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What Me Worry?

17 Dec

It’s been said that 97% of what we worry about never happens. And yet, for some of us, it’s seems almost impossible to put a stop to worrying. What is worry? The psychiatrist Carl Jung characterizes worry as a substitute for legitimate suffering. In other words, it’s neurotic, not helpful and a waste of time. Worry is when your thoughts run wild, sometimes to the point of being delusional and out of control. One negative thought attracts another, followed by another and so on until all you can see on your path is disaster. Everything is absolute, and everything is a catastrophe.

How does this happen? Why is worrying likely to cause a tailspin or downward spiral? When you start with one negative thought put out into the universe, the thought is like a magnet, attracting like thoughts. The level of vibration in a negative thought finds similar thoughts because they are vibrating at the very same frequency. Suddenly you have a bundle of worries, creating fear and depression. What you feel in any given moment is always the result of what you’re thinking at that moment.

Recently a friend of mine was selected to give a speech at an upcoming charity event. Betty is a highly intelligent and accomplished woman well known in her field, which is why she was asked to speak. Betty wasn’t thrilled, in fact she was petrified. Very much as I was when I was in New York to accept the Best Toy Store award for Magic Village toy store in San Jose, CA. And just like me this woman could think of nothing but catastrophe. What if I forget what to say? What if my voice cracks? What happens if I lose my place? What happens if I mispronounce a word, or worse yet, someone’s name?

In the weeks prior to the speech all she did was worry. Now think about this. She allowed herself to be consumed by fear and worry for weeks leading up to the event. Were these happy times for her? Of course not! Her worrying overshadowed everything she did in those weeks; her job, time with her family and friends, the pleasure in her romantic relationship, and her peace of mind. And, for what? Nothing. Worrying was a waste of her time, energy and happiness. Did she do well when she actually gave the speech? Absolutely, she was great. Did any of the things she worried about come to pass? Yes. Her mouth was a bit dry at the beginning and she felt a bit dizzy walking up the stairs to the podium. Then, she took a sip of water, took a deep breath and looked out at her audience. She suddenly realized she was just human, the same as everyone sitting in front of her. If she made a mistake, and she did, she still felt the thrill of getting to talk to so many people about why she supported the charity, and why the organization means so much to her.

Nobody asked for perfect, and you never have to show up perfect. We’re all human. We will make mistakes. It’s all part of life. I’ve spoken to hundreds of groups over the years and I will tell you this, not a one of those talks was perfect. I made mistakes. As long as I live I will continue to make mistakes. So what? Who cares? They don’t and I certainly shouldn’t.

Love,

Michael

Could you learn to love public speaking?

11 Nov

In my book Overpowering Fear – Defeating the #1 Challenge in Sales and Life I talk about giving an acceptance speech in New York for an award my company won and how utterly scared I was. So scared that when I returned home to San Jose I immediately enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course to learn to overpower my fear of public speaking. The classes were one evening a week for 8 weeks and were divided into three sections: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. How to Win Friends and Influence People. And my favorite (the reason I was there) Effective Public Speaking.

I loved the procedure they used for choosing the topic we would talk about each week. They would call us up one at a time and when the person before us started their 2 minute talk we picked a small folded piece of paper out of a basket. On that piece of paper was the subject of our speech. We now had less than 120 seconds to come up with what we wanted to talk about and put it into some type of order, and it had to last for the full two minutes. And believe me, those were long minutes.

Talk about tough. This was trial by fire. I remember the fear I felt in my gut each time I did it. What was comforting was knowing everyone in the class had to go through the very same thing, and I’m sure felt the same fear. But by the end of the 8 week course everyone in the class could get up and instantaneously talk for a full 2 minutes, on almost any subject.

Today I love getting up in front of groups and talking. Do I ever feel fear? Certainly. We never fully get over fear. What we want to learn is to walk through it. To overpower the fear. To not let it stop us. Feel it, acknowledge it, and then go ahead and do it anyway. What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen to you? Make a mistake? So what. That’s what life is for. How else would we ever learn?

How many times do babies pull themselves up only to lose their balance and fall down on their padded little bottoms? If they gave up because of fear of failing the majority of the world would be crawling their way to work. Can you picture that? Only the fearless ones would be standing tall and walking. So, which one are you, the crawler or the walker?

Love,

Michael

 

Who Does Your Ego Compare You To?

11 Apr

Let’s begin by understanding this; your ego is NOT your friend. Friends say and do things that make us feel good about ourselves. Egos say and do things that make us feel bad, sometimes real bad about ourselves.

Your ego is of the body. When you die your ego dies with you. It’s not something you can bequeath to others, nor would others want it. They’ve got their own egos to deal with. Our egos are there to constantly compare us, and our possessions, to others. They are the ones that remind us of all of our “not enoughs.”  You know the “not enoughs.” Not pretty enough. Not talented enough. Not creative enough. Not coordinated enough. Not smart enough. Not skinny enough. Not athletic enough. Just plain — not enough.

Now where does the ego get this garbage from? They get it from others. Others who have judged us, either rightly or wrongly. They are our parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, school mates, teammates, teachers, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, employers and the list goes on and on. Sometimes these things have been told us with love, “Don’t worry about this honey; some kids are just better at math than others. You’ll be good at something else.” And sometimes, they have been told us with malice, “We don’t want Luckman on our team. He couldn’t catch the ball even if we put it in his hands.” Either way, your ego remembers all of these things and in an instant will remind you of them, and to hell with how these words make you feel.

As I said, your ego is not your friend. When faced with new challenges the first thing our ego does is to whisper to us, “You can’t do that. You’re not (fill in the blank) enough. You’ll be found out that you’re not too (fill in the blank). Everyone will laugh at you. You won’t be able to take the embarrassment and the humiliation. You’ll lose your job. You’ll lose your friends. Your life, as you know it, will be over.”

And with these words of “endearment” comes the fear. The fear that grips our hearts. The fear that becomes the knot in our bellies. The fear that sets our minds racing with one delusional thought after another. The fear that forces us to give up the things in our lives that we truly want and that we truly deserve. It is this fear that makes us compromise our dreams. The fear that makes us settle for less. This senseless irrational fear that keeps us plodding along the ground with the turkeys instead of soaring with the eagles where we truly belong.

We were each created for greatness if only, if only, we could overpower our fears.

With Love,

Michael

What is Your God Given Talent?

10 Apr

My first real sales job came when I was fifteen years old working at Mr. Junior, a boy’s clothing store on the north side of Chicago. I loved it. Within a year of starting at Mr. Junior a new men’s clothing store opened up within walking distance of my house. I applied for and got a job at Kassner’s California Men’s Store. It wasn’t kids’ clothes anymore. It was the big time. I was selling men’s clothing to men and women who valued my services and liked the fact that I had a flare for putting together just the right look. And what I mean by that was I could sell the husband a suit, then take them over to the dress shirts and find just the right shirt to go with the suit, then the perfect tie and then a new pair of dress shoes. I suggested and they bought. I could up-sell and cross-sell, before I even knew what those phrases meant. Hey, at the time I was only 16 years old.

It’s funny; I don’t know where this talent came from. The joke in our family, even to this day, was that as a family we were devoid of talent. Nobody could sing, nobody could dance, most of us when it came to art could only draw stick figures (certainly me), no one had a gift for writing and no one had any musical talent. So where did this talent for putting together outfits and matching and blending colors come from? Maybe it was in my blood since I come from a long line of merchants.

And maybe it was just a God given talent, although I wouldn’t know what it was called. Either way I loved what I was doing and it probably helped that I really liked people and truly enjoyed helping them.

As I grew older I met other people who shared my belief that they were talentless. I shared their pain, so-to-speak. In my forties I took a spiritual path and began discovering my own talents, ones I never believed I had. The more I was willing to try new things by overpowering my fears, the more I realized that I was blessed with a number of talents. Writing being one of them.

Today, I believe that each of us has been blessed with at least one unique talent, just waiting for us. Overpower your fears and you’ll soon discover your talents, hiding in plain sight.

With Love,

Michael

How Do You Feel Fear?

11 Feb

When I was 15 years old I got a job at Mister Junior, a boy’s clothing store on Chicago’s north side. No more being paid with points. I was in the workforce. I was not only a full-fledged salesman, but I was being paid 75¢ an hour to do it. I not only loved what I was doing, but I was good at it. I was in high school and working two evenings a week (stores were only open Monday and Thursday nights then) and Saturday. Once I got over my fear of approaching customers I found that I had a genuine gift for sales, and I was having fun. I was a Mister Junior silver tongued devil.

Now how did this 15 year old kid learn to get past his fears? At that age you are somewhere between childhood and adulthood. Old enough to be working but still young enough where interactions with adults still scared me. Ringing my neighbors’ doorbells and selling them seed packets was a piece of cake compared to walking up to a complete stranger and introducing myself, and then engaging them in conversation.

Working on the floor with 3 other salespeople we would rotate turns approaching potential customers as they walked through the door. Since this was a children’s clothing store the majority of our walk-ins were parents accompanied by their children looking for new clothes.

When it was my turn to walk up to a customer I could feel the fear begin to rise through my body. Starting in my lower gut and moving up through my chest until I could hear my rapidly beating heart thundering in my ears. It took everything I had to take my first faltering steps towards the new customer and keep my voice from cracking as I said hello and asked them if I could help. Since I was the new “kid” I was still learning the inventory and the different boy’s sizes, not remembering what size I had worn at any age growing up.

I found that once the conversation started the fear I was feeling would usually dissipate to a point where I began to feel more and more comfortable in the buyer-seller relationship. But, I think it was the assistant store manager, who seeing my discomfort, took me aside one Saturday morning and asked me how I was doing. I was more than a bit embarrassed when I told him that I was scared approaching customers. His response after a short laugh was to tell me that it was perfectly natural to feel some fear. That it was almost the same as an actor walking out on stage at the beginning of a play and the butterflies they experience. He then told me something that made perfect sense. He said these people are coming into our store because they want to buy new clothes for their child. They’re here and looking for help. Your role as a salesperson is to find out why they came into our store and then provide them the help they need in picking out the right items in the right size. And he finished our little pep-talk with this touchstone; just before you approach a new customer say to yourself, “Show time!” Feel the butterflies and add, “It’s OK to feel some fear, Michael. Just go ahead and do it.”

He was right. The fear would last maybe a minute or two, and then it became fun. Yes, fun. I wouldn’t want to go back to working retail now because the thought of standing on my feet for 8 hours would be pure hell. But I miss the opportunity to meet new people and see how fast I could develop some rapport with them, and then of course, how much I could sell them.

What does fear feel like to you?

To your fearless life,

Michael