Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Learning Experience

Sam Walton, Made in America
I am currently reading Made in America, the autobiography of Sam Walton. Although it is an old story, it is still a good one and explains step-by-step how he got started in retail and built Walmart into the largest retailer in the world.

The first store that Walton owned was a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. After running the store for five years and growing it into the largest Ben Franklin in the six state region, he lost the store because the landlord would not renew the lease. He described his feelings this way: "It was the low point of my business life. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. It really was like a nightmare."

The following year Walton opened his store in Bentonville, Arkansas. He looked back at his experience in Newport as a learning opportunity noting that he read his leases a lot more carefully after that. We all know how the story turned out.

In the early 1980s, I experienced a setback in my personal life that generated feelings of loss, fear, and the pain of rejection. I couldn't see much point in doing anything. At the time, I had just been assigned my first sales territory and was studying to learn as much about the sales process as possible. The book I was reading was How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins.

In a chapter titled Learn to Love No, Hopkins lays out this creed:
"I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed, and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying."
He recommended copying this down on a piece of paper, along with the five attitudes below, putting in them your wallet and reading them every time a risk or move results in less than a win. As corny as it sounds, I did. And it worked. I was able to put my life back together, go on with my work and things turned out pretty well.

Here are the five attitudes toward rejection and failure that Hopkins identified:
  1. I never see failure as failure, but only as a learning experience.
  2. I never see failure as failure, but only as the negative feedback I need to change course in my direction.
  3. I never see rejection as rejection, but only the opportunity to develop my sense of humor.
  4. I never see failure as failure, but only as an opportunity to practice my techniques and perfect my performance.
  5. I never see failure as failure, but only as the game I must play to win.
Tom Hopkins, How to Master the Art of Selling
Hopkin's book is 34 years old and it has been almost that long since I last looked at it. In glancing through it this morning to confirm the wording for these principles, I believe it is worth reading again soon.

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