse paranoid, Charlie reminded himself. Perhaps Terry wasn’t just trying to sell another car, but really did believe that his having a Courage Place vehicle would be good for business. Charlie simply said, “Okay.”

After Charlie had signed all of the forms necessary for him to use the Ferrari as his company car for the rest of the week, Terry asked him to take his steno pad out and write down one more thing, “in all caps!”


Charlie eased the Ferrari back out onto Market Street and headed left, towards town and the headquarters of Milltronics, Inc. He’d been putting off calling on the CEO for some time now, and thought this might be just the day to stop by. He was beginning to feel right at home behind the wheel of the quarter-million dollar loaner car.

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