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I recently read an interesting article in Entrepreneur magazine about women who have inherited their fathers' businesses. One of the women mentioned in the article was Julie Smolyansky, 30-year-old president of a publicly traded company, Lifeway Foods Inc. The company manufactures cultured dairy, natural, and organic "probiotic foods." (Don't ask.)
Smolyanksi took over the reins of the company when her father was struck down by a heart attack in 2002. She recalls overhearing people, at her father's funeral no less, expressing doubts that the company could survive with a 27-year-old "girl" running the show. A few weeks after she had taken over the helm, one of her father's top advisors bluntly told her that she simply wasn't up to the challenge. He opined that she would need some older and wiser "gray hair" on the board.
Her response: "I told him I didn't agree and I'd handle things a little differently." I love it! A real-life female tortoise. What a dignified way to say "Get stuffed!"
It gets better. Smolyanksi says, "We were under the gun, and I didn't have time to monkey around with people who didn't believe in me. I wasn't going to spend my energy being diplomatic and political."
In the spirit of Martha "Get Out of My Way If You Don't Want to Be Stepped On" Stewart, Julie Smolyansky is definitely another one of those women with whom you wouldn't want to slow dance. Lifeway Foods has prospered under her, with sales now approaching $20 million.
Maybe this no-nonsense female executive read Dan Kennedy's book, No B.S. Sales Success: The Ultimate No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, Take No Prisoners & Make Tons of Money Guide." Like all of Kennedy's works, it's a classic.
Perhaps the most important section of Kennedy's book is where he talks about avoiding being "contaminated" by the words of old pros who give you involuntary advice. Or what I refer to in "To Be or Not to Be Intimidated?" as being intimidated by the "Discouragement Fraternity."
First, let's take a look at what Kennedy has to say in his book.
In Chapter 4, he warns about the dangers of a fresh and enthusiastic salesperson listening to the unsolicited advice of "grizzled veterans" - people who have managed to make a decent living in their chosen professions through a combination of longevity, seniority, and accumulated customers or clients.
In other words, they succeed, to one extent or another, just by following Woody Allen's advice to just show up every day. It is Kennedy's (and my) contention that these seasoned vets can negatively impact the attitude of a person entering their field. Among other things that Kennedy offers as reasons for their bad advice:
He further explains that you can find these naysayers in virtually every kind of business or organization - "on the showroom floor at the car dealership, gathered around the coffee machine in the real estate office, in the hall, or at the sales meeting."
It is absolutely critical that you not allow these know-it-alls to contaminate your thought processes. Which means you must exercise discretion when it comes to the people you allow to influence you.
In "To Be or Not to Be Intimidated?" (first published in the seventies as "Winning through Intimidation"), I give similar warnings to my readers in Chapter 2. I begin by admitting how ignorant and naive I was when I entered the real estate brokerage business. I was devastated by the discouraging remarks that were gleefully directed at me by virtually every real estate agent with whom I spoke. More often than not, when I would talk to a real estate agent about my plans to obtain a real estate license, he would drone on and on about how difficult it was to be a success in the real estate brokerage business, and why a newcomer would find it almost impossible to get started... let alone succeed.
Fortunately, I had already reached a psychological maturation point in my business life that allowed me to ignore most of the negative grenades tossed at me. I had long ago concluded that all members of the Discouragement Fraternity had two things in common: (1) Because they were insecure, they feared competition, and (2) they were ferocious about protecting their turf.
In that same chapter, I tell one of my favorite stories about an experience I had in an organic chemistry class in college. The story is far too long to tell here, but the gist of it is that I came smack up against a "Court Holder" in that very difficult course.
Basically, a Court Holder is just an average guy who makes a career out of holding court. He's the jerk at every cocktail party explaining how utterly simple it all is - the one poised with one elbow on the mantel, a drink in his hand, and a group of information?starved puppies flocking around him in a semicircle.
More to the point, a Court Holder is a master intimidator. And "To Be or Not to Be Intimidated?" is all about refusing to allow others to intimidate you.
As I write in the book, "Don't allow yourself to be intimidated by know?it?alls who thrive on bestowing their knowledge on insecure people. Mentally close your ears and put blinders on your eyes, and move relentlessly forward with the knowledge that what someone else knows is not relevant. In the final analysis, what is relevant to your success is what you know and what you do."
Later, in Chapter 9 of the same book, I discuss a theory that is a natural extension of the Court Holder phenomenon - the "Leapfrog Theory." The Leapfrog Theory states: No one has an obligation - moral, legal, or otherwise - to "work his way up through the ranks." Every human being possesses an inalienable right to make a unilateral decision to redirect his career and begin operating on a higher level at any time he believes he is prepared to do so.
In other words, ignore the "words of wisdom" of the established hotshots in your profession and go for the gold without asking anyone's permission. If you aspire to great accomplishments, you must recognize that the quickest way to the top is not by fighting your way through the pack but by leapfrogging over it.
As with a pig, make it a point never to wrestle with a Court Holder. When you, and you alone, feel ready to move up in class, simply jump over the swarm of Court Holders in front of you and ignore their warnings of imminent disaster on the horizon.
Oh, and just so you know, once you make it to the top of the ladder, be prepared to be disliked. Your success is a hard pill to swallow for those who warned you that what you were contemplating was all but impossible.
But here's the good news. Of those who dislike you, probably 50 percent will kiss up to you anyway, because they are shamelessly impressed by wealth. And probably another 40 percent will genuinely respect you for your accomplishments. Finally, figure about 10 percent will actually go through life mad and refuse to acknowledge your success.
On balance, not a very high price to pay for getting what you want out of life. Just smile and say to yourself, in the words of Emmett Smith (the midget among giants who broke the NFL's all-time rushing record): "Now tell me what else I can't do."
In Part II of this article, I'm going to share some specific examples of authors whose books became best-sellers despite their being told by insiders in the publishing industry that their efforts would be futile. For obvious reasons, these remarkable true stories are very dear to my heart.
Copyright © - Robert J. Ringer. - Reprinted with permission. Robert Ringer is a dynamic public speaker and the author of eight books, including three #1 bestsellers, "Restoring the American Dream," "Looking Out for #1," and "To Be or Not to Be Intimidated?" (the updated and totally rewritten version of "Winning Through Intimidation"). - www.RobertRinger.com.
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