By Timothy Askew; reprinted from Inc. with the kind permission of Timothy Askew.
American poet May Sarton once said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
Back in the eighties I was watching Johnny Carson one night. The actress Shelley Winters was Johnny’s guest. Shelley Winters flounced herself out and sat her amplitude into the guest chair. Johnny Carson was obviously fond of her, as he frequently had her on. Johnny, as I recall began with something like, “So, Shelley, how’ve you been lately?” Shelley Winters paused a moment, gave a great sigh and said, “Well John, the problem with me is that wherever I go, I go too.” It was funny but also sad. Winters was a notorious neurotic whose problems with drugs and men often played out very publicly. Nevertheless, there was a compelling sincerity to her lostness that was poignant and illuminating. She was deeply authentic in a morose and melancholic (but also compelling) way.
Shelley Winters was a most troubled woman, but, in reality, it should be a good thing that “wherever I go, I go too.” It goes to the soul of what I feel is crucial in good leaders and good executive salesmen—authenticity. It seems to me that personal authenticity should always be a primary and ongoing quest of the entrepreneur for at least two reasons. One, it makes for long-term personal health. Two, it results in successful sales.
People like what is real and they trust it instinctively. And there are a million different equally valid ways to be real. It’s a lifelong task to imbue a rooted, unconscious integrity, a “real selfness”, to all interactions.
One of the best ways I have found for finding ones authenticity is to approach the world, honestly and openly, from your weakest psychological place–your greatest point of vulnerability, i.e. fear of failure, fear of not being a real leader, fear of not being “good”, etc. (This is a key insight of thought leader Brene Brown).I have always been and continue to be distrustful of people who talk about magical sales techniques. Sales folk who turn for silver bullet solutions from various sales gurus ultimately will be disappointed. Because, like any other vocation, happiness and effectiveness for the entrepreneurial salesman is only rendered dynamic and sound when placed on a bedrock of self-knowledge, realness, and integrated personal values—that is, an earned and lived projection of integrity.
President George Bush, Sr. was visiting a nursing home in 1992 and, in his tour of the home, he met an Alzheimer’s patient who he asked, “Do you know who I am?” The patient’s answer was, “No, but if you go down the hall there’s a nurse who can tell you.” If only it were that simple, President Bush.
Tim Askew is the owner of sales firm Corporate Rain International and a member of the Inc. Business Owners Council. He has several advanced degrees, and has been a tennis pro, actor, opera singer, Broadway producer, dishwasher, bartender, minister, and college assistant dean. Askew is the author of the new book The Poetry of Small Business (available on Amazon). @TimothyAskew