Overcoming Adversity – Fail Toward Success

By Barry Maher

All have us have known salespeople, and we all know that salespeople hate to hear the word, No. Every instinct and every bit of their training is geared toward making sure they hear it as infrequently as possible.

But here’s a great truth. The most successful salesperson is the one who hears the most Noes.

The more Noes–the more rejections, the more failures–that the salesperson gets in any individual call and the more of those calls he makes, the more successful he will be. The leading sales rep in a company is always the person who has heard the most Noes.

Even outside of sales, the most successful people in this world are usually those who’ve heard the most Noes. Or at least those who are willing to hear the most Noes.

Back in the 19th century, a man called Gail Borden had some pretty foolish ideas. His first was an idea for curing yellow fever by refrigerating the victims. Refrigerating them until their bodies were covered with frost–and keeping them that way for a week. Every hospital, every doctor he suggested the idea to said, “No,” which was probably just as well for their Yellow fever patients. His next idea was for a combination horse-drawn wagon and sailboat. It didn’t work that well as a horse-drawn wagon but it worked a whole better as a wagon than as a sailboat, because it capsized immediately the moment it hit the water. More Noes. Then he invented dehydrated meat biscuits. He tried to sell them to the Army. Here he got close to a Yes. But the army decided the biscuits had a couple of minor drawbacks. First, they tasted disgusting and failed to satisfy hunger–which didn’t bother the army all that much–but they also produced headaches, nausea and something the army called, “great muscular depression.” Which they decided really wasn’t appropriate for people trying to fight a war. The army said, “No.”

Borden’s next foolish idea was for condensed milk. And a $3 billion a year business was born.

Start collecting your Noes as soon as possible.

Here’s another tip: Discover whatever you’re most afraid of failing at and, as soon as possible, go out and FAIL at it. Unless it’s skydiving or tightrope walking or surgery or some such (in which case please ignore this particular tip), you will find that:

1) It didn’t kill you,
2) It didn’t kill you.
3) After you’ve already failed, most of the time there’s no longer much to be afraid of.

If nothing else, failure is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to those around you how well you handle adversity.

Failure is also the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to yourself how well you handle adversity.

Every one of those people whose opinions we’re all so concerned about has failed at one thing or another. Some of them are afraid to try to fill their own glass because they’re afraid that if they failed, we’d have a lower opinion of them.

Give it all you have and go ahead and fail. Maybe in the process you just might succeed. At the very least running up against your limits is the best practice for expanding them in the future.

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