Several years ago I worked as a subscription sales rep for a local newspaper company. Basically my job consisted of cold calling people for 8 hours a day and trying to get them to buy a newspaper subscription over the phone. I had a weekly sales quota to sell 15 subscriptions every week, come hell or high water. This may not seem like a lot but in order to sell 15 sold subscriptions I needed to make anywhere from 500 to 1000 calls per week, sometimes more, sometimes less.
The guy who had had the job before me was fudging the books, or so I had come to believe, because when I would call people to follow-up on payment for the subscriptions he had supposedly sold, they would be adamant that they had never agreed to such terms. This happened over and over again. I made it a point to try to get payment from people right when they agreed to purchase the paper. And I felt that solid sales were coming in as a result of my efforts. But weekly, I would miss the goal and sell 13 subscriptions not 15. Hmmm-mmmm.
My boss was pretty hard driving and that is putting it mildly. She accused me of being a slacker. When I suggested to my boss that perhaps the person before me had not been honest about their numbers she did not believe me, in fact, this only made her berate me more. The girl who sat in the cubicle next to me was often sick, complaining of headaches and nausea. I often would go to the bathroom and sit in a stall quietly and try to meditate for two minutes just to get away from this woman. She would follow me in there sometimes. It was awful.
One day, before getting ready to go on vacation, was particularly bad. I had sold 13 subscriptions (or something like that) but it was 4:00 pm and the office closed promptly at 5:00, no exceptions. One way I would get leads to call was through the paper and so I thought I would utilize some of my last hour combing the paper for leads so that the next day and only day I was in the office the following week I could hit the ground running. This did not fly. Every five minutes, my boss kept coming out of her office asking why I was not on the phones. I tried to explain that I was getting prepared for next week so I could get some good sales in before going on vacation. She was screaming at me before long.
She had not known that earlier in the day I had been on the phone to my mother, that’s right I called my mommie, and was telling her how miserable I was. I had only been with this company for six months and I didn’t want to just throw in the towel. I thought maybe I’d find a way to get those two other subscriptions.
My mom’s advice, however, “Quit!” This went against everything she had ever taught me but this woman was making my life hell over the cost of two newspapers. I was beginning to feel physically ill all the time as well. I wasn’t sleeping, dreading, each week’s beginning (having to make the phone calls) and end (knowing I had made thousands of calls and come up short, again). So as my boss’ voice began to escalate I began to calmly pack my things. I walked out. Your mother isn’t going to tell you to quit unless she thinks you have a really, really good reason for it…namely your sanity and health!!
Fast Forward. In September 2012, I left my job of corporate fundraiser, legitimately and with a little more panache than I left my newspaper position. For the first time in my life, I was pursuing the “job” of my dreams. I was finally, after 3 years of planning and growing, pursuing a life long dream of photographing on a full time basis. I really had to pinch myself quite a bit!!
This year has been exciting because my business has been growing. I have been receiving calls for work on a regular basis. I couldn’t be happier! At the same time, I have had more problems than ever. Lost memory cards, lost files, blurry images, bad prints and lots of seemingly little things that for a photographer are pretty big things!!!
But let’s just say, I am certainly feeling the pangs of growth here. I am also feeling a slight twinge of panic but its not so much concern about whether I have made the right choice in pursuing photography as a career choice. It’s more like I know I’ve made the right choice but will my blunders be my undoing at such an early stage? Will I fail so badly that I will simply not succeed in spite of myself?? Thinking about these mistakes made me think of my experience at the newspaper for some reason. I suppose I am feeling a similar fight or flight response.
It was not all bad at the newspaper; I did get one lesson out of my time there. Every now again in the course of a business day I would go to my boss and say, “Hey I made xyz number of phone calls and sold xy number of subscriptions.” Her response was always the same, “Really, well, Keep Going!” She never said great job, even when on the rare occasions I would meet or exceed the quota. I have never forgotten that.
I have reminded myself on many occasions since to just
Sometimes quitting is an option but most of time when you have a lot of skin in the game it just doesn’t make sense.
Mistakes happen. If you are making mistakes you are making progress. If your making mistakes, you are in action, you are moving. If you are making mistakes, you are taking risks.
Someone once said, it may have been the famous cosmetics guru and entrepreneur, Mary Kay Ash, who said, “Fail Forward to Success”. If you are making mistakes, you’re not failing; you’re succeeding. And your success (or lack thereof) is not defined by your mistakes but rather by the tenacity you have in getting through them. Mistakes build character and they also help you to build better systems.
Get out there, make some mistakes and for goodness sake: