If your work makes you nauseous, you may be in the wrong job
by Rita Smith
“I had to waste years of my life imitating other people before it penetrated through my thick Missouri skull that I had to be myself, and that I couldn’t possibly be anyone else.”
Last fall, I learned from one of my graduates the enormous importance of “being yourself” in business, and in life.
I will call my participant Ben, and his company Completely Fabricated Investments (to protect Ben’s privacy, and avoid a messy lawsuit).
Ben turned up for Session #1 as keen as anyone I’d ever seen. He was selling investment vehicles for a securities firm and until recently, had been one of the company’s top sellers. Although his background was in the repair of high-end European cars – which he passionately loved – he was a very outgoing and personable young man; when a friend suggested he switch to selling investments in their common ethnic community, he changed jobs.
Ben saw his friend making a lot of money, and wanted to provide the same affluent lifestyle for his family. Soon Ben was selling and earning impressive amounts.
Two years in, however, things began to change. He was not completing the minimum number of calls expected of the firm’s salespeople and his sales were plummeting. His boss was highly critical of his declining performance.
Part of this, Ben believed, was due to the fact that he had been assigned a complex weekly analysis task which took almost two days to complete. He was having a terrible time attempting to get the report done on Thursday and Friday for presentation Monday morning and wound up working through every weekend, much to the dissatisfaction of his wife and kids. So now, he was scrambling at work and miserable at home. I could see his confidence waning and his frustration growing, week by week.
“Expecting to deliver a giant analysis project while maintaining the same level of sales isn’t rational, or reasonable,” I pointed out. “Have a conversation with your boss and ask him which is more important: your sales or the analysis. If he insists you do the analysis, he’s got to revise your sales targets downward. If he wants you to maintain your sales level, he’s got to assign the analysis to someone else. Talk in terms of your boss’s interests: you want to do the best job possible delivering what is most important to him.”
Ben did have this conversation, and it did not go well. “My boss sent me a blunt email telling me the analysis would be assigned to someone else, and that if I didn’t get my sales numbers up there would be repercussions,” he sighed dismally.
What came next surprised me most: even with all the time he needed to make his calls, Ben’s sales did not improve. In fact, they got worse.
“I just can’t seem to summon up any enthusiasm for these calls,” he told me at Session #6. “I’m trying. I’m talking to people. But in my heart I don’t care if they buy or not; in fact, I’d rather do anything than make these calls. They make me sick to my stomach.”
I was stumped. He was so smart, so dedicated, so enthusiastic when he showed up for the first class. He was paying his own way, because he himself was dissatisfied with his attitude and intended to get his “mojo” back.
“Well, Ben, maybe what you’ll find out in the course is that this is not the job for you. Sometimes, people come in with the goal of doing better in their own jobs and getting promoted. Sometimes they discover they are on the completely wrong career track, and they move to another area. Sometimes, they decide to leave their jobs and start their own businesses.
“Maybe there is something you should be learning from this that has nothing to do with increasing sales, especially if you are so unhappy. Think about it.”
At Session #7, Ben fairly flew into the room with an astonishing piece of news: “I have been laid off from my job…everyone has. Our company is under investigation by the Ontario Securities Exchange Commission, and we have been ordered to cease doing business!”
I was thrilled for him on two levels: Ben had a great “out” from this job, and could start looking for a new job with a perfectly good reason for his exit from his previous firm; and, he could set about deciding what he REALLY wanted to do before he started in his next position. Secretly, I always suspected his heart was in automotive and he had been ill-advised to leave.
Over the next few months, I read numerous media reports about the astonishingly unethical practices of Ben’s investment firm. While it had managed for years to put up a great front to investors, regulators, and staff, in fact it turned out to be nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme – one that would have made Bernie Madoff proud. Unfortunate investors are still waiting, most likely in vain, to find out whether they will ever again see any of the money they handed over to Completely Fabricated Investments.
Ben’s reluctance to make calls, and take money from investors, was in retrospect intuitively correct. He just didn’t know it at the time.
So I was delighted to receive this email update:
“Hi Rita! My love for cars took me back to being a mechanic. I am working at my brother’s shop…I am working longer hours but I am happy with what I am doing. Everything else is great!”
“You are something new in this world,” Dale Carnegie wrote “Be glad of it. Make the most of what nature gave you…you can sing only what you are. You can paint only what you are. You must be what your experiences, your environment, and your heredity have made you. For better or for worse, you must play your own little instrument in the orchestra of life.
“To cultivate a mental attitude that will bring us peace and freedom from worry, here is Rule #5: Let’s not imitate others. Let’s find ourselves and be ourselves.”
 “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”
Posted by Rita Smith – Ideas and Ideals