Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Lesson I Learned from Fum and Gebra

The Internet is full of funny cat videos, but this particular montage of Fum (a cat) and Gebra (a barn owl) being friends well exemplifies a very interesting lesson.

As you may be aware, cats eat birds and anything else small enough for them to eat without having to worry about being eaten. Cats are also somewhat social, so once they learn that another animal is neither food nor foe, they can be friends. (In fact, I am writing this with a very friendly cat in my lap.)

For more Fum & Gebra,
you can visit them on
While I was watching this video, I began to wonder why Fum did not try to eat Gebra in the first place. I realized that it was a matter of confidence. Gebra knew that he was not cat food, so he acted accordingly. Fum, seeing that Gebra did not act like food, began to treat him as an equal and eventually they became adorable friends.

I suspect that very few of my readers are owls looking to learn how to befriend a cat. However, I expect that many of my readers have situations in which they need to introduce themselves and establish relationships, possibly above their station.

Station? There's no "station" in America. We live in an egalitarian culture! No nobility! No aristocracy! No titles! And if you believe that, try to meet Warren Buffet.

But wait a minute. What if you wanted to meet Warren Buffet? Why couldn't you? In my life, I have met many impressive people. Writers, actors, politicians. When I went to UMass, I had a half hour sit down with the Chancellor of the 40,000 student institution.

If you tried to go meet Warren Buffet, you might find difficulty because you are not a sufficiently august personage to meet someone like that, but how does he know how august you are? This is America. It's not about your pedigree. It's not about who your family is or where you come from. So, how can someone know what your social position is? Easy, you tell them.

Maybe this is a nice guy who cares
about his customers, but you won't
stick around long enough to find out.
You tell people your social position every day, all the time. You tell them by how you dress, how you speak, how you act, how you carry yourself. Sales became a much easier challenge for me when I learned this. It can be difficult to get to a decision maker at a business if you act like and present yourself as a sales person. Who wants to talk time from their busy schedule to talk to a salesman selling something?

The best place to see this phenomenon is in the dating scene. People will often look at someone that they are interested in and figure that person is "out of their league." The secret is that no one knows what their own league is. They only know that they are out of your league because of the way you present yourself to them. If you can think of yourself as attractive and desirable and project that image (without being a cocky jerk, of course) then the game changes.

Think about this. The only objective way to know your own attractiveness (by which I mean a combination of physical and other traits) is by the quality of suitors who approach you. However, since most people underestimate their own attractiveness, they tend not to approach people they consider out of their league. If most people think that way, then the most attractive people would actually get less attention, except from people with an over inflated sense of themselves.

Knowing this, in any encounter where you are meeting someone for the first time, for business or personal reasons, why would you present yourself as anything less that highly desirable.

This does not mean that you should be cocky or arrogant. Those are not confidence. Those are warning flags for a lack of confidence. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and the key is to identify with your strength. If you want to meet with Warren Buffet because you believe that you have something of value to offer, don't think of yourself as a nobody trying to meet with a rich and powerful person. Think of yourself as a person with something of value to offer. Both are true, but only one is someone who might get that meeting.

This guy is a Problem Solver. The
beard is a key part of the look. Grow
a beard and don't look like a salesman.
He also has a perfect record of
convincing cats on the first meeting
that he is friend, not food.
Since nobody wants to talk to a salesman, I stopped being a salesman. I started being a problem solver. When I needed to speak to the general manager of a local movie theater recently, I walked up to the counter and said, "I need to speak to the general manager." A minute later, I was talking to her. When I got my job at Valenti Motors, I walked in the front door, went to the receptionist and said, "I'm here for a sales position." A minute later, I was sitting with the general manager.

People find out what you are from what you show them. If you have something to offer, then approach with confidence. If you believe that you are a great candidate for the job, then you are doing them a favor by allowing them the chance to hire you. If you are selling a good product that solves a problem, then you are doing them a favor by allowing them a chance to consider it. If you are not confident that you have something of value to offer, why are you wasting their time?

The world does not know if you are the kind of bird that they eat or the kind of bird they make friends with until you tell them. Why tell them that you are the kind of bird they eat?

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