Death of the salesman

The sales pitch started over coffee.

Actually, it started over spilled coffee. I had unscrewed the carafe on my coffee pot a little too far causing the entire pot of hot java to spew across the counter and onto my freshly pressed slacks. It was going to be one of those days. Moments earlier I thought how good I looked–almost like a salesman—coiffed and polished and ready to take on anything.

“Really? This is how the day is going to start?” I asked of the universe. I didn’t expect an answer but felt that asking the question would somehow quell any further drama. I tried to brush off my anger and simply get on with the day. No sense in crying over spilled coffee.

Not willing to go without my ritual coffee, I decided to head over to the local coffee shop. As I walked in, I saw one of my favorite baristas, Karen, a young woman who always has a smile on her face and a cheerful attitude. I greeted her as warmly as I could without any coffee in my system.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Oh my God! I’m so tired this morning. I didn’t sleep a wink and I feel like I’m in a fog. I have a paper due for class later today and I didn’t even get it finished,” she replied. Her response was like projectile negativity, it came out hard and fast and messy. She was trying desperately to sell me on the idea that her morning was rough.

It almost worked until my own inner salesman stepped forward. He quickly realized he could outsell her. She was but a mere amateur. He stooped down to her level as he started his sales pitch.

“Oh I know. I’ve been having trouble sleeping for a week and feel like a walking zombie. My dog just had surgery and I’ve been so worried about him and now I’m headed to work and it’s going to be a crazy, crazy day. Did I mention the dog might have cancer?”

It didn’t stop there. We traded tales of woe for about five minutes while she prepared my order, trying to out-do each other with how terrible the day was and how much worse it was going to get.

“Wow, I had no idea,” she told me. My salesman had won this round. I took my order to go and headed to the office.

Moments later, I was talking out loud to the universe again. This time, I was complaining about the lack of parking near my office. Why aren’t there any parking spaces? Why do I always have to park on the street? I’ll probably end up with a ticket by noon. Why do they always have to lock the back door? Why…. Why… Why….

I looked forward to an evening out with my mom and aunt. The two had just returned from vacation and I was excited to hear about their adventure. But as we sat down for dinner, the conversation quickly turned to my problems. I told them about my job, my hatred of my job, my dog and his surgery and generally anything that could convince them that life pretty much sucked.

The salesman had returned yet again, wanting to close another deal. He wouldn’t be satisfied until he convinced everyone that life does indeed suck and that they should buy into that concept wholeheartedly. Instead of money or a fat bonus, my salesman sought different kinds of commissions: pity, nurturing, understanding and sympathy. He earned his commission easily over dinner.

Driving home, however, I finally woke up to the salesman’s presence. I had grown so accustomed to his actions and to his sales pitch that I didn’t even realize he had accompanied me all day. I thought back to his presentations, remembering each interaction where he sought to change people’s minds. I remembered his actions, the feeling in his voice and the high-pressure tactics he used to sell his wares. Who exactly was this salesman and where did he come from? I wondered as I pulled in the driveway.

As I undressed for bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Suddenly the salesman had a name, a personality. Finally I knew whom I was dealing with. There he was, standing naked before me: the salesman was my ego.

He’s a clever guy, that ego. He had been wearing my clothes, acting like “me” and taking on my personality. In actuality, he had taken over my personality and I unwittingly became part of his growing sales force. Our goal: to convince others that life is hard, that you can’t get ahead no matter how hard you try and that the universe is always working against you.

Seeing my ego for what it was, I could then get a better grasp on this whole “reality creation” business I write about. Reviewing my day, I thought about all of the times I silently (or sometimes loudly) questioned the universe about my problems. I revisited the conversations I had with others when I shared my challenges, my frustrations and my lack of conviction. I saw all too clearly that I was arguing for my own limitations. And what shocked me most of all was the realization that I wasn’t just trying to convince others that the universe was against me, I was trying to convince myself.

I’m not trying to bash the ego, for I believe it serves a valuable purpose. It is designed to help us navigate the physical world, to help us make sense of it and to work with the intellect and our spirit to create the life we experience. But the ego gets rigid and frightened, and when it does, it overreacts. The ego has a limited scope, unable to see the big picture of the universe like other parts of our spirit can.

The ego likes justification. So those times when we feel stuck and unable to move forward, the ego ups the sales pitch a few notches, telling the world, “See! I told you so. There’s no way out of this mess!” A deceptive sales pitch? You betcha, but it’s an effective one.

When we use language to convince others of our limitations, we end up limiting ourselves further. When we habitually complain about our problems, we end up causing more of them. When we justify unsavory events as happening to us, we create more of the same. It’s a vicious cycle and if it’s not intercepted, it ends up causing more damage.

Take note of your own words and thoughts. Are you arguing “what is” in order to feel justified? Do you tell others about your problems in hopes of gaining sympathy? Are you acting like a salesman or saleswoman, convincing others that you have it worse off than anyone else?

If you find yourself answering affirmatively to any of these statements, you are becoming adept at sales. In these cases, you’re not out to convince anyone but yourself of your limitations, so it’s time to switch to a new strategy.

Try a new sales technique, a gentler one. I don’t necessarily mean becoming Pollyanna and lying about how you feel, but rather gently switching your focus to telling the story you want to live. Talk about things that are true and positive. Remember what you love and enjoy and tell others about them. Above all, remind yourself constantly that just because things aren’t going your way doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for positive change. There is room for change and talking about it in the affirmative helps get the energy moving in that direction.

As for my own salesman, I’ve decided to let him switch careers. I now see him as a “leadership trainee,” showing others that it’s possible to live a good life. His technique will be that of example, letting others see, first-hand, how good life can be and letting them ask, “what’s your secret?” No more selling for this ego, he’s retired from that position.

Now about that commission….

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KG
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 01:12:55

    Ha! I love this concept; not necessarily my unconscious participation in the game of selling ones woes, but the metaphor rings a bell. Doorbells. Another bad habit to break. Poor, poor me needs to get over himself. 🙂

    Reply

    • Honor Your Spirit
      Apr 14, 2013 @ 01:31:47

      Even with all of my “training,” it still amazes me when I catch myself consciously choosing limiting language, thoughts and actions. Now the trick is to not beat myself up over doing it and instead refocus on telling a new/better story. Scriptwriting baby — you should be good at that 🙂

      Reply

  2. Scott
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 01:31:02

    Great minds … I was getting ready to ask about the commission when I read the last sentence 🙂

    Reply

  3. Kerri Richardson
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 02:47:26

    Interesting framing of the ego. Cool new way to identify it.

    P.S. Did you really use the word “slacks”? Did your spilled coffee age you 25 years? 😉

    Reply

  4. 1313dogmom
    Apr 14, 2013 @ 04:25:14

    Really good and helpful framing. I get it. Thanks Christopher.

    Reply

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