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February 25, 2014

Woman whispering in a man's ear.

Late in 2013 I got to spend two weeks as an extra on a big budget, Hollywood movie set*. And let me tell you that Hollywood is not a place for the easily bruised ego. Or the easily bored. Most days were spent standing in the sun in clothes that haven’t been washed in many, many days while holding a paper cup filled with water, waiting and wondering. Waiting for someone to look at me and decide I might be useful to them.

As it turned out, they mostly decided that I was not.

Not skinny enough. Not young enough. Not short enough. Not funny looking enough…

And I took it personally. Other extras got used so much that the Director not only knew their name but would call for them to be included in the shot. It was like being at school and being picked last for the team. Who wants that?

And if you are like me, most times that can feel like a rejection of who you are. But it isn’t.

The Director had a vision for her movie. She knew what she wanted in order to bring her vision to life. And in the context of that vision I was too fat, too old, too tall and too edgy. As I saw the playbacks of the scenes that had just been shot, I saw her vision forming. It was stunning.

The continuing rejection was still hard but I came to see that it wasn’t that I was a bad actor, it wasn’t that I was incompetent, unskilled or a fool. In this context, on this day, all they were saying to me was they were looking for a man who looked like he had survived for years in a prisoner of war camp, fighting off dysentery and starvation and was close to death. And so what I had to offer was not what they were looking for.

If you have to sell you will be familiar with those feelings. To sell things you have to make offers! So it doesn’t matter if you are selling a widget, software, an innovation, a system, an idea or just offering to solve their problems with your particular set of skills – you are going to be rejected at some point. It will be too expensive, too complex, too simple, too hard, too big, too much or too little.

And sometimes that can feel like a rejection of who you are too.

But it isn’t. It is only that what you are offering is not what they are looking for.

And while it is not easy, that realisation is the key to getting past a “no” from someone. That is the key to super charging the productivity of your organisation. If someone says “No thanks” they are not rejecting you – they are telling you that on this day, in this context, what you are offering them is not what they are looking for. It might not seem like a huge distinction but it makes all the difference.

It opens up a space where you can make a different offer. You can ask questions to find out why what you are offering doesn’t meet their needs. Maybe you will find that you haven’t helped them to understand just what it is you are offering? Maybe you know someone you can introduce to them who has exactly what they are looking for? Maybe they will give you an important piece of information about what you are offering that is the key to unlocking a market you had never considered?

Listen around your organisation over the next few days. Can you characterize it as an organisation where you hear people making more offers to others than they are making requests of others?  If not, you are missing out on easy opportunities for increased productivity and increased innovation from your team, not to mention an increased sense of personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

Who wouldn’t want that?


* The trailer for the movie has just been released and you can see it on YouTube here. (If you stop the video at 1:42 you will see the side of my head!)

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2014 8:17 am

    Nice blog Paul. I looked up the movie trailer – it looks like an excellent movie. I will definitely be looking out for your scene and when it comes to the cinema.


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