Before we get into what great salespeople do, I’d like to share a story about my daughter, Zoe, one that brought new meaning to the work Mike and I are doing.
Last January, my wife and I attended a midyear parent-teacher conference. Zoe was in sixth grade, and we were expecting the usual—a glowing report from her teacher. But this meeting was different. I could tell there was a problem from the moment we sat down with Zoe’s teacher.
“Zoe is struggling in history,” she said. She explained that Zoe’s test scores had dropped. Maybe it was Zoe’s comprehension, or maybe it was her recall—the teacher couldn’t be sure. The news hit me like a punch in the stomach. Something was wrong with my little girl, and the teacher couldn’t even tell me what it was. On top of that, I’d always loved history, and I wanted it to be a subject my kids loved too.
That night, I asked Zoe about history. She said she hated having to remember stupid names, dates, facts. “Why do I need to know what happened to a bunch of old men 200 years ago?”
They’d just finished studying colonial American history, so I asked her what she’d learned about the Revolution.
“They signed the Declaration of Independence,” she said. “What did that mean?”
“I don’t remember,” she said.
Over the next few weeks, I asked some of Zoe’s friends about history, and they all felt the same way she did. I just didn’t get it. I remembered history lessons as being full of exciting stories about interesting people. To this day, I still remember learning about Paul Revere in grade school.
Paul was born to a French immigrant father who came to the new colonies when he was 13. Paul’s mother was a New England socialite from an established Boston area family. As a young boy, Paul loved working as an apprentice to his father, a silversmith. His dad was known as the best engraver around, and Paul wanted to be just like him. He instilled in Paul an entrepreneurial ethic: “Make something of yourself.”
Paul also greatly admired his mother and her community activism. The family went to church every Sunday and discussed politics, business, and religion at dinner each night. No subject was out of bounds. Paul soon began to form his own views on important subjects of the day, particularly the Church of England.
When Paul was 17, his father died. Paul was doubly crushed. He wanted to take over the silversmith business, but according to English law, he was too young. With few options, he enlisted in the Provincial Army to fight in the French and Indian War. During the war, Paul experienced tyranny and oppression firsthand. He emerged from the army an independent thinker who was not afraid to challenge the status quo and fight for what he believed was right.
Because I connected with Paul’s story, I never had any trouble understanding and remembering the related historic events: the Boston Tea Party, the colonies voting to reject British rule and adopt the Declaration of Independence, the “shot heard around the world,” and of course Paul’s famous ride (“The British are coming, the British are coming!”). But when I tried telling Zoe the story, hoping to spark her interest, she just gave me a funny look…
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