A friend of mine recently shared what has become my favorite story that can remind us all how to accomplish our dreams. Ben and Roy started working at a car dealership on the same day. Both men were incredibly similar; they had the same education, background, and amount of money in the bank. The only difference between them was that Ben was always thinking about ‘what ifs’ and Roy was only focused on the problems right in front of him – ‘what is.’
On their first day of work, Ben spent the entire day watching other salesman and reading books on selling. He was terrified that he might mess up and wanted to be able to cover any possible situation before ever even talking to a customer.
Roy, on the other hand, realized that he had only one ‘problem’ (and one thing to focus on), which was getting customers to buy cars. Because of this, he spent his whole first day approaching customers and trying to get sales. He quickly realized that he was a below average salesman and that customers did not respond to his sales pitch. He went home that night and spent a few hours on Google trying to figure out what he did wrong and how he could fix it.
Both men sold zero cars on their first day. The next morning, Ben saw something on the news about a car salesman in another town getting sued for selling a defective car. While Ben’s Boss reassured him that there were no defective cars on their lot, Ben was still worried that he might get sued one day for the same issue. He was so focused on this news story that he spent his whole second day learning about defective cars and inspecting every car in his area for defects. On the other side of the lot, Roy kept working at his only problem, selling cars. In his research the night before, he learned a trick to change his sales pitch. This resulted in him selling one car that morning. He almost sold two other cars but lost the customers in negotiation. Roy then realized his new problem was negotiating. After work, he went home, sat on his computer, and focused on learning how to negotiate.
Ben sold zero cars and Roy sold one car on their second day. On the third day, Ben talked to Roy, and Roy mentioned that negotiation gave him trouble. Ben, who at this point had still not talked to a single customer, decided that he needed to learn how to negotiate before taking any action. He spent the whole day walking around the lot asking other salespeople how to negotiate.
Roy, on the other hand, sold four cars because of his great sales pitch and because he learned that people were more likely to buy a car if he gave them a discount on leather seats during negotiation. Ben sold zero cars and Roy sold four cars on their third day.
The next day, a customer who bought a car the previous day came in angry with Roy because Roy had been incorrect about some of the car’s details since he was in such rush to sell cars. Roy apologized and refunded the customer. Ben saw this and was scared that it would happen to him, so he spent all day memorizing all the details for all the cars in the lot.
While Ben was memorizing car details, Roy fixed the issue, then repeated the same process he used the day before. Because of this, he sold six cars. Ben sold zero cars and Roy sold six cars on their fourth day. On the fifth day, both car salesman got called into the owner’s office. At this point, even though Roy had made some mistakes, he sold a total of eleven cars. He also knew how to fix his mistakes, since he had dealt with them first-hand. Ben, on the other hand, had sold zero cars. He learned how to fix a ton of hypothetical problems but had no real-world experience with the mistakes or with the potential/necessary fixes. Their Boss gave Roy a bonus check and thanked him for all the new sales. He also said that Roy was moving toward being the best salesman the dealership had ever had. Then the Boss turned to Ben and said, “Ben, we need people who can get sales. By the end of the day, Ben was fired for underperforming. Roy, on the other hand, sold another seven cars.
Why did Ben fail while Roy succeeded?
In this article, I will share what I think is one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs. Roy acted and dealt with problems when they became problems. Ben took very little action and focused solely on hypothetical problems. Many aspiring entrepreneurs find themselves in Ben’s shoes. They get locked in what I like to call ‘perfection paralysis.’ People stuck in this state take little to no action or tend to major on the minor things in their lives. There are three areas of discipline that can help us avoid ‘perfection paralysis.’
What we focus on, we feel. The power of focus affects all aspects of our lives. Use these three questions to create a better quality of life. To you that may mean having a more successful business, a healthier body, stronger relationships, or literally, it could mean achieving a small, medium-sized, or large goal. Whatever a better quality of life means to you, these three questions will help to identify your next priority and strategic move.
What am I going to focus on? What meaning am I going to give this experience? What am I going to do? Follow your answers to the above questions and remember to never leave the scene of a major decision without taking an action that commits you to that process/decision/journey.
Failure is a few judgement errors repeated every day. Success, on the other hand, as demonstrated by Roy in earlier paragraphs, is a few simple disciplines practiced every day. Do you see the distinction?
The fact is, when we look at successful people we will almost always discover a plan behind their success. They know what they want, they work out a plan that will get them where they want to go, and they work their plan.
According to Grant Cardone, Real Estate investor and Best-Selling Author of the book, The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure, massive action is the fourth degree of action. In the book, Cardone describes the four degrees of action as:
• Do nothing
• Normal levels of action
• Massive action
The best way to learn something is to experience something yourself. When we start operating at the fourth degree of action, our mindset will shift and so will our results. When you apply what you have learned here, you will end up instigating opportunities that you will have to address earlier, later, and in a different way than you would on a ‘normal day.’ When you shake things up in this way, a routine day will become a thing of the past. Roy was able to experience a much sharper learning curve than Ben, and you will too, as you improve your ability to cash in on the value of learning.
The fourth degree of action will be considered by some to be borderline insane and beyond the agreed-upon social norm – and will always create new problems.
My Mom used to tell me, “Eliot, if you don’t create new problems, then you are not taking enough action. The difference between Roy and Ben was that Ben always thought about ‘what ifs’ and Roy’s focus was ‘what is.’ This is the difference in mindsets of the unsuccessful and successful.
According to experiential learning theory, we learn through a learning cycle. Our experiences serve as a basis for reflection (perhaps you can use this article as a basis for reflection along with your unique experiences). From reflections, we develop ideas about the world. We then test the ideas to see if they are true, and finally we have a new experience. It is worth clarifying that an individual can equally benefit from the experiences of others. We can overcome the trap and disabling state of ‘perfection paralysis,’ by becoming results-oriented, planning and taking massive action.
• Eliot Kelly is recognized as a serial entrepreneur, and has been featured on CNN, BBC Three’s Be Your Own Boss and an extensive list of magazines and articles. His four books have been translated in over seven languages and are sold in 29 countries, recently being shortlisted for Best Self-Help and Best Advice Books 2019 by The Author Academy.