What are You Willing to Sacrifice?
What big business can learn from a 15 year old’s final act of selflessness
Selfishness is never an attractive quality.
Whether it’s a room full of toddlers fighting over the same seven toys or a manipulative sales executive pressuring you into making a decision that you are uncomfortable making, selfishness is repulsive.
Yet it’s deeply wired into how our organizations operate on a daily basis.
Our goals matter most
Selfishness is woven deeply into the operational tactics of our sales and marketing process. And while there is no to-do list that includes the “Be Selfish” line item, it’s an attitude that is all too prevalent in how we think and act.
What makes this situation all the more troubling is how we’ve gone about trying to solve this problem.
For the last decade, as the requirements for increasing sales have gotten significantly tougher, countless experts have weighed in on the subject of sales process, sales management, and the cultural underpinnings of generating revenue. We’ve cooked up trendy processes and novel strategies to try to remedy buyers’ lagging interest in interacting with salespeople.
- We’ve introduced new means of engagement.
- We’ve created new social tools for research.
- We’ve even automated the difficult follow-up process.
All seem to fail in a similar cycle
When they are first introduced, a core set of cutting-edge companies and executives adopt these new tool. Some find quick success in using these tools and strategies and offer their track record as strategic advice to others.
Companies who mimic the behaviors of these earl-adopter rarely find the level of engagement that was promised. This lack of results perpetuates the frantic searching for new strategies and processes that might help generate reproducible revenue.
Underneath the strategy shifts and tactical changes lies a corporate cultural theme that never seems to be addressed.
The real question that needs to be answered
Does any of self-serving behavior ever lead to long term success? Does selfish behavior work as a sustainable strategy for client engagement and revenue generation?
Can you grow your business when you only think about yourself?
And while that might appear to be a foolish philosophical debate, it proposes an attitude shift that has still not reached corporate traction.
We are still pretending that hiring new people and introducing short term processes will fix the problem.
And so we gamble quarter by quarter with different experts and different opinions– refusing to address a fundamental question that stands in our way.
Why aren’t we changing our selfish behavior?
Why should buyers care about us when we don’t care about them?
A blizzard in the spring of 1920 illustrates this best.
In a small town with fewer than 300 people in Center, North Dakota, Hazel and Emmet and Myrdith lived in a small, simple home with their parents William and Blanche. Fifteen year old Hazel was the oldest of the children and responsible enough to drive the horse and buggy to the one-room, country school two miles away.
In the late morning of March 15, 1920, a blizzard began to move into the area. Concerned for the safety of the students, the teacher quickly dismissed the students so that they could have enough time to make it home safely. But Hazel’s father was already on the way in a light sled pulled by the family’s strong work horse.
William reached the school before the children left and quickly settled the children under the warm blankets in the sled. Telling them to wait for him, William went to the school barn to harness up the horse and buggy his children that morning. When he got back, the children were gone.
The driving wind and threatening storm clouds spooked “Old Maude” and he impatiently headed down the road towards home with the children. Quickly, the blizzard made it impossible for Hazel to see the road home. The emptiness of the wide open praire and blinding snow created complete confusion for the children.
Minutes turned into hours as the horse pulled the sled blindly through the blizzard conditions. They were lost. And that wasn’t the worst of it.
The sled hit an obstacle — throwing the children into the mushy snow. Despite all their efforts, Hazel and her brother and sister could not push the sled upright. It lay tipped sideways in the snow.
Using the sled as a shelter against the driving wind, Hazel took the blankets and laid several of them on the snow. Telling Emmet and Myrdith to lie down, she gathered the remaining blankets and covered all three of them — waiting for her father to find them.
As they huddled in the snow, Hazel began to tell them stories. They sang songs they had just learned in school. They even began to recite scripture and other essays they had memorized. Hazel kept pinching them, reminding them that they “mustn’t go to sleep”.
But as the wind began to change directions, the blanket kept getting whisked away, off the top of the children. Telling her siblings to move together, Hazel got out from under the blanket, wrapped it tightly over and around Emmet and Myrdith, and then lay down on top of it, using her body weight to keep the blanket secured.
As the driving snow began to build up around the children, Hazel kicked it away with her feet. Each time she seemed to move a little slower. And then with an almost inaudible groan she stopped moving at all.
More than twenty hours later, a search team of thirty men found tracks in the snow that led them to the upturned sled still harnessed to “Old Maude” who stood patiently in the snow. As the rescuers brushed off the last, thin layer of snow covering the sled, they gasped at what they saw.
Hazel lay unmoving in the snow with her arms outstretched over the blanketed Emmet and Myrdith. As a final gesture of unselfish love, she had unbuttoned her coat and used it to cover her brother and sister, who were still alive.
At Hazel’s funeral, the minister summed up Hazel’s heroic behavior with a reading from the Bible: “Greater love hath no man than when he lays down his life for his friend.”
Hazel became an American hero in her passing. Called the “Guardian Angel of the Prairies”, her story inspired national attention. Hospitals, orphanages, even Ford Motors used her memory as a call to action — a reminder that what really moves us to acts of greatness is selflessness.
A lesson that business should consider
It can’t be all about you any more. You’re lying to yourself.
The experts are wrong — better management, better skills, better tools, better processes won’t help you grow your business. Selfishness destroys any momentum you might make.
- Only you can love enough to give your life for others.
- Only you can give enough to make prospects feel important.
- Only you can smile enough to help those around you feel comfortable.
- Only you can learn enough to provide the value that your industry is missing.
Only you can decide to be selfless
Until you fix that, all the processes and strategies and tactics and executive changes mean nothing.
A monument to Hazel Dulcie Miner outside of Oliver County Courthouse is inscribed with the following words: “In memory of Hazel Miner. To the dead a tribute, to the living a memory, to posterity an inspiration.”
Maybe a “Dying in the Snow” business strategy is the plan that you have been missing all along.
Originally published at danwaldschmidt.com