Books

Here are a few excerpts from “The Answer is Behind the Next Door: 21 Life Lessons from a Door-to-Door Salesman”:

Lesson #1: The Answer is Behind the Next Door

I am a door expert.  I have literally knocked on thousands of doors, from hulking mahogany doors on multi-million dollar mansions to cheap vinyl doors barely attached to the hinges on singlewide trailers.  Some of these doors were unceremoniously slammed in my face, and other doors opened to reveal incredible lessons about people and the power of perseverance.

For three summers in college I held a spot on the occupational food chain somewhere between roadkill technician and parking ticket distributor:  I was a door-to-door salesman. I was the guy who interrupted dinner, woke napping babies, and camped out at your kitchen table to convince you to spend hundreds of dollars on a set of books for your kids.

And I loved my experience selling books.  Well, not exactly. I had many moments of hating my time in the “bookfield,” but with the benefit of two decades of hindsight, I can say that it is without a doubt one of the most difficult and most rewarding experiences I have ever had.  The principles I learned those summers about motivating myself, communicating with other people, and overcoming obstacles are invaluable.

Lesson #3: Take Cold Showers

I knew this was a moment of decision for me to be “coachable and teachable.”  I stumbled into the bathroom, undressed, and stepped into the shower stall. The hot water faucet beckoned me as it always does, but this time I ignored its siren call and turned the cold water faucet all the way on.  A freezing blast of water slapped me, instantly obliterating any grogginess I had carried with me into the shower.  

To say the shower was cold is to say the sun is bright.  I stood there and squealed like a little girl whose pigtails were being yanked by a monster.  A wave of teeth chattering frozenness covered me from head to toe. Once the initial shock had passed, I realized that I somehow needed to shampoo and soap up as quickly as possible to end this icy torture.  Sixty seconds later I was using my towel as a blanket and trying to encourage the blood flow to my extremities once again.

As repugnant as that first cold shower was, I felt surprisingly energetic and lively that morning.  The temperature of the water eliminated any hint of fatigue and jolted my head and my heart into action.  I had an extra skip in my step on the way to breakfast that morning, for I felt as if I had already conquered some great obstacle.

Lesson #11: Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

It was at this point I became aware of the pressure I was putting on myself.  I felt uptight and anxious. It dawned on me that Mrs. Jones had likely sensed the same tension all afternoon and evening, which caused her to think twice about buying anything from a fidgety door-to-door salesperson.  I needed to do something to ease up my stress level.

As I took a swig of water from my thermos while I sat in my Accord, an idea hit me.  I decided that the best way to loosen me up was to dump the remaining contents from the jug directly on my lap.  I had nothing to lose. I emptied the remaining water on my midsection, which caused my khakis to immediately form a giant wet spot that suggested a large bladder release had just occurred.  I looked like a toddler who was failing at potty training. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself.

Just up the road was my next prospect.  I pulled into the gravel driveway and hopped out of my car, soaking pants and all.  The family who lived there happened to be sitting at the picnic table in the front yard, so I boldly strode toward them as the fading sunlight highlighted my apparent mishap.

The mom gave me a rueful smile as I launched into my approach.  “What happened to you?” she interrupted, then knocked back a can of Miller Lite.  I noticed a few empties scattered across the ground; these folks had been out here for a while.

I looked down.  “Oh, this?” I motioned toward my wet spot.  “I had an accident,” I replied sheepishly. Both the mom and dad whooped a deep, guttural laugh.  “It happens to the best of us,” the man of the house grinned.