How to be bold & take the road less travelled!

Apr 23, 2024

P.S.: This is chapter two of my book "The Naked Salesman".

Imagine going into a restaurant and seeing no prices on the menu.

You might think that the food is really expensive, but that’s not the case at the So All May Eat (SAME) Café in Denver, Colorado.

The fact is, there are no prices on the menu because everyone pays what they can — though, of course, many people pay more. There’s no cash register, just an envelope that patrons get with their meal. In that envelope goes whatever is judged a fair price for the meal, a hearty donation, or nothing at all. The envelope then goes into a simple wooden box.

If someone can’t pay anything at all but feels they should, they are able to help out in the kitchen, serve some soup or clean up for an hour or so.

Founders Brad and Libby Birky not only make a difference by offering meals for value, not profit but have also created a thriving community of people who care and are cared for.

Stand for something — not just anything, but something meaningful

Why is meaning important?

Because it helps you find passion, and when you find passion amazing things start to happen.

Not only do you enjoy what you do, it also helps your customers filter through the mass of competitors in your market that are all doing and selling the same thing in the same way — to find you!

Most businesses don’t stand for anything other than making a profit.

How uninspiring! Where would you like to sign?

‘Come on, give me a break, didn’t you see the “No Hawkers” sign on the door?’

To create a truly exceptional business you must have meaning and passion, and you need great people inspired and united by purpose.

This is what I call ‘real’ culture.

The culture is always the first place I start when I consult with a business. And if you’re selling, you need inspirational salespeople who create and develop valuable relationships with like-minded customers. I call these exceptional men and women ‘Naked Salespeople’.

Sure, you can get by in sales being average. And ‘just getting by’ is precisely what most people do.

But this book is not about selling or settling for mediocrity — it’s about being the best you can be.

It’s also about being unique and developing a business and a way of being you can be damn proud of because it’s the best you. In other words, the naked you!

It might seem that creating a company that sticks its neck way out and stands for something meaningful these days is just too hard. ‘Hey, business is tough, there is no way I am risking changing my business practices to be unique and meaningful. I have bills to pay!’

Is it really that hard or are business owners simply too lazy or too shallow?

Which one are you?

The fact that you’ve picked up this book says you want to learn and grow and you most certainly want to be a leader. By reading this book, you are demonstrating you want more and you want to be more. You want to be better, perhaps even the best in the world. Any way is okay, so long as you’re the best you can possibly be.

Where have all the playgrounds gone?

The Gold Coast was my playground, abundant with sun, blue skies, long golden beaches and ocean views that swept across the eastern horizon. To the west, only a short distance away, sat the surrounding hinterland with its tropical forest and clear, crisp, untainted air. This was the playground I enjoyed as a kid, learning about life and all it had to offer my young and playful spirit. My formative years did have their challenges; however, for the most part, these years were full of fun and frivolity. Every day was an exciting chance to express myself in new and creative ways.

Back then I had dreams, big dreams.

My walls were plastered with all my favourite sporting heroes.

If I closed my eyes long enough and concentrated hard enough I could see myself on the walls beside them.

There I was frozen in time, in full gloss, with my adoring fans slightly blurred in the background, punching the air jubilantly as I kicked the winning goal. Or I was hitting a volley on my way to winning a Wimbledon Grand Slam tennis title, flying through the air, my forearms rippling with power and beads of sweat skimming off my brow.

Little worried me in those days, except homework, mowing the lawn, the odd bully and, of course, girls.

Girls were the most terrifying of all, with the odd schoolyard crush offering many a restless night.

Everything else seemed easy.

I really didn’t care what anyone thought — unless they were my mates. My mates were everything to me. We would die for each other playing army in the backyard. At school, you could be strangers at morning tea and best mates by home time. There were no fragile egos at stake, money issues or love interests to get in the way; these friendships were real. Sometimes we even made up our own rules, irrespective of the consequences. We lived by our mistakes, and in many ways, our mistakes defined who we were. They were part of life, along with skinned knees, sprained ankles and the occasional black eye.

As kids we would play for hours on end, losing track of space and time to the frustration of our mothers calling us in for dinner. I still remember the big orange new moon glowing like the sun at night and lighting up the waves at the beach like it was daytime.

It was like a big face peering down at us from another world, grinning and watching over us as we played and drew pictures in the sand under the moonlight. You didn’t have to be anywhere, or pretend to be anyone; you were you and happy being just that.

My adult years seemed hard, cold and empty in comparison.

At the ripe old age of 20, I was in the prime of life, but going backwards fast. I was for the first time contemplating my place in the world. My playground, once abundant with love, fun and adventure, was now a cold, ruthless and confusing place. I drifted from job to job and had little sense of direction or career options that truly inspired me.

So in my very early 20s, I packed my entire life into my two-seat red convertible and took the long and lonely trek from the blue skies of the Gold Coast to the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, Sydney. I don’t know where I found the courage to make such a bold decision at that age — perhaps my mum threatening to kick me out of home if I didn’t take a job had something to do with it.

In any case, I felt I needed to take on life and get more from myself somehow. I knew no one in Sydney, but the challenge of a new beginning and hopefully a more meaningful and exciting life was good enough reason for me to at least give it a shot.

As exciting a prospect as Sydney was, my new life was short-lived.

After only a few months, I was sacked from the job I had travelled down to take as a sales manager for a large national fitness equipment franchise. Out of loneliness and a heavy bout of homesickness, I had racked up a rather large phone bill on the company phone, calling my friends and family back home.

While there, another store manager, Dusty, a six-foot-tall exUS-Airborne Ranger with a slow southern drawl, a square jaw and forearms the size of Texas, was appointed as the state manager. He was a great guy up until one minute after he was promoted, and then as if on command, his military instincts kicked in and he no longer fraternised with lowly store managers.

My interactions with him went from warm, open and humorous to short, sharp and intrusive — Sir, yes, sir!

It wasn’t long before Dusty felt the wrath of my youthful insolence. We clashed on a number of occasions, and my indiscretion with the phone was just the excuse he needed to get rid of me. ‘Get down and give me ten push-ups or you’re fired, Private. How do you say your name? Laaay-shaan! What kinda name is that? Get down and give me 20!’

I gave Sergeant Dusty the bird, repacked my little red convertible, said goodbye to my new friends from the harbour town, and headed home taking the twelve-hour trek once again with only the radio as my companion.

But back on the Gold Coast, something felt different.

The town that I knew and loved as my playground was the same, but I had changed.

For the first time in a long time, I felt a sense of purpose.

I had taken on the biggest challenge of my life by moving my entire life to the big city and had failed, but through that experience, I gained new clarity and confidence. Yes, Sydney was a big intimidating city to a young bloke from the Coast, but it wasn’t that scary.

The Sarge had rained on my parade, but I survived my first try, so I decided to head back for round two — to the bewilderment of friends who thought I was mad and would most certainly fail again.

A month later I was driving back down the highway, my little red convertible now replaced with a very yellow rust bucket that was barely roadworthy, but that was all I could afford. This time I was working for a multinational insurance company, Combined Insurance, founded by W. Clement Stone.

For those not familiar with Stone, he built a billion-dollar insurance company in the early 1900s and successfully authored numerous best-selling self-development books including The Success that Never Fails.

Later in life, Stone partnered with Napoleon Hill, who is now the world’s most referenced catalyst for positive change and personal achievement. The partnership between Hill and Stone enabled both to play leading roles in the early development of the success and achievement movement. It was at this insurance company, as an impressionable 20-year-old, that I was exposed to the most challenging and demanding sales role (selling door-to-door accident and health insurance) I have ever been involved with.

It was also during this time that I was given the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book and the wisdom it holds set me on a path of self-discovery and transformation — a journey I am still enjoying today.

Reflecting back on my childhood years, I often feel a profound sense of loss. It is as if my younger self had tragically died and I never had the opportunity to tell him just how special and dear he was to me. Little Me was so full of life, fun, and love. He is like a best friend I could never experience or enjoy a conversation with ever again, a fading photograph in my now-distant memory.

It appears by today’s standards, it doesn’t matter what it is we do in life, as long as it pays well — or sadly, for many of us, as long as it pays well enough to just get us by. Money even takes precedence over relationships.

I have observed people trying to send others bankrupt out of greed and ego. I have experienced firsthand friends choosing money over lifelong friendships. I see businesses set up purely to extract profit at the expense of teams and customers.

I know people who hate their jobs and resent each working day because of it.

Why aren’t we still playing and doing what we love to do?

Are adults too mature to have fun?

Why aren’t we taking risks, running around, jumping and skinning our knees and laughing about it, whilst we plot our next big idea?

Why are we not still thinking and dreaming BIG?

Yes, we all have responsibilities, but they shouldn’t be the reason for a meaningless existence.

The worst thing you can do to a child is tell them their dreams will never happen or take away their ability to play. The threat, ‘You’re grounded!’ reverberates and can still be felt many years after it has lost all of its authority.

Why do we choose to take the road most travelled and in the process create a life for ourselves and our families that is uninspiring?

Is loving life and what you do simply not part of the adult job description?

I say it is!

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