Learned industriousness might make you value the effort more than the results
After graduating high school I got a job working for an online travel agent. It was your typical call center job with lots of sitting, tea-drinking, sounding polite, and apologizing on behalf of the company.
We’d take calls from customers who were having trouble with the website, and sometimes they’d book with us over the phone. Managers would consider this a sale, and if we got enough of them we’d get a pat on the back.
Then one day it got interesting. The CEO announced that the employee with the most sales at the end of the month would win two business class tickets to anywhere in the world. It had the effect she’d hoped for; the call center suddenly felt like the frenzied trading floor in the Wolf of Wall Street. Whenever anyone rang up about anything, we’d try and persuade them to book over the phone.
When there were no calls, we had to answer customer emails. No one liked doing this, so we’d all silently protest by typing slower than a pre-millennial. One quiet afternoon, while my colleagues complained about the lack of sales opportunities, I began answering emails.
Most were the same issues that came through on the calls: the website crashed while trying to book, the ticket they saw had disappeared, or they didn’t know if the ticket was refundable. I had just stumbled upon a huge untapped resource for sales. I began writing out an email template:
“My sincerest apologies for the technical issues you encountered. If you wish to give me a call on [my direct number] I would be happy to book the ticket for you over the phone immediately.”
While everyone else continued to hustle, I sat there and quietly let the sales pour in. My manager couldn’t work out how I was getting so many sales with my seemingly lackluster approach. But when the end of the month came around, I won the tickets and jetted off to Jamaica.
Deciding the traditional sales approach was too much effort allowed me to step back and see there was a better way. If I had kept hustling like my colleagues, I would have been blind to this.
Hustling is like trying to ride a bike up a steep hill. You keep pedaling harder and harder despite the burning in your thighs telling you to take a break. Instead, you tell yourself the burn is necessary, and you just have to push past it. Your brain only sees two options: keep pedaling and get to the top, or give up. But if you step outside of this rigid mindset, you might find that hopping off and walking up the hill is a lot easier.