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Emotional Baggage. We roll it around with us. I know I do. I don’t want to, but ‘stuff’ from the past creeps in sometimes when I’m not vigilantly on guard. I’ve had a great sales and business career. I learned how to beat it back, control it to some extent, but I’ve observed so many others that really struggle with it. I’ve witnessed excess emotional baggage absolutely KILL the careers of otherwise talented salespeople.
Sometimes baggage comes to the surface concerning professional relationships. A person doesn’t “trust” their direct manager, trainer or coach. They block out his or her advice. Oh, they pretend to listen, they nod their pretty little heads, but they don’t apply anything they’re being taught. The sage counsel bounces off their noggin like a 99-cent beach ball at Dodger Stadium.
Relationship baggage can also derail a salesperson from having healthy peer-to-peer relationships within an organization, becoming part of a collaborative team. It can keep them from learning from some of the talented producers around them. Heaven forbid if this same person winds up being promoted. Now they are someone’s manager and their lack of trust, vulnerability or openness means that they will be impacting many others in a negative way.
My friends with psychology backgrounds tell me that this relationship baggage thing can occur because of childhood scripting. This weighty form of emotional baggage is embedded in the experiences of childhood. They didn’t have a good relationship with their parents. They learned NOT to trust. This deep-rooted stuff can continue to trouble someone for years, forming personality and behavioral patterns that are not conducive to positive professional relationships.
At times I’ve seen salespeople retract from doing certain things that are necessary for their survival in sales. Cold calling quickly comes to mind. They begin to make cold calls, but at the first hint of how the numbers actually work and how nasty some decision makers can be, they recoil. What they label as “rejection” beats them down fast and hard. People saying, “NO” to them is intolerable. Their extreme reaction to what they label as “rejection” and “failure” can be caused by past experiences, things they failed to do. Or maybe they had “helicopter parents”, parents that never allowed them to fail or take a risk. Their reactions can also come from how they were told “NO” as a younger person.
At other times the experience baggage rears it’s ugly head in the form of a classic “know it all” mentality. “We used to do it this way at my last gig.” Sometimes a person just has stubborn old dude syndrome and simply won’t park his bags at the training room door.
Self Image Baggage
Over the 35 years I’ve been around sales I have seen nice, funny, good looking and talented salespeople fail to reach their goals simply because they had no idea how talented they were. They failed to recognize that GREATNESS was within them, right under the surface, just waiting to bubble over. They may have been told they were worthless by parents or older siblings. They may have come from a verbally abusive marriage. Or they may be a woman that has been a stay at home mom who is just reentering the workforce, struggling to find any kind of identity and self image.
Cultural and parental expectations, and patterns of behavior drawn from the family of origin and still unconsciously carried around, will impact all of us. None of us will be immune to this baggage thing. It doesn’t matter what kind of bags you are rolling around with you or have strapped to your back, it will all foreshadow the same result if left unchecked. Your negative emotional baggage will eventually sink you, because it’s a bondage to your past. If you allow it, the baggage can contaminate new and potentially more positive opportunities.
These shadows from the past can begin to create minor problems at first. Then as you become overloaded by negative currents from earlier times you will reach a crossroad. You will have to make a very definite CHOICE at some point to either permanently succumb to this baggage or declare your life a failure, or you can RESOLVE to set the bags aside for good and move on with your new opportunities.
Like I said, easier said than done, but necessary to think about and take action on if you are going to make it in a brutal environment like commission sales. So, unlike flying on Southwest Airlines, your baggage doesn’t get to fly around FREE with you in the overhead container. You are paying dearly for the privilege of dragging all your crap around with you.
My core belief is that I am better, more productive when I CHOOSE to close certain chapters from the past and move forward. It’s not like I haven’t had the opportunity to practice letting go of some baggage. In my (almost) 54 years on this planet I have developed some scars and some scar tissue, just like you and everybody else.
Don’t get me wrong, I had the most wonderful and loving parents that a kid could ask for. My big sister, Regina, was my idol growing up. She looked after me. I had a wonderful family. But, there was the bullying that started in 5th grade because I was the smallest kid in my class. A dozen of them followed me home from school one day and took turns hitting me in the face and stomach. There was the academic failure in middle and high school, the lack of ability to focus and get good grades. The poor grades resulted in ZERO options for college. Getting kicked off the golf team as a senior didn’t put a nice little red cherry on top of my adolescent sundae.
My early professional and personal struggles were thought provoking. As I entered the real world the hits just kept on coming. Losing $470,000 of our family’s money in a Ponzi scheme was kind of interesting. Having the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by my best friend at the time, (and the best man at my wedding) was a tad awkward also.
1987 – 1988 was a stimulating year and a half. Losing my business, having my house go into foreclosure, declaring bankruptcy and watching my marriage fall apart got my attention. But…those events don’t even represent the worst thing that happened to me during that time. While all of that was going on my father was wasting away from lung cancer in a hospice bed. The man I loved most in the world was being taken from me.
Oh, and there were a few more failed businesses in the 90s and beyond. So, I think I may be entitled to own some baggage and to discuss emotional baggage. I’ve had to let some things go. I have had to choose to close some chapters so I could begin to write some new ones.
Dogs have no baggage. I watch my dogs, Buzz and Ozzy and they crack me up. Ozzy is a real sweet and obedient dog. He never does anything bad. Buzz, on the other hand, is the demon seed. He’s always pushing boundaries and getting into trouble. When I yell at him, he hangs his head, he knows he’s in trouble. I give him a good tongue-lashing and he slinks away with his head down and his tail between his legs. He puts himself in his crate…in a timeout.
The strange thing is, a few minutes later he shows up, at my desk while I’m working. He’s got a ball in his mouth. His tail is wagging and he wants to play. I’m still pissed off because he just tore into my rolling briefcase to chew up a left over Power Bar he smelled in there. I’m still pissed, bur he’s over it. He already let it go. I think, on a very simplistic level, that we should model dogs because they are so innocent. They don’t come with a lot of baggage. Painful events leave scars, true, but it turns out they’re largely erasable if you choose to find the lessons in them after a reasonable amount of time passes.
I can now look back fondly on losing money, losing relationships, losing businesses. It became a choice for me. I chose to dissect a lesson and a message. What was God and the Universe trying to teach me? What was I supposed to learn from this stuff? The lessons and messages will become clear to you if you are looking for them and listening for them. It may take months, it may take years, but the teachings and messages are there and you will find them if you seek them..
Life must be lived forward, but can only be truly understood looking backward.
I simply had to stop dead in my tracks one day and decide to set down the bags. I had to adopt the belief that there was nothing that happened in my past that could possibly hamper me from becoming financially successful and happy in the future. I smile about all of that stuff and other stuff that has happened since. I’m pretty much teflon now. You’d have to work real hard to get me unfocused. I know what I want to do, achieve and grow to personally and professionally.
So, what sort of emotional baggage is holding you back? What do you need to stop rolling around with you and let go of? What do you need to look at differently, take the lessons from?
I wish life were as easy as a Southwest flight. But it doesn’t work that way. In the real world your baggage doesn’t fly free.
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