A few weeks ago, I saw a ranking of sales representatives according to percentage of quota. I was happy to see that a number of reps I recruited in the last couple of years were near the top of the rankings.
And then, of course, there were reps who were below quota, some significantly. In a year like 2010, it would be easy to think that making quota was difficult given the economy. And, yet there were those who trumped the prevailing logic and grew their business substantially.
Looking at it from a 30,000 foot perspective, I wondered, what is the difference? Certainly everyone wants to be over 100%. They want to maximize their income. They want to succeed. They have similar training and the same products, so why the broad disparity in outcome?
I interviewed one rep recently who ranked highly on this report. At one point, he told me he felt overwhelmed by a number of challenges and changes in his area. He shared his concerns with one of the senior reps, who told him that despite the everything, he still had a great opportunity to build his business and make something of his own. The rep took the advice to heart and focused on achieving success and growth, instead of focusing on limitations and challenges.
Low and behold, he doubled his business this past year.
At this time of year, when we all have a chance for a new beginning, it’s worth taking a step back to consider just how plentiful our opportunities are. Watching a short documentary called “The Red Wagon” about Haiti, I could not help thinking of how easily we can take opportunities for granted.
My sister, a nurse, visited Haiti within a month of last year’s earthquake. The progress towards rebuilding since that time has been meager, the economy is barely functioning, and now cholera is menacing the country.
In the film, they document the building of a make-shift move theater. The film also documents the retrieval of bodies from the morgue for proper burial, a weekly ritual which my sister took part in while she was there. With so many Haitians in need of desperate help, the elaborate funeral, complete with a small band playing, and the building of a movie theater, struck me as either extravagant or frivolous. However, this was my own poverty of concept.
What my sister helped me understand was that these projects are actually a way of putting money in the pockets of the living. The band, the grave diggers, the people painting the movie theater, the woman singing in the hall outside the morgue are most likely receiving some compensation for their contributions. While this is not stated in the film, it is what my sister observed while she was there. The government and the economy are so completely broken that there is an entirely different dimension to the notion of job creation. If any jobs are created, it is usually on an ad hoc level.
Understanding this brought me to a new realization of just how hopeless it could be to live in a country where there are so few jobs of any kind, in contrast to the United States, where even in difficult times there are still many avenues for improvement and advancement.
It makes me wonder what would happen – in our careers, families, communities and economy – if this year we strove to recognize, appreciate and act on the many opportunities we have? If we put our energy into realizing our potential instead of focusing on limitations?
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of this recession, and think it is high time we shook it off. Maybe it seems far-fetched to think that by changing our attitudes we can turn the economy around, but I think we could all contribute in our own small way.
So this year, when I find myself tempted by pessimism, I will think about “The Red Wagon” and feel fortunate that a lack of opportunity is for most of us a failure of imagination rather than our inescapable reality.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t…you are probably right!” ~ Henry Ford
This past Tuesday, my sister left on a medical mission to Haiti. She is the one who is an ER nurse.
She arrived at the St. Damien’s Hospital for Children and pitched her tent on the roof of the guest house. She has described difficult conditions and the valiant efforts to bring some order to the chaos. She has assisted a surgical team, started IV’s and helped out in the adult clinic. Yesterday, she helped bury the bodies of 40 children and adults with Father Rick from St. Damien’s.
“After weeks of frenetic activity, we are returning to a state of equilibrium. Our hospital had become a trauma MASH unit, as had all other medical centers in Port au Prince that are still standing. We were able to offer about 30 surgeries a day at four sites (two in our hospital, one on our hospital grounds in a tent, and one at the St. Camillus Hospital, which we staffed for the emergency.) Many of these, sadly, were amputations – sometimes two for the same adult or child.
To give an idea of the size of the problem, it is likely there are about 20,000 people now who have been amputated or who have orthopedic hardware screwed through their skin to the bone. Port au Prince has about 20 Haitian orthopedic surgeons, and visiting teams to Haiti will soon leave. All 20,000 need to be followed closely for removal of hardware, control of infection, reevaluation of the amputation, and of course for artificial limbs and rehabilitation. Obviously 20 surgeons will not be able to handle this load. We have worked closely with the St. Camillus Hospital so as to return our St. Damien Hospital to a pediatric center and to have a growing center for adults at St. Camillus. We hope together to be able to keep good tabs on the patients we have operated on, and hope to be able to provide well for them in the future. ”
I watched a few videos about St. Damien’s. The level of poverty and hardship, even before the earthquake, was stunning. It is evident that Haiti’s recovery from the earthquake will be difficult and require a lot of continued outside assistance.