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Remembering Mark – Part 2

Today we’ll pick up where we left off, and I’ll attempt to share how Mark and I applied these diseases and their cures to the Zen Art of Selling.

As a team of coaches working to serve his people, Mark and I never found a more powerful instrument than the diseases of swordsmanship.  If you buy the book – and you should! – you’ll find these diseases in the chapter entitled Zen and Swordsmanship.  As Suzuki honorably explains they were first documented by Yagyu Kajima No Kami,a 17th century Samurai sword master, in his book On The Mystical Sword, written for his sons before he died in 1632.

Below this picture of Mark slaying me with one of his famous jokes, I’ll lead with each disease and then talk about it, pretty much exactly as I would if I ever had the chance to serve Mark over the phone again.

pasquale mark

As you can see, Mark doesn’t just tell a joke, he closes on the punch line.

“An idea, however worthy and desirable in itself, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it.  The diseases or obsessions the swordsman has to get rid of are:

It’s important to recognize that there are diseases of mind.  No, not of the brain.  Not biological, not even necessarily psychological, but rather mental.  There are bad ways of thinking.  It might be easier to think of them as simply bad mental habits, but the term disease is

very powerful.  And when you’re actually fighting for your life with a sword, the consequence of bad thinking is death.  Such a disease, mental though it may be, has very real physiological consequences.  Not good.

Bad thinking isn’t enough to be a disease, though.  It is when bad thinking loops – when we obsess upon it – that we begin to create the factors of failure in any endeavor.

Therefore, the discovery and cure of these diseases of mind is one of the most powerful performance exploders you could possibly procure.

“(1) the desire for victory,

Of course you want to win, and if you don’t want that, you won’t make it as a recruiter.  So, what’s the problem here?  Well, many times – as in a duel between swordsman to the death – until the other guy loses you haven’t won.  Here’s an amazing historical fact.  The greatest swordsman in Japanese history, Miyamoto Musashi, is reported to have slain over 60 opponents during his killing years from the age of 13 to just 29.  At that point, Musashi gave up killing people.  But, he kept on dueling.  What did he do?  He would simply battle his opponent until the opponent, unhurt, would surrender and admit Musashi the greater swordsman, no harm done.

Coming back to your placements contests, my prescription to cure this disease is to focus on the other guy’s victory.  If you make sure both candidate and client are victorious, you won’t suffer from this disease, yourself.

“(2) the desire to resort to technical cunning,

This may be the greatest disease in our industry.  I say, forget all those memorized steps to overcome objections.  But how?  Listen to each objection, and judge it honestly.  If you agree, support the objection.  If you disagree, respectfully offer your reasons, always leaving the choice where it belongs, in the mind and heart of the good soul you’re serving.

Respecting the other person is the cure, that and getting over the need to win…oh wait, that was the one above…

“(3) the desire to display all the he has learned,

This is one of the worst ones for me, personally.  I know a lot.  I’m smart.  I love to share.  But, I can diagnose my disease more accurately by confessing that I love to show off.

The cure is to empower the best possible decision, with the best possible amount of cogent, meaningful information as defined by the needs of the prospect.  What information does the prospect need – that much and no more – in order to build a truly well informed yes-or-no decision?  When the information serves my ego, it is almost impossible for it to serve the decision maker.  When serving his or her best possible decision, you can completely cure this disease.  Well, maybe 90% or so…

“(4) the desire to overawe the enemy,

Yes, this disease is something of an extension of #3, but it is a more virulent form.  A salesman can grow addicted to the high-information, superior power of being the aggressor, and the professional on the topic at hand.  When we surrender to this vicious disease, we can even – at times – care more about our domination and superiority than we do about completing the sale.  In fact, it can be a defensive posture since perhaps we aren’t so confident in our closing or negotiating skills.  Lacking confidence, we sometimes get our inner strokes from being on top, and especially from intimidating the prospect who is, in this case, actually our enemy.

The cure for this disease to jettison the hidden emotion of enmity and to embrace true friendship for every person we serve.  If a person proves unworthy of our service, we must end the conversation and go find a prospect who is worthy, not only of our service, but really of our friendship.  When you’re serving a friend, the temptation to overawe disappears.  Friendship is the cure.

“(5) the desire to play a passive role,

Shockingly, the older I get, the more I suffer from this one.  In my case it is a combination of laziness and again ego stupidity.  I can’t be bothered to close, or to close hard anymore now that I’m such a big shot.  Why should I have to lower myself that way?  This is, for me, nowhere worse than when the other fellow is a poor negotiator and can’t enter into the joyful spirit of play.  I often forget how I used to hate, to detest, to fear and loathe negotiation before I eventually learned from all the agony and fell in love with the art.

The cure is to remember that the very definition of my work is to help others.  A nurse who fails to bring the medicine at the right time is failing her mission to serve.  A recruiter who fails to search on his opening is forgetting about the need of the client who entrusted him with that search.  When I’m negotiating, it is my job to help the other person find their way through a difficult and thorny situation.  I must remember the pain of decision, and be there to be of true help, to create value, progress and even, where possible, comfort to the other person.  I must serve.  There’s really no way to define service passively.  The cure is to take charge of my own path to service and to own it, on behalf of my friend… hey…

…these diseases seem to make reference backward don’t they; which is to say that coming to know them one at a time builds up a type of cumulative new understanding.  Hmm.  Those Samurai seemed to have developed some real wisdom, I think…

“(6) and lastly, the desire to be rid of whatever disease he is likely to be infected with. 

This is actually the funniest of the lot, once you get the joke.  It’s kind of a nerdy joke with strange loops and self-referencing information spirals and such.  Just like you certainly want to win, of course you must hope to rid yourself – to be cured of – these diseases each and all of them.  But, you never will be 100% cured of any, let alone all.  Never going to happen. So, if you start obsessing on these cures, you’ll distract yourself from your actual mission which, in light of this disease means to serve in spite of your own infinite weaknesses.

The following wisdom has a long lineage.  The transmitter to me, though, was Sigmund Freud.  He quoted:

“What we can’t reach striding, we must reach limping.  The book tells us, there is no shame in limping.”

For me, my perfectionism is at its worst right here.  I have worked hard to redefine perfection for the real world, since I can’t let go of the dream.  But, I also have to confess that I get in my own way with my foolish obsessions.

The cure is to embrace imperfection with honor and joy. The key phrase is the question: Did I do as well as I could?  But what if not?  Then, “Did I do well enough?”  But what if not?  Then I failed.  If you’ve read anything of mine, you know where I stand on the practice of analyzing failures in order to learn how to win.  The disease here, though, shows itself most meaningfully by the failure to ask those simple questions about doing my best and doing well enough.  As with all these cures, “well enough” has to be defined in service to others, not by some abstract artistic standard that my ego sets.

In Zen we learn to erase the past and destroy the future, to enter 100% into this one moment alone.  What’s the point – right now – of worrying about your imperfections? Rather, what is the opportunity to do good, right now?  Forget your diseases.  Simply determine how to serve, right now, as best you can.

When any one of these obsesses him, he becomes its slave, as it makes him lose all the freedom he is entitled to as a swordsman.”

I’ve noted that my ego’s been taking a bit of a beating in this essay.  The truth is that your ego is absolutely part of the cure.  The motion has to be that your ego moves from something very selfish, narrow-minded and childish, to a more adult, mature and generous focus on other people.  This doesn’t mean our egos disappear or were bad things to be defeated.  Rather, we simply have to relocate our ego satisfactions from those indicated by these diseases to those joys found in their cures.

The true cure, the basis of our freedom from obsession and slavery is to face one’s self honestly.  It is to find the good while admitting and facing the bad without too much judgment against the self as a whole.  Yes, you surely want all these cures.  No, you can’t have them all in a pure or perfect form, not individually and certainly not over all of them!  But yes, noting these diseases and shifting your focus and commitment to the hard-but-fulfilling work of cure and healing is precisely the right thing to do.  Again, no, not in order to win everything.  Rather, in order to become a bit healthier, haler, more whole and complete and quite simply a bit better from one day to the next, moving forward, rising higher up toward becoming the best person you’re able to become…realistically!

Freedom?  Don’t you want to be free at last?  I know Mark sought spiritual freedom in every day of his life, and I personally – as did so many, many others – felt that furious-but-hilarious passion in every encounter with him.  We may pray that wherever Mark is now, he’s making good souls laugh till they cry the way he did for us, and that the cures he sought here are fulfilled there.

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