By Jeff Shore

Stretch Your Brain
This is a true story of a salesperson named Cindy. You probably don’t know her. On the other hand, you might know her really well. After all, Cindy might be you.

Cindy began selling homes in Orlando in 2003. In her early days she had the benefit of a healthy market, and Cindy regularly made her quota without any problems. Over the next several years the Orlando market went bat-crap crazy and Cindy raked in the sales…and the commissions.

Then 2007 happened and Cindy’s world unraveled. The real estate crash brought her sales pace to a crawl, and then to a halt. She was left scrambling to hold on to her job.

To make ends meet Cindy took a part-time job with her sister’s insurance company. She cut her expenses and managed (barely) to keep her house; many friends and co-workers were not so fortunate.

Cindy survived, and as the real estate began to recover she decided to make herself market-proof. She diligently studied her craft, she took advantage of every opportunity, and by 2015 Cindy was the number one salesperson in her company.

Now we come to present day, and Cindy has a problem. She is bored.

Cindy has found herself stuck in a rut. It’s the same thing every day. She hasn’t stopped selling, but like the classic B.B. King song says, the thrill is gone.

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Let’s quickly review Cindy’s path.

She went from a window (of opportunity), to a path (of consistency), to a hole (of despair), to a ladder (of success), and now to a rut (of boredom).

I had suggested early on that Cindy might just be you. After all, if you’ve spent more than a few years in the sales business you’ve seen the rise and fall, the highs and the lows. And at some point – perhaps today – you have felt what being in a rut is like.

If I just described you, you’re in trouble.

I’m not trying to over-dramatize things, but we have to face the facts here. Rarely do we naturally, smoothly, and slowly come out of a rut. We don’t step out of a rut; we get shocked out of a rut. That shock is often powerfully beneficial; it is possibly career-ending.

Getting Out of a Rut

If you are still reading, I will assume you are connecting with this message and finding yourself in the middle of Cindy’s story. At this point you might be thinking I’m going to come at you with some Ziglarian advice: “You need a check-up from the neck up so you can get rid of that stinkin’ thinkin’.” Nothing against my sales guru idol at this point, but a motivational seminar is not the ticket.

If you want to get out of a rut there is one fool-proof method, one solid strategy to follow.

Learn.

The best path out of a rut is to learn something new. The psychology behind that assertion is quite interesting.

Our brains are learning machines. Their purpose is to discover, to grow, to investigate. When we are in a rut we are doing the same things over and over; there is no growth. The brain must be stimulated, stretched and even strained.

Think of your brain as if it were a muscle. Suppose you get a job in a warehouse and you must lift very heavy sacks of potatoes every day. Those first few days/weeks on the job will be incredibly painful. Your muscles will cry out as they are first torn down and then built up. After a few weeks, you’ll lift the bags routinely.

But something else will happen. You’ll find it much easier to lift a flat of water bottles at Costco. You’ll pick up a child with far less exertion. Previously difficult tasks will get easier.

Why? Because when a muscle adjusts for one activity it adjusts for similar activities.

The brain works the same way. When you do a little cerebral stretching you build capacity for other areas of mental activity.

Growing the Brain

There are several ways to accomplish this feat, but I would begin by a) reading, and b) reading actively. That is, read with a pen in your hand and look not for what you get out of the book but rather for what the book gets out of you.

Start with a book that has nothing to do with sales; psych books will work well here. (When you start outside your routine arena you have to work harder to find the applications – that’s good!)

I might suggest Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence – the Psychology of Persuasion. Read the book for understanding first but also for immediate application. How can you take the principles and weave them into your sales presentation immediately. That is active learning.

Finally, always keep in mind that there are lessons to learn in times of adversity that you cannot learn in times of prosperity. The ruts will provide invaluable growth opportunities.

Get out of your rut. Grow your brain. Change the world.