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Stop Doing What You’re “Supposed To Do”
By John Barrows | July 18, 2018

Too many of us get stuck going through the motions in life/business/sales and just do what we think we’re supposed to do. I have two examples, one personally and one professionally, that made me stop and think otherwise.

First the personal story. I went to college a single man, had a blast and then found someone towards the end of my freshman year. I stayed with her through the rest of college, into my young professional life and we even moved back to Boston together. After 7 years I ended up doing what I thought I was supposed to do after you’ve been with someone for that long, I got engaged. I took the leap even though I knew the relationship wasn’t right but I felt like that was what I had to do. Thankfully she ended up breaking it off with me. When she told me, my initial reaction was devastation because that’s how you’re supposed to feel after your fiancé dumps you, right? However, after about two days of feeling sorry for myself, I woke up and literally felt a massive weight lift from my shoulders. I eventually reached out to thank her for having the courage to do what I knew should have been done but didn’t do. Now I’m married to an incredible woman with an awesome kid and couldn’t be happier.

The second example is a professional story that ties to the post I wrote a while back (“What’s the Risk?”) about one of the biggest learning lessons of my career when I got fired from Staples after they acquired my first company. When we were first acquired I spent the first few months being super optimistic about the acquisition and what it meant for me, the employees and the company’s future. After about 6 months of me smashing into red tape, fighting constantly with the executives and getting frustrated with my new corporate world, I went from being very optimistic to very pessimistic. I remember telling a few people that “I” was going to be successful regardless and “beat” them at their game. I even remember watching the movie 300 and thinking of myself as Leonidas and my team of 300 against the Persians (Staples). It was twisted. I then had the sobering realization that Leonidas and the 300 died in the end which is what ultimately happened to me. I fought and fought even though I knew it wasn’t right because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. Eventually they ended up firing me. Again, I was devastated for a few days but then woke up and just like when my fiancé dumped me, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. It was the best thing that could have happened to me in my professional career because it helped me wake up and find my true passion of being out on my own and I couldn’t be happier because of it.

My point with both of those stories is that I was going through my personal and professional lives doing what I thought I was supposed to do. Thankfully in both instances, someone made the decision for me that I really wasn’t meant to do either of them. I think many of us go through the motions in many ways and do what we think we’re supposed to do. My goal of this post is to get you to wake up a bit. If you don’t feel right in your company, career, relationship go do something about it! Stop doing what you’re supposed to do.

How to try this at work

If your boss is telling you to do 50-100 dials a day and blast through a list of calls/e-mails but you think by taking a more strategic approach would be more effective, try the more strategic approach for a week. Take the abuse but then show the numbers that will hopefully prove you right.

If you think you’re being forced to regurgitate the corporate slide deck slide by slide to customers but you think a more personal dynamic approach would be more valuable to the customer, try it out a few times. Get feedback and then share the feedback with your manager or team.

If you’re consistently at the top of the leaderboard but your boss is telling you that you need to spend 2 years in your current role before you can get an opportunity for a promotion (which will be at the same time as other reps who are not producing like you), either leave or get creative in your existing role and take on additional responsibilities.

There are so many opportunities out there if we just pick our heads up and stop following the typical path. If you’re not doing what you love or living the life you want to go do something about it. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to rely on anyone else for me to live the life I want to live.

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