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March 29, 2019

Why your sales job will never make you happy and what to do about it

Unhappy sales job

If you’re in a sales job (or any job for that matter) and feeling insecure, powerless, unfulfilled and unhappy why not read the rest of the text and figure out what you can do about it.

If you have the dreaded feeling that this job you’re in is not for you than you’re not alone. Most of us on this planet have this feeling because we totally missed the point of why we work.

I’m going to argue two points. One you have no control over and one you do have control over.

  • The job you’re in now is not the job you ever thought you’d be doing in any of your dreams or nightmares. This you had no control over.
  • You have no idea of what your real job is, actually. This you have control over.

The sales job you’re doing now was never in your plan, was it?

I don’t know about you, but my plan was never to be in sales. Like you, I had other ideas.

I only ever dreamt of two jobs: to be a time traveller and to be a professor at a university, teaching philosophy.

The first one … well they haven’t invented that one yet. When they do, I’ll be there.

The second one was achievable but I was let down by my less than average IQ, finances and the lack of guts and determination.

My dream of becoming a professor of philosophy was scuppered because I did really badly at school. I got a D average, enough for a matric (Grade 12) exemption but not enough to be accepted into university to study for my Bachelor of Arts degree.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was then forced into two years military conscription.

When I was released from the army I went to Wits Technikon (now University of Johannesburg) and studied for a National Diploma in Public relations and qualified in 1987.

But it seemed like I’d got another ‘d’ as in diploma. My father who had a double doctorate in theology and philosophy (now you know why I wanted to study philosophy. Mmm, did I have daddy issues?) was not impressed that I’d only achieved a diploma.

Thousands of rands and hours of therapy later, I’ve finally overcome the self-esteem issues caused by the thought that I only had a mere diploma and not a highly-prized doctorate.

It definitely ain’t a degree

I took the diploma and managed to get a public relations job for seven or so years .

I then got a sales job at Liberty Life as a financial planner where I lasted 18 months.

But the sales bug had bitten me hard and from then on I pursued a career in sales and finally ended in my own sales consultancy business in 1998.

I love sales and marketing. But there are times when I feel insecure, uncertain and inferior because in my heart of hearts, nothing would have satisfied me more than a life of academia (and time travel).

I sometimes think, “what if?”

But mostly I think, “Yay, it’s worked out just fine.” I don’t know how my life would have turned out if I were an academic? It could have been good or it could have been a shambles.

I do know that even though I think I stumbled and took a wrong turn by getting a sales job, it has worked out brilliantly for me. As a professional speaker, author and trainer over the last 20 or so years, I’ve had the most wonderful adventure. I’ve made the most fantastic friends, met stunningly gifted people and traveled to amazing places because of my work (Australia, France, Iran, Italy and Mauritius. And, of course, Malmesbury).

Like me, a sales job for you may not have been your first choice.

An apocryphal story for me (I can’t find actual research on it) is that the following question was asked of a graduating class of an Ivy League University: “When you graduate, how many of you will go into the sales profession?”

The answer was that 4% were planning to get a sales job. The rest wanted to go into the careers they studied for.

It turns out that 67% of those students actually ended up in a sales career because they couldn’t find work in the field of their choice.

This means that there are square pegs in round holes. There are people in sales careers who don’t want to be there and just come for the paycheque.

Whether this story is true or not, you already know in your heart of hearts whether it is true for you.

For most of us, if we’re honest getting a sales job was not our dream.

But you see, we had no real say in the matter, did we?

Where we have ended up in this moment has more to do with serendipity, randomness and luck. You’ll find lots of references to this in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success and Nasiem Taleb’s, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder.

If you’re getting ready to argue that the luck philosophy is bullshit and that you are where you are because of your own endeavours, then think on this.

  • Did you have any choice in the matter to the parents you were born to?
  • Did you have any choice on the date you were born?
  • Did you have any choice in which religion you were born into?

The answer has to be a resounding ‘NO’. Just by the parents you were born to, the time you were born, the religion you were born into and the country of your birth has led you to where you are now. Your endeavours had very little to do with where you’re at now.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.

Sir Isaac Newton

Of course the thing is not totally out of your control. What led you from there to here were the choices you made with what you had to work with. You do have choice how you’ll react to every situation you’re put in.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve arrived at my second argument …

You have no idea of what your actual job is

When I ask people, “What’s your job”, I get answers like, “I’m a lawyer”, “I’m a sales professional”, “I’m a writer”, “I’m an accountant”, and so on.

When I’m asked, I say, “I’m a professional speaker and author.”

Our actual job, in my opinion, is getting to our death in good shape.

The work we do now is just a piece of process to prepare us for our final moment.

There are two ways you can look at getting to the end. From an agnostic/atheist perspective or from a religious/spiritual perspective.

From an agnostic/atheist viewpoint most of us want to get to the end having done something magnificent. We want to leave a legacy. We want people to remember us for what we’ve done.

From a religious/spiritual viewpoint we want to make sure our soul is intact so that we can enjoy the benefits of the hereafter.

Whether we’re agnostic/atheist or religious/spiritual, the path to the end is the same and there are two path we can take.

Couch Potato Path

We can either take the path that thinks this life is an arbitrary, throwaway exercise. In other words, we take this short time we have on this planet for granted. We aren’t grateful that we’re conscious and get to play here for a little while. That we get to live, love, lose, win and everything in-between. We don’t try and better our lot, we lead a couch potato existence of TV, fast food, social media, hedonism and self-interest.

coach potato in your sales job
We spend around 12 years of our lives watching TV

Work of Art Path

Or we can take the view that we’ve been put on this planet to be a work of art and to do or be something exceptional. If you’re agnostic/atheist you’re the kind of person that wants to “dent the universe” (from Steve Jobs) and leave something fantastic behind for other people to benefit from.

If you’re religious/spiritual your job is to give your maker something magnificent as a ‘thank you’ for letting you play here for a brief time.

It doesn’t matter what you believe … whether there is a creator and an afterlife or whether your life ends and that’s all there is to it … what matters is how you conduct yourself with what you have.

What matters is how this journey will end for you. Do you want to end it as a couch potato or do you want to end it as a magnificent work of art?

Are you a work of art. Guernica by Pablo Picasso 1937
Guernica by Pablo Picasso 1937

That, you do have a choice on.

If you choose to be a magnificent work of art then it’s simply a matter of reframing your current job and using it to become the best version of yourself.

Everything you do from this day forward, every piece of process, every interaction you have with another human and every thought is conspiring to push you in one direction or the other.

I don’t know about you, but I know that my debt of duty and of gratitude that I get to play here for a short while definitely wants me to to end it all with something magnificent.

Even though your sales job may not be

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