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"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Fear of Failure Week 7: New-Found Power

Back in 2012, I spent some time as a door-to-door salesperson. It was a really hard time of my life, because I was willingly putting myself in situations where people didn't like me and I was nothing to them but an enemy and an inconvenience. People would shut doors on me mid-sentence and I couldn't get why they wouldn't at least just hear me out. Of course I know now, it was because I was interrupting them to try and sell them things they didn't want. But back then it seemed awfully unfair.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because during that time I learned many of the principles of how to win someone over. Things like the law of averages (the more people you try and sell to, the more people will buy), the breakdown of communication (70% of any message is conveyed through body language, 30% through tone of voice and 10% through the actual words that are said) and the SEX principle (it stands for Smile, Eye-contact and eXcitement, but I'm sure actual sex would get results too). I've carried these lessons with me theoretically since then, but I haven't been entirely sure how good I am at utilising them. I'm pretty sure when I'm not confident about something - be it my stand-up act, asking someone a favour or handing out my free samples - people read that on me straight away and I lose them.

Well, practicing getting rejected over the past few weeks (especially at the food sampling) has turned up very sudden and exciting results. This past week, over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I was asked to work at an event at the Festival theater. It was a tour of the Octonauts, a kids' show about a team of animals who cleans and protects the ocean and its creatures. My job was to stand outside in the foyer and ask people to sign up to the mailing list for the promotional company that ran those tours. There were eight shows over the three days and I was told that 20-30 email addresses per show would be a good result. As an incentive to sign up, I was to give out special Octonauts stickers to all the kids.

It took me a bit of time to warm up to it. The two shows on the first day were both only half full and I only managed 39 sign-ups. But as time went on, things seemed to click. On the second day, I started to remember the lessons I learned during food sampling in week 5. I made more of an effort to catch people's attention and I could feel that my body language and tone of voice had just clicked. I was looking people straight in the eye and smiling very warmly and genuinely. I wasn't fidgeting with my hands or giving non-committal statements. And the way I asked them to sign up made a lot of them think "Well, that makes sense." After three shows that day, I'd collected another 75 email addresses.

There's still one rule I haven't touched on though, and it's one that presumably anyone who's ever worked in marketing knows - all of our actions come from either a fear or a desire. I've known that rule for a long time, but I haven't had a clue how to MAKE someone want something or be scared of missing out on something. On the third day, I came in and tweaked the actual words I was saying. I found that using specific words in a specific order reduced the impression that they were being sold on something. And I told the parents why joining the list was in their best interests as well, rather than just a means to getting their kids a sticker. So by the end of the run of shows, my pitch had evolved from

"We're giving away free stickers! All you have to do is sign up to the Lifelike Touring email list and we'll let you know when the Octonauts come back to Adelaide."

to

"We're giving away free stickers to anyone who joins the mailing list. We run events like this, Peppa Pig, Hi 5 and a bit of Sesame Street too and we can let you know next time any of them come to Adelaide!"

Those two sentences, plus my ability to share jokes and engage with anyone who approached, plus the message and SEX principals that I was improving all the time, led to an extra 150 email addresses after three shows. I was brimming with confidence at that point. I decided to see where else I could take these skills. As one of the shows began, I strutted up to the lady at the door and said 'Do you mind if I go in and watch the show?' She replied,
'Well actually I have got one seat free right by the door here. You can take that one.' I got to see the show for free. Twenty minutes before the next show started, I walked up to another door-girl with a camera. She looked at it suspiciously as I approached.
'Do you mind if I go in and take a quick selfie in front of the stage?'
'...Alright.'
I went in and with everyone who was already inside watching, I walked within a few meters of the stage and took a snap. It didn't turn out too well, so I turned to a couple of Dads a few meters away.
'Excuse me, do you mind taking a photo of me with the Octonauts sign in the background?'
'So you can tell everyone you're here?' one of them joked.
'Yeah, I want to show all my burly man-friends,' I joked back.
He took the camera, shaking his head and framed up the shot.
'It's hard to get both of you in focus because the sign is all light,' he said. 'Could you jump up on the stage?'
I was a little hesitant about that just because I didn't want to give the little kids ideas. But I quickly sat on the stage's edge and the dad took the best shot he could.


So when it comes to my fear of failure, there are three things that that can split into. The first is simply a fear of spending a lot of time and energy on something only to have it fail. The second is a fear of looking stupid - worrying that I'll do, show or say something that makes people think I'm a moron. The third is a fear of rejection - being dismissed without being given a chance or being disliked by anyone at all. So far, I've made a TON of progress on my fear of rejection. And it's taken me until now to notice. But it's super encouraging and I hope I can keep building on it until the word "no" loses all its gravity.

53 comments:

  1. I hope you don't mind if I say I'm very proud of you, Michael. Not only have you worked through, and found an operative strategy, but your writing flows beautifully while describing your progress. I felt I was with you every step of the way. From the first paragraph and the door slammed, I felt pushed back into my seat... until the point you're sitting on the stage and, well...I would have tripped over something in the dark, I'm sure. Still you did practice safe SEX and all is well. Go forth and win them all. You can do it! (Forgive me ~ smile).

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    1. Hahaha what's to forgive? I appreciate it very much, because I often wonder how interesting my writing could really be. Often I'll come across blogs where people just talk about themselves and things they're going through and I'll find it boring. So I'm glad that isn't the case when I do it :)

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  2. SEX is probably safer than sex as the later may get you a positive result you'll have to live with forever lol

    That is awesome indeed, the point you realize you are making progress is the point when you keep on progressing.

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    1. That's a clever joke, I love it!

      So true, it spurs you on :)

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  3. What Pat said ^^

    Oh, and you are FAR from boring, believe me.

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  4. You are just going GANGBUSTERS, Michael! Impressive!

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    1. I know, I'm just as surprised as you are!

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  5. I'm impressed at your perseverance and tenacity. When you're famous, will you still acknowledge me? 'Cause it's gonna happen, brother...

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  6. Love your tenacity. And your drive. And your willingness to change, to learn, to improve.
    You are a lot braver than I have ever been.

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    1. That's not true, you're successfully living with things that I've never had to deal with. You're certainly a stronger person :)

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  7. Oh, I thought the SEX principle meant you were willing to give our handies.
    I'd buy anything from someone who did that for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well allow me to introduce you to Olga...

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  8. *out*
    See how excited I got?
    I hope someone tries to sell me something.

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    Replies
    1. She's an enormous old lady and she sells cured meats.

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  9. Well effing done! Awesome write-up and totally true! I can verify this because rearranging words is, uh, kind of my business. And putting them in the right order can really make a difference in how well people perceive something. And yes, confidence can sell anything. If our dumb asses can sell an entire elementary school on the idea of writing being fun and cool, then anything is possible. :)

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    1. Being all-round great guys doesn't hurt you guys either ;)

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  10. Well done. I spoke to a number of salespeople who came to my door offering to sell me a home security system. I knew I needed one, but I kept saying, Thanks, but not now. Finally, a woman came to my door, said what she was selling, I said no, she looked me right in the eye and said, I NEED to sell this today. I let her in. Made the purchase. We had a nice chat. Turned out we had a lot in common. It was her NEED that got me.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I'm actually surprised that worked. I would have thought a customer wouldn't care what a salesperson needs. I might try that if I'm ever in that situation again.

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  11. Well done! That second pitch you created sounds much more effective. And brave of you to walk up to the stage in front of everyone. Keep taking those steps.

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  12. MICHAEL ~
    Ya know, just reading your experiments in the art of selling and promotion I'm beginning to understand why I was never too good at selling things (back when I tried to).

    My sales pitch usually went like this:

    "I don't suppose you'd be interested in buying one of these ACME gadgets I'm trying to sell, would you?"

    My life as a salesman was pretty short-lived.

    Continued success in all your endeavors, Brother!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Yep, that'll kill it ;) That's okay, I'm sure you're in a much better job now :P

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    2. Actually, I'm currently unemployed, and that's a... much, MUCH better job! Ha!

      ~ D-FensDogG

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  13. Well done! Ha! I love what S.E.X. stands for.

    Rejection and fear can only make you stronger. Thumbs up to you for being persistent.

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    1. Thank you :) I'm sure those three things could help during actual sex as well ;)

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  14. My husband is in sales and I tell him this all the time--he has that SOMETHING that only a small percentage of the population have. Only a small percentage of salespeople have that, as well. I can't explain what it is...but I think it's part personality and part learning...and it sounds like you learned some of the basic principles of it. Sales is a tough job...but if you have that special something, you can make six figures if you get into the right industry with it.

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    1. Absolutely, that's often what I tell people - it's not a bad job, it just has to be done by certain types of people.

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  15. It was brilliant of you to make those minor changes in the way you worded things. I can see how stating "All you have to do is sign up..." vs "We're giving away free stickers to..." It's a minor but important nuance.

    And SEX...What to say? I'll just say that it helps.

    Keep growing in confidence and fearlessness, and you'll continue to benefit in unexpectedly amazing ways.

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    1. Oy, I didn't finish my statement. I meant that "We're giving away free stickers to those who sign up" draws me in, while "Sign up on the list and...blah blah..." doesn't. It's a great example of how little changes in presentation can make a big difference.

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    2. Absolutely, there are an innumerable number of things that a person picks up on without even realising it. If the salesperson isn't comfortable, there might be just one flicker of the eyes or a slurred word that ruins it.

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  16. Michael, you've learned so much in every experience and you're teaching others by sharing your stories. Kudos.

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    1. Thanks Peaches, I'm glad my story's been able to help others so far :)

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  17. You seem really interesting to me. It's good you're coming out of your shell.

    I understand the worry of failure. Sometimes failure makes up our future. We learn from our mistakes. Falling makes us stronger.

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    1. Totally agree. It should be our friend, not our enemy :)

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  18. Door to door, I NEVER open for them. Ever. Not only do I not want to buy what they are selling (usually religion) but fear of home invasion keeps the door closed and security system on. I've had a few weirdos I've had to call the cops on in the past 6 years that I've lived here, so don't take the door to door rejection personally.

    Good for you for finding a system that works for you. That was really impressive how many people you got to sign up for the email list. That's another one I probably would have refused, but not because of you or your tactics. Only because I get over 400 emails a day already. Adding more is just another burden to add to the pile.

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    1. Totally get it, I hate spam too ;)

      I still don't open for door knockers even though I've been there and have sympathy. And my boss once told me the story of how one guy pissed him off when he slammed the door shut, so he peed on the guy's front door. He was proud of that.

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    2. Ugh! That's disgusting! And more rude than having the door slam in your face!

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    3. I know, then he complains about it later :P

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  19. I'd have signed up. Shows like that are very important to be in the know about when you have a little in the house. ;)

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    1. Yeah, some parents signed up because they actually wanted the emails ;)

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  20. These are some really great rules to stick to.

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  21. You obviously have a winning smile, which is a great asset. Pity the people who look creepy when they smile!

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    1. Hahaha EVERYONE looks better when they smile ;)

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  22. I learned the lesson about our motives years ago...fear of losing something you have or fear of not getting something you want. Knowing that has been very important in helping me deal with my feelings.

    You're really taking all this very seriously and are making great strides. Good for you, Michael!!!

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    1. Knowing your feelings is one of the hardest and most important skills you can have.

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  23. I could never do sales because I don't have that in me. But, from a business standpoint, you are 100% right!! How you word something can give you a completely different result. Glad you conquered. ;)

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    1. I was originally hired as a door knocker for my outgoing, enthusiastic attitude but eventually fired because the constant rejection made me hate getting out of bed in the morning. I didn't really have it in me either :P

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  24. The worst thing is to put all of your energy into something and see no positive results at all. It leaves you emotionally drained, and hesitant to ever care about something that much ever again. I think if I could ever re-capture the enthusiasm I had before all my hopes and dreams were repeatedly crushed, and combine it with the experience I have gained over the years, I might have something.

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    1. Hope is never gone forever. There have been so many stories of people who have found success or discovered their life calling in their older years. As for putting your energy into something and getting no results, that's something that does scare me. I counter that by making sure that whatever I put my energy into is something so worthwhile that I'll be better off just for having tried.

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