Lesson #13 See the Positive

It was the week after Thanksgiving. I was struggling a bit to find the motivation to get back into work mode. It was more than just the long break that was slowing me down—things were hard at work and home.

I could hear a whiny voice in my head saying, “Why aren’t things just easier?”

I had an 8:00 AM call with a guy named Martin that I had not met before. We’d connected back in April over LinkedIn. Martin reached out to have a career discussion. I didn’t have a current opening in my company that fit Martin’s skill set—however, I want to help anyone who’s passionate about our profession. I had good intentions to talk with him, but more pressing priorities came up. I dropped the ball several times, yet Martin persisted to secure a meeting with me.

I didn’t research Martin before the call. I was working from my memory that preferred to take November off. I remember he was an SDR (Sales Development Rep). He frequently posted about the challenges of the role, in hopes that others might benefit from his experiences.

I clicked on the Zoom link at 8:00 AM and Martin appeared on my screen.

“Hi Chris. It’s nice to finally meet you.” We started with some small talk.

“So, where in the world are you?” I asked.

“I live in Ottawa.”

“Ah. Must be cold this time of year?”

“It’s freezing. There’s a foot of snow on the ground and honestly, I hate the snow.”

“So why do you stay there?”

Martin seemed a little hesitant to answer.

“Well, I live with my parents and they love it here.”

“Oh, OK.” That was not the answer I was expecting, but, I tried not to form any judgement.

As we talked, I noticed Martin rarely looked straight into the camera. I thought it was a little off putting— a steady, level gaze is an important characteristic for sales professionals.

I asked, “Martin, why did you choose this profession? It can be a pretty tough one.”

“I love a challenge,” he said. “I also like to help people solve problems. Sales offers me both.”

“Ok, got it!” That piqued my interest. “So, what do you find to be the biggest challenge?”

“It’s hard to get people to engage these days. Everyone’s so busy, and they have so much coming at them. I try to be persistent and creative without being a pest.”

“Of course.”

“And because I am blind, it can make things a little more complicated at times.”

I sat straight up in my chair. A flurry of thoughts raced through my mind and I had to make sure I heard him correctly.

“Martin, did you say you were blind?” I asked, bewildered.

“Yes. It happened when I was 7 years old.”

I started to imagine all of the challenges that Martin must face, and I realized I needed to know more. I asked him to tell me about his situation, and he explained how he navigates this digitally driven world.

Finally, I said, “Martin, it’s pretty incredible how you’ve pushed through in spite of your disability. Where do you find the motivation?”

“Every morning I have a choice. Well, I guess we all do. We can look at our life situation and feel sorry for ourselves.”

Martin took a long pause and smiled

Or, we can choose to SEE the positive.”  

Respectfully, I asked Martin why he chose to use video. First of all, he could not see me. Second, he could have easily masked his disability over the phone. He told me that he used video to make sure that I could see him…exactly as he is.

Martin’s authenticity, courage and humility were deeply moving. I reflected on my own attitude. He didn’t know it at the time, but talking with Martin filled me with new energy and optimism. I continued our conversation with the goal of finding a way to support Martin on his professional journey.

“So, Martin. What makes you good in sales?”

“Well, if a tiny mouse ran across the floor right now, even if it was two rooms over, I could count how many steps it took” That big, infectious smile came across Martin’s face once again.  “So, you might say that I’m an excellent listener.”

Thanks for the inspiration, Martin. And the lesson.