Several years ago my older brother asked if I would help him build a deck on the back of his home.
I knew when he asked, the intent was for me to build the deck for him. I approached my younger brother, who is an excellent builder, and asked him if he would help me with the deck. Because of my busy schedule, I asked him if he would put together a design and order the materials, then we would work together to build the deck. The night before we were to start construction, I gently quizzed my younger brother to see if he was prepared for the task ahead, and if he felt we could complete the job that Saturday. Without hesitation he responded that he had built the deck a thousand times in his mind and that he had clearly seen and dealt with every aspect of the deck’s construction. The next day we started the construction of the deck and it was as if we had truly built it a thousand times as each phase and step of the process went perfectly. For me, this experience clearly demonstrated the power of visualization. What we see in our minds, we can achieve. The unknown, the obstacles, the challenges, have all been seen and resolved before we begin the actual physical process.
The other evening I watched a documentary on Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest motion picture directors of our time. I found the documentary to be most fascinating, particularly as he, time after time, described how he would visualize a particular scene, filming sequence, or even the movie in total, hundreds of times before he actually proceeded. If he has had any success in the film industry, he attributes a good portion of it to his ability to see his work in his mind’s eye before it goes to the storyboard, the set, or film. He mentioned in the interview that many of his movies have turned out far better than he thought, even though he knew from the beginning, as a result of visually rehearsing in his mind, what the final result would be.
Nothing in sales is more important than having a positive mental attitude. This positive attitude is achieved when we believe in our ability to succeed. Salespeople need to be able to visualize their success as a means of overcoming the obvious discouragement found in the world of sales. Nearly a century ago, John D. Rockefeller, the founder of the world’s largest oil empire of the 19th century, was pondering different strategies to grow his vast empire. He hired a young man, put him in a very comfortable office, and then instructed him to visualize ways to grow the wealth of the company. Rockefeller encouraged him to lean back in his chair, with his feet on his desk and dream and craft ways to make money. Several months later, Rockefeller stopped at his new employees office only to find that he wasn’t there. After inquiring to his whereabouts, he confronted his visionary who was implementing one of his moneymaking plans. Rockefeller chastised him for spending valuable time to physically work on the project, and reminded him that his value as an employee was to visualize, not to actualize. Rockefeller had other employees who could bring the visions and dreams to reality, but he was needed to create the vision.
When I was in elementary school, I was fortunate to have a wonderful librarian. Several times a week we would have library time to explore the world through books. I was fond of inventors, statesmen and explorers. I remember reading the biography of Thomas Alva Edison. I almost felt I could relate to him during his brief tenure in his classroom. His mind would wander far from the lessons of the teacher. He was reprimanded many times for his lack of attention, and his parents were told he lacked the intelligence to succeed academically. I often wondered what he must have been daydreaming. Was it the electric light bulb, the phonograph, the electronic voice recorder, the motion picture camera, talking motion pictures, the alkaline storage battery, or one of his other one thousand and ninety-three patents. Thank heavens for the visualization of Thomas Edison. What he clearly saw in his mind, he would later bring to mankind. Robert Schwartz described Edison well when he said, “The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and an actualizer. He can visualize something, and when he visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen.”
I’ve worked with salespeople for forty years. Some have been excellent, most have been average, and a few just didn’t get it. The excellent ones, however, had a vision of what they could truly achieve. They had a dream. Cherie Carter-Scott said, “Ordinary people believe only in the possible. Extraordinary people visualize not what is possible or probable, but rather what is impossible. And by visualizing the impossible, they begin to see it as possible.” Recently, one of the salespeople I train caught the vision of what was humanly possible. While enjoying his relative success on an incentive vacation he had earned for setting a sales record, he pondered why he was satisfied with his past success. He wondered what more he could do, and visualized himself selling twice that of his recent record-setting annual volume. He returned from his vacation with a clear vision of what he was capable of doing. With the vision in his mind, and having mentally performed the activity necessary for reaching his new goal, he went to work. In the first six months of the year, his sales exceeded that of the prior twelve months. It wasn’t until he visualized this new level of sales success that he was able to achieve it. In his research on peak performers, Charles Garfield said, “I've discovered that numerous peak performers use the skill of mental rehearsal or visualization. They mentally run through important events before they happen.”
If we are to truly rise from mediocrity to greatness, we must have a dream, a vision of what we can become. We must create a plan, a virtual road map of that dream, and then be disciplined enough to put the plan into action. Never lose sight of the vision. From time to time we all need to lean back in our chair, put our feet on the desk and visualize and dream of the great things we can accomplish in our lives.