Gold Medals & German Shepherds by Erin Youngren
There is an incredible book on sales called Secrets of Question Based Selling by Tom Freese, and in this book, Tom talks about how there are two types of customers:
1) Customers that are motivated by achieving Gold Medals
2) Customers that are motivated by running from German Shepherds.
To completely oversimplify the concept, a person that is motivated by Gold Medals gets fired up about the idea of what could be. They are driven by running towards the possibility of success (such as winning a Gold Medal).
A person motivated by a fear of German Shepherds, however, makes decisions in order to avoid negative consequences (like being chased by an angry German Shepherd).
One is running towards something, and one is running away from something.
I am sitting on a midnight flight from Atlanta when I am hit - square in the seatbelt - with the fact that I am the latter.
I stare down the aisle of the plane, clutching a teeny bag of peanuts in one hand and the book in the other, and I realize, ’I have been running from German Shepherds since I was ten years old.’
Again, this is a more complicated concept than I can do justice here - these two different types of personalities are not inherently good or bad. They are just a way in which people make decisions, and there are plenty of top achievers and Olympic champions that are German Shepherd-types. (Plus, it’s apparently a really great tool in sales.)
But this awesome chapter of a fantastic book about sales techniques made me realize - as I’m sipping on a plastic cup of ginger ale - that I have been running from failure my entire life, and that’s why I have yet to make any progress on the important work that I want to do. #lightbulbmomentinseat22A
When I was a farm girl in Idaho, I was known for saying things without thinking, and was teased with the nickname ‘Erin-head’ (‘airhead’ - get it? #clever). As you can imagine, those jokes dug deep into my pre-teen mind, and like weeds in the back of my sneakers, they stuck to the sides of my thought walls and grew a life of their own.
I learned over the next few decades that if I was quiet and thoughtful about what I said, if I didn’t push too hard, if I was careful not to risk too much, I would be safe from looking stupid. If I didn’t put myself out in the open until I was absolutely sure I was capable enough to handle it, then I could avoid pain.
For me, success became doing just well enough to be seen on stage, but not enough to risk the full glare of the spotlight.
I have been successfully running away from German Shepherds for a long time now, and
I’m at the point in my life where I am starting to visualize my important work and can see my dreams come into focus up ahead.
But instead of moving towards them, I’ve come to a screeching halt, suddenly trapped between the two.
How many of you have felt this way? Caught in between the fears of your past and the uncertainty of your future, so paralyzed that you stay just ahead of the German Shepherds without going too far towards your important work because you’re too scared to go after a Gold Medal? In fact, you just really don’t know how?
A few months after that flight, I heard Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) say during a wonderful podcast, "Don’t try to kill fear because fear and creativity are conjoined twins. If you want to live a creative life then you will have to make a lot of space for fear and creativity to coexist."
Fear always seems to be present when it comes to important work, doesn't it? But this doesn't mean that I should be motivated by fear. When it comes to being a creative entrepreneur, I should be motivated by the thought of the beautiful work in my future that only I can produce.
Apparently running from fear has still lead me toward my most important work, but if I don’t start seeing my important work as Gold Medals, I’ll miss out on achieving something truly great. Or maybe I just need a really big German Shepherd…