The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


Archive for October, 2016


I was listening to Townsend Wardlaw’s presentation last month (see ).  I’ve known Townsend for several years – IMHO, he is one of the great thinkers in the sales profession.  Last month’s presentation however was less about the tools, tactics and techniques of sales but rather about fear:

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. 

German Proverb

We were chatting before he started his prepared remarks; commenting about the audience for this event (see ); comparing notes about the preponderance of millennials in the sales work force of today.  I told Townsend how much I enjoy working with millennials – how I find them energetic, articulate, coachable and “fearless”.

Townsend offered his usual insight.  “They are unafraid, Gary… but they are not fearless.”  His perspective was based on the generational phenomena that when growing up, parents of millennials did not allow their children to fail.  It caused me pause – I think Townsend might be on to something.

During his presentation, he offered anecdotal insight to a personal experience when he was responsible for building a sales team from scratch.  He was in total control – staffing; methodology; coaching; results.  Aha yes…that age old “results” thing.  Townsend acknowledged that great sales process, tools, tactics and techniques have one ultimate limitation:

Beliefs trump everything.

And if sales reps (or anyone, I suppose) are fearful, then we can’t accomplish all that we are capable of accomplishing; we literally hold ourselves back:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens most of us.  We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” 

Nelson Mandela

I took Townsend’s comments and started to develop a list of sales rep fears – what would you add to, or subtract from, it?

Do I belong in this role?

Do I believe it what I’m selling?

Are my competitors better than me?

Can I justify my price?

In the real world let’s face it; many prospects don’t care about what we care about.  They sabotage our (artificial) deadlines; refuse to be “held accountable”; don’t care if they mislead us; beat a continuous discount drum; true?

Townsend did go on to suggest ideas for living with our fears.  He began by acknowledging we can’t “overcome”; “ignore”; or “eliminate” fear – we live with fear – get over it.  He suggested investing in our physical strength; working on our focus; analyzing what the worst that might happen and realizing most times we are dreaming up our own dread; concluding:

Fear can’t live in the light.

He suggested we simply maintain our courage.  Ahh…courage.  Lot’s has been said and written about courage.  Andrew Jackson, military leader and the seventh President of the United States offered this:

One man with courage makes a majority.

That guidance resonates with me.  Over the years as a sales professional I have always maintained the attitude that I am not my number.  Good or bad, I’ve maintained a willingness to face daily competition; it’s just a deal; it’s not my arm or leg that is at stake.

Following the teachings of other, world-class competitors (even a Roman philosopher) I have tried to face each day with the attitude that, today – I am indestructible!

Our fears are always more numerous than our dangers. 


And on more than a few days, it has been only been by my attitude that I was able to get through the day.  You?


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Historical leadership…

One of my favorite hobbies is reading about the leadership displayed by historical leaders during times of crisis as documented in the writings of American history.  It is amazing to learn about the stress that those events, coupled with the expectations followers, had on leaders.

How did those leaders do it?  Could you (or me) rise to the occasion the way they did?  What does one do, when there is no “opt out” option?  What does it take to be that type of leader?  Is it some sort of innate ability; learned; trained for?

Of course, there are many examples where leadership has been summarized in a simple synopsis.  Take the Civil War – a heightened time of crisis in American history.  On the bloodiest of battlefields in American history, great generals rose to the occasion and in so doing are remembered, albeit for what in retrospect seems to have just been good judgment:

Grant knew from Sherman’s telegram that a crucial lesson had been learned at Collierville, that an army commander should know just where he was going, long before he actually arrived there. 

Jeff Shaara

Know where you are going – seems so simple today.  But during times of crisis leadership can become anything but simple.  In Civil War times, navigating terrain was a huge obstacle.  No GPS; a few crude, hand-drawn maps; directions only available from local civilians – and we all know what hazards that can bring:

Winfield’s Dictum of Direction-Giving:

The possibility of getting lost is directly proportional to the number of times the direction-giver says, “You can’t miss it.”  

Unknown Sage

In today’s world, Google Earth enables anyone with an Internet connection to view the landscape with ultimate clarity.  Navigating business circumstances?  There’s no Google app for that.

Take my company.  We’re in the process of being acquired – maybe.  I say maybe, because surprisingly our leaders have vanished.  When the initial announcement was made public, there was a company-wide web meeting and the leaders informed the followers it was merely business as usual.  That was it then; and that has been it ever since.  No updates; no further employee communications; no status; nothing.  Not very comforting.

It could be that they really don’t have any updated information that can be disclosed yet.  As a publicly traded company, there are SEC rules and regulations that apply when a company is “in play”.  However, in absence of leadership communications followers will dream up their own narratives.  And in a vacuum, such narratives tend to drift towards worst case scenarios, true?

Speaking for myself only (as if there was another option), this event could be good news or it could be bad news for my continued employment at my (new) company.  But if my leaders asked, I would tell them I can handle it (as if there was a choice):

One can either face reality at the outset or one can disseminate the bad news on the installment plan. 

Norman Augustine

So when I read and reflect on historical leaders and how they led their followers, one common theme emerges – they kept their people informed:

The key to being a successful skipper is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew. 

D. Michael Abrashoff

I wonder if our leaders today invest any time learning from historical leadership.  Perhaps they believe their view of the ship is the only view of the ship and the right view of the ship and their followers on the ship should just get over it.


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Is your world flat or round?

Almost 6 years ago I ventured out into the social media world for the very first time.  I know I wasn’t the original “explorer”, but it was a big move for me nonetheless.  Permit me to share an updated, slightly wordsmithed version of my very first blog post, beginning with:

People told Columbus the world was flat.  He didn’t insist it was round.  He got in a boat. 

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How cool was that!  No debate; no argument; no headlines; no hype.  They said, “Impossible!” he said, “Get me to a boat!”  Then he got in that boat (funded by the original venture capitalists); and proved his point.

How about that as an example of commitment to success?  “Hey Chris, the world is flat you know.  If you try this you’ll just sail right off the table into oblivion.”  “That’s OK”, he might of said, “I think we’ll be all right.”

What about you?  What are “they” saying you cannot do?  Do you agree with them?  Are you looking back at the land for your sense of security?  Or are you looking out across the ocean and on to your future?  Are you debating – or are you doing?  Where are you turning for the fuel to maintain your positive, can-do attitude?

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. 

Babe Ruth

If you’re reading this then you’re on my boat.  Welcome to The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective©.  The next time you’re having one of “those days”, filled with too much negative input from “them”, come back aboard for a little positive reinforcement.

I’m using a social media platform as my vessel, naturally – it is the 21st century after all.  Some people today might say, “Gary; Linked In, Face Book, Twitter are fun and all; but a vehicle for ongoing business-to-business, business?  Impossible!”  Well, what do I know?

I’ve spent the last four decades of my career perfecting professional selling skills.  You remember – permission-based prospecting; discovering the customer’s goals; presenting solutions; closing the deal?  Remember?  Are any of those skills still relevant today?  Is the world still flat?

Or have we in business actually shifted to Likes, Groups, Tweets, and other, electronically-impersonal means of getting ink and contract to meet and money to change hands?  Were professional selling skills important only when the world was flat?  Well, what do I know?

Best-selling business author Jim Collins wrote about:

The Tyranny of the OR vs the Genius of the AND.

To me, it’s not social media – or – the old way.  I think social media will be important.

But, I would also like to believe that building business relationships still plays a key role in the customer’s success.  I would like to believe that knowing what you’re doing is still critical to a sales person’s success.  Being a product expert + a technology expert + a competitive expert + a business person are the key characteristics our customers value.  But, what do I know?

Similar to Columbus, no one knows ahead of time what changes social media will bring to the future of my profession.  I’m certainly not going to argue about it.  I’m getting in my social media boat – I wonder if I will fall off the face of the earth?

I hope you join me for the ride and visit often.  Bring a friend!  After all:

No sense in being pessimistic.  It wouldn’t work anyway. 

Unknown Sage

Here’s to the New World.  Thanks Chris!


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High School Sweethearts…

Fall; October; football; high school; Homecoming – do you remember your first high school sweetheart?  High school is a very special and memorable time for teenagers; it certainly was for me.  And I always enjoyed the autumn season when I was in high school – Homecoming; Halloween; dating; parties (most chaperoned, some not).

Forty six years ago, this very time of the year, I asked the prettiest girl in my high school out on a first date.  I guess it went well enough because here we are forty six years later and I’m still awe-struck by the glow of her beauty.

I hope you enjoy this opening to Chapter XII True North, of my book, The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective © as much I enjoyed writing it:

Dedicated to… a crisp night in October; with a slight breeze blowing through bare trees – waiting for the coming winter.   Close your eyes.  Can you smell remnants of autumn leaves burning? 

To winning the homecoming football game.  To being carefree. To a Saturday night party at the teenager’s house whose parents are away.  Can you hear the kids having fun in the kitchen; the basement; and the backyard, all to the beat of the Rolling Stones?

To couches, blue jeans and sweaters.  To the floor lamp reflecting on her blond hair making it shimmer with silvery streaks of light.  To the nervous small talk of a teenage boy in the presence of a varsity cheerleader.  To the patience of the teenage girl sitting on the couch with the captain of the varsity basketball team.  Can you remember when you could actually hear your heart throbbing?

To throw pillows, which come in handy when the small talk runs out – what else can a young boy do?  And to playful pillow fights; which lead to gentle wrestling and ultimately to that first kiss. Remember how delicate she felt in your arms – the hint of her perfume – the taste of her lips?

To first dates – dinner and a movie.  To the movie Catch 22 and the Oriental Theatre in downtown Chicago.  To dating the prettiest girl in your high school; to falling in love; to asking her father’s permission for her hand in marriage.  Were you ever so nervous?

To the tears welling up in my eyes even as I write this short memoire.  To all those emotions; all the happiness; all those hopes and all those dreams; some fulfilled, some yet to be; and all that I can remember today as if it just happened yesterday – that I will remember everyday, as long as I live.  How can someone be so lucky?

To 1970 – and that Saturday night in October in Elmhurst where I kissed Debbie for the very first time.  And to the friend’s house whose parents were out – to their couch, their floor lamp, to their throw pillows; and to the Rolling Stones music.  Can you imagine being so young, so infatuated, and so in love?  I still am.

Gary A. Pokorn

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