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I Wear My Sweat Pants Inside Out

Many of us are looking for success when it’s staring us right in the face. All we need to do to achieve it is to mirror what we’re looking at.

“I wear my sweatpants inside out.”

That was my first introduction to a new co-worker (we’ll call him Dee because that’s his name).

We have a tradition at quarterly company meetings that new people introduce themselves and give a weird fact about themselves.

The striking thing about this statement (besides the obvious) was that it was said boldly, proudly, and almost like Dee was waiting for a day like this where he could announce such a thing.

Obviously, there were going to be some follow-up questions.

While everyone was craning their necks to see if the person making this happy proclamation was, at this time, wearing sweatpants, Dee wasn’t, throughout the room there were several shouts of, “Why?!?”

Dee explained (and here’s a little lesson for us all)…

“When I was in Junior High and High school I was a wrestler. The guy who was the state champ would always come to meets and I noticed he was wearing his sweatpants inside out.

I wanted to be the state champ too so I copied him. I ran to the locker room and put my sweatpants on inside out too and have done it ever since.

I didn’t know how he became the champ but figured there must be a reason he did this and if I wanted to be the champ I’d do it too.”

Dee was simply mirroring success that was staring him in the face.

When I first graduated college and started a career in real estate I got to know pretty quickly who the other successful agents were and who the unsuccessful agents were. My incredible “success-o-meter” was to look at the car they drove.

It was super scientific.

People who had BMW’s, Lexus, Mercedes, or even Cadillacs were people I watched. Agents with cars like mine (that of a recent college grad still driving the car he got Senior Year of high-school) got none of my attention.

I noticed three things, besides the cars, that differentiated these agents.

1. They came into the office a lot. Many agents might go a week or more without coming into the office. When I’d ask them about this they said things like “I have a home office” or that “they could do business from anywhere.” The fact was, they weren’t doing much business from anywhere. Those that were successful would be in almost every day, Monday through Sunday. It might not be for long, but they were there. Early. Late. Nights. Weekends. I saw them constantly.

2. They were on the phone constantly. They were following up on mailings, on leads, on clients deals, keeping in touch, whatever, they were on the phone all the time at the office. They weren’t like many others who spent their first half-hour each day “getting ready” and making coffee and catching up. These people had people to talk to, negotiate with and harass during dinner (the “do not call” laws really didn’t exist back then.)

3. They had assistants. Some had part-time assistants, some had full-time people, but they all had others they were paying to do things like newsletters, marketing brochures, postcards, printing, folding, stuffing, licking, stamping, putting little 3-up address thingies on envelopes, and mailing pieces for them.

I was already doing item #1. I was working all the time so I moved on to item #2. Since I was brand new I didn’t have clients to call so I started cold calling. I hated every minute of it, and to this day I’d rather take a line-drive to the nuts than make cold calls…but cold-calling worked. I got business from it so I did it because until I had others I could call, the rule was I had to be on the phone constantly.

Item #3 was tougher. Assistants cost money. This was something I had very little of. So at first I just did assistant work at night.

I did this for two reasons. To be taken seriously by the “successful” agents I couldn’t be seen doing assistant work. So I’d come to the office after dinner at nine or ten at night to print, fold, stuff, lick, stamp mail.

Secondly, I saw others who were constantly “busy” but not “productive.” Later I learned the term “mistaking activity with accomplishment.” If I spent half my day doing all the assistant work, I COULD go home at night saying I had a busy day and I did a lot. It was true. But I’d have been doing work that didn’t require a real estate license. Work that others got paid minimum wage to do.

So while this work still needed to get done, I did minimum wage work at night, and work that’d make me money, during the day.

I did this until about 10 months into my new career I had enough money, and intestinal fortitude, to hire a part-time assistant.

Of course, there were many other things I copied and within two years I was a top agent at the forty-person office and within 3 years I started my own company. Oh…and I never had the “nice car”. Turns out that wasn’t a necessity.

The point is that success is all around us and the activities and habits that create that success is FREE for the taking. We just need to be willing to look and DO. The “doing” being the hard part.

And while it’s often said that “To be successful look at what everyone else is doing…and do the opposite” it’s simply not true.

The actual quote from Earl Nightingale was “If you want to do something successfully and have no instructions, no role model, no road map, no mentors, all you need to do is look around at how the majority is doing that thing and do the opposite – because the majority is always wrong.”

It’s a fine distinction but there are two big differences. Earl gives this advice with the qualifier that it’s in the absence of successful examples. He also says, “look at what the MAJORITY” is doing, not “everybody”.

I won’t belabor these distinctions here, mostly because it’s time for my morning iced latter, so I’ll end with an update about our inside-out-sweatpants-wearing-friend.  

Two years after seeing his then idol wearing his sweatpants inside out, and mirroring this behavior and changing nothing else about his routine, Dee too became the state wrestling champion!

No…that’s a lie…or maybe not…I didn’t ask Dee about his wrestling career. But I guarantee that he didn’t become champion simply by changing this one thing.

And that may be the REAL lesson here…if there’s a lesson at all.

While success is just waiting to be copied and starting with small easy-to-do activities are fine, it’s the behind-the-scenes habits that are the ones you need to replicate.

It’s the hours in the gym, the weight room, on the mat, at the track, the diet, the watching reading eating sleeping breathing, and crapping-out wrestling that allows someone to “piss excellence” and truly be successful.

It’s all there. Yours and mine for the taking.

It’s there…it’s just up to us to copy and do. 

Mike Stodola is the Chief Marketing Officer at Technology Marketing Toolkit where he brings his passion for marketing and sales to its members and customers. Mike founded, grew and sold two of his own service businesses outside of Chicago before seeking to take his experience to thousands of other entrepreneurs by working with companies that focus on them. In his free time you’ll probably find him eating his way through his new home of Nashville and posting photos of his food-journey on Instagram.



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