A few weeks ago, I wrote about my previous marriage and the decision I made to leave. I cannot believe the response I got in my email inbox. So many of you with different stories, questions, gratitude. Thank you for the outpouring of support and for trusting me with your stories.
Throughout my 'previous' life (the time of my other marriage), I worked for cell phone companies back when only the elite had them. Over time, as things changed, more and more people were getting cell phones and I had worked as everything from the *611 operator, to billing, to customer service and I loved every aspect of that job. We had moved several times after buying different restaurants in New England, and when we finally settled on the Seacoast of New Hampshire, I was able to transfer with the cell phone company to their southern office.
Going back to the Baker Street story, when I decided to finally leave my marriage, it was January (12 years ago). Word had trickled through the company that we had been bought out by a bigger cell phone company and that one day that week, the CEO of the new company would be making his way through the offices to decide who to lay off, who to keep, and what changes needed made.
I was worried, but I felt like in my office, I was the go-to girl for everything, so how could they let me go? I wore many hats, and always worked really hard and made the customers feel like they were a top priority (remember those customer service days??) When it was my turn to have the new boss come in and shut the door, it had been two weeks since I'd left my ex-husband for the two room efficiency I would call my temporary home with my little guy. My self-esteem had been dragged through the mud, I was feeling the shame of getting divorced, a failed marriage, a sham of a life. The one thing I did have left was hope. I knew that I made the choice for a better day, for a happier existence, and that was what I was going on. There was no way I was going to let this suit- wearing big wig deliver another punch to me that I was going to be out with yesterday's garbage with the new regime taking over the company.
He sat down.
I could feel the sweat pooling under my arms.
"Tell me a little about what you do."
I didn't spare him any boring details. It was my one shot to prove to him I was worth keeping. I couldn't afford to lose my job at this juncture. I painted a picture of my daily routine with as many vibrant colors as I could find in my bag of tricks.
He stopped me.
"You leave at 5:00 every day, but the office is open until 6:00pm?"
"Yes," I said defensively. I could feel the bitter tears lodged in the back of my throat. I just knew this was going to be an unfair trial since I had to leave at 5 every day to get my little guy from the daycare. Every ten minutes after 5:00 was an 'extra charge' of $5. I couldn't afford to be late.
"Why don't you work until 6pm?"
I explained to him that I was new at being a single mom, currently going through a divorce, needing to pick up my baby at daycare and I remember my eyes looking down at his expensive shoes as I ended my explanation.
"You don't need to put your head down, there's nothing to be ashamed of. I admire that you are working so hard to take care of yourself and I have heard what a hard worker you are."
I looked up at him at his kind expression. Maybe this guy isn't a douche bag after all?
"I only have one question for you...WHY are you sitting behind a desk?"
I looked at him, baffled. "I'm sorry?"
"Who put you behind a desk? Why aren't you selling the phones? Why are you behind the scenes? You should be out there selling."
I shuddered visibly for him to see. As I recoiled into my seat, I shook my head, "Oh no, I can't sell. I couldn't sell anything if my life depended on it." And then I heard myself and how ridiculous that sounded. My life did kind of depend on it, otherwise I would've spent God knows how long, living in an efficiency, fixing people's cell phone bills and trying to reset their voicemail passwords over and over again.
"You don't know your worth do you? You have all of the knowledge and experience of cell phones that none of these other sales people have. You already have the tools because you fix customer complaints all day long, and you turn unhappy customers into happy customers, and I have your employee file to prove it. This company knows your worth, now you just have to realize it."
I sat there, dumbfounded. Technically, he was right. I poured myself into my job for years because I loved it. I loved the industry, the people I worked for and with - the customers that came in confused and left happy. I was just doing my job. But I was doing it really well. It was the one aspect of my life that I had some sort of control over. I hadn't realized it had been noticed by others. I mean, I had really good reviews all through my cell company career, but somehow, details like that got lost in the shuffle of personal strife at home - and that personal struggle robbed me of my self-worth.
"Here's what I propose, " he said with confidence. "You try being an Outside Sales Account Executive for two weeks, and if you don't find you are unbelievably successful and en-route to a really big commission this month, I will give you back your Customer Service Position with pleasure."
The sweat was now pouring off of me. My nerves were shot. I wasn't going to lose my job, which was a huge relief, and now I have this stranger, this kind man, this man of authority sitting in front of me, believing in me when I didn't believe in myself.
"You have what it takes to be a very successful Salesperson. You just have to give it a shot. You have nothing to lose. We have a great product, and you already know the territory, the coverage, the ins and outs, the problems, the solutions. Just say yes."
And then I said it...without really thinking.
"Yes. Ok, I'll try."
What the hell did I just get myself into? I am not a salesperson.
That was a Friday when all of that happened. I had the weekend to get myself to TJ Maxx and get a few nice suits, some shoes, a briefcase, and a new attitude.
On Monday morning, when I got to my office, there was a folder waiting for me on my desk with three account names, and a note from the CEO.
Go see these three people today. They will be expecting a call from you.
I did. I went. I didn't have to be a Salesperson, I just had to be me. I exhaled before I went in to each appointment, and told myself to pretend that they were customers in my office and I was doing nothing different than before, only this time, I was going to get paid commission for my efforts. I could've blown it...this gift that was handed to me. But I didn't. I pulled myself together, and if I didn't have an ounce of self-confidence, I pretended that I did. It was all acting skills. I feigned my way through all three meetings and I didn't waste the chance I was given. I can do this...I can act my way through until I am confident enough to not have to act anymore. I did it. And I did it well.
By the end of week one, I had sold 25 phones.
By the end of the second week, I had found my confidence.
By the end of the third week, I took my sales territory by storm.
By the end of month one, I had sold over 100.
By the end of the first quarter, at the sales meeting, I looked at the CEO right in the eye and said THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart, and he laughed hard from his belly and patted me on the back with an attagirl that only my dad could top.
In three months, I had a beautiful apartment with my little guy.
In one year, I had a little yellow cape with a picket fence and a swing set in the backyard.
In two years, I had the gift of abundant love for myself and the confidence within to love someone else. I met the love of my life. It was then that I realized, only when you truly love yourself, can you unconditionally give love to someone else.
There was so much hard work, drive and dedication in between, but when you have confidence, you can push through anything. There were successful months, unsuccessful months, ups and downs. The one thing about sales, if you have an amazing product, and you actually give a shit about the customer, sooner or later, it will pay off. Were cold calls fun? Not necessarily. But I will tell you this - every person I sold to was someone. Someone's dad, someone's mom, someone's sister, someone's brother. I connected with them however I could - whether through a photo on their desk, a degree on their wall, the shoes they wore, the frames of their glasses. Once I learned people are people. They want to be heard, they want to be appreciated, acknowledged, problems solved, a better way found, a simpler method. I may not have been a salesperson, but I was a people person. In the end, it's all about relationships, if you ask me.
Someone gave me confidence when I didn't have any.
Someone believed in me when I didn't believe in myself.
Someone led me to the water and gave me the will to drink again.
Someone was waiting for me at the fork in the winding road that I was lost on. He gave me a map, and I found myself.
After I got married and moved away, I made a promise to myself to pay it forward as often, and to as many people as I possibly could. I have made it a priority to put the wind in others' sails when they lose direction, when they lose confidence, when they need a boost. It is no skin off my nose to promote someone else. It takes no time at all to give a compliment, a smile, a hug, anything like that to someone in need could do wonders in their day.
The purpose of this blog, is to make you stop and think. Did someone make a difference in your life? Large or small - doesn't matter. Who would you thank if you could? I owe that CEO a letter, and though I have tried to find him several times, I have been unsuccessful. I can only hope that he is on his boat, sailing through the waters off Portland, Maine, belly laughing with his big smile, and looking back on his life with pride. What a good man. Amazing. Kind. Wonderful. I will never forget what he did for me.
My challenge to you is to write a letter, email, or even call someone who made a difference in your life. Thank them. Tell them what they did for you. Was it a teacher? An aunt? A grandparent? A friend? Who?
You are welcome to post it under my comments. I would LOVE to hear your story. And thank you for reading mine.
In hope and gratitude we trust...
PS - Ironicaly, I received this treasured email today from my dear friend 'T' from The Zookeeper's Wife:
DG,THIS RIGHT HERE MY FRIENDS...GRACE AND GRATITUDE...MAKES THE WORLD A LITTLE SWEETER. XO
I wanted to say thanks for inspiring me. I still hesitate to make a real fb page for tzkw for several reasons, but you motivating me to do what I love (writing) as a way to be heard? It was huge. I have lately developed a belief, and a need, to let the people who have made a difference in my life know that they have, because you never know when you may get another chance. So, you made a difference, you inspired, you...did something.