As I write this, the Winter Olympics haven’t begun yet. When you read this, they’ll be over. So, I’ll make some predictions: A record will be broken; an athlete will suffer a sad disappointment; another athlete will go from underdog to champion.
OK, there’s nothing startling about those predictions. It seems the Olympics follow the same script every year. But the media tends to follow the favorites and tells the stories of the winners. What interests me are the untold stories; tales of men and women who beat the odds, but don’t medal — like the first Jamaican bobsled team (profiled in the 1993 comedy “Cool Runnings”). Those folks whose anthem won’t play, but they’ve achieved a personal victory and stand with head held high all the same.
For me, the Olympics aren’t about athleticism as much as they’re about attitude. Obviously, only one competitor can win the gold, but everyone can be a winner. Everyone can achieve his or her personal best and be proud.
And that goes for you, too.
Mobile distribution isn’t an Olympic sport, but you’re out there competing every day just as much as an Olympic athlete. You may not be the gold-medal dealer for your flag, in your state or even in your area, but you can be a better dealer this year than you were last year.
MORE THAN MOTIVATIONAL POSTERS
Your success rests squarely on your attitude. Just as an athlete’s attitude influences performance, your attitude will influence your performance. What’s your attitude? Are you as fearless as a snowboarder on the half pipe? Can you sidestep objections like a slalom skier dodges poles? Are you as focused as a speed skater?
Olympic athletes like we saw compete in Vancouver dedicate years to refining their skills and pushing through the pain. But the athletes at the top of their game don’t just have the physical toughness to endure, they have the mental toughness to break out from the pack and be the best in their nation — and possibly the world.
Academics have studied sport psychology since 1898. That’s when Indiana University’s Norman Triplett, the first sports psychologist, published “Pacemaking and Competition” in the American Journal of Psychology. He found that cyclists often rode faster when they raced in groups or teams than when they raced alone.
PLAY AGAINST BETTER PLAYERS
Much like cycling, mobile distribution is a solo sport. I know you have a team supporting you — your DM, people at your flag or WD, perhaps spouse and kids. But think of speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. Although he has a trainer and fans cheering him on, when he steps out on the ice, he stands alone.
It’s the same when you pull up to your next shop: you’re on your own. Ohno draws energy from the competition. Much like the cyclists Triplett studied a century ago, Ohno’s performance is enhanced by competing against other top athletes. In the same way, you can draw energy from competitive dealers.
Want to be more competitive? Compete against better competitors. Are you the best dealer on your route? If not, try to outdo your competitor. Or compete on the next level, maybe against others in your district. If you’re an independent, pull together a network of other independents and draw your energy from them.
Doing your best is one thing. Pushing yourself to do better is another.
MEASURE SUCCESS ON YOUR TERMS
One of the cornerstones of sports psychology is the study of goal setting. People who set specific, challenging goals achieve higher results than people with lower self-expectations or no goals at all. So, goal setting is goal getting in essence.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t pretend to be a top athlete. I’m soft in the middle and get winded jogging to the end of my driveway to get the newspaper in the rain. I’m not the picture of positive mental attitude, either. I can mope with the best of them. I’ve had setbacks. But my overall professional direction has been forward. And I don’t measure my success by others expectations. It’s about what I want out of life, not what someone else wants out of theirs.
So, when I say you need to set goals, I’m not talking about about striving for unattainable objectives as much as the power of just setting objectives. Trying for something that’s barely out of reach has the power to drive you. Trying for something too far out reach will drive you nuts.
Telling someone your goals has a tremendous power, too. There is something about sharing your dream that helps it take form. It’s not just about being accountable to someone, although I’m sure that helps, too. It’s about articulating what you want aloud to someone you trust that compels you to achieve it. Write down your goals and refer back to them often. That, too, can be a powerful motivator.
BELIEVE IT, ACHIEVE IT
Professional athletes spend time imagining their goal being accomplished. It’s called sports visualization. In theory, mental images can be used to train muscular impulses. For example, a snowboarder will sit around for hours imagining himself in the half pipe doing a Backside 720 again and again. Then, in competition, when he gets to the part where he does two full spins in the air, he can achieve it because he has imagined himself achieving it a hundred times before. Believe you can do it and believe in yourself. Expect good things. Negative thinking will drain you. Positive thinking will invigorate you.
Remember at the end of the day, when you’ve beat your sales goals, take a moment to bask in the glory. No one is going to play “Fanfare For The Common Man” and buy you a steak dinner. So once in a while you have got to pause and reward yourself. But don’t celebrate too long. Because tomorrow you’ve got to get up and do it all over again.
As first quarter draws to a close, don’t look at it as an end. Look at it as a midway point. You’re a quarter of the way into this race called 2010. How far have you come? How far do you want to get by December 31? What will it take to get where you want to be?