A story about high cholesterol, a vegan diet and sales excellence

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Our health is deteriorating and things need to change. But, c’mon, you know that. We eat poorly and don’t exercise nearly enough. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have reached such alarming levels— the government is getting involved. (16-ounce soda anyone?) Our health insurance premiums have risen three times more than our wages have over the last decade, mostly because the amount of sick claims that have skyrocketed. Simply put, we’ve allowed our health to run off-course, developing bad habits, and attempting to mitigate these bad habits with expensive medication.

So why are we so afraid to deal with the root cause of our health problems? And what does this have to do with sales? And who the heck am I to point these things out?

Well, almost one year ago, I visited my physician for a check-up and blood work. I learned that my cholesterol was high (270) and that I had several other KPIs that weren’t very good. My doctor told me “this is very common” and suggested I consider a statin like so many other males over 40.

I hated that idea.

So I took matters into my own hands. I watched a movie (“Forks Over Knives”) and read a book (“The China Study”). Both had a profound impact on my view of processed foods and the outcome of an American diet.

When I was finally convinced that I, alone, was responsible for my own good health, I did something radical. I stopped eating meat and dairy. The guy who loved to eat all foods—especially bacon—woke up and said, “I can make this change” and I became a vegan.

Within 6 months of no meat or dairy, my cholesterol went from 270 to 131. I also saw significant improvements in my blood pressure, A1C, and several other indicators. I lost 30 pounds, my BMI greatly improved, and I never felt hungry for a second. I didn’t even miss bacon.

It’s been a year and I’m still 100% on track.

I feel so much better. I have more energy and clarity than ever before. And my strategic plan of reading, absorbing, investigating, creating action steps, shopping differently, etc.—has changed my entire outlook on every “problem” I feared I couldn’t solve. There is nothing better than knowing that I made a plan—not my doctor—but me; a plan with specific actions, tools and behaviors that would lead me to this new lifestyle.

Ok, enough about my health. I’m not trying to convert anyone to a vegan lifestyle. (But happy to discuss or answer questions about the experience any time!)

What I want to share is this: I realized my health experience dovetailed directly to my business experience, and both experiences share the same principles. Over the past decade, as my vie™ colleagues and I worked tirelessly to perfect the sales excellence process for our clients, we observed and coached thousands of salespeople and managers from some incredible companies. And looking back, l now realize the mindset required to change one’s health is also the mindset needed to achieve superiority in sales/business consulting. The two paths converge so easily.  Just watch!

1.  You have to create a blueprint for success and you must follow it.

How many of us have taken the time to understand what high-performance really means?

I didn’t know what veganism really was. As a life-long runner, I thought I knew what it felt like to be lean and high-energy, but I hadn’t considered that another way of eating could put me at a whole other level above. Eating differently introduced me to a better version of me.  A version I may have never unlocked if I hadn’t opened my mind.

When I was creating a blueprint to achieve better health, I identified what I would eat and what I wouldn’t. I learned about the rewards of proper nutrition, and the dangers of my current lifestyle, and developed a strategy and plan to reverse my weaknesses. That was my blueprint.

Now you. How could you deconstruct your sales role and reengineer it for high-performance? When you think about each step of your selling process, what things could you be doing differently? As a manager, coach or leader, what approach could you change to produce better outcomes? What things do you need to stop or start doing? Write it out and create your blueprint.

2.  You are what you consume. Literally.

Are we really so surprised at how our bodies and minds react to what we put in them?

I admit it. I was filling my body with the wrong nourishment. Fatty foods. Chemically processed foods. And loads of sugar. All leading to (inevitable) long-term health problems.

Now you. What are you filling your mind with everyday? Are you consuming information that could help you show your clients that you are a scary-smart advisor? Are you looking around, taking note of what competitors are doing, and collecting new ideas and new insights to improve client business? Or are you just showing up with the same old stale approach? Skipping good nutrition and substance in this area will have detrimental effects on your ability to help them.

3.  You CAN change ingrained habits.

Have you ever experienced an epiphany? Realized that something needs to change?

I was terrified by my blood work and didn’t want to have a heart attack at 50 (like my father did). This jolted me to make some radical changes. Thankfully, it wasn’t too late. I averted life-long medication, maybe even a pre-mature cardiac event.

What will be your epiphany? A missed opportunity? A passed over promotion? A job loss? When you self-reflect on the value you bring to your clients, are you everything they hoped for? Are old habits keeping you stuck? Are you too comfortable in your routine? Could you change it up to be more positive, more unexpected, more valuable?

Sometimes, people wait so long to change and then it’s too late. The competition swoops in and takes your business. These people lose out on opportunities or worse, become irrelevant. You’ve heard the saying “pay now or pay later”, right? Pay now because paying later is much more painful.

4.  To be great, you have to practice

You are what you most practice and I was determined to practice a lifestyle that would lower my cholesterol and change my health.

To achieve excellence, you need to make sure the change(s) you put in place aren’t temporary.

When it came to my health, I needed to do several things to ensure my behavioral change would become a permanent approach to life. I needed to make sure I was eating the right food, exercising according to my plan, and keeping my nose in the research so I always felt motivated and knowledgeable. And not just once in a while, but daily. A daily practice of the right disciplines will form a new habit. I told myself I needed new habits, not new medicine. There were no silver bullets here.

When it comes to sales excellence, it’s no different! Ask yourself, what habits are you practicing? Are you putting in the time to prepare for every encounter with your clients? Have you practiced for your next meeting so that you are sharper and genuinely ready? Are you focused on the right disciplines and habits that will lead to success?  There are no silver bullets or shortcuts here either.

The big take-away is this: we all have the ability to improve our personal health. And using the same principles, we all have the ability to improve the health of our business. Will there be surprises and challenges that are out of our control?  Of course. But the reality is, there are many chronic conditions in our health (and business) that can be reversed, controlled, even avoided.

No one will do this for you. It must begin with you.

If you want to talk about how you can impact the health of your sales organization or if you want to discuss personal health – I’d love to hear from you!


Paul Shapiro is a Managing Partner at vie™. Visit vietocompete.com or email paul@vietocompete.com.  To start a discussion about how vie can make a remarkable difference for your sales organization.