CHAPTER 7: BATTING BURNOUT (Whether Real or Imaginary) – another “BIRTH OF A SALESMAN” excerpt!

Chapter 7:
Anyone who meanders through days, months and sometimes years of
the same general activity with little deviation in their charted course will face
something commonly referred to as “burnout.” Or, in some cases, they think
they do.
This affliction can strike the strong and weak. Like the common cold it
has no bias in choosing its victims. However, there is grand news: it is often
misdiagnosed and it is treatable.
True burnout is having nothing left to accomplish or contribute at your
current post and having no glimpse of an end in sight. This is caused by having
no challenge left because you conquered them all. Burnout, even when not
actually present, is often utilized as a scapegoat for poor performance by those
not really suffering from it. Don’t get me wrong: there are several stages and
some people can benefit from early detection, but using it as an excuse to not try
is more despicable than dignified.
Treatment options are plentiful, no matter the stage or the reality of its
onset. First remember that you – no one else – applied for the position you sit
in. You hopefully brought your “A” game to the interview and pledged
allegiance to that position, saying you were going to come in and give it your all.
In essence, you signed a contract to fulfill the obligations to the post you serve.
Granted, things, personnel and procedures will change but it is likely the
company is not getting burnt out on paying you. Now, if they are, that is a whole
different story.
When you did commit to the job, you sold the hiring manager on
putting you in the vacancy, promised the earth, moon and stars, and expressed a
desire to grow with the company. There is something to be said for paying your
dues and fulfilling those commitments. Have you? Have you truly done that?
Part of this process is being honest with yourself. Yes, you are going to be
frustrated with a lot of things along the way but it is how you react and bounce
back that define your character and your destiny.
In short, you may think you are hot stuff but until you master the task,
shut up.
Don’t forget you sold someone on putting you in that spot. You have
to constantly re-invent yourself and hark back to that tenacious soul you were on
interview day. Often, I have found that floundering in a position (read: the
antithesis of burnout) is due to failure to maintain your big picture outlook. Far
too many people have difficulty keeping their eyes on the prize. Where do you
want to be in five years? It’s a cop-out interview question but a legitimate one
you need to ask yourself daily – especially when you claim burnout.
Everything you do has to keep you on the path towards that long-term
goal. Sure, we get off course from time to time, but only through self analysis
and actualization will we follow that general course and make it to that desired
outcome. Like in Rocky III when Rocky lost that hunger – the eye of the tiger as
Apollo called it and Survivor sang about – you occasionally have to have people
like Adrian appeal to your best interests to make you wake up and realize you still
have what it takes. The Paulie characters that try to drag you to the bar only
appeal to your here and now. The rigmarole and monotony and allowing
yourself to be mired in the present may turn you into a lightweight when you
need to be a heavyweight to survive.
We like to look at athletes and marvel at how much they are paid. On
that token, they practice for hours a day every day and have little life outside of
their profession. They are benched or have to run laps if they fail to hustle or
run out a ground ball. Do you run out every routine grounder? Do you generate
millions of dollars in revenue for your company? Do people fork over hundreds
of dollars to get off their couches just to come watch you perform? These are
questions to ask yourself if you want to draw similarities between yourself and a
professional athlete.
A salesperson must constantly set new challenges for her or himself.
Michael Jordan was possibly the greatest competitor to roam the earth, but had
accomplished what many could consider to be “it all” relatively early in his
career. This obviously prompted his premature retirement and foray into
professional baseball; unorthodox for most but it was a challenge he set and
reached. While subpar by most standards, he batted .202 with 3 home runs in his
lone season, but he accomplished a dream that 99.9% of us would be hardpressed
to accomplish ourselves.
All of that said, could he still win championships in the NBA? Once
away for a year, this was a challenge again, and not only could he win but he
slung together three in a row. He left again at his apex, only to return to try to
lift the lowly Washington Wizards into the playoffs. That effort fell barely short
but it did not stop him from trying. No other player could have had more
impact on that bottom-feeding team than he could have. And that’s the point.
Your undertakings will not likely be on as big a stage as those of #23,
but that does not mean they are any less significant. In your realm, setting new
challenges can be any number of things: selling more of multiple product
offerings, making or taking more calls in a day, bettering efficiency, reaching out
to peers to help them be better, taking initiative to do more to improve the
department, writing scripts for others, being the top rep in the office – the
options are endless. A salesperson must set new challenges regularly lest that
salesperson will become bored.
The nice thing about sales is that unlike sports, the skill does not
diminish over time. After years of wear and tear, athletes cannot do the same
feats of fancy they achieved their rookie season and they have to retire. In sales,
you should only get better with time. Continue to improve your approach and
attitude and you too will be able to hold your hands up above your head and be a
To quote Cocktail’s Doug Coughlin (played masterfully by Bryan Brown)
to Tom Cruise’s Brian Flanagan, “Anything else is always something better.” Are
you going to love every aspect of your job all of the time? Of course not – that
is absurd to expect. However, you need to acknowledge and accept what it takes
to get where you are headed and rise to meet those challenges. Productivity and
demanding excellence from yourself go a long way in making that leap. Consider
that the secret to success.
Another big part of battling perceived burnout is to stop and reflect on
what you have and where you have been. Letting yourself slide and looking back
with regrets will get you nowhere; be thankful for the talent, the people in your
corner that have never wavered and the footholds on your mountain to
greatness. These people and things are never more evident than when you lose.
Stop griping about what you don’t have and realize how blessed you truly are. It
will not cure everything that ails you but it can often quell the feelings of
negativity welling up inside.
No question: it is easy to get frustrated or feel defeated. Sometimes you
will feel like you have been dealt the knockdown punch. The true judge of your
growth as a person or a professional is how you come back from such a punch.
Are you going to lay on the mat until the ref counts to 10? Or are you going to
get back up and be standing when that bell sounds? That is for you to decide.
The challenge you often face in a situation of actual burnout is
maintaining a high level of performance during this period. That is where the
true leaders emerge. You cannot afford to slip in the rankings because there is
no telling when the call-up will come. If you are no longer next in line when it
happens, you will be left behind. Hindsight is 20/20; you can use burnout as an
excuse to stop trying but you cannot get that time back after you are passed over.
Those who never let up get ahead. There is always a reason to win, even
if you have done it many times before. It feels good to be the best. There will
always be newcomers for the throne. There will always be new opportunities
and new threats. Be the person they can depend on. When the decision comes
for promotion or new projects or whatever you desire, be the obvious choice.
Several people blip on that radar but when that choice is made it is like musical
chairs. If you’re out, you’re out.
This will be addressed in more depth when we talk about getting the
promotion, but realize that when decisions are made you typically have to be the
top 1% or better of everyone in the pool of candidates. Being picked over is not
a reflection on your shortcomings. It is a reflection of the person chosen. Far
too many people claiming burnout have that misconception. It’s not all about
Now, dealing with being picked over due to nepotism or because you
don’t pucker up to the right posteriors is also something I can speak to. Those
things are not fair but they are reality. You will never escape politics. Just know
there is a plan for you and you cannot forget that. I have no idea if you believe
in God or a higher power but even if you do not I can tell you that like Sleeping
Beauty, someday your “prince” will come and you will get yours. We are often
all on the same playing fields; your peers are dealing with a lot of the same
circumstances and nonsense that you are. Rise above.
That’s not to say things will not happen that tick you off enough that
your gut instinct is to polish off the résumé or write your letter of resignation. I
have done both in my day. But, in the end, the best remedy is often some muchdeserved
vacation. Spend it with the people and things that matter; the people
and things you are working your tail off for. There is no better way to get your
head back in the game than to reflect and focus on what matters most.
This is precisely why the person who takes longer to become successful
is in an enviable position: they know what it took to get there. Someone who
has instant success that starts to fade as they change their approach is the
quickest to reach for the burnout crutch. Here is a tip: if you have been doing
something for a year or less, you are not burnt out. Unless it is literally doing the
exact same activity with literally zero challenge like watching paint dry, it is not
burnout. If you are in the high-octane world of sales and you were a top rep
once or twice, burnout is not yet possible. Stop making excuses and get back to
work. If it was all fun and games, it would not be called work.
Constant reinvention of oneself is paramount to survival. You may be
the best at something or drastically underutilized, but don’t stop proving it
because the second you do, someone will butt in front of you in line. If you
don’t like your lot in life, change it. If you don’t like your job, leave it. If you
want to get promoted, get promoted. If you don’t get it, keep fighting until you
do. The minute you let anything beat you down and keep you there, you are a
loser. Excuses are for losers. Only you determine what you do next. Your
I was promised promotion early in my career as a sales rep. However,
patience has never been much of a virtue I possess and having my appetite
whetted for the next step that early was not all that good for my psyche.
It took them another year to bring it to fruition. Many of you have been
there: walking into a job every single day wondering how much more you can
take. Wondering when you are going to get a new challenge. That was tough: no
real end in sight, wondering how much longer I was going to have to keep doing
what I was doing.
When you really, truly, madly, deeply feel burnout, you have to face your
final challenge head on: maintaining your high level of performance for another
6-to-12 months without missing a beat. If you can do that, either something will
pan out for you or you will realize it is time to move on. Trust me. Again, the
key is being honest with yourself. Have you really achieved absolutely everything
at your current post? Have you done everything you can to fulfill any and all
commitments you made to your company when you signed up? Have you kept
up your end of any and all bargains? Or are you just looking for something or
somebody to blame?
I have reached a point where I feel little sympathy for those claiming
burnout as a reason for decreased performance. That’s not to say I don’t have
sympathy for real burnout, but the burden of proof is on you. For one reason,
that is because I never let it be a reason for decreased performance. If you do
not care what a number looks like next to your name, you do not belong in a
competitive arena. The people governing you will not be able to stand you. If a
number is next to my name, it is going to be great. That is a decision I made
long ago. I encourage you to make that decision. If you are reading this book,
hopefully you already have.
Second, I have become desensitized to this excuse because I have heard
it from people who have accomplished a fraction of what I have seen others or I
have accomplished when I wore those shoes. Don’t be a one-hit wonder and tell
me you’re a rock star. Accomplishments, awards and accolades are great but
there is no reason why you can’t keep winning even if you are mad at the world.
Third and last, succumbing to burnout as a reason for letting yourself
slip is like slowing down in a race and letting others pass you.
The burnout card may get sympathy out of the weak sales manager, but
they are the ones easily sold on why the rep is not doing what they should be
doing and lets it go. The weak manager gets walked on. They are sold, rather
than sellers.
Burnout, whether real or imagined, will strike you if you are in the selling
game long enough. But it is how you react, how you move forward and how
you keep your wits about you that determines your lot in life and your career.
Make the right choice and keep on rocking in the free world.
* * *

About cvheady007

I am a Christian, Husband, Dad, workaholic and author. Biography Carson Vincent Heady was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and moved to St. Louis in 2001. He has served in sales and leadership across Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Carson is best-selling author of the Birth of a Salesman series, the first book of which was published by World Audience Inc. in 2010. He released The Salesman Against the World in 2014, A Salesman Forever in 2016 and Salesman on Fire in 2020. He is also featured in Scott Ingram’s B2B Sales Mentors: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. Carson is a 7-time CEO/President’s Club winner across 5 roles at AT&T and Microsoft and National Verizon Rockstar winner. He has been recognized as a top social seller at Microsoft and is consistently ranked in the top 25 sales gurus in the world on Rise Global. He is included among the Top 50 sales authors on LinkedIn. With over 330K social followers, Carson has also been interviewed on over 30 sales and leadership podcasts, by such luminaries as Jeffrey & Jennifer Gitomer, Jeb Blount, Brandon Bornancin, Sam Dunning, Larry Levine, Darrell Amy, Scott Ingram, Thierry van Herwijnen, Jim Brown, Sam Jacobs, Luigi Prestinenzi, Donald Kelly, Marylou Tyler, George Leith, Pat Helmer, Eric Nelson, Ron Tunick, Jeff Arthur, Mary Ann Samedi, Jean Oursler, Andre Harrell, Marlene Chism, Bill Crespo, Matt Tanguay, Josh Wheeler and Chad Bostick. He has also co-hosted the Smart Biz Show on EG Marketing Radio. His articles have appeared in several noteworthy publications such as SalesGravy, Smash! Sales, Salesopedia and the Baylor Sports Department S3 Report. Carson lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife Amy and daughters Madison, Sidonia and Charlotte.
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