How Symbolic Change Can Help You When You’re Stuck

ChangeI want to tell you how, in a Kentucky hotel bathroom in 1982 , I made a symbolic change that completely changed my luck.

Yes, there is a back story here.  Halfway through a 5-week sales trip, I was stuck in a very big way. After getting off to a great start in Illinois, I bottomed out in Kentucky. I couldn’t sell a damn thing. Everything that had worked for me in the Mid West was hurting me in the South. I couldn’t close a door let alone a sale.

My boss had warned me that people where I was headed were conservative compared to folks in California. He urged me to adjust my look and tempo before I left. “Folks won’t trust a slick sounding guy from L.A. with a beard . Shave that thing!”, he said.

I didn’t listen. “Hey, I gotta be me. I got this, don’t worry” I said.

I proved him wrong for two straight weeks in the Mid West. Overcoming obstacles, setting records and crushing my closings. My numbers were great and I was on fire.

Then for two days I bombed. No problem, it happens. I was adjusting, finding my way. But after a third soul-crushing day in Kentucky I was lost. Swagger gone, I was ready to listen. In our nightly call I relayed my numbers to the boss and they stunk. He started in with the ‘I told you so’ speech, and though I was pissed, I let his words sink in.

Thursday got a little better, Friday even more, and by Saturday I was almost back to my usual high-percentage closing ratio.

I went on to North Carolina and Pennsylvania in the last two weeks and finished strong. REAL strong. Big numbers for the company and big dollars for me.

Did I change my presentation? Did I rearrange my feature and benefit statements? Did I drop my price? No. None of these things.

I shaved off my damn beard, stuck it in an envelope, and mailed it back to my boss in L.A..

The boss called when it arrived and we had a great laugh. By then everything had turned and we had reason to celebrate. I had made no material changes in my pitch, but something about the symbolic change caused me to be perceived differently by my customers.

There’s a funny thing that happens when we surrender to the world and make a change. Especially when it’s something we don’t want to do. Maybe it’s confidence, or charisma, or something within us that others can detect on a subconscious level. But when we drop the ego and become willing to try something new, we get stronger.

More than other types of people, we Manic Impressive types need to heed how we are perceived. One minute we’re the life of the party, the next we’re the jackass who has overstayed his welcome. At times like this we need to take off the lampshade, show some humility, and bend to the ways of the herd. No one likes a smartass all the time.

Since that hotel bathroom moment I’ve made lots of symbolic changes when I’ve been stuck. I’ve shaved goatees, beards, cut off a gorgeous ponytail, and even shaved my head. Every time something good happened. Yet I’m sure none of it had anything to do with hair.

I believe it has to do with proving to the universe that I am willing

So when you’re stuck, give it a shot. Do something you don’t want to do. Change something about yourself just to prove your willingness. At the very least, you’ll be taking action and that usually feels good. And don’t worry, with enough time, it will grow back. Probably.


4 thoughts on “How Symbolic Change Can Help You When You’re Stuck”

  1. That shaved head left me speechless- for days… really did have a positive effect ;cD

  2. OK, I finally got off my butt and sent out your blog to more than a dozen of my friends, neighbors and family, to invite them to read and then subscribe. I decided it wasn’t right not to give them an opportunity to share in your perspective, humor and wisdom. Thank you again for sharing your gifts.

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