Control the controllables

Control the controllables

by Roman on May 21, 2008

While being a door-to-door salesman I learned what could perhaps be the most valuable lesson in my entire life:

Control the controllables

Focus on what you can control

Only focus on the things you can directly influence. For us, selling books, it meant 3 things – hours, demos, attitude.

I could control how many hours of work I did. The more hours I worked the more people I could show my books to. The more people I showed them to, the more people bought them. Simple!

I could control the number of sales presentations I made every day. I knew that the amount of money I made was directly influenced by the number of sale presentations I made. In order to make more money I had to show my stuff do more people. To do that I could work longer hours or do shorter presentations. Shortening my presentation time just 1 minute meant that I could do 2 more demonstrations each day. Now keep in mind that I worked for 72 days – that means 144 more sales presentations and 15 to 20 more customers during a summer. That’s a difference of a few thousand dollars. So next time you waste a minute think about that! 😆

The last thing I could directly control was my attitude. I could not control if people who opened the door would swear at me, call the cops on me, or try to shoot me (yes, it happens) – the only thing I could do, was to control the way I reacted to whatever happened to me. When someone gives you the F word and slams the door on you for the first time in your life, it’s easy to stay positive. When it happens 30 times in a row, its a a lot more difficult. When you knock on the door you can never know what happens next – maybe someone just lost their job or a loved one and because of that pours his entire frustration on you. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is how you react to it when that actually happens. You can let it get your mood down or you can decide to be happy – whatever it takes. It’s difficult at first but soon enough you start to take things impersonally. „This guy wasn’t screaming at me – he was probably screaming because he had a lousy day at work”.
So, in selling you can really only control 3 things – the hours you work, the sales presentations you make and the attitude you have. You can’t control whether someone buys your product – you can only influence it with your demonstration. When you do a superb presentation there is a bigger chance that the prospect will buy, but there is always a chance that he doesn’t need what you are selling.

Same principles work in all fields of life

When Michael Johnson ran the 200 meter world record – 19.32 seconds – he could not control whether he would win the race or not. The only thing he could do was to run as fast as he could and hope that he is faster than his competitors.

When Barack Obama runs for president, he can not control whether or not people vote for him. He can only control the way he gives speeches, talks to people and appears to the public. By doing these things superbly he influences people to vote for him, but he never directly controls them. He can only control himself.

Why will be successful

When I started this blog 10 days ago I thought about the same thing I just wrote about – the things that make ordinary people failures and successes – the things that we control. I would really want this blog to succeed, have a lot of readers and eventually become my main source of income, but these are not the things I can directly control – I can only influence them through my actions.

Instead, I came up with a promise I can directly control – I will write 3 posts every workday until September 1st 2008. This is something I can truly control and it is my belief that having a lot of content is the best thing I could do for this blog in the long run!

What to remember

Whatever you do, control the controllables and you will be successful. There is no point to complain about the things you can’t change. Instead – change the things you can!

PS! Thanks to Adam Primero for a great idea to give yourself promises instead of setting goals. It feels a lot more powerful!

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Adam Primero May 23, 2008 at 7:18 am

Influence? Thats a deep one Roman. That has me thinking. Thanks for the plug too.

Roman May 23, 2008 at 4:11 pm

You’re welcome!
There are only a few things we can control in our lives and when we do that well, we will inevitably be successful…

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