In a Wall Street Journal Review, I noticed the lead essay was inspired by Dr. Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and his soon to be published new book: The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning.
The title of the essay grabbed my eyes. – “Why We Choose to Suffer”
I got to thinking about my children, grandchildren, and all the athletic games we attended over the years. Thousands upon thousands of miles and dollars later without a single professional athlete, I started to wonder, “Was it worth it?”
Absolutely. Today, we love being with each other. My son’s families help each other. We encourage each other and show up at all the family events and traditions. Yet, it wasn’t all easy. In our early years of marriage, we could have saved more money or had more things if it wasn’t for the stuff our guys were in to.
We could have been, as I heard someone say recently, “True to ourselves,” and let the kids do their thing without our participation. We could have pursued other things that felt better than being on foreign baseball fields, in one hundred degree temperatures, eating fast food and getting home tired from the banter around poor coaching or why kids weren’t getting enough playing time. However, there were the strike outs, injuries, missed plays, and other situations that required paying attention to our son’s needs, hurts, and disappointments.
What People and Long-term Goals Will You Suffer For?
So, maybe suffering really is a choice. Maybe we really do choose to have great relationships, families, and sales teams that are worth the struggle. Maybe there really is something to what Paul Bloom says in his upcoming book.
Here’s what he says, “In the search for a meaningful life, simple seeking pleasure isn’t enough. We need to struggle and sacrifice.”
Really? Can’t we just be sociopathic people without empathy or consciences? Can’t we be hedonistic narcissists that sacrifice nothing and are simply true to ourselves and what profits us the most? Can’t we, as Bloom suggests, simply work to avoid discomfort or struggle and pursue pleasure and an unscathed life? Can’t we avoid suffering, pain, difficulty, failure and loss? No, we cannot.
In sales, as in every other part of life, sacrifice and suffering rise as we find a meaningful life in service to the people around us. We see this in outstanding sales leaders as they spend the countless hours required getting to know the motivating differences among their people.
This stands out in outstanding salespeople who want to get just the right product or service for people and even end up recommending another supplier when what they have doesn’t fit the client’s needs. We also see these amazing salespeople as people of service when they are willing to:
- Adapt themselves to develop rapport with different personality types.
- Listen and ask questions and seek to understand the needs and problems of those they serve.
- Recommend what they believe will help a person’s needs fulfillment or solve their problems .
- Sell a product or service at a fair price relevant to the value it gives and in comparison to the competition.
- Follow up and see if the product or service satisfied their customer.
- Serve, sacrifice, and suffer through the toil, hard work, mistakes, and the customer’s concerns before and after a sale.
Perspective Makes All the Difference
The pain of sore muscles and effort experienced the day after finishing a race you prepared for, or the garden you wanted in your back yard, is actually a big part of the pleasure you feel afterwards. It’s the same in sales, sports and raising children. A meaningful future, one with purpose, is tied to sacrifice and suffering. It’s tied to making a difference by making something better, and, more often than not, it’s tied to serving those around you.
In a landmark 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Roy Baumeister and colleagues asked hundreds of subjects how happy they were and how meaningful their lives were. While health, feeling good, and making money were all related to happiness, they had little or no effect on their meaning; only the struggling, experiencing stress, and worrying about the future contributed to meaning. As a matter of fact, the summation of 200 psychological studies show that respondents report less happiness, life satisfaction and lower levels of vitality and self-actualization when they believe that the acquisition of money and possessions is important and the key to happiness and success in life. They actually have more depression, anxiety and general psychopathology. This pertains to sales and sales leadership as well.
My encouragement to you as sales leaders and salespeople is that a great sales culture is hard to shape and build. It’s difficult to set and achieve goals. It’s difficult to lead people past their baggage and into better habits for themselves and others. It’s difficult to satisfy customers. Well, while I’m thinking about it, it’s difficult to go to kid’s baseball games in the chilly fall nights or the hot summer days.
But, it’s worth it. You will find meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in life through the effort. So, do it anyway, and do it in service to others.