36. Learn To Paint

My mother sent me to bed an hour early for a few nights in a row when daylight savings time would come in the spring. The theory was that she didn’t want me to lose an hour of sleep and be tired for school come Monday morning. My mother also sent me to bed an hour early when the clocks would go back in the fall. Probably because I was getting in her hair more than a compassionate concern for my biorhythms. I remember waking up that Sunday in the fall and thinking it was the greatest day in the world. I had entire extra hour to play. More time to enjoy my Cap’n Crunch. Watch the full episode of Davey and Goliath. Ride my bike with the fake shock absorbers off a ramp. Our baseball game could go extra innings. There were so many ways to enjoy that extra hour. I wished that I could have it every day. It’s funny because an extra hour is exactly what we all have right now.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Census Bureau Shows Shift In Working Environment

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average one-way commute to work is 26.1 minutes or roughly one hour a day. In total, that is nine days per year, nine whole days of sitting in traffic listening to The Morning Zoo radio program and their nauseating commercials each year.

The corona chaos is changing that dynamic for millions of people. Many, unfortunately are presently out of work. Others are now joining the ranks of the telecommuter. In 2015, the American Psychological Association published a study on the future of remote work. At the time it was estimated that 16% of the total workforce, more than 26 million Americans, were working at home for some portion of their job. Items from the paper highlighted some of the major benefits of telecommuting. Second after not having to constantly smell your boss’ cheap cologne is that telecommuters have the ability to create more work/life balance. They are not constricted to the normal Dolly Parton 9 to 5 job. Instead, according to the study, telecommuters become more task oriented with many of the workers operating well outside of the normal workday parameters. Further, the rate of productivity can be as much as one-third higher because office distractions and politics are eliminated. Most telecommuters report that they are able to complete all their major tasks in a fraction of a normal work day and with a higher level of proficiency.

Telecommuting Is Becoming More Prevalent

This leads me to the new crop of telecommuters. Are you one of the many who have now been requested to work from home because of the Coronavirus? I know. This is a different feel. Over the past two weeks, I’ve talked with numerous new telecommuters and their stories vary from success to frustrated failure. One of the greatest difficulties I’ve heard is that people are now trying to work with their children home tugging at their shirts all day. I feel for you. If we thought office distractions were burdensome try working with a child on their remote learning lessons when the child is five and can’t read! Here is someone else that I have great sympathy for – teachers. Schoolteachers are now trying to give twenty five different lessons to twenty five different students each day. And with parents home, they are now feeling more backseat drivers than Miss Daisy. Please remember, most of our school teachers have school age children themselves. And they are being tugged and pulled just as much as you are.

Personal Development Opportunities

Over the past two weeks, I’ve asked folks what they are doing with their extra hour per day. The answers range from practical to hysterically absurd. My daughter, Haley, is taking a coding class. One friend is doing virtual yoga. Another is taking up belly dancing. Adam Sandler was on Conan O’Brien’s show claiming that he’s having the best sex of his life. People are writing, cooking, playing with their children.

Developing resilient leaders can think of this another way. What skills can we develop that will make us more marketable in the future. This is unique opportunity in our lives to make an assessment of our skills gap and train up for the future. When else will you get the chance to improve yourself and be paid in the process? It only takes an hour a day. Transfer the hour that you were commuting into an hour of personal development.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory for closing the skills gap. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Learn to Paint. You heard it. Learn to Paint.

The theory is simple here’s how it works. I always wanted to be able to paint. Each year, I host a dinner party after which we paint some still life. I confess. I’m not much of an artist. My grammar school art projects all had a common theme. They would all turn into ashtrays. Working with clay…it would be an ashtray. Working with tiles…it would be an ashtray. Working with papier Mache…it would be an ashtray. I would hold my sickly looking piece of work in front of the art teacher. Sicklier than Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. My teachers would take a look…and bless their lying hearts…say, “Trent that is a beautiful ashtray.” Yes, an ashtray! I made an ashtray! And, I would leave thinking that I created something of beautiful and value. I would bring my Michaelangelo-esque work home and proudly say, “Mum, I made you this ashtray!”

My mother was always thankful for my art projects. She gave them a reverence reserved for the Mona Lisa. She held it with care and told me of the exact location in the house she was waiting for something special like this to adorn. I would traipse outside oblivious to the simple questions of… why would my parents need an ashtray if neither smoked? I mean never smoked. So much for my art work.

Bob Ross Makes Painting Easy For Non-Artists

I want to use this hour a day to improve this skill so I turned to YouTube where you can learn how to do everything. It was there that I ran into an old friend I remember from High School, Bob Ross. Bob Ross is an American icon whose life and work touched millions of fans around the world. Bob was the host of The Joy of Painting, a PBS broadcast in which Bob would teach you to paint while you were in your living room. He said, “All you need is the desire to make beautiful things happen on canvas.” Bob had a gentle voice, soft approach and a joyous sense of humor, all which played well on PBS. For me, the visual of Bob Ross was worth the price of admission. Bob was a white middle aged man with a beard that would rival those of Ben & Jerry. He was only 5’ 9”, but stood greater than 6’ 2” because of his afro. If you’ve never seen Bob, check here. You will not be disappointed.

Bob has hundreds of videos on You Tube and I committed myself to spending an hour with Bob every day this week to improve my painting skills. Here are some of the painting encouragements my friend Bob gave me this week.
After a week of practicing with my Van Dyke browns, and magentas, and burnt siennas and midnight blues, I have finally created a painting that I would be willing to hang on my wall. It’s from Bob Ross’ Season 5 Episode 13 titled meadow stream. And I have to say that it looks…like an ashtray. Maybe the best ashtray I’ve ever made, but an ashtray nevertheless.

Well…well, I’m glad that I invested time to learn something new. I hope you will take this as a challenge to broaden your horizons. There are multitudes of skills that can be developed and I trust that you will use this time wisely. For my next learning experience, it’s been about six weeks since I’ve had my hair cut. I noticed a couple of videos on how to DIY. I’ll let you know next week how that goes.

Thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.
If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. Also, if you enjoyed today’s episode please share it to on your social media. Let some of your network of developing resilient leaders hear what we’re doing every week.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya

Shake Off Sales Rejection

38. Kiss The Girl

Coronavirus Fear Around Us

 

I was on a run through the middle of town a few days ago and arrived at an intersection when I put my leg on a post to stretch my hamstrings. Traffic was light for 5:00 on a weekday. About twelve feet away from me a couple walking along the sidewalk stopped. They were in their mid-30s and both wearing masks. They stopped right in the middle of the sidewalk. After a few seconds I asked if they were waiting for me to move. They both nodded. Stretching, I tried to rationalize why they wouldn’t just walk in front of me, behind me or next to me. The answer was glaring; fear.

How much fear must be in a person to not make them want to walk around someone? Maybe a better question is – why wasn’t I fearful of them?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

 

President Roosevelt Addresses Fear

I used to think that the most famous quote about fear came following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but I was wrong. President Roosevelt’s famous quote on fear was delivered during his first inauguration address in 1933. Here’s what he said.

Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.

It was a powerful address given to a nation during a time of crises. Fear is a powerful emotion that can create paralysis in all of us to some extent. The couple on the sidewalk were paralyzed with fear that I might be contagious with the coronavirus. Me…I’m not fearful of that. I’ve got plenty of other demons to deal with. No, I am only fearful of one thing. Rejection. Specifically being rejected while trying to sell something. It is so paralyzing for me that most often I would rather not even attempt to sell something because the fear of being rejected is greater than the satisfaction of making a sale.

Developing resilient leaders become skilled in navigating difficult currents in business and in life. By my own admission, I’ve navigated away from the requirement to sell by working in finance and education. But now, as I spend more time pursuing speaking and training the requirement to sell is smacking me right in the face. I acknowledge that I need help so I turned to an expert; Frank Somma.

 

Frank Somma – Sales Expert

Frank Somma may not be a household name to you, but I think that’s only a yet. Frank S-O-M-M-A (his website is his name) is the author of B2B is really P2P. A freakin’ clever title by the way. I met Frank last month at a conference in Arizona. Back when we were able to ride an airplane without wearing a hazmat suit. Frank resembles Christopher Moltisante from The Sopranos in looks and mannerism. My introduction came as Frank was explaining to a group about options and said, “You can’t ride two horses with one ass.” Brilliant. I was going to like this guy.

B2B is really P2P is about sales. Actually, the first chapter is titled Sales is not a Dirty Word! The book discusses personal responsibility, gaining rapport and how desire wins. The most valuable section of this book for me spoke about accepting rejection. Frank describes being rejected isn’t about YOU. Rather, you were rejected because someone didn’t want or need your product. Or, the time wasn’t right. Regardless, they weren’t rejecting you as a person. What a revelation!

 

Developing Resilient Leader Theory

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on the overcoming fear. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Kiss The Girl. You heard it. Kiss the Girl.

The theory is simple here’s how it works. When I was fourteen and starting to date my high school sweetheart, I was petrified to kiss her because I feared that she would reject me. I remember mustering up the courage on August 26th, 1982. During those last weeks of summer we would bicycle around Colt State Park and spend the time walking on the beach and throwing rocks in the water. In my mind, I planned to walk us up to this bench overlooking Narragansett Bay and kiss her firmly on the cheek. Well, maybe not too firmly…maybe gently with a touch of firmness. Regardless, I was going to kiss her. We sat on the bench enjoying the summer’s sun shimmering off the bay and I was hyperventilating because I was scared that she was going to slap me and want the summer to end.

We sat on the bench and I gave myself a deadline to kiss her. I said, “I’ll count to ten then kiss her.” But, I realized quickly that this would work better as a countdown. I’ll count down from ten then kiss her. While I was wrestling with the proper way to count to ten before kissing a girl, she asked me what towns we were looking at across the bay. Perfect! The plan hatched in front of me. I would point to the towns and when I reached Providence, due north of us, I would be leaning next to her and then I would kiss her.

I started pointing. That’s North Kingston, that’s Warwick, that’s Cranston, and that around the point is Providence. I closed my eyes, puckered my lips leaned over and kissed…air. She wasn’t there. She stood up to get a better look around the point. I swung and missed and nearly fell off the bench in the process. Who would have ever thought kissing a girl was going to be this hard.

My courage was shot. It was nearly 2:00 and she had to get home for her babysitting job. We pedaled slowly and I thought about the opportunity missed. If only I counted up to ten she would have been sitting there and I would have kissed her.

We arrived at her house and I walked Paula to her porch. Saying goodbye I felt something different. Something right and perfect. I leaned forward and kissed Paula on the cheek. Then, something happened that I never expected. Something that still shocks me to this day nearly 40 years later. After being kissed, Paula smiled, wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me and kissed me and kissed me. I never felt so much blood rush to my head.

On the bike ride home I realized a developing resilient leader lesson. Carpe Diem. I didn’t know Latin then, but I understood the essence. Carpe Diem – Seize The Day! From that time I’ve always tried to live my life in that spirit. Be bold! Be brave! Be Strong! Without action life is yours to miss. Go ahead. Take a chance. Kiss the girl. Who knows? It might be what she’s been waiting for? Even my friend Sebastian knows what it’s all about.

Overcoming fear of rejection in sales. It’s funny how we can isolate our fears and concerns into such granular concepts when we really concentrate. Rejection in sales. Now with Frank’s help. I can apply the kiss the girl theory to my sales. And, I hope you can as well.

Thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, www.trenttheroux.com. You can find my library of older podcasts. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. Next week, I’m delivering a virtual speech to a conference of big data marketing analysts. The theme is Resiliency is a Reflex. If you’d like me to deliver a similar message to your organization email me at info@trenttheroux.com. I’d love to discuss some of the details.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

Developing Resilient Leaders

37. Zooming On By

A Clockwork Orange is a difficult read. Difficult because some of the narration is a hybrid of Slavic and Cockney and difficult because of the rehabilitation scene of the protagonist, Alex DeLange. Alex is strapped to a chair, his eyes are forced open with wires, a screen plays directly in front of him for hours on end. Alex becomes emotionally distraught and exhausted. The scene is relentless and intense. Reading this scene made my mind tired and drained…kinda like how I felt after spending five hours on Zoom calls last Wednesday.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Zoom Changes How Meetings Are Run

 

COVID-19 has changed how we operate our businesses and how we interact with people. On the frontier of this change in communication is Zoom. I probably don’t need to describe what Zoom is because it’s become a verb in our lexicon like Google or Uber. Following shelter at home orders, Zoom traffic has grown. It is now reported that over 200 million people are using Zoom every day, that’s up from only 10 million per day in December!

We can now answer the age old question my friend Aretha Franklin has been asking (Who’s zoomin’ who? Take another look, tell me baby. Who’s zoomin’ who?) Well, it appears that everyone is Zooming everyone else. (Who’s zoomin’ who? Take another look, tell me baby. Who’s zoomin’ who?) Schoolteachers, office mates, business partners, supreme court justices, everyone is zoomin’ everyone else. My mother-in-law zooms all the kids and grandkids. They all show up in little boxes on her screen and she’s positioned like Alice in the Brady Bunch.
Zoom is on everyone’s lips since shelter-in-place orders starting being issued in March. Before the Corona Chaos, I might have been on one Zoom call per month. Now, I’m at five per week. And, I know that I’m still on the low end. I grew up in a different era. In the 1970s Zoom had a different meaning to school age kids. Zoom was an afternoon television show on PBS. It featured seven local kids and they rotated the kids around so they would have drug problems like the Mouseketeers. It featured kids like Donnie McGrath…from Southie. Nothin’ special other than the theme song. It was an ear worm. And, it’s still an earworm.

Zoom Founder Story

Let’s get back to business. Zoom, the videoconferencing service, may have seemed to burst on the scene overnight, but actually it was over 20 years in the making. Eric Yuan was one of the founding engineers of Webex in the late 1990s. Back then, Webex was a real-time collaboration company with a small number of employees. After Webex became the standard for collaboration it was acquired by Cicso and Eric Yuan became head of product development. Unfortunately, or fortunately, Yuan became disillusioned with Cisco’s lack of vision and willingness to invest in better video conferencing tools. Yuan left with some of his engineers to form Zoom.

 

It’s Zoom’s business model that intrigues me most and should for developing resilient leaders as well. Most of you will appreciate that it’s free. Right, free! Built in the cloud and priced using a “freemium” model that let’s everyone host a free meeting for up to 40 minutes. They make money by selling seats for larger audiences or for longer time periods. Think of this model like the guy selling Korean food at your local shopping mall. He’s standing out front holding some Korean BBQ chicken on a platter and offering you to take a toothpick and try. It’s the same model. He’s expecting that a certain number of people will be ready for a delicious meal at that moment. Zoom is expecting that companies will require their premium services and sign up. It’s a clever business model for many of us. Try a free appetizer…stay for a whole meal. (Zoom, Zoom)

Zoom is great for many reasons, but here’s the problem that I have. It’s hard to participate in a large scale Zoom call. I was on a Zoom call last week with six other participants. There was no real interaction. It felt like reporting. When it was my turn to speak, I gave a report. Then, it was the next person’s time to speak. This loses the personal touch of being connected. Yes, we can all see each other on the screen, but you can’t blurt out a laugh or question because someone else has the microphone. I find it annoying and highly unsatisfying.
Though the 1960s there used to be something called party lines. The phone company would wire houses so that they were connected to each other. If you were on a call to your girlfriend, Mrs. Kravitz from two doors down could pick up her phone and listen to your conversation. Back then, unless you were wealthy, everyone shared a phone line. Sometimes it feels like times never change. I was on a Zoom call with friends and it felt just like a party line. I sat back and listened to two people talking back and forth. I know Zoom is supposed to make you feel like you’re sitting around a campfire with your friends, but it feels more like high school religion classes. The teacher talking, one student always raising his hand and me thinking about how many more minutes before the bell rings.

   Developing Resilient Leader Theory

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on the Zoom overload. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Pick Up The Phone. You heard it. Pick Up The Phone.

The theory is simple here’s how it works. Jane Atkinson is the host of the Wealthy Speaker podcast and can be found at speakerlauncher.com. She’s a coach for speakers and one peach of a woman. One of Jane’s main thrills in business (and maybe in life) is to actually make a telephone call. Most of us are adroit at crafting emails or dexterous as blasting out information on social media, or now, creating Zoom calls. Jane would say that there is an art and a touch to actually picking up the phone and talking to someone. One to one. Here’s Jane explaining how she helped create this theory.

Right, there’s a personal nature to having a one-on-one conversation with someone. Think back to when you were in high school talking to your sweetheart over the phone. There was a mystery and intimacy about speaking without actually seeing each other. Zoom takes away some of that intimacy. It stands us up in a firing line waiting for us to shoot, reload and wait for our chance to shoot again. When I think of Zoom…..dammit…those kids won’t get out of my head now…When I think of Zoom…oh no…not this kid too. Does it feel like we are now in a world of Zoom zombies….Will someone please tell Aretha I know who’s zoomin’ who.

I know you agree with me 100%. Social distancing sucks. Zoom is a tool and like every other tool in your box, it has its proper use. If there’s someone you want to connect with…I mean truly connect with, call them, tell them that you miss them and that it won’t be long before we all can sit around a campfire and laugh about the bad haircuts we gave each other.

Thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, www.trenttheroux.com. You can find my library of older podcasts. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. Next week, I’m delivering a virtual speech to a conference of big data marketing analysis. The theme is Resiliency is a Reflex. If you’d like me to deliver a similar message to your office email me at info@trenttheroux.com. I’d love to discuss some of the details. (Oh please. I need to get my head out of the 1970s.)

Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

35. Find Your Silver Lining

I took a trip to up, upstate New York last weekend before the state issued their shelter-in-place order.  The scene was surreal.  The town of Clayton, New York sits on the Saint Lawrence River overlooking Canada, just northeast of Lake Ontario.  The promenade is gorgeous., lined with hundreds of Adirondack chairs overlooking the river.  Ferry landings and their wide births waiting for the next boat to arrive.  Open air table dining to maximize their view of the sun setting over the fast moving river.  The scene was idyllic.  Idyllic and barren.  There wasn’t a soul enjoying the breathtaking location.  Part of me was excited to appreciate this beauty in quiet and part of me was fearful that this was the beginning of the new normal.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

COVID-19 has gashed into our communities, our workplaces and families.  In this week’s episode I want to show Developing Resilient Leaders how to look for a path out of the surreal.

My purpose in upstate New York was to escort my Canadian friend, Penny, back home.  She was concerned about flying out of Boston and potentially contaminating her small hamlet in Northern Ontario.  So, we thought it would be best that I drive her to the border where she could be picked up by her brother and taken home.  Our plan was to minimize our contact with others.  Little did I know that the people I was going to have contact with were carrying automatic weapons.  But that will take a minute to get to.

We walked through the main street of the idyllic and barren town – right down the double yellow line in the center of town.  It can’t be jaywalking when cars don’t exist on the road.  We walked past the opera house built in 1905 and the confectionary store, which looks to be about the same age.  Both closed.  Lights completely off.  This resembled a scene out of The Stand, or The Hot Zone, or Station Eleven or some other pandemic based novel, but it was no novel.  At the next intersection, we saw to our right a liquor store that was open.  I looked at Penny and we both nodded.  Yes, some bourbon would make this a better walk.

Using tissues in our hands, we grasped the handle of the door and entered the cramped liquor store and perused the selection.  The prices were higher than I was expecting.  Maybe because it was a resort town.  Maybe because more people wanted some good bourbon to make the time pass.  The cashier rang up our purchase and we chatted about him being open while the entire town was shut down.  He said, through his massively overgrown beard, “The Governor considers us to be essential.”  How are liquor stores essential?  Can you imagine the number of people who would be filling up the emergency room with the shakes and DTs if they couldn’t get their booze every day?  I get it.  Hooch IS essential in upstate New York.

We went back to our hotel room, essential bourbon in tow, and planned our transfer across the border the next morning.  Oh, did I fail to mention that the President shut down the border to Canada while I had a Canadian staying in my house?  Yeah, I missed that briefing too.  Anyway, we were in the hotel room looking for a movie to watch.  I suggested Bridge of Spies, the recent Spielberg movie about the trading of prisoners in the Cold War by passing them from one side of the bridge to the other.  Penny did not appreciate my sense of humor.  “Plus”, I said, “It stars Tom Hanks.  You can learn a lot from him.  He landed a plane on the Hudson, ran a successful Shrimping company and now has the Coronavirus!”  I was summarily told to shut up.

The next morning, I brought Penny to the border and explained to the border control officer that I just wanted to drop her off in the parking lot, where her brother was waiting, turn around and head home.  Surprisingly, the border guard waived me through with no issue and even welcomed me to Canada.  How about that, eh?  I dropped Penny off with a kiss goodbye, turned my car around towards the American border.  I drove less than 200 yards before my car was stopped by an American border patrol guard, holding an automatic rifle with a puss like Schwarzenegger in Commando.  We were well in front of passport control and this officer was motioning for me to lower my window.  “How long have you been in Canada for sir?”  My response, “eight minutes.”  “Not funny, sir.  How long?”  “Seriously, I was here for eight, now nine minutes.  I just dropped someone off.”  He reached for the walkie-talkie near his collarbone and said, “Will you come down here?  We may have a problem.”  Transport trucks were lining up behind me as I was now the bottleneck for vital goods being delayed their delivery into America.

The guard now looking at me. “Are you transporting anything back from Canada.”  The list of sarcastic responses about buying lemonade on the side of the road were cued up in my head, but thank God for the training my mother gave me as a child.  “Trent, never talk back to a police officer.”  “I have not made any purchases, officer.”

I was getting agitated about being questioned.  I was agitated about holding up the line.  I was agitated about having an assault rifle pointed in my general direction.  I was agitated that the world had changed so much that I needed to drive to Canada to transport someone home.

Ten minutes later, I was welcomed back into America and sent on my way.  As I was driving, I was thinking about how quickly times have changed.  People getting sick, people losing their jobs, businesses closing, stock market crashes, and I was worked up about spending ten extra minutes while the authorities executed their duties.  The priorities in my mind shifted to what was more important.  Leaders can be frustrated by a situation, but that does not give them license to take that frustration out on people dutifully performing their work.

Three million people filed for unemployment this week.  Let that number roll around your tongue for a minute.  Three million.  That doesn’t count the gig economy workers.  This pandemic is taking a devastating toll on all of us.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on the Pandemic.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Find Your Silver Lining.  You heard it.  Find Your Silver Lining.

The theory is simple here’s how it works.  I’ve talked to a number of business leaders over the past week trying to assess how the pandemic impacts them and their businesses.  There isn’t one answer.  The responses are enormously varied, but they all have one thread.  Each business leader had one thing in common; they all had a silver lining.  Something positive they could point to as a direct result of this event.

One company mobilized 24,000 of its employees to work at home, another told me that auto accidents are down significantly because of less people on the road, a third said that their emergency plans had never been tested before but now proved successful, a fourth said that their company was required to innovate.

Yes, innovation.  Necessity is the mother of innovation, the old proverb attributed to Plato. It proves true.  This pandemic has created a necessity for developing resilient leaders to innovate their businesses and processes.  Innovate how they think.  Innovate how they interact with others.  Innovate how they view the markets and the world.  It is easy for us to wallow in the tragedy as we watch the spread of the virus.  It is harder for leaders to show their charges the path to recovery.  Find the silver lining in your situation.  Find the path to lead your people toward a better tomorrow.  Spring is here.  Flowers are starting to bloom.  And this too shall pass.

My friend, Brian had a great saying.  Always look on the bright side of life.  He was in a rather tenuous predicament when he was singing it, but it seems pretty appropriate for today.  Don’t be afraid to whistle along.

 

Thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com.  And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast.  That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  This week I gave a virtual lesson on Influencing People to a group of twenty developing resilient leaders.  It was my first time doing corporate training online and I’m sure it won’t be my last.  If you’d like me to deliver a similar message to your office email me at info@trenttheroux.com.  I’d love to discuss some of the details.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya.

 

34. Running With The Bull

Have you ever run with the bulls? Put on your white shirt, mix into the crowd, listening to their screams and grunts in every language imaginable, laced up your shoes, waited for the opening bell to ring then zoomed off. Zigging and zagging trying to find the best opportunity to get through the maze and into the crowed arena where thousands of fans are cheering? Or, did you sell off your 401k before the rally began?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

In this trying week, developing resilient leaders may want to listen to something more relevant than my traipsing through the streets of Pamplona. Okay how’s this.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed below 20,000 today. The last time it closed that low was…when? I’ll give you a heartbeat to guess. When was the last time that the Dow closed under 20,000? The answer is three years ago. That’s it! Three years ago. The pandemonium in the markets over the past two weeks is violent enough to scare even hardened financial traders. Let me offer a lens for which developing resilient leaders can view these events.
My first experience with markets crashing was in 1987. I was waitering on a Monday evening in college and the entire news hour was dedicated to the 22+% drop in the Dow that one day. Truthfully, I knew something big was happening, but I didn’t have any money in the market so I didn’t feel the effect so much. My next experience was in 2001. During the year prior, every stock that was tangential to dot com or tel/comm was doubling every other month. I speculated, guess right, sold off and used the proceeds to buy a car. Then, the Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, testified that the market were exhibiting irrational exuberance. The market crashed and so did my modest investments. It was the first time I heard the joke, “my 401k is now a 201k.” In 2008, we hit the granddaddy. The great recession sent millions of people to the unemployment line as the underpinnings of the US economy were fractured and without support. I watched what I thought was a solid retirement nest egg shrivel with each passing day. Now the Coronavirus. I’m on the back nine of my working years and my opportunity to earn is limited by the number of years I have to invest.

Here is my point in bringing up these four examples. Where ever you are on the spectrum. Just starting to save, having a little money in your pocket, steadily building your nest egg or nearing your retirement years, where ever you are I guarantee you that you are thinking one thought today…should I sell today to cut my losses. The market is falling apart. Everything I own is now half off. Should I get out now before the other shoe drops? In a word, this is panic. Panic about the unknown, the unforeseeable and the unexplainable. Panic is the sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Google panic and you will find plenty of reasons to panic…and I’m not talking about panic rooms or Panic, at the disco!

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on panic. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Drink a Corona. You heard it. Drink a Corona. This theory has been endorsed by local liquor stores around the country.

The theory is simple here’s how it works. It is true that we are living in an exceedingly complicated time. Every norm that we’ve accepted in our lives is being questioned this week and we are all being asked to change. My magic mirror shows me that there are many of you that are not comfortable with some of the changes. Folks, change is going to be inevitable in the coming weeks. Pop open a corona, squeeze in a lime and enjoy some of the early spring sunshine. There will be sunshine and the days will get better. It is true that the bull run of the stock market is over. But, you only experience a loss if you sell. I’ll say that again. You only actually lose money in your accounts if you happen to sell. The professional money managers already took their money off the table. They are now waiting for you to panic and sell your stocks so they can buy at rock bottom prices. The greatest gains in the market followed each of the three examples I gave you. And, I fully expect that this market will start running again when the virus panic subsides.

Developing resilient leaders now is the time to demonstrate our leadership by not panicking. These are trying times, but save the panic, and the fear and the sweats and the anxiety when you are in mortal peril, like when you are actually running from a bull.

Speaking of which. (I’m so glad you asked) I first learned about the running of the bulls when I was reading The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemmingway. The book was the type where you’d start reading on a Monday and finish over breakfast Tuesday morning, a complete page turner and it inspired me to be among the throngs of revelers in the steamy July Pamplona party.

We arrived by bus and witnessed a scene straight from the twilight show. Thousands of people were milling around a central park drinking sangrias straight from the jug. Each was wearing the exact same clothing; white shirt, white pants, red scarf and a red sash. Some ladies may have exchanged a long white skirt for the pants otherwise they were the exact same. Thousands of people singing in the streets, meandering in small groups, making new friends, drinking more sangria and singing louder.

Hundreds of the brave lined up on the corridor to wait our opportunity to run. Hundreds of mostly men with the same clothing compressed together in a very narrow chute. The course is lined with a wooden railing fence. Actually, it’s double lined so you can jump over the first fence as the bull is charging you, but the bull won’t come near the crowd pressed against the second fence. The police mingled in the pre-dawn crowd pulling out drunks who haven’t stopped partying for the last few nights. The last thing we all need is a staggering slouch knocking us down like 10-pins.

The bulls come from behind two very large doors. At 8:00am a rocket is launched announcing that the large doors are open. I felt this immediate surge in my back pushing me forward and downward a little. Then, comes the second rocket about two minutes later. This rocket announces that the six bulls were released and pandemonium ensues. The densely packed crowd manically surges forward and you try to shuffle your feet to keep your balance.
Out of all this noise and commotion, I was stunned that I could pick out the snorting of the bulls. Their breathing was labored and violent as they stampeded down the cobblestone street. The crowd disperses a little to the sides to get out of their path, and their horns. Some jackasses try to dance in front of them. Secretly, I was hoping that they would get gored. I turned a corner and was welcomed with a little more room on each side. The run is about a half a mile and winds through a few streets as it leads into the arena at the end of the longest stretch.

Panic, while we are speaking of panic, I can tell you that I was seriously questioning my decision making as I could feel the bulls approaching me. I measured how quickly I could jump to safety if I needed, but at the same time, there was exhilaration. The nervous energy of not knowing how this would work out send electricity through my veins.

The bulls were sweating as they approached. Their backs glistened with sweat. Several people jumped onto the rails for safety. The bulls were herded together tightly in a formidable pack. Snorting. Grunting. Bearing down on where I was running.

The street was wider when the bulls caught me. They had their lane and I had mine. The second after the bulls passed, the exhilaration of running began to ebb. I could feel my heart calm. My pace was slower. A sense of safety set in and eased my mind. The panic passed, but the memory has stayed with me for a decade.

The panic will pass in the markets and in the world. Soon, we will be left with only a memory of how this affected us. Reasonable decisions now will serve us best in the future. If you are on edge and considering a rash decision, I suggest that you drink a corona. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, put on a white shirt, white pants, red sash and we can share a sangria together.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. If you’ve ever run with the bulls please send me an email at info@trenttheroux.com. I’d love to hear how you made it.
Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

33. Join The Sales Resistance

I went to the market to pick up some milk and sundries for my weekly meals. At the front of the store was a table with stacks of Girl Scout cookies. They had all best kinds; thin mints, peanut butter patties, s’mores, Caramel de Lites, they had everything. Behind the table were three pre-adolescent girls each holding a box in front of them, waiting for my arrival and inspection. Of course, I was going to buy cookies. Wouldn’t you? Beyond being delicious, I support this program because of the entrepreneurship endorsed by the Girl Scouts of America. The GSA is teaching our young women about developing financially stable futures and using their skills to make a big impact on the world. I gladly bought two boxes and went in to the market to get my groceries.

Leaving the market, I saw the Girl Scout table again, but now it was being operated by four new girls. These girls were younger and even more adorable than the previous group each holding a box of cookies ready to snare me in their trap. Maybe that was their plan all along.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I realized that this was a well-run operation. Their positioning was strategic, their staffing was devious and their results were impressive. Planting yourself in front of a location where people purchase enough cookies to fill Carnegie Hall is ingenious. Why buy Oreos when thin mints are in the menu? Be gone Chips Ahoy Peanut Butter Sandwiches rule this neck of the woods. Who cares that the cost per cookies is 187% higher than in the store. We’re working for a good cause here. And the marketing. Oh the marketing. The replacement Girl Scouts had a deal for me. One box for $5 or four for $20. How many can I put you down for? I tried to show the girls that I already bought two boxes, but the smiled. The smiled their half-toothless smile. These second graders with the adorable whistles between their words were conceived as selling machines by Don Draper himself. Of course I bought two more boxes. Wouldn’t you.

According to Training, the official publication of training magazine network, in 2018 U.S. sales training expenditures were estimated to be $87.6 billion. On average companies spent just under $1,000 per salesperson. The average non-profit spent $1,340. You heard that right. Non-profits spend an average of $1,340 per salesperson. Imagine what they need to sell just to break even on their sales costs. My point is that sales people are trained to sell. They are trained to understand the selling conditions. They are trained to overcome objections and they are trained to close deals.

How are you trained? If we were playing chess, you would be trained in how to play offense or defense. Basketball – the same. You’re taught to play at both ends of the court. But sales? People are trained in salesmanship, not sales resistance…until now.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on sales resistance. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Don’t Sign The Petition. You heard it. Don’t Sign The Petition. This theory has not been endorsed by the World Wildlife Foundation
The theory is simple here’s how it works. Have you ever had a knock on the door and found an idealistic college student on a mission to save the world asking you to sign their petition? So have I. She was working for an organization who was trying to ban water from being discharged into my local bay. She was prepared with the statistics about how much water overflowed from the drainage systems and how many pollutants were being belched into the salt water harming the ecosystem. She needed my help to stop these polluters from continuing to ruin the future of the bay for her and her future children. “Would you be willing to sign my petition to show your support for tougher regulations on discharge?” She held her pen and clipboard out to me and waited for me to sign. Wouldn’t you? The young woman didn’t want anything other than for me to agree that we shouldn’t dump crap into the bay. What type of insensitive bastard would I be if I didn’t support such a noble cause? Particularly, if it got her off my doorstep and let me get back to my dinner.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. If you would like to discuss your next speaking or training event please send me an email at info@trenttheroux.com.
Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

32. A Clean Shave (Reprise)

The passing of Jack Welch this week inspired me to update and replay this podcast.

31. Fiery Competition

I was in complete awe watching the fiery finish to last week’s Daytona 500. For those of you who are unaware of this story let me start by saying that Ryan Newman walked out of the hospital, under his own power, 42 hours after the crash.

In the final lap of the Daytona 500, the remaining racers were tightly bunched and zooming across the backstretch in their effort to win The Great American Race. Ryan Newman car was hit in the rear sending it flying into the air. Then, the car bounced off the rail – in mid-air and flipped. On its way down, another car struck Newman directly in the driver’s side door. Newman car was skidding down the track, upside down, when it burst into flames. All of this happened at 200 miles per hour. Newman was trapped inside his car ablaze waiting for rescue.

It makes me wonder if we in business race at top speed, almost out of control, one little nudge away from a fiery exit.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

The global commercial aircraft market is dominated by two manufacturers, Boeing, an American company and Airbus, a European conglomerate. This intense rivalry affects everyday passengers in virtually every way in the skies; how much leg room you have, how long you can fly between stops, how much you pay for your seat. The heated competition between these two companies sets an example of the best and the worst in corporate competition. Here’s an example.
Many of you are aware of the failures of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft and their two fatal, horrific crashes. What many may not realize is that these crashes were a direct result of the fierce competition with Airbus. The 737 family are Boeing’s most produced and best commercial airplanes, but it has several disadvantages when compared to Airbus’ A320, most notable of which was fuel consumption. Labor contracts fix the costs to operate planes as most major carriers have unions and negotiated contracts.

In 2010, Airbus developed a version of the A320 called the A320neo, with neo representing “new engine option.” This new plane provided airlines with additional fuel savings and it ran on the same airframe, thus reducing the need to recertify or retrain pilots.

This event sent ripples through Boeing, threatening the precarious balance in this duopoly. The engineering challenge that Boeing faced was that their wings were lower to the ground than the A320s. They made this engineering decision in the ‘70s. And, while good for many decades, it was not able to handle larger engines without a complete redesign. The A320 was already higher and the larger neo engine easy fixed onto the airframe.

Boeing had a choice. They could take several years to redesign the airframe to better accommodate larger engines. While they travel down this path they would most likely need to deeply discount their current 737s to maintain their competitive position against the superior A320. Or…or…they could find a way to put the bigger engine onto the current 737 frame – which is what they did.

Boeing found that they could put larger engines on the planes as long as they moved the engine more forward on the wing to get more clearance. Making this change affected the aerodynamics of the plane. It didn’t make the plane unflyable. No, the plane would fly perfectly fine. The issue was in the instrumentation. When the plane made a high angle of attack, the computer system would create a warning which engaged the autopilot to correct the error. But, there really wasn’t an error. The autopilot system only thought there was. Pilots who could disengage the system were fine. The two pilot crews who couldn’t crashed.

Let’s remember, the reason the pilots needed to override the autopilot system is because the plane had bigger engines in a different location than was programmed into the computer. This was a direct result of the improved engine from Airbus. The intense competition between Boeing and Airbus and their tit-for-tat competitive moves is what makes businesses great. It’s unfortunate that Boeing played a little loose and fast to stay in the game.

Competition drives innovation and better performance. Sometimes it drives us to be jerks. Regular listeners, you’ve heard me describe my competitive prowess in many podcasts in one incantation or another. I can summarize how I view competition in this sentence. If I’m standing at the urinal and someone comes and stands next to me…it’s a race. Pure and simple.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on competition. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Rubbin’ is racing. You heard it. Rubbin’ is racing. This theory has been endorsed by none other than Cole Trickle and Tom Cruise.

The theory is simple here’s how it works. Cole Trickle was a hot new NASCAR driver with an equally hot temper and this attitude get him into trouble not only with other drivers, but members of his own team as well. Let me stop for a second. Do we all appreciate that Cole Trickle is a fictional character from the movie Days of Thunder? He’s played by Tom Cruise. Wait, not accurate, he’s over acted by Tom Cruise. And, while the over acting is very cheesy there are some great scenes about the intensity of the competition. Harry Hogge, that’s Cole’s crew chief here is talking to Cole during a race.

Harry: Cole, you’re wandering all over the track!
Cole: Yeah, well this son of a bitch just slammed into me.
Harry: No, no, he didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you…he rubbed you. And rubbin’ son, is racin’.

Let’s talk about how this Boeing and Airbus situation is getting to rubbin’. There are two primary jet engine manufacturers; Rolls Royce and GE. Presently, Rolls Royce supplies all the engines for Airbus and GE dominates the Boeing products with a 63% market. Here’s the rub, because the 737MAX has been grounded for nearly a year, GE is left with a significant amount of slack manufacturing capacity. Enter Airbus. Airbus is enticing GE to produce engines for them. This is great for GE as the Boeing issues are affecting profitability. Rather than leave their plant idle they can produce AND diversify their customer base in one shot. Because of the long lead nature of making airplanes, lengthy contracts need to be in place because the cost of switching suppliers is expensive.
Meaning, Airbus can now take advantage of the grounding of the 737MAX by tying up their tier one supplier of jet engines. Even if Airbus takes away a small amount of GE’s capacity, it will be that much less that Boeing can rely on when they are back in the air. This is absolutely beautiful and what makes business strategy so beautiful.
How does this story relate to resilient leaders? In many ways, it’s pleasant to think about creating win-win situations. However, sometimes you are in direct competition with someone or with another company. When that happens, we need to be prepared with the correct strategic moves to take advantage of a weakness. Please don’t think of this as preying on the weak. It may be more about accentuating your strengths to your benefit.
Here are some thoughts on competition from Dale Earnhardt. “Finishing races is important, but racing is more important.” But a better one may come from Dick Trickle. Just for your information, that’s the guy’s actual name, Dick Trickle. His mother named him that. Mr. Trickle said, “Why would you race if you weren’t going to be up front?” Amen to some healthy competition.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

I will be giving the keynote speech at the US CFO Conference being held at the Boston Marriott – Burlington on the evening of March 2nd. Search thenetwork-group to find tickets.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. If you would like to discuss your next speaking or training event please send me an email at info@trenttheroux.com.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

30. People Like Me

Here’s a little quiz for you. What does winning the lottery, dark chocolate, using a Stairmaster and Facebook have in common? Lottery, dark chocolate, Stairmaster and Facebook. Any guesses? The answer is they all give you a dose of dopamine. What’s dopamine? I think you’re going to like this answer.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Dopamine is responsible for the little burst of happiness you feel when you get Facebook likes. Our brains produce the chemical dopamine when we win, eat a delicious meal, or exercise, but most importantly, when we engage in successful interactions. Upon the pleasure sensation we derive from these types of experiences, our brain floods with dopamine, and we are motivated to have the same experience again. Thus, the more likes you get, the happier you feel. When you get a positive response on social media, the brain releases dopamine. Social media stimulates that reward cycle, which is why you want more of it.

Scientists have long believed that dopamine is responsible for pleasure in the brain. Now it seems that rather than creating pleasure, it makes us seek pleasure. This is the reason we keep checking over and over again for Facebook likes. Dopamine gives us the psychological high when we see the likes, making us want more -dopamine and likes.
This isn’t unique to Facebook. I remember getting the same feeling in 1st grade. For Valentine’s Day, my teacher had each student create a mail slot for the valentine day’s cards we would exchange. We were to decorate the mail slot with our name and other designs, which for me meant a lot a scribbling. My mother took me to the store to buy a box of cheap Valentine’s cards and I went home to personalize each. The teacher gave each student a roster of the class, so we didn’t miss anyone. I remember lying on my living room carpet writing the names of the twenty classmates on the envelopes and signing each with a “Love Trent.”

On Valentine’s Day, two students were selected to be mailmen. I wasn’t selected. We handed our cards to the mailmen and they delivered them into each student’s mail slot. The classroom desks were arranged into a big box so we could see everyone as they opened their cards. The classroom got very noisy. At the end of the exchange I counted that I only received 18 cards. Only 18. Who didn’t give me a card? I arranged the cards in the order that the people were sitting around the class. First, I realized that pickle-nosed James didn’t give me a card. Who cares? I didn’t like James and his pickle nose. Then, I realized that Karen didn’t give me a card? I was nice to Karen. I gave a card to Karen. Why didn’t she give me a card?

It was funny. I was more upset about the single card I didn’t receive than the 18 cards I did receive. It bothered me when I got home and I talked about it at the dinner table. I asked, “Why doesn’t Karen like me?” My Dad offered, “If you didn’t pick your nose so much…” My mother promptly slapped him across the chest. But it bothered me. I was fixate on who didn’t like me more than the number of people who did.

Let me ask you a serious question. When you review your posts do you often find yourself wondering why certain people did not respond or click like? Sure you do. Most of us do. How many times has that happened to you? Post something on Facebook and you check in to see how many likes you have? I know…most of us right? How many times do you actually check? I mean what is the number of times you go back to the post to see what new person clicked like on your post? Daily? Hourly? Every few minutes? Do you have your phone set to give you an alert when someone likes your post? We now know the physiological reasons for doing that. We are seeking a release of dopamine into our systems. The dopamine works for me as well. I check how many downloads to this podcast I have. When I first started this podcast a year ago, I use to check every day. Heck, the first two episodes I was checking every hour. Validation that my work meant something to my listeners.

Perhaps there’s another way that we can get great validation.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on validation. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Create Great Content. You heard it. Create Great Content. This theory has been endorsed by none other than Gene Roddenberry.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. Gene Roddenberry was the legendary creator of the television show Star Trek. Love it, like it, obsess over it or hate it, I will say that everybody listening to this podcast knows of Star Trek. But did you know that the original Star Trek was cancelled after three seasons? The show only lasted three seasons. Roddenberry commented that he made the mistake of appealing to a comparatively literate group. His point was that he tried to create great, sophisticated content. But, it just hadn’t found its audience yet. Now, though, there have been six spinoffs from the original series. Six! And, there have been thirteen movies made! For a show that didn’t get many likes originally, it became a billion dollar enterprise. Enterprise – sorry I couldn’t help myself.

How do we translate this validation message to developing resilient leaders? First, creating great content will lead to an audience response. I don’t want the marketing folks in the audience to get worked up here. Yes, we need to market our great content. But, great content grows on its own, virally. Second, why are we posting something? Is it for our own benefit or for our audience’s? If you answer this question honestly you will get the heart of validation.

Putting material into the world for our own benefit means, to me, that we are actively seeking acceptance from our connections. In many ways, it doesn’t matter what we produce it only matters how it relates back to us.
Resilient leaders craft great content because they want to be of benefit to their audience. Think of the manager sends a positive message to her team. Think of inventor working on a break through drug. Think of the film maker shaping a tense scene. Each of these isn’t about the creator, but rather the recipient. How will the employee react when they receive the positive message from their boss?

Dopamine serves a wonderful purpose in our bodies, but the effect is fleeting. In many ways it’s like caffeine, you need another dose to maintain the buzz. Validation is more like love. It grows from within and we emit it from our bodies. If you want to feel validation today, send someone a Valentine’s Day card. Heck, if I knew Karen’s address, I would send one to her.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. I’m speaking on March 2nd at the US CFO Conference in Boston. There are ticket available and you don’t have to even be a CFO to get in the door. If you would like to discuss your next speaking or training event please send me an email at info@trenttheroux.com.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

29. Reject Me Once

We were walking in Wayland Square on the east side of Providence on an unseasonably cool June morning. Just poking our heads into shops, I graduated college three weeks earlier and didn’t have a dime to buy anything of value. It was our third date, our fourth meeting if you count the time we were just kissing in her car. I don’t remember conversing about anything in particular it’s normally small talk for people in their early twenties getting to know each other. Until, she told me that her therapist thought it was best if she wasn’t dating. My head snapped to attention from the bakery window I was staring into. “What?” “My therapist said it was best if I wasn’t dating.” It took me a minute to process this sentence given that we were actually on a date and my response was absolutely perfect – at least I think it was. I said, “My therapist told me that I should have that chocolate brownie.” And, I walked into the store to buy the treat. Well, how would you have handled the rejection?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

In his book Emotional First Aid, Guy Winch describes that rejections can cause four distinct psychological wounds, the severity of which depends on the situation and our emotional health at the time. Specifically, rejections elicit emotional pain so sharp it affects our thinking, floods us with anger, erodes our confidence and self-esteem, and destabilizes our fundamental feeling of belonging.

In my case, the rejection wasn’t tragic and the wound was healed with a chocolate brownie. In other cases, rejection can lead to more harmful results and as developing resilient leaders we need to prepare ourselves with coping mechanisms. Because, trust me, rejection is coming.

Rejection confronts everyone in some manner or another. Ask an author or an actor how many times they’ve been rejected. Those two wear rejection like a badge of honor. Herman Melville’s book Moby Dick was rejected many times. One publisher wrote to Melville, “We must ask, does it have to be a whale?” That was a serious rejection considering that the book was about a whale. Other rejections may still sting, but the rejecter knows it will sting so they try to soften the blow. Or maybe you got rejected by this letter, “You name has been submitted to us along with your photo and I regret to inform you that we will not be able to use your body in Playgirl. On a scale of 0-10 your body was rated negative two by our panel of women ranging in ages from 45-55 years old. We tried to assemble a panel of women in the age bracket 20-35 but we could not get them to stop laughing long enough to reach a decision. Should the tastes of American women ever change so drastically that bodies such as yours would be appealing and appreciated in our magazine we will be certain to notify you.” How’s that for stinging? I was starting to feel personally a little objectified until I read the P.S. line. It reads, “We do commend you for your unusual pose. Were you wounded in the war or do you ride a bicycle a lot?” Maybe the guy had the rejection coming to him.

In 2011, AT&T attempted to acquire T-Mobile for $39 billion. At the time, AT&T was a distant second in total subscribers to Verizon. The merger would have made them number one in the market place by adding an additional 25% more subscribers to its base. The federal justice department rejected the merger and brought a lawsuit against AT&T claiming that the acquisition would lead to higher prices and fewer choices. AT&T walked away from the deal later in the year. But, they did not walk away from their growth strategy. Understanding that greater consolidation in the telecommunications market was blocked, they turned their focus to peripheral industries. In 2015, they acquired DirectTV. In 2018, they acquired Time Warner. AT&T did not accept their rejection. They made something better because of it.

Rejection confronts everyone in some manner or another.
I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on being prepared for opportunity. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Rejection is Rocket Fuel. You heard it. Rejection is Rocket Fuel. This theory has been endorsed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. By acknowledging that we are going to be rejected at some point, or at many points, we can prepare ourselves in advance to manage the emotional stress from the rejection.

In 1984, during the fall of my senior year of high school, the New England area was transfixed with Boston College football. Doug Flutie was scrambling and chucking the pigskin towards the Heisman Trophy. On a slow Saturday night at the Cathay Dragon, the restaurant where I worked as a busboy, I watched the Hail Mary Flutie threw to Gerald Phelan against the University of Miami. Flutie spun through the backfield avoiding defenders like a matador. He heaved the ball towards the end zone and the ball’s trajectory perfectly guided it over the wall of waiting defenders and into the belly of Phelan. I cheered and nearly dropped my tray. That pass solidified my desire to attend Boston College the following year.

Unfortunately, for me, one hundred thousand other teenage boys were watching the same game and had the exact same thought. During my campus interview with the Boston College admissions office, the officer told me that applicants increased by a factor of five that year. In addition, “wasn’t it amazing what a good football year can do for admissions?”

My A- grade average and 1200 SAT scores lacked the cache to walk into Boston College. Being an Irish Catholic wasn’t going to put the “approved” stamp on my application either. I needed to appeal to the Athletic Department for help. Heck, if football players who read at a third grade level can go to Boston College free, a decent local swimmer that will actually attend religion class should get on the roster.

I met with the Boston College swim coach and we talked for a few minutes about the program and its lackluster history. I told him of my Flutie problem and inquired what help he could give to a young backstroker who was ready to bleed Crimson and Gold. “Nothing” he replied. Nothing. The answer was cold and curt. He told me that he already had a solid backstroker and two more were already coming in through early admissions and he didn’t need another. My short-lived overly hyped dream of becoming a Boston College Eagle was over. My moderate grades and scores proved not to be enough for the “Flutie Bump.”

I enrolled at Providence College the next year and quickly began to bleed Black and White, eagerly awaiting the dual meet with Boston College in January.

January came and the team traveled to Boston’s Chestnut Hill. The first race of the dual meet was the 400 Medley Relay, started with a 100-yard backstroke. Taking my mark in the middle lane, I looked to each side of me to try to identify my enemies. To the left was a boy who looked to be my age. He must be one of those wicked smaht early admission pukes. To my right was their veteran, John Blood. I stared the longest at him. The race was over in a flash. I beat both Jesuits by more than a body length. The 200 back, later in the meet, was a closer affair. John Blood and I were nearly even at the 175 yard turn, but I had a little more to finish the race and beat him by a full second. At the conclusion of the meet, the two teams stood in line to congratulate each other. When I shook the Boston College coach’s hand, I employed the strongest grip I possessed and refused to let him go. I asked the coach if he remembered me. “No” was all he said. “I interviewed with you a year ago and you told me that you didn’t need any backstrokers. Well, I just smoked your backstrokers today and I’m not going to lose a race to you for the next four years.” I released my grip and walked away. Nothing else to say and never looking back.

True confession. I was a bit melodramatic when I was a teenager. Let’s blame it on the acne.

Over 30 years later, I can still feel the sting of that rejection. But, it doesn’t erode my self-esteem, or destabilize my sense of social belonging. No, it fuels me with anger…rage. To this day, I root against the Boston College Eagles whenever they play. I turned the rejection into rocket fuel and burned it to fire myself to into a higher orbit.

The next time you get rejected – and that’s a when not an if – the next time you get rejected use the rejection as rocket fuel and blast yourself into the stratosphere. You might find you really belong up there, you just needed a little motivation…I mean fuel.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

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Thanks for taking the time to listen. See you next time.