I have often blogged about one of my favourite sales lessons: ‘It takes 5 no’s to make a yes’. Reading today’s HBR blog, the article How Not Achieving Something is Key to Achieving it’ serves as a proof point. In it, Peter Bregman makes a key point about his learning experience as he tried to win consulting business:

So I set up a meeting with Lily. Who cancelled. As I prepared to reschedule I noticed something unexpected: I started to enjoy the process of trying to get in, the challenge of making the sale. It became a game to me and my goal was to keep playing until, at some point, I’d say the right thing to the right person and get my foot in the door. I was, surprisingly, having fun.

And I was starting to be good at it. Scheduling. Rescheduling. Finding a way to keep the conversation going. You’d think it wouldn’t be something hard or useful to become good at but you’d be wrong on both counts.

Most of our jobs hinge on repetition. That’s how we become good at anything. The problem is we give up too soon because anything we do repetitively becomes boring.

That is, unless we have a peculiar taste for the task; if it captures our interest. For some reason, maybe we don’t even understand — and we don’t have to — we enjoy it.

That’s how I learned how to do a handstand. It always seemed completely out of reach for me. But then someone told me they learned as an adult. So I figured I could learn too. It took six months but now I can, somewhat reliably, stand on my hands.

Which has led me to believe that anyone can do anything. As long as three conditions exist:

1. You want to achieve it

2. You believe you can achieve it

3. You enjoy trying to achieve it

We often think we only need the first two but it’s the third condition that’s most important. The trying is the day-to-day reality. And trying to achieve something is very different than achieving it. It’s the opposite actually. It’s not achieving it.

The entire article is a good read. Peter then goes on to talk about the Outliers and the rule of 10,000 hours, which simply states that it is not innate talent that gets someone to the top in a field (be it sports, music or other field) but practice.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell discusses research done at the Berlin Academy of Music. Researchers divided violin students into three categories: the stars, the good performers, and the ones who would become teachers but not performers. It turns out that the number one predictor of which category a violinist fell in was the number of hours of practice.

The future teachers had practiced 4,000 hours in their lifetime. The good performers, 8,000 hours. And those who were categorized as stars? Every single one of them had practiced at least 10,000 hours.

And here’s the compelling part: There wasn’t a single violinist who had practiced 10,000 hours who wasn’t a star. In other words, 10,000 hours of practice guaranteed you’d be a star violinist. According to Gladwell, 10,000 hours of practice is the magic number to become the best at anything.

I read the Outliers finally last month. It made me think; reading, learning, practicing, taking courses, they all add up to success. It also dispels the myth that the truly talented are just ‘born’ to be there. Or as Peter Drucker says in the 111 Thoughts on Selling:

                Work hard beats work smart. (mostly).

All about rolling up those sleeves. Management, selling, sports … you name it, no money for the person who chooses to be a coaster.

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