Look at the word responsibility—“response-ability”—the ability to choose your response. – Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Bad things happen to good people. That’s the bad news.

But there’s good news: Your results in life and business are far more likely to be a reflection of what you decide to do about the bad things that happen in your life than a reflection of the bad things themselves.

It is your responsibility alone to make good decisions when bad things happen in your life and business, because these good decisions will beget positive results. Ultimately, your life will be an accumulation of your decisionsfor better or for worse.

Everyone faces problems in life—financial, health, relationship, work—just insert your problem here and you’ll see what I mean. Every sales and business professional on the planet has to deal with a weak economy, customers with bad credit, lower-priced competitors, and company operations units that seem determined to undermine every sale you make.

Get over it. Succeed in the face of it. Kick its ass. Whatever you do, don’t just lie down and use those things as excuses for failure. It doesn’t matter how bad things are at your company or in your market; countless business people are succeeding right now under the same conditions. Some of them may be sitting in the room with you at this very moment.

What’s the difference between the two groups of people? I can tell you this: It is not in what they know. The highest earners don’t know anything the lowest earners don’t know. But one thing is for sure: The top producers are doing a few things that the losers won’t do.

Dr. M. Scott Peck began his landmark book, The Road Less Traveled, with the simple truth that “Life is difficult.” Everybody has challenges along the way. Nobody gets out of this deal alive.

The question is not whether you are going to face any obstacles in life and business; the question is, What are you going to do about it? Your decisions—not the amount or degree of problems—determine the outcome.

When I was running amok and acting as a complete menace to society (and ending up in prison as a result), I used to think that it was because I had really bad luck. I always thought, “If I could just catch a lucky break, things would be fine.” It never occurred to me that I was creating my own luck with the decisions I was making in my life.

I can remember being at the mall around Christmastime after I had been to prison (and let out) for the first time. I saw a guy walking around with his pretty wife and his cute little kids. They were all smiles and giggles, and I just knew they had a nice little house with a white picket fence and puppies.

I remember thinking, “That guy wouldn’t be so damn happy if he had my problems and my luck. If he had to walk a mile in my shoes, he would know what it’s like to suffer.” It was all I could do not to walk over and wipe that smile off his face.

That’s how bitter, jealous, pathetic, and miserable I was at that point in my life.

However, I learned later in life that the guy in the mall had problems too. Odds are that at some point in his life, he struggled with money, relationships, or his health.

The difference between the two of us was not in the nature of our problems. It was in the way we chose to handle our problems.

I’d be willing to bet that when that fellow had money problems, he decided to get a second job, work overtime, or reduce his expenses. When I had money problems, I decided to grab a gun and a ski mask. That was the only difference between us. My life was a pathetic mess because of what I decided do about my money problems. It was not the money problem itself. Our decisions—whether good or bad—are 100 percent our responsibility.

Problems go in your box, and depending on what’s in your box, you make a certain decision. Your decision will determine the outcome. Your decisions are 100 percent your RESPONSIBILITY.

Some problem rears its ugly head in your life and business, and it goes into your box (your mind), where you make a decision about how to handle it. The situation’s eventual outcome will be a reflection of your decision about this particular challenge. You can have a really bad problem come into your life and business, but if you make a good decision, you will most likely have a good outcome.

Good Outcome

You can have a BAD PROBLEM come into your life and business, yet if you make a GOOD DECISION, you will likely create a GOOD OUTCOME. The OUTCOME is a reflection of the DECISION—not the problem.

Let’s say that you have two people facing identical circumstances; chances are, they’ll make very different decisions about how to handle the problem. The choice each one makes depends on what’s in his or her box—and everybody’s box is different. Take, for example, two sales professionals working in the same market. Both are facing the same problems: a slow economy, customers obsessed with a cheap price, and competition all too willing to give it.

Yet one sales professional consistently outperforms the other. Are their individual performances a reflection of the problem? Of course not—the problems are identical. Each person’s sales performance reflects how he or she handles the issues. One decides to stay focused on improving skills and solving problems for clients, while the other decides that there is really no point in working hard. After all, the economy keeps getting worse and customers just want the cheapest available product. So the second salesperson rushes through the sales process and focuses on matching the competitor’s low price.

British philosophical writer James Allen said, “Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him.” The way in which you choose to handle your circumstances will reveal what kind of person you are.

You can have a GOOD PROBLEM come into your life and business, yet if you make a BAD DECISION, you will likely create a BAD OUTCOME. The OUTCOME is a reflection of the DECISION.

When you understand that the only thing between you and success is making better decisions, you are empowered. You are responsible. And you are capable of changing the course of your financial destiny—immediately. If you are waiting for the economy and your customers to get better before you start making more money, you may be broke for a while. But if you realize that you don’t have to wait for anything to become prosperous—you just need to make better decisions—then you can immediately take charge of your sales and business career. You should welcome this reality and embrace the opportunity to take responsibility for your decisions and the quality of your life.

Whatever your life and career currently look like, you have to analyze your decisions to figure out how you created them and to decide if you want to change them. It may be tempting—and downright easy—to blame your problems on a particular situation, but we know that this usually isn’t the case. Often, when we struggle in our lives and business, we blame others or circumstances for our problems rather than taking responsibility for our decisions and the problems that resulted from them. In the context of The Power of Consistency, this is all about taking responsibility for your decisions in life and business and being accountable for what’s in your box, because that’s where all your decisions originate.

Good Problem

By the way, the opposite of Figure 7.2 is also true (see Figure 7.3). Sometimes we can have a good problem but make bad a decision. In this situation, the outcome will predictably reflect the bad decision as well, not the good problem. Ever heard of the lottery curse? Winning the lottery is a good problem to have, but how often do we hear stories of lottery winners making bad decisions about their winnings? Is the ultimate outcome a reflection of the good problem or the bad decision? The bad decision, of course. Our ultimate outcomes are typically a reflection of our decisions—for better or for worse.

I remember the liberation and freedom I felt—even while in prison—when I realized my life was a reflection of my decisions, and I alone was therefore responsible for my life’s quality and circumstances. This realization set me free. I understood for the first time that because I created my disastrous results in life by making bad decisions, I could improve my life by making good decisions—and I knew I could change things.

Think about your life through this lens. If the nature of the problems that come your way must change before your life gets better, what are the odds that your luck is going to change anytime soon? The truth is that you don’t need better luck. You need to make better decisions. And programming better things into your box by using the FEAR process virtually guarantees that you’ll make them—which in itself virtually guarantees better results. And that’s all you need to start improving your life.

How often, throughout the course of your day, do you really have to think about the decisions you make? Most of us live our lives on autopilot. We never have to think very hard. We get up, eat breakfast, take the kids to school, go to work, interact with coworkers, deal with customers, return some e-mails and calls, go home, watch American Idol, take a shower, and go to bed. Then rinse and repeat.

Whether you realize it or not, you are making a thousand instantaneous (second nature) decisions throughout your day. If you aren’t thinking about those countless decisions consciously, where are they coming from?

You guessed it: They are coming from your subconscious box. You reach into your box and pull out automatic decisions a thousand times a day. Your life is a perfect reflection of what’s in your box. You are pulling out its contents every single day. That’s why you had better know what’s in there—the nature of your decisions determines the nature of your life and business. Once you take responsibility for programming what’s in your box, you are holding yourself accountable for your decisions. By putting a life of abundance, wealth, and prosperity—and the consistency actions necessary to get there—into your box, you are setting yourself up to eventually pull those things out of your box. If you make a deliberate effort to put what you want in there, rather than allowing other people to fill it with their stuff, you create and achieve your dreams.

Your box will always be full of something. The question is whether this happens by design or default. It’s up to you.

Remember: Life is difficult. So is business. So is sales. Be prepared to make good decisions if you want to transcend those difficulties and create wealth, happiness, and peace of mind in both.

Where Your Thoughts Go, Your Actions Go; Where Your Actions Go, Your Results Go

Another facet of this is taking responsibility for where we focus our thoughts.

Winners think about the things they can control—namely, their own sales performance. Whiners, on the hands, obsess over matters over which they have no control, such as the economy, competitors offering cheaper prices, and their bosses.

Winners think about how they can improve their sales, relationship building, product knowledge, and closing skills. Whiners think about how others should be doing their jobs better.

Winners focus on “I”; whiners focus on “they.”

You can basically break down everything in sales and business development into two basic categories: process and result.

The process includes all the activities that define your sales activities: building relationships, identifying problems and offering solutions for your clients, demonstrating how and why your product and service are superior, and creating and delivering a powerful and effective closing sequence. It also includes the amount of time and effort you invest into learning and mastering the sales profession and how well you prepare yourself by reading and role-playing.

The result is simple: whether or not your prospect buys.

Here’s the rub: You have 100 percent control over the processes involved in sales and 0 percent control over the results. Now here’s the rub-a-dub-dub: Many sales and business professionals spend very little time thinking about the process and spend beau coup time obsessing over whether or not someone is going to buy from them. In other words, they obsess over that which they have no control and ignore the part over which they have total control.

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have influence over whether or not your prospect buys from you. You can dramatically sway prospects to buy from you by how well you perform the sales process. The better you are at your profession, the more likely your prospects are to buy from you. You can influence that decision; however, you can’t control it. You will not ultimately be making that decision for them. You can only make your decisions.

Your income and sales success will grow in direct proportion to the amount of time you spend focusing your thoughts and energy on the part of sales you control: building relationships, solving problems for your prospects, and closing. Focus on what you control and watch your income grow.

The more you focus on what you cannot control—the result—the more you will be dependent on luck and lay-downs to make your living.

Again, I’m not saying that you don’t plan for and visualize successful sales outcomes. You must do those things. I am saying that when it comes time to get down in the trenches and actually run a sales call, you must be highly skilled and prepared. You must concentrate on elements such as your skill level, confidence, and attitude.

In his landmark best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey discussed the effectiveness of focusing on your circle of influence versus your circle of concern. Your circle of influence includes the areas of your life and business that you can do something about, such as processes you control during a sales call. Your circle of concern includes areas of your life and business that you are concerned about but have no ability to control, such as the economy or your competition.

Dr. Covey explains how proactive (or effective) people tend to focus on their circle of influence, whereas reactive (ineffective) people tend to focus on their circle of concern—things they are concerned about but over which they have no control. Focusing on things we can’t control is a loser’s game.

Be a winner. Not a whiner.

Prepare Yourself for Success

In addition to taking responsibility for your decisions, you must also take responsibility for your success. It sounds like that would be easy, but it sometimes takes more effort than you might think. It’s especially difficult if your box is full of limiting beliefs that have festered for many years.

Everyone has what is called homeostasis. Really smart people have fancy ways to define homeostasis. However, I am not one of those people, so I define it as our comfort zone.

Your homeostasis is what makes you uniquely you—your job, your income, your spouse, your home, and what you like for dessert. It’s everything in your life that makes you happy. If you think about your life as a thermometer, your homeostasis is your perfect temperature. It’s where you feel “just right.”

Imagine your comfort zone is a perfect 70 degrees, but something comes along in life to lower your temperature, knocking you out of your comfort zone. For example, sometimes people get divorced, lose their jobs, or lose their homes in foreclosure. After all, bad things sometimes happen to good people, right?

But this is what I love about human nature: When something comes along and knocks us out of our comfort zone, we do something about it! Most of us won’t just sit there and wallow in misery. We get up, dust ourselves off, and do what we have to do get back to homeostasis. The “lower temperature” doesn’t feel comfortable, so we take action to get things back on track.

The bottom line is that when we get knocked out of our homeostasis, we take some kind of action to regain our balance and fix it. We don’t just lie there and take it. We work hard and fight our way back. It’s an awesome, admirable characteristic of human nature.

Of course, sometimes a life event occurs that raises our temperature—in other words, makes things better. And here’s the kicker: Often, these positive events can feel just as uncomfortable as the negative ones!

It sounds a little crazy, and tough to imagine, but sometimes success can make us uncomfortable because we are not used to it. It doesn’t feel “normal” to us. We can become so comfortable with the way our lives are that we perceive anything that challenges our homeostasis as a threat, even if it holds the potential to improve our lives.

When this happens, it is not inconceivable that we will sabotage our success and self-destruct. Have you ever known someone who endures difficult periods and occasionally seems to start to improve, only to self-destruct again? To that person, success might feel just as uncomfortable as failure.

I must confess that there have been times as my life has rocketed toward success when I found myself feeling a little uneasy. It sounds a little insane, but after spending 20 years in a state of despair and misery, I got comfortable there. It reached a point where prison and poverty seemed like the norm.

There have been times where I shared the stage with Dr. Stephen R. Covey or the legendary Tom Hopkins and found myself looking out over the audience and thinking, “Who am I kidding? Do I really belong here?”

I remember once having dinner at Mala Ocean Tavern on Maui next to Mick Fleetwood and thinking to myself, “Dude, you have no business being here. Who do you think you are?” Success and prosperity can take some getting used to, especially when all you’ve ever known is struggle.

To counter the potential of doing something that may undermine our success, we must take responsibility for getting comfortable with success. Understand the fact that you may have subtly undermined success because it didn’t feel comfortable. Be aware of the human tendency to avoid discomfort even if it has the potential to improve your life and business.

Once you understand this phenomenon, you can simply add a new consistency outcome to your quiet-time ritual to ensure you are comfortable with new levels of prosperity. Adding something like “I deserve unlimited abundance and prosperity” or “I am comfortable with wealth and success” will help you condition yourself for the great things that are to come.

The bottom line is that success will breed more success—and you need to make sure you are comfortable when it happens.

Values, Character, and Integrity

Your values, character, and integrity will affect your level of success in life and business—and all three are your responsibility. One of my favorite sayings is “Time will expose you or promote you.” You can fool some of the people some of the time, but eventually your values, character, and integrity will bubble to the surface.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey provides one of the best discussions on this topic in The 7 Habits. He points out the difference between values and principles, noting that whereas values are subjective, principles are timeless and universal. Criminals have common values, but those values may not result in long-term success and prosperity. Thus, when I refer to “values,” I am referring to timeless and universal standards of conduct.

When I began reading about these standards of conduct, I was overwhelmed by how I had been living my life. I was, at the time, a career criminal who’d spent my adult life lying, cheating, and stealing. Nevertheless, after reading The 7 Habits, I realized success would never find me in the forest of my dishonesty and dysfunction.

David Starr Jordan, educator and founding president of Stanford University, wrote, “There is no excellence in all the world that can be separated from right living.” After I examined the poverty and struggle that governed my life for many years—and compared that to my life of abundance and prosperity today—it’s easy to see how my values, character, and integrity played into each.

I synthesized what I learned this way in The Upside of Fear: “Values are knowing what to do. Character is having the strength to do it. And Integrity is doing it when no one is watching.”

Values

As you begin the process of designing and implementing your personal prosperity plan, be sure that the values that govern your life and business align with the universal principles as discussed in The 7 Habits and other places. Consider how you will handle your affairs. What values will govern your behavior in life and business?

When I started a little heating and air-conditioning company in my living room in 2004, we offered our customers an unconditional “One Year Test Drive.” This meant that customers could hire our company to install a system and have it removed anytime during the first year after installation for a 100 percent refund.

This “risk reversal” guarantee was put to the test during our first two years in business. On one occasion we honored the guarantee when a homeowner got sick, lost her job, and needed the system removed. We allowed her to keep the system (which she needed) and refunded a significant portion of her investment.

There were other instances where our company made mistakes and always assumed financial responsibility for the problem. I once made a design mistake and had to pay for costly electrical work to make the system work properly. Many companies would have told the homeowner, “This wasn’t our problem. We aren’t responsible for the electrical capacity in your home.” But that wasn’t how our company operated. I knew it was my mistake, and I took the hit on it. It was the right thing to do.

As time unfolded and both our customers and employees learned that we were serious about serving our customers at this level, we grew very rapidly—to $20 million in revenue in 60 months. As mentioned previously, we also earned a spot on Inc. magazine’s list of fastest-growing privately held companies in America.

By staying true to the values we outlined for our company, we were rewarded with our community’s business—and trust.

Character

Character means having the strength to stay true to those values, even when it’s tough—in fact, especially when it’s tough. I once had a salesmen named Winston Dennis who consistently outperformed all other salesmen. He consistently produced sales well in excess of $1 million in an industry where $1 million in sales is the Holy Grail.

One day Winston approached me with a proposal: increase his bonus points on revenue if he hit $2 million in annual sales. I agreed, thinking he would increase his sales but never expecting him to actually hit $2 million.

He did it. And he did it for the next three consecutive years, which cost me tens of thousands of dollars in bonus commissions. But I gave him my word and had to muster the strength of character to honor my word, no matter how much it cost me.

We must be bound by our word to succeed in life and business. Whether it’s a promise we make to a customer, a supplier, or an employee, our word must always mean something. If we make commitments and promises and then waffle when push comes to shove, it’s only a matter of time before we are exposed—and our business suffers as a consequence.

Integrity

Integrity means doing all that great stuff when no one is watching. Several years ago, my son, Hunter, and I were riding dirt bikes in the hills of Colorado’s Western Slope. After a day of riding, we checked into a hotel for a night’s rest. We pulled into the hotel parking lot in my full-size pickup, pulling a long motorcycle trailer. Because the rig was so long, it was hard to maneuver through tight spots.

I parked way out at the edge of the parking lot where it was empty so that I wouldn’t have to squeeze into a tight spot. The next morning my son and I walked out to the parking lot to find it jam packed with cars. Our truck and trailer were sardined in between cars on all sides.

Hunter was only about 12 years old, but he did his best to guide me as I tried to work the rig out of the tight space without hitting other cars. I would back out a few feet, pull up, and try to get a better angle. We were making progress little by little, an inch at a time, but finally I cut it too close and the trailer etched a nice scar into the side of a parked car.

Eventually, we extricated the truck and trailer from the other cars. I parked the rig and walked over to the car I had engraved with the trailer. It was an old, beat-up car. It was actually in such bad shape that it was hard to tell where I gouged it.

I took out a business card, wrote a note to the owner, and placed it under the windshield wiper. As I walked back to the truck, a little old lady who had been watching the whole fiasco from the secrecy of her car stepped out to congratulate me for leaving the note. It felt really good getting “caught” doing something right—and even better that my son was there and learned such a great lesson.

A few days later I got a call from the kid who owned the car. After I apologized, he said, “To be honest, I couldn’t really tell where you hit it. Not sure if you noticed, but the car is a bit of a mutt.”

I explained that I didn’t think the car’s condition was the issue, and I wanted to fix it. He told me that was unnecessary, but he appreciated the offer. As we talked I learned he was in college. I asked him if I could at least take care of his rent for a month. After a moment of silence, he said, “Actually, that would be great!”

I sent the kid a few hundred bucks to help out. I felt really good again—this time, about doing the right thing when no one was watching.

Consequences for our actions, for better or for worse, will eventually pay us a visit. The values, character, and integrity that govern your life and business will have a significant impact on your wealth and prosperity. They are inextricable.

I once heard a great saying: “You can’t talk yourself out of a situation that you acted your way into.” To create the levels of wealth, happiness, and prosperity of which we are capable, we must accept responsibility for where we are today—and how we got there.

Years ago, I read a book that outlined a simple acronym that I have found very useful in my life and business: CPA. This means that I cause, permit, or allow everything that happens in my life. I am never a victim or at the mercy of anything or anyone.

Now I can hear the protests coming my way as some folks lament, “Some of the things that have happened in my life are not my fault! They are completely out of my control!”

To a degree, you are right. There are occasions when things happen in your life that are truly out of your control. But I would personally rather take the chance of assuming responsibility for something out of my control than bear the consequences of not taking responsibility for something within my control.

Because as long as I take responsibility for something, I can make it better and improve the situation. So what if I improve a situation that was somebody else’s responsibility? I am creating results! I am not willing to ignore something just because it is technically “someone else’s job”; I am going to make the situation better if I can. Don’t get me wrong; whoever ignores their responsibility will hear from me loud and clear. But I am going to focus on improving things first.

In the immortal words of Dr. Stephen R. Covey: “Be a light, not a judge.” Help others. Help yourself. And help improve the situation where you can. Don’t look for blame; look for the opportunity to make a positive difference in life and business. And do it because you cannot because you must.

Think about what goes in your box and how what’s in there affects your decisions. Prepare yourself to expect success. Consider what values, character, and integrity will define your life and business. And accept total responsibility for the results you enjoy.

Eight to Be Great!

I have one final thought regarding personal responsibility with respect to being a successful professional salesperson.

Think about the characteristics of your perfect prospect. How is that person’s credit? Does he or she have a strong need for your product or service? Does the prospect have an unlimited budget? Is he or she loyal to your company?

As you consider the perfect prospect, write out eight characteristics that describe that person. Next to that list, write out eight characteristics of the perfect you—the perfect sales professional.

Perfect ProspectPerfect You
Good creditHighly motivated
HonestWell trained
LoyalPersistent
High needFocused
Unlimited budgetConfident
Values qualityExpert communicator
Values serviceFearless
Willing to listenHigh product knowledge

Now consider this: You only need any combination of eight to be great in sales. In other words, if your prospect is a perfect eight, you can be a below average sales professional and still be very successful. But if your prospect is a two or three, you must be a five or six if you expect to succeed. In most cases your prospect will have only a few of the perfect characteristics, so you will need to make up the difference. The wonderful news is that even if your prospects are “zeros,” you can still be very successful in sales if you are an eight. Get the picture? So instead of complaining about the economy or your prospect, the key to sales success is focusing on you and improving your skill set, your attitude, and the contents of your box.

After all, how much control do you have over whether your prospect is a two or an eight? How much control do you have over being the perfect sales professional?

The truth is that you have 0 percent control over your prospects’ level of need and financial condition; however, you have 100 percent control over you. So where are you going to spend your mind’s energy? Are you going to fret and complain about economic and prospect characteristics over which you have no control? Or are you going to spend your precious time and energy working on making yourself the very best you can be, something over which you have total control?

You see it’s not just how you think; it’s what you are thinking about. Where’s your focus? As I’ve mentioned about 1,000 times, your life is a reflection of what’s in your box—and your box is a reflection of the things you focus on. You can focus on things you can’t control (which will change nothing), or you can focus on the things you can control (which can change everything).

At the end of the day, we must assume responsibility for what is in our boxes and where we focus our energy and attention. Focus on programming your box with what you want out of your career and life and never forget that your circumstances will not define you. Only your decisions will do that.

Listen closely to others’ conversations during your next sales meeting. Bottom-feeders typically complain about things beyond their control. Top producers stay focused on improving themselves and the elements of the sales process they can influence.

If you can’t control your prospects, why spend time worrying about them? Just be the very best you can be, and your talents and professionalism will bridge the gap with mediocre prospects. And imagine the business you will write when you are an eight and your prospect is a five! It will be like shooting fish in a barrel (with a really big gun and a really small barrel).

One of the keys to being a top producer in sales is knowing how to think and what to think about. The more you know about what’s in your box—and the more effort you expend putting what you want in there and remaining focused on things you control—the more success you will see in your sales career.

That’s what The Power of Consistency is all about. To succeed, you must program your mind to prosper in the face of any obstacle and to overcome any challenge, including imperfect prospects. When you do that, nothing will hold you back or keep you down.

Take the time to identify what you want in life, what you want to become, and what you want to contribute. Write those things out in present tense and review them for 15 minutes during your quiet-time ritual. Allow yourself to experience the emotion as if you have already achieved your dreams and commit yourself to taking actions that are congruent with your personal prosperity plan. Take responsibility for your decisions in life and business, knowing that your life is a reflection of your decisions, not your problems. And keep your focus on the things in life you can control, which in most cases is only you.

After creating your prosperity mindset and spending a few minutes each day programming your box with wealth, success, and prosperity, you will become a top producer in the world of sales and business.

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