The Lesson NOT Learned

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When I was a kid, I had a Siberian Husky. He was a runner. It was my job to walk him. Only being in second grade, he was tough to walk. He would pull me down the street, desperately trying to run. It didn’t take me long to devise a more efficient way to get him his exercise, while limiting my exertion.

I came up with a way to tie his leash to my bike and let him pull me down the street. It worked brilliantly. I would connect his leash to my handlebars. Up onto the sidewalk we would go. I would put my feet up and he would pull me down the street. He would run and run and run. It was awesome. He was fast. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. After all, I said, he was a Husky, that’s what they do, pull sleds.

It worked great for about a week when I noticed a crack in my handlebars. The stress of his pulling, was literally tearing my handlebars a part.

As a 7 year old boy this is TRAGIC!! A bike, to a 7 year old, in 1975 is everything. My bike is broken. I’m doomed. What am I going to do without my bike?

Devastated, I take it to my mom. She reminds me she didn’t think my dog walking approach was a good one. Despite ignoring her forewarnings, she bought me new handlebars and saved my summer. Or did she?

A few weeks later, after the frustration of walking the dog grew again and the comfort of having my bike back was cemented, I couldn’t resist. I was back at it. It was how I tied him to the handlebars that was the problem, I convinced myself. So, I re-rigged my dog walking contraption and away we went, again. A week or so later, my new handlebars were breaking in the same spot.

Needless to say, Mom was a lot less empathetic this time. I didn’t have a bike for the rest of the summer. It was brutal.

We do this in sales. We try new and creative things. They work for a little while, but then stop working. Rather than adjust we keep trying them, thinking maybe this time will be different. It won’t be.

Sales requires creativity. It requires a willingness to push the envelope. It requires vision. But it also requires a willingness to change course. It requires we know when what we are doing is no longer working, or isn’t working at all.

I’ve seen my share of broken handlebars, only to see the reps come back, the new ones broken too. It’s costly when we do this. It’s also too easy. It’s hard to come up with new ideas. It’s hard to change our approach. But, we need to. It’s better than not having your bike for a whole summer.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else.

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