Let me just preface this with the fact that I am generally not a cursing man (although my wife tells me I occasionally let one go in my sleep). Ironically, one of the main phrases that will be forever stuck in my mind after coming out of business school is “Sell the sh!% you got,” subsequently referred to as “sell the stuff you got.” And you have to say it in a Welsh (not British) accent.
Sell what you got
My marketing professor set up the discussion by talking about an occasion years ago when Disney hit a particularly low point in the company’s film division history. The class talked about what Disney could have done to get out of the slump. I’m not going to get into the dazzling ideas that we came up with, but most of them were ambitious and far-reaching. But what Disney did was much simpler.
They started with the resources they had, which was a chest full of classic and successful animated films that were basically collecting dust. What do you do in this situation? [Cue my Welsh professor] “Sell the sh!% you got.” They became masters of the rerelease, 50th anniversary editions, clothes, action figures, licensing, etc. By expounding on their core competencies rather than trying to come up with something new and unique, they were able to make an incredible comeback.
Do what you love?
I thought it was an insightful discussion, but I didn’t really internalize it until a year or so later. Every since my glory days as a staff auditor doing Starbucks runs for audit managers with inflated egos, I’ve been trying to get away from accounting in favor of finance and strategy related work.
One day I was day dreaming about making more money, and I heard a familiar Welsh voice in my head, “Sell the [stuff] you got.” It’s not just the phrase that’s stuck in my head. It’s the lesson behind it. I tend to think about pursuing things that I really have no experience in. For several years, I was reading all the “do what you love” books I could get my hands on. Here’s my conclusion after all that time: Those guys are idiots, and I should start by “selling the stuff I got.”
What do I got?
So what do I already have that I can sell? All my life, people have told me that I write well. Well, I don’t really want to be a writer. So what? If I can do it well, why not give it a try and see what comes of it?
What else can I sell that I’ve been resisting? Opening my own accounting practice. This is something I never wanted to do. I’ve been trying to get out of accounting for so long that I never realized I would see opening my own practice as a personal success. I finally took the phrase to heart, and this year I’ll be looking to get 20-30 tax clients as an experiment to see how it goes.
There you go. Two things I can do on the side that I am surprisingly excited about. All because a tiny Welsh man taught us to sell the stuff we got.
My wife already beat me to it. She went through a period of distancing herself from her music performance origins that stemmed from practicing violin for hours a day in poorly lit rooms with no windows. But she set aside her less than fond music memories and found out that she actually loves playing the violin, teaching kids, and continuing to learn. Rather than riding off into the sunset to pursue her dream of building a music conservatory for underprivileged children in South America, she’s running her own violin studio, right here, with as many students as she wants. It’s not all lollipops and daisies, but the benefits far outweigh doing nothing. She’s selling what she’s got!
Is there something people have always told you you’re good at that you haven’t really given a second thought? Are you resisting the path of least resistance? I’m not saying you should give up your dreams in favor of miserably doing something your good at. Just think twice before you brush off the most logical avenues toward reaching your goals without even testing them first.
What have you always avoided doing that you just might be successful at?
In other words, what do you got? (and don’t say lovin’!)