A Holiday for Optimists

November 22nd, 2011 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

This year we present our fourth Thanksgiving Thought Tool. I want to tell you something you don’t already know about giving thanks and to do so in a way that will be useful in your life.

I enjoy asking audiences to raise their hands if they are sales professionals. Usually, only a few hands go up. I then ask, “How many of you are justices of the United States Supreme Court?” After the chuckles subside, I ask, “How many of you are tenured university professors?” Finally I say, “Look, if you’re not a judge appointed for life, and you’re not a professor hired for life, you are probably in sales.

At the very least, you must constantly sell your employer on the idea that you are worth keeping on the payroll.

Selling means helping others see things from a new perspective. So, whether you are a dentist or a lawyer, whether you are a ballerina, a bartender, or a plumber, you are in sales. To a large extent, your success is as dependent upon your selling ability as it is upon your basic skill. If you have a job or are looking for a job, you are in sales. If you are a teacher, a pastor or a preacher, you are in sales. And if you are seeking a spouse you are in sales.

Fortunately, ancient Jewish wisdom can help your selling ability. It turns out that the University of Pennsylvania conducted a famous study for Met Life in the mid- 80s, when Met Life was hiring about 5,000 trainees a year and training them at a cost of $30,000 each. Unfortunately, 80% of the hires were unsuccessful, quitting within four years.

After spending time and money identifying the qualities that defined the successful 20% of the hires, the researchers discovered the secret—Optimism. High-scoring optimists sold 88% more insurance than those who scored high on IQ and education, but low on optimism.

It is hard to exaggerate how much optimism increases your success in your selling. But how do you become a more optimistic person?

Imagine IBM’s vice-president of sales eagerly wooing a new sales professional. After being cajoled and incentivized, our star accepts the position.

Arriving at work, our new employee is shocked by the first directive issued to him–“Please send your assistant to sing-up this new account.”

Surely Moses was as perplexed as our salesman when God instructed him to send Aaron to turn the Nile River into blood. (Exodus 7:19)

Imagine Moses saying “Hey God, why should my brother bring the plague instead of me?”

“Gratitude,” replies God. “That river carried you to safety as an infant. Nobody should ever return good with evil. After a river saves your life you shouldn’t turn it into a lifeless stream of blood; that wouldn’t demonstrate gratitude.”

Can a river feel anything? It isn’t as if Moses would have acted ungratefully to another human, this is a river we’re talking about. And that is the entire point! Expressing gratitude benefits the speaker as much—or more— than the recipient. Expressing gratitude dramatically increases one’s optimism level.

You know how grumbling fills you with despondency? Naturally, the opposite of grumbling fills one with positive feelings. But what IS the opposite of grumbling? Not grumbling is not the opposite—it is merely neutral. The opposite is being appreciative.

Expressing gratitude, whether to God, to people, or one’s country, is a mysterious but reliable portal to optimism. There is no more effective way to induce the happy sensation of optimism and hope in our souls than finding opportunities to say, “Thank-you!”

It is no surprise that those founders who chose to thank God, embedded in America a sense of boundless optimism. Rather than focusing on the deprivation and losses of the preceding year, the Pilgrims counted their blessings. Not surprisingly, they appreciated so much of ancient Jewish wisdom to which they had access. Susan and I are grateful for so much, including your friendship and support. We wish you a meaningful holiday and hope that our special sale-priced Genesis Journeys Audio Set opens gates of gratitude and optimism for you as you delight in and grow with God’s Word.

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