This year, I’m focusing my presentations to in-house clients on strategies to develop mental toughness and a ferocious persistence. These two traits will ultimately separate the winners from the wannabe’s in most endeavors.
Over the years I’ve spoken about the need to continually change and fine-tune every aspect of your dealership. A key leadership responsibility is to change before you have to, before the bottom falls out and you are in a downward spiral of decline. However, I’m more convinced than ever that the reason the growth of most dealerships stall or decline is not because they fail to change, but because of their chronic inconsistency. They routinely launch new processes, programs and procedures- but never develop the discipline, mental toughness and steel-like resolve that demonstrate that they are committed to these endeavors by establishing them as non-negotiable aspects for those working in their organization. In other words, “if you’re going to work here, these functions of our business are non-negotiable. Do them or leave.”
Why is it so easy to start something and then to drop it, to begin and then quit, to step up and then opt out? While I despise the blame game, I believe that the childhood impressions we’re given concerning the price one must pay to become successful, to reach the top in any endeavor, to live an extraordinary life, are sugarcoated, watered down and presented as a “low ball.”
The happy hot tub talk we hear in our youth: “Life’s a bowl of cherries;” “You can be President of the United States;” “You can do anything you set your mind to;” “Name it and claim it;” “There’s no one else quite like you;” does little to prepare us for the realities of what is required to be outstanding, to become the best in the world, at what we choose to do.
Consequently, as soon as life or business gets tough and we realize it’s not the cakewalk others led us to believe it would be, we point fingers, make up excuses, go into denial, let up or lay down. As a result, we live in a pampered age populated by serial quitters. We start and routinely quit training programs, marketing campaigns, follow up initiatives, recruiting endeavors and missions to “make the customer #1.” In our personal lives we begin and quit diets, workout programs, books, continuing education courses, sports, hobbies, and marriages as soon as it becomes too uncomfortable, painful or inconvenient to continue.
I can trace my own brainwashing into “life is a bowl of cherries” back to a speech I heard on the first day of first grade from my sweet but ancient teacher, Mrs. Andrews. As I recall, it went something like this:
You’re all so special, beautiful and unique. You can do anything you set your mind to. You will change the world!
This nonsense duped me into misunderstanding what life was really about and underestimating what it would take to stand out from the crowd. I assumed that the universe would be awed by my brilliance, roll over, assume the position, and devote itself to making me happy. And when life didn’t conform to these expectations I wasn’t prepared for how to handle it. In fact, I blamed everyone and everything else because it couldn’t be my fault! After all, I was “beautiful, unique, special, could do anything and would change the world.”
I would have benefited greatly had my first grade teacher addressed us differently. Here’s what I really needed to hear to prepare me for the realities of life and business:
Listen up first-graders, I have an announcement: Chances are that you’ve been tricked by well-meaning adults who filled your head with Pollyanna nonsense and this morning I’m going to set the record straight. The truth I’m going to share will hurt, but it’s for your own good:
You are not special or unique. In fact, you are one of many. And, as I survey the room, I can say that none of you is particularly beautiful. I can also promise that most of you will have a hard enough time changing anything about yourself, so you can forget about changing the world. I know that some have told you otherwise, which brings up my next point: people will lie to you from time to time. In fact, let me clear up here and now that there is no Santa Claus, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. Life is not about magical characters that shower you with gifts and serve your every whim.
The bottom line is that life is tough so you better get ready for it. Here’s proof: Statistically, 10% of you will be in therapy, 25% of you will be arrested, 7% of you will go to prison, 10% of you will never earn above the poverty level; 50% of your marriages will end in divorce, 60% of you will be overweight, someone in this room will file bankruptcy before they’re thirty and one of you will try to kill yourself before you’re out of high school. In other words first graders, life is not easy. It’s darned difficult, which explains why so many people end up on their death bed as average, broke and embarrassed. Frankly, the sooner you begin to get your life together, the better. You need to develop discipline, character, competence and an unstoppable work ethic because life isn’t a playground, it’s a battleground.
Please get those lost looks off your face and listen up: You’re going to have to work for anything in life that is worthwhile. In fact, those sissified sports teams you play on after school where they do not keep score and everyone gets a trophy is not how the real world works. The sooner you understand this, the better: there is winning and there is losing; there is right and there is wrong; there is success and there is failure. Life rewards those who step up, not just those that show up. The good news is that there will be plenty of room at the top because so darned few of you are likely to do anything special to rise above mediocrity. Where you’ll find crowds are at the bottom. And those at the bottom would rather bring you down to their level than stretch to reach yours. Consequently, throughout your life, there will be certain people you will have to give up so that you can go up.
Now stop crying, because I’m not finished. Before we break for play time, there’s one more thing you should know: When you blame someone else for your lack of results; each time you make an excuse to explain away your unsuccessful state; whenever you complain, whine, lie, act disrespectfully or fail to accept responsibility for your actions….another puppy dies.
Any questions? OK then, as soon as you stop hyperventilating, you’re dismissed for recess. Have fun kids, and remember that this afternoon our topic for discussion will be: “You can’t be a winner if you’re a whiner, wimp!”
What’s the moral of the story? The sooner you accept that the results you’re looking for will cause pain and discomfort and require patience and persistence, the deeper you’ll be willing to dig to develop the discipline and character necessary to pay the price for the prize; to commit for the long haul, to stop looking for lightning bolts.