Hang With Losers = You're a Loser

Last Updated Sep 17, 2009 8:56 AM EDT

Look at your friends, your family and your colleagues. Are they generally successful, or do their lives smack of failure? Are they motivated to be their best, or do they complain about hard knocks? Do they pay attention to health, or are they out-of-shape? These are important questions for every sales professional because recent scientific research reveals that you'll be inexorably pulled down (or up) to the level of the people around you.

The scientific study, described in the New York Time Magazine article "Is Happiness Catching" tracked the lives of several thousand people in the town of Framingham, MA. It documented the existence of a phenomenon known as "social contagion" whereby some clusters of friends "infect" each other with unhappiness and bad habits, while other clusters spread the general happiness and healthy behavior that are the foundation of success, both in sales and in life.

This research is important to you, personally, because sales jobs require emotional stamina and (quite frankly) a physical body that's capable of supporting that positive attitude. If your personal life, and the people around you, are constantly dragging you down to their level, there's NO WAY that you'll ever be very successful at sales. Or at life, for that matter.

What to do? I have the following suggestions:

  • STEP #1: Decide What's Normal for You. Rather than let the people around you decide how and what you're going to be, decide for yourself. Write down exactly what you expect of yourself and what standards you will hold for yourself. Post that statement by your computer, in your briefcase, and put a copy in your wallet. That statement is your first-level immunization against social contagion.
  • STEP #2: Weed Out Your Social Contacts. Look at the friends with whom you associate on a regular basis. For each friend, determine whether that relationship is helping or hurting your ability to succeed. If the majority of your friends are as success-oriented as you, then you can afford to help raise a slacker or two to your level. If not, it's time to get a new set of friends. Go do it.
  • STEP #3: Limit Contact with Toxic Family. You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. However, if you've got family members who are constantly pulling you down, you need to sharply limit the amount of time that you spend with them. Avoid situations where they put pressure on you to indulge in habits -- like gossip, smoking, drinking, overeating, etc. -- that make success more difficult.
  • STEP #4: Extract Yourself from a Loser Firm. Now that you've gotten your personal life aligned with success, it's time to take a good, hard look at your co-workers. Ask yourself in all honesty: are they mostly winners or mostly losers? If they're mostly losers, you simply must find another job. Every day that you remain employed there, you're damaging your career. Use your sales skills to find and cultivate a new job.
READERS: Please note that when I'm talking about "healthy", I'm not talking about being thin. I'm talking about healthy, which comes in a wide range of physical sizes.