Lessons to help you communicate better, be more likeable, and succeed in business and life.
It was a tough beginning of the week. I was in the prairies — in Saskatchewan, Canada — selling educational books door-to-door.
I got into my car in the morning, feeling anxious and pressured from the previous two days when I had sold practically nothing except a small set of books that barely covered my daily expenses. This time I had a further drive — approximately 1h. I was about to start knocking on doors in a different town than previous weeks.
My mind was very loud that morning, wandering into negative scenarios. So I began to say aloud to myself everything and anything that made me feel confident.
Finally, I was in the new town, trying to find my way around. I got several slams and objections — a huge part of selling educational books door-to-door. Thoughts were racing around again — “what if I don’t sell anything today again?”
Although I felt almost as timid as on my very first day of sales, I decided to act like the most confident version of myself.
A little bit later, I run into a friendly mom. She invited me in so I could demonstrate to her the set of educational books I was selling.
As we sat down and talked, it turned out that she is a teacher. “Oops, I have had a lot of teachers rejecting me lately!” was the initial limiting thought in my mind. Almost made me lose my confidence.
“I will act confidently anyway,” I answered to this negative thought.
15 minutes later, the mom/teacher had bought the complete set of educational resources from me. And her teacher’s testimonial helped me to gain trust from more customers in the town later in the day, and I ended up having my best day in sales for the time being.
Never give up.
People can sense how we feel.
Put in consistent effort.
Those are some of the lessons from this story.
Below are ten lessons from an extraordinary workplace — “bookfield.” “Bookfield” is when 2,000 college students from all over the world are selling educational books door-to-door in the USA and Canada for the summer.
It is one of the most fun, adventurous and life-changing summer work and travel programs.
5 Lessons About People
1. People don’t say what they mean and mean what they say.
“We just don’t have the money for it right now,” said the mom whom I had just shown a spectacular presentation of the books.
I felt sad because these books would have helped their children undoubtedly, considering their academic situation.
“We will go to Disneyland soon,” she continued.
“Wait, is entertainment more important than education?” I thought to myself.
“Or, are they lying to me that they don’t have the money?”
No, they were not liars or hypocrites — they just did not have the money for what they were not sure if they really needed.
Either not to hurt my feelings or avoiding straight-forwardness, they said they did not have the money instead of “I am afraid my kids will not use the books!”
Don’t you often get interactions with people when you ask them, “How are you doing?” and they answer: “I am doing good!” But are they really? Or are they hiding insecurities, fears, uncertainty, anxiety, and loneliness behind “I am good”?
People just don’t always say what they mean and mean what they say.
What to do:
If you really want to get an honest answer, ask people twice. Paraphrase the question and show that you genuinely care about them. Show that you care more about their feelings than script-based answers.
You can show with loving compassion that you don’t believe their initial response.
People want to be heard and understood. But we all have those automatic self-built walls of protection that look as shallowness.
Ask: “And how are you really doing?”
“Besides that, is there anything else bothering you?”
“Is there anything else you would like to share?”
“Is there anything else besides the money that holds you back?”
2. People are generally interested in themselves.
I have many warm memories about people being genuinely interested in me — a European student selling books door-to-door in the USA. It feels great when someone is genuinely interested in you — makes you feel special.
But people like that were only a small percentage of those I met going door-to-door. With most people, I had to show genuine interest in who they are and what they do first before they were ready to take an interest in what I do.
Most people are interested in themselves.
Have you noticed how people light up to expressively share their ideas and stories once you make them feel like the center of the universe for five minutes?
Showing genuine interest does that magic.
Everybody wants to feel special.
What to do:
Ask questions. But don’t just do an interview with checkmarks.
Be really present and focus your attention wholly on them.
Imagine how their life is going. How might they feel? What are they doing daily? How does it feel to be in their shoes and see things from their perspective?
By practicing empathy, we will most assuredly become more likeable people.
3. People mirror your feelings and states of mind.
When I was just a beginner at the bookselling job, I followed an older, more experienced student in sales to see how he worked and interacted with people.
More than his technical skills, I was impressed with “the magic” he did. Somehow, most people were smiling at him at the door and engaging in conversations easily with him.
In comparison with me — most people were slamming the doors in my face.
I soon realized that the difference was my attitude — what I felt, what I thought about — my state of mind, and the emotions I had been going through. People sensed those at the door.
Others sense your mood subconsciously before they realize it consciously.
It happens so quickly before you may even control that.
If I felt rejected, they were mirroring that rejection by giving me more rejection.
If I felt depressed, they were mirroring more negative emotions at me.
If I felt thankful, they were giving me more things to be grateful for.
What to do:
Be thankful! Thankfulness is one of the feelings people are drawn to. Everybody wants to speak with happy and joyful people. Everyone wants to get part of the sparkle they have.
Choose to live in thankfulness instead of complaining to attract more joyful people rather than more negative people.
4. People trust first what they say themselves, then what others have said, and only then what a stranger has said.
We did a little trick in sales by asking the question: “What do you like the most about the books so far?”
We asked it to make the potential customer say in their own words why the books would be helpful to them.
People trust, first of all, the words what they have said themselves.
Then they trust the words and opinions of those who are close to them.
Then they trust experts they know. And only then a stranger.
What to do:
If you are teaching somebody, the most effective way is to make the person repeat with their own words what they have learned.
And you can use this tactic yourself to learn better. And even to change limiting beliefs.
If you only listen to a motivational podcast, you will remember and act on only a certain amount. To really make your listening effective and apply the knowledge, turn the main principles into positive self-talk.
Make a couple of affirmations, for example, “I exercise every day for 30 min”,” Today I am committed to keeping focus all day long,” “I will track my negative thoughts today so I can change them.”
Repeating to yourself the goals you have will keep you focused on them and you will start believing that it is a reality already.
5. People sense you being service-minded or self-centered.
When you work a sales job on straight commission, it is easy to become self-centered and focused on getting those results. Because if you get paid, you live; if you don’t, you don’t really get paid.
That is also the reason why being service-minded in a performance-pay job or in business is essential.
It is easy to tell by observing someone if they are interested in their own personal gain mostly, or they care about you and act out of your interests.
The same advice goes out to everyone building their business or freelancing career. People can feel if you are doing it to earn money or gain followers. Or because you care about them and want to be of service to them.
Money and recognition are bonuses that follow along the way when we focus on helping others.
What to do:
Observe yourself. During the last week, last month — why have you been doing the things you have? What has been your primary motivation?
If it has been money or followers, then decide to change it. Think about the ways how what you do adds value to people’s lives. That will give you a different mindset and change the quality of your work.
Lessons About Self
6. I can never outperform what I consider my “normal” level.
No matter how hard I tried to improve my sales results for a longer time, I was just stuck at a certain level of results.
I tried all the bits of advice, tricks, and tips I could get. But nothing worked. Until I heard this one idea — “change your normal.”
Depending on our belief about what is possible and what we are capable of, we have a certain level of expectations of what we perceive as normal results.
Let’s say, for example, someone is earning 1,500 USD per month. Depending on your location, it might be an immense amount or a tiny amount. Let’s imagine it is barely covering your expenses.
Suppose your belief is that it is difficult to earn more in your circumstances and with your abilities. In that case, it will be hard to achieve above this level.
If you change your beliefs — for example, that it is normal to earn 3,000 USD per month, you will open yourself for opportunities to make that type of income.
It is almost like you have a thermostat (your beliefs) that always brings the temperature (results) to a comfortable level.
What to do:
How to check what is your “normal”?
Ask yourself, “when do I get satisfied? What monthly salary or earnings make you satisfied? What level of results would you never accept?”
If you are not satisfied with your answers — it is time to raise your level of expectations. Raise your “normal.”
Raise your standard of what is “normal.”
Study other people to learn what is possible, talk with them, hear testimonies about their results, study the way they think.
Prepare a couple of affirmations you can use daily to change your beliefs, such as, “It is normal to make … (amount) per month”, I am a … (top-level) producer”, “I am the six-figure business owner.”
7. I get results when I stop chasing them.
Has anyone who started to write on Medium has been continuously monitoring their Medium stats?
I know I have. It has been a bad habit for me from the time selling books.
When I sold books, I checked the results I got too often. It became devastating at moments. I tried to predict some weekly results. I either limited myself or made myself disappointed with unfulfilled expectations.
We start to get results when we stop monitoring them.
Usually, when people check stats, they calculate “whatever they have now” x “how much time is still left”. This way, they automatically decide how the week or month will be. And they exclude the unexpected opportunity of a breakthrough.
For example, someone buying several sets or just everything. Or the opportunity that an article can go viral right before the month finishes.
There is a bizarre but universal rule: “Results and goals don’t like to be chased.” They like to come to you when you are content and thankful.
When I learned to let go of analyzing my results in the process, I opened up myself for sudden surprises. Some of those sudden surprises were best weeks for the time being and achieving a milestone I had desired for a long time.
The more you chase your goals and results, the more they run from you. You almost catch them by the tail, but here they go — they keep on running from you chasing them!
Learn to let go, embrace the patience, and trust that everything will come at its’ appropriate timing!
8. It doesn’t matter what happens to you; it matters how you react to it.
Attitude has been one of the topics widely spoken in the self-help industry, yet not easy to master.
The year 2020 has been a real examination of our attitude. It is easy to maintain peacefulness, confidence, and positive expectations when things go our way. But how about when they don’t, and all our plans get canceled or put on hold?
I drove up to the city hall building in the new town I planned to start working in. All the documents were ready, I put on my smile and entered the city hall building full of expectation that this will be the best town to work in during all my summer. I had recommendations to visit families in this town from my customers elsewhere.
Five minutes later, I walked out of the building, wondering where else can I work . It turned out this town did not allow door-to-door sales. The next closest town was 40 min away, and as I had called them previously, they had a time-limit for visiting people at their homes. Since my best working hours were evening, that is precisely when I could not work in a particular town. It did not even make sense to drive up there.
I took a look at the map, wondering what my options are. I was looking at the country estates scattered out all around both towns. Since a city hall permit is needed only within the city limits, and the countryside did not require a license, it was the only option to keep going on. A lot of driving, though. But taking a break would kill the momentum.
Long story short, I still ended up having a great day in sales and having a ton of fun in the countryside.
I could quickly see myself as a victim in unfavorable circumstances and engage in a pity-party.
However, I chose to find a way and keep going. I decided to find a way in unfavorable circumstances.
The end result was successful.
No matter what circumstances you face, one thing you can always control is your attitude. And the way how you decide to react can make all the difference.
9. We feel better and perform better when we are on a schedule.
Schedule + attitude were the two success pillars in my door-to-door sales job.
Before I embarked on this journey to sell books door-to-door, I had a really messed up schedule. Sometimes I went to bed at 1 am, 11 pm, sometimes at 2 am.
And now I had to wake up at 6am and go to bed at 10pm. For my student’s lifestyle, that was something awkward.
A few years later, getting up early and going to bed early became one of my favorite routines.
When we wake up every day at the same time and go to bed at the same time, we feel more energized and can concentrate better.
When we have a clear plan for the day and there are certain routines we perform every day, we don’t need to spend our energy planning out stuff. We can focus on creativity and carrying out new ideas.
Having a specific schedule and routines also help us to be more confident. Inconsistency, on the other hand, steals confidence.
10. Our self-image matters way more than we can imagine.
Finally, this is an impactful lesson.
For many years, after I had started sales, I was searching a lot for the reasons I am not succeeding as I’d like to. However, I only considered external factors.
I spent 90% of my effort trying to change external things — strategies, what I say, and how I show products.
Isn’t that what many people are doing when their business is not working — they try to change all the different strategies? New strategies, new sales scripts, new color schemes, new “magic” tricks.
When in reality, the 80/20 rule applies. 80% of your success comes from 20% of what you do.
It is easier for our minds to comprehend tangible, technical advice than to change the mindset. Mindset takes a lot of work and effort to change. And, also, it requires vulnerability to admit why we think the way we do.
However, when you change your self-image, that may impact 80–90% changes in your results.
The way we see ourselves (our self-image) is the starting point of our perceptions and experiences.
If we face a challenging situation, our belief that we can push through those adversities will determine the outcome. As Henry Ford said, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Suppose we don’t think we are ever able to overcome the fear of public speaking. In that case, we will never even try to do a public speech when the opportunity arises.
If you don’t think you can become a successful business owner, you will never take enough action to really be able to become one. Therefore, change the way you see yourself.
Let me sum up for you all the main lessons:
To open people up for a conversation, be genuinely interested in them and in what they do.
If you get standard replies from someone, ask twice to get out the real answer.
Take care of your mood, attitude, and mindset because people around you will reflect your state of mind.
Remember that people believe 100% what they say and only partially what others say.
Focus on being service-mind and refrain from doing something only to get money and fame (recognition, followers, etc.).
Raise your standards to be able to raise your results.
Stop chasing results.
Find a way to break through unfavorable circumstances victoriously.
Follow daily schedule and routines to focus better and feel more confident.
Change the way you see yourself and what you are capable of to change your results. See yourself as someone who has already achieved the thing you pursue.