Paralysis by Analysis

The human psyche has a lot to do with how productive a person is. It also has a lot to do with how productive a person isn’t (or ain’t). Emotional and psychological fatigue are real things that actually should be felt by sales professionals who put in a hard day’s work. This canister sitting on top of our shoulders, called a head (most of which house a brain), does a magnificent job of processing information as a buyer or seller. Oftentimes, it works on a limited basis because our senses, those that feed it, detect way more data than we can process. Psychology Today contributing author Douglas Van Praet in his article “Unconscious Branding” states: “Every second your senses are taking in about 11 million bits of information, but you are only aware of about 40 of those bits. Because our conscious mind is so limited it works on a need to know basis.” Wow! There’s a lot going on here, and a lot of filtering in action. 

Our very composition dictates that we only are presented with as much as is appropriate, but our innate thirst for more data than we can actually use is a behavioral issue. Another issue relative to the amount of data we attempt to process is the proliferation of social media and news media with which we are constantly barraged. These invasive media items can be informative, persuasive and addictive. The appetite for “current event” information can be vitally important, especially if you have investments to keep an eye on and business decisions that can be affected by the world’s events, BUT a modicum of moderation should be considered by sales professionals.

Allow me to state a critical fact about receiving input: We aren’t designed to be exposed to everything, about everybody, everywhere, at all times! You can see some very positive and inspiring things on social media if you know where to look and are influenced by encouraging and positive contacts. Unfortunately our current culture is not that nurturing or positive in its make up. You can see murderous, aggressively sexual, corrupt and evil things, and I grant you that these things have always existed.Yet, technology has shrunk the world so incredibly that the volume of negativity available for humans to process, much of which is involuntary ingestion, is a violation of the way we, and the world, were designed. We simply weren’t built to process as much emotionally and psychologically intense information as we are being fed.

In the mid-twentieth century, there were hundreds of thousands of bits of info being processed by each of us daily. The main media sources were newsreels at the theatre, radio, newspaper and eventually TV. There were stories about war and tragedy and all the important items people needed to be aware of, but the “real timeliness” and volume were much more manageable back in the day. 

Times changed and as the volume of noise proliferated marketing, so did sales. In 1994, Al Ries in his classic “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” wrote, The mind, as a defense against the volume of today’s communications, screens and rejects much of the information offered it. In general, the mind accepts only that which matches prior knowledge or experience.”

The “Information Age” moniker started being used in the late 1990’s, and appropriately so. The information highway is flooded with data, much of it accurate but some very suspect; yet, the point of this writing is not to address merely the quality, but also the sheer quantity of it that we are exposed to on an ongoing basis. Not only are we being fed some disturbing stuff but an overflowing tsunami of it! The flow is like sticking your head under the garden hose (we call it a hose pipe in the South) and being drowned by a wide open spigot! The reason for this word picture? Because, as business people and sales professionals we MUST reach up and control the flow or what happens? ??? – The title: Paralysis by Analysis  

Becoming emotionally disposed from the purpose of a sales person’s existence is the kiss of death for productivity, especially at a high level.  The noise around us can be so distracting and concerning that we lose the most important thing that athletes, musicians and yes, even business people need to do in order to be at their best – focus!   

In a recent webinar, we, PI, Joey and I spent a lot of time promoting the value of having a clean “process.” The noise of the outside world can create exactly the wrong environment in the workplace if it takes up too much time and thought real estate. It takes discipline to be good at anything, and too many times, sales professionals don’t protect the environment they need at work because of world events that concern them, or personal issues that weigh on their minds. It’s easy to do… we’re all human. The cold hard fact is that blocking out the external static including family interaction, can be the discipline that allows you to serve them best because you will be working and generating income efficiently. 

Continuing to be a contributor to your company and family by winning the battle for the usage of your own mind doesn’t seem to be something we should be addressing right? Wrong. The POWER of the public narrative is hypnotic and destructive as hell to the independent owner or commission based sales associate. I’m SO thankful Hitler didn’t have, as terrorist groups do today, social media and the Internet as tools. The proliferation of distractive narratives and information (espousing whatever) is a phenomenal amount of noise for professionals who sell and communicate professionally for a living to ignore, cherry pick or work through. Now I’ve come to the solution portion of this writing. I’ll start with a story to prove that the solution has merit before providing it.

I have a dear friend that was the managing director at Steinway Hall London for several years. He observed that his sales associates/piano specialists spent a goodly amount of time discussing world events and local politics every morning to start their day. It set the precedent or tone of the day, and not the preferred one. After observing that an inordinate amount of time was being spent on something other than selling on a consistent basis, he knew he needed to correct it. He brought them together and requested that they wait until after the work day to discuss things other than work and strongly suggested that getting exposed to the media storms on a daily basis was not a mentally healthy or profitable mindset. As time went on, he had to remind them a time or two to focus but a funny/odd thing happened. After a time of keeping their mind on the matter, they became more productive, therefore happier in their work. 

Eight years ago Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D. wrote an article in Psychology Today in which he made this statement, “Not only are negatively valanced news broadcasts likely to make you sadder and more anxious, they are also likely to exacerbate your own personal worries and anxieties.” How about this lens to look through – did your parents ever mention that who you hung around with would have a lot to do with how you would turn out? What we put into that canister we call a brain matters, and a steady diet of “the sky is falling” is not, and never will be, a recipe for success.

The solution is self-government, self discipline. Monitor how many positive vs. negative things you ingest. A well balanced person must know what’s going on in the world around them so that they have some sort of context, but when the glut of things you try to process far and exceed the capability with which you were created, it will impede your daily walk and attitude. Amy Morin in her book from 2014, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do”, states this: ”Good habits are important but it’s often our bad habits that prevent us from reaching our full potential. Think of it this way: you’re only as good as your worst habits.”  

Draw your own conclusions, make your own adjustments. Everybody has their own threshold of being influenced but everybody has one. Know what it is and be sure to feed yourself good and positive thoughts on a regular basis. 

In closing I’ll borrow this old Native American proverb. It applies to much more than selling but then as we’ve all noticed, selling well has a lot in common with living a well balanced life. Here it is:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” 

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

How do you avoid Paralysis by Analysis? Self-examine your intake of good vs. productive influences, balance it accordingly, and feed the right wolf.

Jack Klinefelter
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