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27 FEBRUARY 2020
What I learned working 400 straight days

by Steve W. Martin: Founder of the Heavy Hitter sales training program & author of the Heavy Hitter series of books on the human nature of complex sales. Teaches sales strategy at the USC Marshall School of Business.

I didn’t plan on doing it and am not recommending you try it. I have worked 400 days straight without a single day off.

The back story... During the past two decades I have written 7 books and worked as a consultant with 300+ of the world’s greatest companies including Google, PayPal and IBM. Then I fell in love with one of my clients - the most unique cloud-based software company in the world - AuditBoard, and their peer-based selling model.

So, I joined the company as Senior Vice President of Sales and have worked 400 straight days. The average weekday is 11-12 hours long including commute time and I work anywhere from a couple of hours to most of the day on the weekends. I can’t explain why, but I haven’t been sick during this time. Also, my kids are grown and on their own which gives me the freedom to spend my time where I like.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Accountability. I keep a journal where I record the major accomplishments for each day of the week and then send it to the founders of the company and the CFO over the weekend. Frankly, they’re probably tired of receiving them and most likely don’t read them all. But I’m not doing it for them. I do it to hold myself accountable. Try keeping a journal this week.

Who do you impress? If you are not trying to impress everyone you’re working with on a daily basis, then you’re probably working with the wrong people.

The power of one. It’s so easy to think that just because your meeting calendar is full, you’re being productive. That’s why I subscribe to a philosophy I call “The Power of One.” This is the concept that every day I try to do at least one key accomplishment that moves my department or company forward. It’s not doing what’s expected of your role, but going above and beyond to impact the future. It could be something simple such as spending quality one-on-one time with a co-worker to charting strategic direction. I find this principle drives productivity because it’s how you measure personal impact. I regret the handful of days I haven’t accomplished the ONE thing.

Don’t think in terms of a career… think projects. I have adopted a project mentality which is based on learning everything I can while working on one project, so I can apply it to the next one. Every project (and job) is time-based and has a beginning, middle, and an end. Think in terms of time and never stop learning. Always be thinking ahead about what you need to know for your next project. Operate with a sense of urgency because time is the real enemy.

Two terms I’m tired of… Most people will work at a handful of companies over the course of their career and that’s their entire experience which is so limiting. You’d be much better off if you worked for 100 companies and you would never say “That’s how we did it at my last company” or “That’s the way we’ve always done it here.”

What is work-life balance? Now I’m going to say something that I don’t want you to take out of context. IMHO, the term “work-life balance” actually demeans the concept of work. “Work” is a creative act and a extremely important part of life. While your job does not solely determine your self-worth, it does influence your identity and dictate your net-worth.

Be clever. My favourite saying is, “A smart person knows how something works, a clever person knows how to get things done.” It’s not enough to be smart.

Grind it out. Work is not always fun or glamorous, are you coasting through the day or are you a grinder who’s pushing yourself and your colleagues to perform? Be honest with yourself, are you truly working hard? If not, you should consider doing something else.

Help someone else. Looking back, the greatest accomplishments of my career are not the things I’ve done, but the people I’ve helped along the way. Who are you helping? I find the time to teach at the USC Marshall School of Business MBA programme (Fight On! fellow Trojans) and I’m a company adviser for the coolest no-code company AppOnboard.

Final thoughts. If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it… Look around your office and you’ll see the saying is true. Time is so very, very precious and no-one knows how much they have left. Spend it wisely where you have the most impact.
Useful resources:

Steve W. Martin
Steve W. Martin is the foremost expert on "Sales Linguistics," the study of how customers use language during the complex decision-making process. Visit our InfoCentre or website.

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