Many experiences in our lives turn into life lessons, if we allow them to. And who would’ve thought selling beer in San Diego would have so many lessons to impart.
After three years, I quit my corporate job in beverage sales. There were many reasons behind this decision of mine, of which I won’t bore you with, except that I chose to pursue what made me happy. And looking back on those years out at bars and sampling beers, I realized that it wasn’t all about the alcohol. Selling beer taught me some important lessons on self growth and professional development.
I can’t say the decision to quit was an easy one, nor was it the most responsible thing I’ve done, but looking back I’ve allowed those life lessons from my time in beverage sales to resonate into so many other aspects of my life. Lessons that I wouldn’t have learned had I stayed comfortably back at home in Pennsylvania or hadn’t challenged myself outside of my comfort zone.
So, with an elated heart here are
12 things I learned while selling beer:
1.) Question your daily basic principles frequently– don’t stick yourself in a rut
Consider what you will stand for & don’t allow others to convince you that you should act below a respectable level to hit a mark or sale. You will be left with an ‘icky’ feeling of having done something dishonorable, and it will come back to bite you in the toosh one day.
2.) You won’t get along with everyone, but you need to pretend to… and it’ll lead to you learning how to understand others
You won’t get along or even like every person that you come into contact with, but that doesn’t mean every person you interact with doesn’t deserve your utmost respect & manners. No matter age, race, religion or political beliefs, every individual has something to offer to the world, and being open to everyone will help you understand the motives of those around you.
3.) Goals are great, but don’t set huge ones you can never achieve. Aspire, but realistically.
While this isn’t the most inspirational thing I learned, it was important for me. Don’t compare your own success to others. Just because someone was able to accomplish X in a short period of time, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do the same. There are variables in every situation, and you may have little to no understanding of the work it took for them him/her to get to where they are. You can use others success to motivate yourself, but focus on your own growth & goals.
4.) Hateful words said to you are often not said towards you, they are said due to someone else’s anger, distrust or lack of people skills. Don’t worry what they think & don’t internalize criticism
This was a big one for me to accept. I’ve lost count of the times a bar manager yelled at me or call me something inappropriate to my face when all I did was greeted them with a ‘Good afternoon!’. At first I was heartbroken. I wasn’t used to someone not liking me or being such rudeness. But after taking the time to consider how to handle these situations I learned that when someone gives you sass or lashes out at you, it is not a direct correlation of you OR your work. It’s more often a reflection of a personal issue of their own showcasing itself outwardly to others.
I’m a sensitive person by nature. I’ve found myself crying after someone has yelled at me & I’ll brew over a single comment made by a friend or colleague for days until I resolve it with them. And I’ve learned that internalizing that criticism will only brew up anxious & negative feelings that won’t serve any purpose in your personal or work life.
Take those hurtful words or actions & let them runoff of you. Be your own water resistant self that deflects negativity.
5.) When you’re focused on delivering great value, rather than hitting a personal number you will be successful. Change your perception from high numbers to high value & people will perceive you more positively.
Numbers are great ways to evaluate your progress, but they aren’t everything. People are fairly easy to read and when you are focused on numbers & not people or feelings it shows, and they’ll most likely show it right back to you. Focus on the quality of work you deliver and the numbers will follow.
6.) Keep going in the face of adversity.
Not everyone will like you. No matter how sweet or outgoing or polite you may be. Like the saying “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” (from Dita Von Teese). If someone doesn’t like you it doesn’t mean you should (a) avoid them or (b) not do your job. Power through the uncomfortable feelings of dislike and you’ll find even greater value in the feeling of surpassing adversity
7.) Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, it’s good for your growth.
Comfort zones are boundaries that are meant to be pushed, adjusted & expanded on. Talking to strangers, discussing things you know next to nothing about, or having to re-negotiate terms are uncomfortable things to do, but once you do it & find that the worse thing that can happen is not that bad, you’ll see how much more of the world is available to you.
8.) Don’t procrastinate.
If you think avoiding something will make it go away, it won’t. Bite the bullet & take care of the task(s) you’re avoiding. You’ll end up feeling much better getting it over with, and find time for more exciting and fun things to do.
9.) Embrace your failures & learn from them.
We aren’t perfect beings. We make mistakes. But it’s important to accept the mistake, take the blame if necessary and adapt. This will make you a better person, a better employee and be someone that others respect.
10.) Sales experience comes in many different forms.
Everyone is a salesperson. Just because you don’t have a direct job in sales, doesn’t mean you aren’t selling something. You may have to pitch ideas for date nights to your significant other, sell the idea of why you need that new gadget or next trip, justify to the clerk why the coupon should be accepted, and even see through the sales funnel of lack luster deals or products.
11.) Learn to define your priorities.
There are only 24 hours in the day. While eight of them should be slated for rest, three for eating, maybe one for working out and meditation/self development, that leaves about 12 hours left in your day. Now, I hope you aren’t working your job for 12 hours a day, so prioritize your time and tasks.
Learning to prioritize will help you get more done with less work, complete work that will move the needle for your work or business, and give you time to focus on what makes you happy.
12.) Focus on the big picture.
Ask yourself, what purpose does this serve? Is it worth my time? Will it move the needle?
These questions will help you prioritize and avoid procrastination (as I listed above), and will also help you understand what is worth your time. As I mentioned before, there are only 24 hours in a day. If what you’re doing right now isn’t part of your big picture of success, then re-evaluate where it should be (or shouldn’t be) in your life.
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