Years ago, when I was working as a management consultant, I had a four-month gig (that turned into a yearlong project) in northeast Brazil working on the privatization of six cellphone companies. It was a dream assignment for me – new location, high impact, I spoke the language and had the chance to share what I’d seen in other markets. Kind of what they say management consulting can be but rarely is.
The American guy running our four-person team, 10 years my senior, had started his career as a salesman. He sold photocopiers. This guy cemented my image of the prototypical sales guy: at the end of a 14 hour work day, when all I wanted to do was head back to my hotel room and decompress, he’d head straight to the hotel bar. He was one of the most extroverted, garrulous, outgoing people I’ve ever met, always ready with a wink, a smile, and a strong slap on the back.
This guy was a walking, talking stereotype. Unbeknownst to him, I let him do me an incredible disservice.
“I’m not that guy,” I told myself for more than a decade. “I’m not most comfortable in a room full of strangers. I don’t love making small talk. I’m not always the most outgoing, talkative guy in the room. So I can’t do sales.”
As I repeated this story to myself, I closed doors. I limited myself. I didn’t understand that just because I didn’t fit that mold didn’t mean that I couldn’t do this work.
I bring what I bring to the table. And you bring what you bring. It’s up to both of us to decide what to do with our talents.
But slamming doors before we’ve ever tried to walk through them? Then we have no one to blame but ourselves when our path forward isn’t what we’d hoped it would be.