Two Shoe Salesmen

Two shoe salesmen from London were sent to Africa in the 1800s. They both got off the ship and ventured out into the city, then the surrounding towns, and out into the villages. A few days later they went to the telegraph office.

The first salesman sent a message to his company in London, “No one wears shoes here. Send fare for my return. I’m coming home.”

The second salesman messages his company, “No one wears shoes here. Send 10,000 pairs immediately.”

Two men from the same place, with the same job, see the same people and come to two totally different conclusions. The first sees problems, the second sees opportunities. One sees a no-win situation and the other sees nothing but potential. One sees a road block and the other sees a wide-open playing field.

Perspective is the only difference in these two men, and perspective is the only thing that matters in this situation.

The life and leadership strategy of the Two Shoe Salesmen tells us to pay attention to our perspective. See what could be before you pack it in and move on.

In our work and in leading others it becomes easy to look for the path of least resistance. We consider what others have done and are doing, when we should be considering what could be done. Our perspective too often becomes stifled by imaginary boundaries of convenience and convention. But just because our coworkers and competition are bare-foot doesn’t mean we have to be.

Our families and relationships can suffer the same way. People accept and expect life to get busy, calendars to fill up, kids to come along, work to ask more, and intimacy, quality time, joy and values to diminish. But just because our neighbors don’t wear the shoes of healthy, intentional and live-giving family life doesn’t mean we can’t.

Our work places, homes, and communities are not unchangeable or immovable. Our role in the story of our lives has not been written for us. To think it has is to live a life lacking perspective of reality.

A good shoe salesman knows their job is to sell shoes, so they make the decisions and take the actions necessary to do it.

A good leader and co-worker should know their job is to succeed with the team they are on and will make the decisions and take the actions necessary to do it.

A good spouse and parent should know their job is to instill a sense of love, peace, confidence, values and purpose into their family and will make the decisions and take the actions necessary to do it.

It all begins with perspective. Choose to see what could be, what should be, and what will be as you decided to make it so. See the potential in your work, family, spouse, children and community and be the one who makes it happen.

The Bit Market

The story is a new CEO comes to a company that makes drill bits. A veteran analyst at the company comes in to brief him about the state of the company and the market. Charts, files and figures about production, research, and sales are presented. The catalog of various drill bits for any application is proudly shown. The analyst concludes that the state of the company is good, the products are great, and they currently have a majority of the drill bit market. This means they are selling more drill bits than anyone else.

The CEO thanks the analyst, but says, “There is one major flaw about your understanding of our situation…”

The analyst looks back at his charts and files, and thinks “who is this new guy that thinks he knows more about drill bits than me?”

The CEO continues, “… there is no such thing as a drill bit market. There is a market for holes and as soon as there is a better way to make holes, no one will be buying drill bits.”

This life and leadership strategy forces us to ask if we are paying more attention to what we are doing than why we are doing it.
What is the drill bit market that we have placed all our confidence in?

In the organizations and teams we work with, do the methods we use really provide the most efficient and effective outcomes? At times, we get more comfortable with how it is than how it could/should be. Our aversion to change blinds us to the reality of what we are really trying to accomplish.

In our families we do that same thing. Everyone else is making drill bits, working as much overtime as they can, have their kids involved in too many activities, and spend any free time they may have on self-serving hobbies, so we should be too. We believe that is the market we are living in.

That isn’t the truth.
More income doesn’t make us live better lives if we spend it wrong.
Giving our kids more responsibilities and opportunities doesn’t make them better adults if they don’t have the time to be kids first.
Our hobbies won’t bring us joy if they aren’t making our families and communities better.

We buy into the drill bit market when the reality is we don’t want drill bits, we want holes. There are better ways to make holes in our lives.

Picture using an old hand drill, and then getting the first ever electric drill.

The right way to lead your team or lead your life isn’t doing it the way it’s always been done. Don’t keep buying into the lie of the drill bit market. If your team is underperforming, figure out what you are trying to accomplish. If your money is an issue, write a budget. If you want your kids to be better adults, show them what one looks like.