Donít Undervalue Yourself
Recently, risking life and limb, I found myself on an airplane. My row-mate across the open middle seat was a gentleman close to my age. Both of us salesman, we compared our products.
As much as I love my product, and our industry, no matter how you look at it, I’m not a doctor saving lives. I’m not a chemist working on the cure for the COVID-19.
I’m not an educator preparing our youth to be outstanding citizens of the world.
No, I sell light fixtures and parking guidance systems. The guy in my row…he sells wire.
Days after this flight, I heard a lecture on how important it is for us to work. Not just work, but work with integrity, and simply for the value of work itself.
How we work, whether our product is of great individual value to the world, is of no importance because work by itself is intrinsic to sustaining life itself.
In our company, we have rallied around cancer patients, endured lifesaving surgeries, dealt with crisis in relationships, parenting issues, health issues, financial issues, and many more challenges that fall on the high-stress scale.
It’s not what we make or sell, it’s just that we are.
Whether we sell chocolate covered pretzels, or separate conjoined twins at Johns Hopkins, our people, our sensitivity, our hearts, and our character are our true product.
While my row-mate and I discussed our careers, we found ourselves in 100 percent agreement that we should not feel apologetic about our non-critical careers, but we should be focused on the other values that our businesses offer and support, plus the fact that our companies provide excellent wages that pay taxes and support families.
A friend of mine works as a custodian at a local school. Some people might feel under-valued in a position like that when they compare their careers against others that include the excitement of travel and meeting with C-Suite professionals.
Many years ago, at a previous job, my office was a cubicle, decorated with what was important to me, like anything Steelers and, of course, family pictures.
One night, while I was working late, the cleaning crew came in. One of the cleaning crew came by my cubicle, and this chatty and cheerful middle-aged woman asked me a question about one of my pictures.
She asked if the picture was of my family. I confirmed that it was.
She replied, “I always clean your workstation. You have a lovely family. I want you to know that I pray for you and your family every time I clean your office.”
I was blown away! Wiping my tears, I asked for her name and asked if my family could pray for her.
Turning the mundane and monotonous into purpose is a critical life skill. This woman’s job satisfaction was off the charts in a job that lots of people would grumble about.
I have been forever inspired by this experience.
During that time in my life, I worked for Trane Air Conditioning in a prestigious capacity. When I met someone for the first time and that person asked what I did for a living, I would always say: “I sell air conditioners.”
While that was true, it didn’t inform them that I am an engineer with a degree from a high-profile university, and that I had an executive level job.
No, it made people think that I drove a van and they might find me in their neighbor’s driveway when the A/C was broken.
That was how I judged people. If they still found value in me when my occupation seemed common, I knew that the individual was with a potential friend.
Today, as a light fixture and PGS salesman, I have learned to quit letting other people define my value.
To be first, one must be willing to be last.