Hard Work Isn’t Digging a Ditch

This is a Sandler Weekly Sales Tip from guest poster Shulman & Associates.

Digging the Ditch is not the Hard Work

The STORY:

When I was 28, I was running a landscaping business for someone, overseeing the crews and the like.  Now I’m in sales, but I mention the landscaping for a reason.

It was late in August on the hottest day of the year.  Must have been about two o’clock in the afternoon, not a cloud in the sky and the temperature pushing 101 degrees.  We were re-grading a section of the local golf course.  Not a tree in sight.  About an hour later and 300 feet away, I saw this shovel rising up out of the ground, tossing the dirt, going back down, coming back up.  You could have set your watch to the rhythm.

Two hours later we decided to pack it up.  It had grown even hotter.  I glanced over to where I had seen the shovel earlier and right on schedule, up it came, dirt tossed, back down and back up.

I went over to see just who could keep that up.  Down in this trench was a fellow about five feet tall and about fifty years old.  Sweat was pouring off of him.

“Hard work,” I called down to him.

He looked up, never breaking rhythm, and said with no trace of exertion, ‘Hell, this ain’t hard.  I just make a hole from stake to stake.  What was hard was knowing where to put the stakes in the first place.”

The RESULT:

From the point of view of the fellow in the ditch, the hard work had already been done.  Every shovelful after the first one was getting him one shovelful closer to success.  From my point of view, what he was doing was extremely hard work.  Now I ask you, whose point of view is the one that really matters?

DISCUSSION:

Many folks, not just salespeople, fervently believe that if you work hard every day, then success will show up at your door at some point in the future.  There is nothing wrong with the right type of “hard work.”

What’s the right type?  You know where to start.  You know where to end.  You know what you have to do to get from the starting point to the ending point.  You are confident that you can do it.  And you set out to do it in a steady and constant manner.

Should you do this type of “hard work,” you will find out something odd.  You will perceive the work as tiring at times, but not hard at all.  Others will look at what you are doing and shake their heads in astonishment.  How can he keep that up, they will think.  It’s so boring.  So mind-numbing.

Remember the fellow in the ditch.  He was sweating a river but absolutely confident because he knew where he was headed.  While the work was tiring, he did not think it was hard.  His perception of the work was the only one that mattered because he was the one doing the work.  It doesn’t matter at all what you or I think.  What you or I think doesn’t get the ditch dug faster or slower.

APPROACH:

Do this for yourself.  Not for the sales manager.  Not for upper management.  Not for your fellow salespeople.  Only for yourself.

Write down where you want to end up six months from now.  Write down where you are at this moment in relation to six months from now.  Write down all of the things you can do to get to that spot in the future.  Decide, of those things you can do, which ones you are going to do every day for the next six months.  Now start doing them.  Every day.

This is important.  Don’t show anyone what you have written.  Keep it to yourself.  Why?  Because the moment you do, whether you are told something good or bad, you’ll stop doing it.

Sounds easy.  It is.

THOUGHT:

If you don’t know where to start and where you are going to end, then all the work you do is pointless.  Pointless work is always hard work.

About the author:

Shulman & Associates is a professional development firm specializing in sales and management training and sales force evaluation. Visit their website and sign up to receive the free sales tip of the week. Learn how to increase sales, improve margins, and accelerate new business development.

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