It’s been two years since Bill (aka BG)
passed away unexpectedly. BG was an older fraternity brother who lived near
campus. He became more of a big brother than a fraternity brother. He was a
longtime friend. He was one of the key influencers in my decision to choose
sales as a career. And, he was one of my original mentors. My relationship with
BG began 26 years ago, and although there were times that physical distance
caused a distance in our relationship, he was never forgotten.
I had an admiration for BG from the
moment I met him. While he graduated a few years ahead of me, his chosen path
in sales allowed him to live nearby campus, and so I was able to see and talk
with him often. BG was a realist. He lived in the moment. He never painted a
false picture of his sales career. Sure, he definitely spoke fondly of the pros
of sales, such as flexible schedules, travel, client entertainment, and of
course compensation. But, he also was not afraid to share his frustrations as
well. Long weeks of driving through multiple states. “Shitty food”. Constantly
being told no. And, of course compensation.
As my years progressed as a “still
undergrad” and my relationship with BG grew, his career blossomed. I watched
this man go from a struggling salesman to a sales manager to a vp of sales in a
short period of time. And, for some reason, BG kept me in the loop as if he
knew I was watching closely as I was trying to determine my own course
post-college. Many of our fraternity brothers and friends weren’t aware of
this, but BG kept a journal. It wasn’t a diary, rather it was what he referred
to as a “business-life lesson notebook”. He kept it close to his vest, in that
I never held onto it for long, but he would let me read some of his notes about
wins and losses, cold calling successes and failures, and even a few short
blurbs about what hotels to stay in and restaurants to eat and entertain.
With only a few weeks remaining before
graduation I was faced with the ultimate decision. It boiled down to law school
or a sales position. BG could see that I was struggling with this decision. I didn’t
want to let anyone down by my decision, yet it was ultimately MY decision. BG
showed up on my doorstep on a Sunday afternoon and demanded I join him at a
local bar for a beer. We hadn’t even been served yet when he slammed his hand
down on the bar, looked me square in the eye, and said we weren’t leaving until
I made a choice. We spent nearly three hours talking and making lists. And, in
the end, I chose sales.
The choice was not because I wanted to
be like Bill. Rather, it was because Bill brought something out in me that many
others could not. He had the ability to make me face my fears of post-college.
His support was not that of a family member or an employer. He had nothing to
lose or gain, quite frankly, so he played devil’s advocate. He pushed me to
answer really tough questions about who I was then and who I wanted to be. How
I wanted to spend my early post-graduate days. And, what did I want out of life,
at least for the foreseeable future (way back then).
I share this post to those that are
graduating from college soon and seeking direction in life. I share this post
with those that may be considering a career change. And, I share this post with
my fraternity brothers who knew BG. Everyone needs a mentor. If you have one
may he or she be as valuable to you as BG was to me. If you don’t – use this
post to help you identify someone in your life that can match the qualities of
BG – for this is the type of person that will have a lasting impact on you.