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Nov 5 2006, 11:57 PM

About twenty years ago, there was a movie by the title Winter of Our Discontent, starring Donald Sutherland, among others. It’s title always stuck in my head, as did the grey, dreary winter images of the film’s cinematography, and whenever I have a series of economic or life downturns in November, that title comes to my mind.

This November seems to be shaping up along these lines, despite my concerted efforts at positive thinking. My wife calls it “trials”; that I am being tested.

November is a month where physically and emotionally, I am in a natural state of decline, probably due to the shorter daylight hours, the cold temperatures, the reduction in outdoor exercise, as well as the leaving behind of summer and its wonderful comfort and warmth.

In addition to the seasonal aspects leading to more challenges in keeping a positive mental outlook, there are a number of “bombshells” that were dropped on me this month. Two of my main radio clients have terminated their contracts with me, one by simply refusing to pay invoices since July and another by having their accounts payable person inform me that they were cancelling our contract relationship, effective a month ago. Hello? What kind of business etiquette is that? There are proper ways to break a contract and there are, well, not so proper ways.

At any rate now, I have to find a way to deal with the sudden financial mess this has caused, as it effectively means I’m out of the radio business now. Unemployed. Between assignments. Whatever you want to call it.

Meanwhile, my Primerica business has yet to earn me an income. I have not been able to generate any successful leads through cold-calling so far. But now with the loss of income from my prior career, I won’t have the funds to allocate for advertizing. I was planning to run some newspaper and radio ads, both offering services as well as to announce that our office is hiring and to join our team. Commission-only sales is hard. Coach Williams may have been correct about the motivational power of such a commission structure, but he sure didn’t build the system to work for people who find themselves out in the cold market.

Meanwhile, I’ve paid some licensing fees, and am currently paying to maintain a toll-free phone number for the new business. Oh well, I guess I’ll have some more tax writeoffs.

Art Williams extoles the virtues of “warm market” networking, citing that Primerica attracts a better quality breed of representatives because no strangers get hired—all new reps have been recruited from family relationships, close friends, friends and family of clients who give us these referrals upon successful completion of service to them, etc. I can see how that works out nicely—if you have family—or friends. But what about the 0.02% of the population who are misanthropic xenophobes, who live a reclusive life? Not so great. We have real challenges.

At the moment, from where I’m standing, I feel somewhat like the mountain climber who, standing at the base of Mount Everest, watches as the fog slowly clears, to reveal the full height of the obstacle before me. I have many thousands of cold calls to make, probably, before I find that one recruit who will make things happen in my business. It may be hundreds more calls before I find a family that will listen long enough for me to raise their awareness of how insecure their financial future might be, and how I can fix that. It is a task that develops mental toughness. I’m being reduced to a mere telemarketer, as the old saying goes “if it quacks like a duck…” and so I am now in the most disrespected profession known to man. But I will steel myself for the onslaught of abuse, hangups, disinterested recipients and answering machines, as I intend to give this three years to succeed, just as that couple from Ecuador did. (By the way, they made $108,000 last month.) If he could start off from a homeless immigrant and achieve that income, then I should be able to, right?

Being on the cusp of this event, I’m getting a glimpse of a boundary between the successful and the dropouts. That boundary is buried deep into difficult mental territory. One has to go through a lot of suffering, yet never waiver in commitment to succeed, if one is to cross that demarcation line over to the side of success.

I see it everyday: people succeeding in the business. Today, we had an annual mandatory compliance meeting. About 180 people packed the office. I knew things were out of the ordinary when I could not find a parking space in any of the lots surrounding the complex. I had to park in an adjacent lot behind another business and walk ¼ mile to the office this morning. But I realized how large an organization my Regional Vice President built. Eleven years ago, he was a part timer, just testing the waters in Primerica.

Everyone came to this meeting, because it’s the one time of the year when a rep can be let go, ousted from the company if one misses this mandatory compliance session. It consisted of 3-1/2 hours of training on the latest federal laws regarding several aspects of doing business with the public. Normally, we get about 1/3 as many serious devotees attending regular training meetings each week. But the numbers are growing. It would be a very elaborate scam, if it were such. But on a scale this big, such a scam could not escape the law—at least I don’t believe so. There is a whole lot of success going on here, it can’t be proven otherwise. I just need to get my share of it.

But I am also reminded that most of these people have big families, lots of friends and in general are very sociable and open. Which brings me back to telemarketing: the punishment I receive for not being a “nice guy” when I was younger—for not making a lot of friends. And the other part of it is timing: Had I gotten into the organization when I was younger, the business relationship would have been a lot more effective.

The reality is: I am who I am. I have to work with that fact. It’s going to take a lot more effort than first thought. I will experience some lean times. I may even lose my home and end up prospecting while homeless. I hope that my situation doesn’t become that dire, but I have to be honest and realize that the situation is quite serious now. It’s time to get going.


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