My first sales job was selling Student Handbooks door to door with the Southwestern Company during my summer break between my freshman and sophomore year at Oklahoma State University. When I accepted the job, I didn’t quite understand the sacrifice it would take, or the pride of accomplishment that would be earned that summer.

The Adventure Begins

The adventure started with a week-long sales school training event in Nashville, TN. The main lesson they drove into our brains was that in order to be successful, I needed to demo the books to at least 30 families a day. I promised my Sales Manager I would do it. I had no idea how difficult that would be.

It turns out that to give 30 demos a day requires 80 hours a week of work. That means 13 hours a day, six days a week (we had Sundays off so we could attend a sales meeting... seriously). This is what I had signed up for? Ugh! All my friends had easy internships, or worked for their parents and were home partying all summer. Meanwhile, I was stuck in rural Ohio, knocking on doors. This wasn’t fair! What had I done? I missed my momma and wanted my binky!

A Heritage of Hard Work

Every time I started to feel sorry for myself, I reflected back on my grandparents. My Granddad was a dairy farmer with an 8th grade education. He only knew one way to be successful and take care of his family - by working 7 days a week, 365 days per year. He and grandmother both awakened at 3:50 a.m. to start milking at 4:00. After the morning milking it was time to work in the fields to raise alfalfa and maize all afternoon before the evening milking session started again at 4:00pm. This went on 7 days a week. (Heck, they didn’t even get Sundays off!).

Fortunately, the thought of how hard my grandparents worked and the example they set, helped me snap out of my funk. I was able to embrace the sacrifice and managed to have a really good first week.

Keeping up the Good Work

When I went to that first Sunday sales meeting I was really nervous. I explained to my sales manager that I believed I had gotten lucky and I didn’t see any way I could duplicate my sales the following week. Where would my next customers come from? He told me “Kevin, a working man has nothing to worry about. If you are dependable and give the effort, the sales will come.” He was correct. When the summer ended I received the largest check any first year salesman had ever received in the over 100 year history of the company.

Personal Sacrifice Yields Great Personal Growth

I’ve held on to that message ever since. Accomplishments from the smallest to the most grand often come with sacrifice, but also yield the greatest personal rewards and growth.

The way I look at it, every January 1st we all wake up back at zero, but if you will work hard, be dependable, and do your part, things tend to work out.

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