Fresh Start

Put your best foot forward this year with a new attitude toward business--and life.
Magazine Contributor
8 min read

This story appears in the January 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Let's start the New Year out with a quiz. What's the one thing you need to ensure your future sales success--or, for that matter, your future life success? Here's a clue: Once you have "it," you won't have to wait until December 31 of each year to celebrate the approaching New Year. Every day will be cause for celebration.

Give up? It's "The Happy New Year Attitude."

No eye-rolling, please. OK, so maybe I'm just a cockeyed-optimist-turned-enlightened-genius who wishes she had woken up and smelled the cappuccino a bit sooner in life. But better late than never, so you won't hear me complaining.

Complaining is the last thing any of us need to do. It's been going on for a few millennia, with no end in sight. So try something different this year by working on acquiring the only thing you truly need to survive (and thrive)--The Happy New Year Attitude.

The Happy New Year Attitude is that grateful and appreciative state of mind a person possesses while contemplating all the gifts he or she has received, both past and present. When you find yourself in this state of mind, your energy will become inexhaustible. Daily tasks will roll off your back, and creative ideas will flow freely.

Based on the big grin on your face and your tone of voice, some skeptics will presume you're on something potent. But what you're on is the natural energizer derived by simply living life with all its built-in agonies and ecstasies.

It's the kind of high experienced by people who formerly took things for granted but suddenly feel a sense of appreciation. One such person is my thirtysomething friend, a competitive downhill skier, who sat out two winters from the ski slopes receiving chemotherapy for cancer.

"The big `C' is now in remission," she told me. "I can already feel the high that I'll know this winter, a first thrill, like in those earlier times when I first got the hang of moving down that pristine white mountain. I cry thinking about how lucky I am now."

Get Grateful

Is it necessary to be shocked into being grateful by some unfortunate turn of events? For some people, this may be the only way they'll develop an attitude of gratitude. But if you're willing to give it a try before disaster sets in, you can start by opening your eyes and becoming more aware.

Of what? The inordinate amount of time we waste thinking about stuff we don't have while we are surrounded by abundance. We're like spoiled kids whose parents have given them every possible toy but for whom enough is never enough.

This unquenched thirst cripples our ability to live a more creative, joyful existence. It also squelches opportunities for more goodies to come our way. Allow me to explain.

Giving to the unappreciative gets old--fast. If you are of this ilk, you should be very nervous about your future. What happens when your spouse, children, friends and customers figure it's no use giving you anything anymore because frankly, my dear, you don't seem to give a damn?

Years ago, I landed a new account due to my competitor's unreceptive disposition. Evidently, once upon a time, he had possessed a grateful heart, but upon reaching superstar status, he quickly forgot what got him there in the first place. The gentleman who gave me the hot lead (he had once given such gems to my competitor) explained his shifting loyalties like this:

"When I first called him with new business, his enthusiasm was infectious. Over the years, I have watched his decline in grateful enthusiasm. The last straw came when I called him with a hot lead, and he grilled me with such questions as `I hope this prospect has the budget for my product because I don't have time to waste.' That's when I decided it was time to give some business to someone who would really appreciate it."

Give It A Workout

Once you understand what it means to be grateful, you can train your mind to create more appreciative feelings on a daily basis.

Maybe your sales are down from a year ago. Maybe you think you need better equipment to upgrade customer service. All that may be true, but pause a moment and stop thinking about what you lack. Hold off thinking about your problems for exactly 60 seconds, and replace those thoughts with deep breaths in and out using the following affir-mations:

As you breathe in, say, "My body is strong."

As you breathe out, say, "My mind is at peace."

Don't pass off meditation as some New Age mumbo-jumbo. Contemplatives and mystics have been practicing this discipline for centuries. Do this breathing exercise daily until you learn to live in the present instead of bemoaning the past or projecting into the future with deep angst.

Next, give yourself a mental workout for 21 days--the time experts say it takes to form a new habit. Treat this regimen the same way you would as if you were in dire need of getting in good physical condition. Skip the mental "pity parties" that provide you with the excuses that keep you stuck and unable to make changes.

The mental workout consists of questions that make you uncomfortable enough to force you out of your denial, thus changing your awareness. Once you reach a clear understanding of how you keep repeating your self-defeating behavior each day, you can free yourself to move in a more productive direction.

*Question #1: What am I waiting for?
When I was a new salesperson, my friend and mentor, sales guru Tom Hopkins, inspired me to quit making excuses for not prospecting because I was pregnant with my fifth child. Tom was fresh out of high school when he started prospecting door-to-door. Too broke to buy a suit, he didn't wait around for someone to donate his first Armani to him. Instead, he hit the streets wearing his band uniform, quickly making plenty of money to buy himself a full wardrobe.

Sure, the naysayers back at his office thought he looked ridiculous. And a similar gang at my office wondered how I could dare waddle through the streets talking to customers with my big belly. But while they were waiting for leads to fly in their faces, Tom and I were creating our own leads--and cashing in on the business.

Too many times I hear salespeople and entrepreneurs complain because they don't have the money to order a fancier brochure or move to a better location. Remember, the customer only cares about service--and service is something winners carry with them wherever they go.

Instead of waiting for things to get better, make a list of all the things you can do until your situation improves. Now, go do what's on the list. By the time you finish, you'll probably have earned enough money to order those snazzy brochures. But by then, you may ask yourself if you even need them.

Once you put in the time it takes to do a good job, you may question the things you wanted to spend money on back in the days when you sat around waiting for fish to jump into your boat. After all, the fish got in the boat without the brochure because you were willing to go fishing.

*Question #2: Who am I associating with?
Remember the crowd we talked about who were back at the office criticizing pregnant prospectors and salesmen wearing band uniforms? Beware of that gang--the quicksand gang. They'll take you down to their level, fast. They meet you for lunch and complain about how nothing good ever seems to happen to them. They seek you out at association meetings, griping about showoffs disguised as top producers who appear to be making things happen.

Hang out with this gang, and you're going to be in serious trouble with the law--the law of sow and reap, that is. The quicksand gang does not sow; therefore, they do not reap. They merely pass judgment, and their judgments produce a feeling of hopelessness. This negative energy creates a downward spiral.

If you are a part of this gang, have the courage to quit. Go out, and fight your own battles.

*Question #3: Am I growing or dying?
It's 1997, and either you are green and growing or ripe and rotten. Are you becoming obsolete? Technology, for example, is no longer an option but a priority. Are you willing to learn new ways of communicating with the 21st-century global market to stay abreast of technology?

Can you practice enough patience as you learn about using the Internet? Are you brave enough, after six months of glaring at that unopened software package, to unwrap it and learn how your billing methods can become more efficient?

This mental workout moves you closer to adopting The Happy New Year Attitude which, once possessed, releases you from the shadows of your self-imposed fears and prejudices and into the world of endless possibilities.

Danielle Kennedy presents sales and marketing seminars and keynote addresses worldwide and is the author of seven sales books as well as audio and video sales training programs. Check local bookstores for her latest book, Seven Figure Selling (Berkley Press). Write to her in care of Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614.

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