Short Term Pain Leads
To Long Term Gain
If you learn nothing else in this book please look closely at the concept presented in this chapter, and then do some serious introspection.
This is one of the simplest concepts that you may ever read, but it will also be one of the most profound ideas you have ever heard. It changed my life forever, and it can change your life too. It can change your children’s lives, and I guarantee it will change your career.
This chapter goes out to Dennis Drennen. Dennis became my new boss at a company I had already been working for over 10 years prior to his arrival. While we were getting to know one another he was very interested to know how I had stuck with such a rollercoaster of a company. I was, as he used to call me “the company historian” because I had been there through every ownership tenure over the last decade before his arrival. I was well versed in the history of the region, as well as the company, even before my time employment began. I was a survivor, and that intrigued him.
While I was employed, the company had gone from being owned by a corporate giant to a smaller private ownership. In the early 80’s it was sold to a financial institution. Eventually it was sold back to private family ownership. With those types of shifts back and forth, there are all kinds of fluctuations. There were new cultures introduced, and strategies changed monthly.
The family who owned the organization ran the company by the moment. They based their decisions on knee jerk reactions. As a result the company’s focus changed often. Many viewed their methodology as unbearable and frankly frustrating. Dennis was brought on board due to the focus of the company changing yet again.
In our very first conversation he said to me, “How have you done it over all this time? What has kept you at the top of your game? This company has been to hell and back every year for the past decade, and somehow you have been riding shotgun the whole way.” I could think of only one way to respond to his interrogative. My response was a story that changed my life forever.
It was the single most spectacular occurrence of my life, and it impacted everything that followed it. Some days I think I can easily divide my life into two distinct and independent sections, before and after this event. It made me who I am today:
As a kid all I wanted to do was play sports. My favorite game was baseball, and I was extraordinarily talented as a young player. By age six or seven I could strike out kids twice my age. How? I had pinpoint control. I could find the weak underbelly of a kid, and keep hitting that same spot all day. Almost every day from ages of 6-15 I had a glove on.
All I ever wanted to do with my life was be a professional athlete. I wanted to be a major league ball player, but I never physically elevated to the next level. I leveled off, and the talent of the other players caught up with my pitching.
I was a heavy kid, so my Dad made me a catcher. I didn’t mind much because it meant I got to play every game, and more importantly I got to play every day. Most kids at that time did not want to play catcher because it meant they had to crouch all day in the sun, and if a catcher missed a wild pitch, it was always blamed on him. You also took a beating from foul tips or a swollen hand from the fastballs.
I became a pretty good catcher, and I could hit much better than most. While I could not throw hard enough to be a pitcher, my other skills continued to improve with every growth spurt. As time went on, I was not the fat kid from middle school anymore. I became a damn good ballplayer (if I don’t say so myself).
When I was 15, I arrived at high school. I tried out for the baseball team even though I knew I was only the second best catcher in camp. I knew I could make varsity as a freshman bench player or at the very least make the freshman team as a starter. I didn’t make it past the first cut for either team. The reason: the coaches were also involved in little league on the other side of town. They knew a lot of the other kids from their side of town where they coached. When I was in the batting cages, they left me in there to hit, and hit, and hit until I finally couldn’t hit anymore. I believe they wanted to justify not selecting me, but who knows. Then they put me at third base to see if I could play a position besides catcher, and I gobbled up everything. I could not believe I was in the first group to get cut. I didn’t even make the freshman team.
That is the first lesson of this story. There is no such thing as a sure thing. No matter how talented you are politics can always prevent you from progressing to the next level in anything. Thankfully, I was blessed with a great father. I had gone out for football that same year, and he persuaded me to continue on with that pursuit.
I was not very talented because I had never played organized football before. I was slow, but I played with a lot of heart. I was what they call “a grinder”. Every practice I played as hard as if it was the game. In fact, I played so hard that some of my teammates didn’t like me. When they just wanted to get through the practice and call it a day, I played my heart out. When the other kids would take a play off, I would blow through the line and de-cleat the player with the ball or first guy I saw slacking.
As a freshman I played special teams. I was also the first off the bench in games. I was one of the few players who had the privilege of replacing somebody. Most kids played both offense and defense. After a year on the offensive line, I decided to change positions my sophomore year. I wanted to be a tight end. I was tired of being in the trenches as a lineman and wanted to play a more involved position. Since I was formerly a lineman, I could block well. I did not possess great speed, but I had great hands. I could catch as well as anyone on the team. My freshman coach was promoted and now he was in charge of the tight ends and wide receivers. I knew he would remember my hustle and commitment from the previous season. Again, I thought that I had it made.
It was summer, and that meant three a day practices for the whole team. Back in the 70’s there were not the strict rules about practicing in the heat. So, on we went practicing everyday as the temperature soared above hundred degrees. It had to get above hundred degrees before we could go without our pads. It was during the last week of three a day practices, I learned the lesson of my life.
It was a sweltering summer day, and I wasn’t properly hydrated. During a blocking drill, I pulled a groin muscle. I felt a rip, followed by a jolt of pain that felt like a searing hot metal rod had been thrust into my left leg. Every practice included wind sprints, and the pain after stopping and starting was excruciating. After the last practice of the day, I slowly walked to my bike, and somehow I peddled home. I crawled into my house that night and told my Dad what had happened. He had me lay on the couch and gave me an ice bag. He called my coach and told him he was calling me off for practice the following day. He said he was going to take me to the Doctor the following day in lieu of practice. The coach told him to go ahead and bring me to practice instead, and he would take care of my injury. It was a different era, and my dad and I decided that the coach knew what was best for a football related injury. Today, a coach would never take such a risk with a child’s health, but that is beside the point.
I felt okay when I showed up to the first practice of the day. I thought I would be headed to the pool or the hot tub for some rehabilitation. I thought I would really enjoy soaking in the whirlpool and missing the heat. WRONG! I walked into the training room, and my coach put some goo on the pulled muscle that felt really cold before it became really hot. Then he wrapped it up tight. As soon as I got down from the training table he said, “Get dressed.” I asked, “You mean to go home?” He said, “No, for practice, let’s go. You’re already late.” I got dressed and headed out. I went through the whole practice, and by the end of the day I could hardly walk again. I was going on nothing but adrenaline and determination all day. The walk to my friend’s car after practice might as well have been a marathon. He had to support me the whole way.
The next day it was the same drill: cold goo that turned into hot goo and get dressed. That afternoon, we were doing down field blocking. I was told to run down the field as hard as I could and hit a blocking dummy with everything I had. I was not as impressive as I would have liked to be, and my coach started to chew me out. I thought “How could he be mad?” I was sincerely giving it all that I had left in the tank, but with my injury I wasn’t hitting the dummy with my usual vigor and velocity. He knew I was hurting, but he continued to ride me anyway. He said, “Burns you are better than that, if you can’t live up to your potential then you are going back to the offensive line.”
When my turn came again, I struggled to run the length of the field, and I gave the dummy the hardest hit I could muster. I mean I gave it everything I had! In order to hit hard, one must dig in and push off on the last step, exploding into the dummy. So I did just that. My effort drove an electric shock up my leg and then settled into my groin area. I wanted to die. He looked at me and said, “I’ll give you one more chance because that was just pitiful.”
I ran down the field again and gave it all I had left. After the impact, I collapsed in the heat. He said, “Go get with the other guards, you’re a lineman.” As I started the long walk to where the other linemen were practicing, I saw them pushing the sled. The sled is a giant iron set of poles with pads for seven people to push and drive down the field. Seven players hit it at the same time and pushed with their legs. If one person did not push as hard as the others his part the sled would go clockwise or counter clockwise. It was an instant indicator of who was dogging it.
As I walked towards my fate, I feared the ridicule I was about to face from the line coach. I stopped, turned around, and headed back towards my coach. As I approached him he said, “What are you doing here, you’re a guard?” I then made the mistake of my life. I said, “If I am going back to the line, I quit.” He responded coldly, “If you’re serious, turn your uniform in at the locker room, and don’t come back. I won’t have a quitter on this team. You’re a lineman. Either go practice with the other lineman, or leave with the other quitters.”
I will never forget the look on his face as I turned and headed towards the locker room. I still don’t believe he thought I would actually quit. I still can’t believe I actually quit, but we have to walk the path we choose for ourselves.Following my stupid act of adolescent rage, I did what most of us do: I convinced myself that I did the right thing. I told myself, “Now you can go back to the store and start selling again, they love you at the store. I can save enough money to buy a car. After all, a few years from now I will be on to fame and fortune, while these losers put their letterman’s jacket in moth ball filled trunks.”
I do not know how I allowed my life to change that day. I do know that I never could have gone back. I was too prideful to quit and then return. What would I say, “I am sorry coach, I was wrong.” I asked myself a thousand times, “Why was I so stupid?” We only had two more days of three a day practices left. It would have been so much easier in just two more days. Soon we would be in school, and practice would only have been once a day after school. I could have sucked it up and went back to the line. I could have waited for another kid to get injured, and then tried to jump back in as a tight end. I should have just embraced the position I had, and put everything into it. What I did was quit. Sometimes we need to embrace what we have instead of what we want to have, and that is exactly what Ike did.
Ike was a tackle (pinch man) on defense, and a guard like me on offence. Even though he was bigger than me, he played behind me because he couldn’t match my effort on every play. He always trailed me when we went into a game. By my junior year, Ike was starting. He ended up going to Ohio State on a full-ride scholarship for football. He even made the USFL. When I closed my door of opportunity, Ike opened it and made the best of it. I don’t know if I would have been that kid going to Ohio State, but I do know that as direct result of quitting I never attended a university. I was jaded by the experience, and decided I would get rich in sales. I always said to myself, “You were better than Ike. You would have started. You would have gone to Ohio State. You would have played in the NFL.” Now that may all be wrong. Maybe Ike just turned it up a notch and caught fire. Maybe I was never good enough, but I will never know. I do know the decision to quit will haunt me every day for the rest of my life.
What I learned from that experience was not to give into the pain of the present, and to keep pushing through the tough times. When it gets the hardest, you are almost through it. The people that live their dreams to the fullest are the ones that never give up under any circumstance. Because I gave up, Inever lived my dream. Dennis looked at me as I finished that story and said the words that forever changed my perception of the event:
“Short term pain leads to long term gain, and short term gain always leads to long term pain. Everything in life is short term gain followed by long term pain or it’s short term pain that leads to long term gain. Think about it.”
I did just that as I drove home the night after our conversation. It was a conversation with myself that I will never forget. I began to categorize my entire life into Dennis’ two situations, and sure enough, everything seemed to fit into one of those two scenarios.
It was one of the simplest, yet most profound things I had ever heard. I have probably shared this concept with a thousand customers. After all, they are afraid of the pain of change that will have a positive effect on their lives in the future. It may be a client leaving a comfortable job as a manager to grow their own business. It may be the investment someone has to make now. It may even be one of my salespeople that has to make a few more calls. My short term gain of getting out of the heat, buying my Chevy Vega (Yeah a Chevy Vega, but it was My Chevy Vega), and becoming the top salesperson gave me short term gain, but it led me to a long term case of incurable regret. I decided I would never let it happen again. If I wanted something bad enough, I would get it or die trying.
The experience made me who I am today. It may have been the reason I battled for a company that had a brand that nobody had ever heard of. I eventually left that organization after helping it to double digit market share. I hung in there, while others bailed for greener pastures. In fact, after lasting there fifteen years, I had to do one of the most embarrassing things anyone has to do in their career. When the company was purchased, I had to interview to keep my management position. I was not only the best at what I did, but I had to interview with an idiot that was the nephew of the owner. He had come fresh out of the contracts administration department to become head honcho. In hindsight, that may have been short term gain followed by long term pain. In other words, I may have become too comfortable and unwilling to jump ship, even though starting over might have helped get me to a better place. I would like to believe that I stayed because of my loyalty. In fact, I probably would never have left, but a year later they wanted me to relocate to New Jersey. I was not willing to uproot my family (even though I would have been managing a third of the country).
There are so many experiences in my life that I can relate to “short term pain leads to long term gain.” I hung in there with clients throughout my career that many would have abandoned. When that company changed its focus to quality, it was an amazingly hard to get top companies to affiliate with a lesser company or brand, but I did it, and I did it better than anyone else.
I realized we needed to identify people who did not need a strong national brand (because we did not have it). We needed to focus on the services or tools we had that potential clients needed. Once again, this is win/win selling. In my next role, I grew a different company in Indiana that hadn’t grown for several years, and I brought it to number one in market share. There have been countless other times I had to draw on this strength of “short term pain leads to long term gain”. For example, when I took a job with the strongest brand in the country, I was working for their Master Franchisor. I was hired there almost immediately after turning down the New Jersey move. I actually almost blew off the interview for that job thinking, “I just left a job where I was managing a third of the country to sell in a one state territory. I do not think they can afford me.” The Regional Director Mitchsaid, “Let’s talk.”
My good friend Diana Fredericks had really talked me up, so I met with Mitch out of courtesy to Diana and her passion for getting me the interview. I ended up joining the organization. They experienced almost no franchise sales over the last couple of years, and they were stagnantly hovering around 46 offices and 675 associates affiliated.
By the time I left there were over one hundred offices and almost seventeen hundred affiliates, not to mention the company possessed nearly 20% of the market share in the state! Why did I leave? Mitch had moved on, and I interviewed for his position. I was extremely qualified. I had prior experience on the service side of running a Region as well as success in sales in my past and present.
Not only did they not hire me, but they hired a guy that held a position beneath me at my former company. Why not hire me with my success and a recommendation from Mitch? No matter how talented you are, politics can prevent you for progressing to the next level in anything. They wanted somebody from the outside. Once again, I drew on the strength of what I had learned from Dennis, and I sucked it up. I put my nose to the grindstone.
In fact, in my next to last year I did more sales in the country than anybody else (except the guy who had all of California). It was more short term pain followed by long term gain. However, my boss and I never had a perfect relationship. He did not approach business the way I did. In addition, I think he was a bit intimidated by my outstanding track record, experience and success. He often commented on the fact that he was learning from me or how he was following my suggestions.
One day, he called me in and fired me. Just like that, fired. I had never been fired in my life. I had another good year going too. I had taken on the renewing of contracts and took us from 100% protected territories to all address only franchises. I could not figure out what had happened. I may have been too honest along the way in sharing my views on the Region, its potential growth, etc. I may not have played nice with my boss often enough (although I believed we made what was nearly an impossible situation work). He blamed the firing on the owners, but when I talked to the owners, they said it was completely his decision.
I drew on the strength of “short term pain will lead to long term gain” once again. Within one day of my firing, I was hired by the International Corporation, and was eventually promoted to my current position over half the country’s (Company Owned Regions) sales force. I have my good friend Diana to thank again for that. I called her with the surprising news, and she quickly contacted her company’s VP of sales.
At first I was a bit intimated because I had to do something I had not done for a very long time. I had to take on a territory I knew nothing of, had only visited once, and had never worked in. As a consultant there, I had to fly in and out often to work the market. Never in my career, did I have my whole territory a flight away from me. I embraced that challenge and gave it everything I had. My effort was successful enough to get me promoted.
This concept can also be applied and shared with your clients. If you explain the concept to them, it can help them to evaluate their situation. They may be struggling with change and are willing to stay content with the status qua. Change is painful, but it is the only way to grow as a human and live out our dreams. It may allow them to reach their full potential.
Peter Drucker once said, “If you continue to do things the way you have always done them, you will continue to get the same results.” Once clients realize that the short term gain of staying with status qua will leave them right where they are, they will be more apt to embrace the short term pain of spending or changing. This will help initiate a close relationship as well as being one of the most memorable things you will ever share with them.
As for you yourself, it may have been stopping smoking, drinking, or keeping with a diet. It may be a loved one who has the same issues or worse. It may even be embracing what you learn here versus doing what you did yesterday.
We all fear change. How many people do we see in abusive relationships only because of the fear of leaving that relationship for the unknown? The short term pain that keeps them trapped does not allow them to live happily ever after. It can be the person in the job they hate, but they won’t leave. It may be the kid who will not study or apply themselves, keeping them from getting into college.
As my good friend Dennis always said, “Everything is hard until it’s easy.” So, battle through the pain. There are better daysahead!