In our last article in this series we discussed the salesperson’s overcoming of social attitudes in order to find meaning in life. Now, let’s get more basic. In this post, let’s look at the 2 fundamental ways meaning in life–for salespeople or really anyone–can come about.
It is crucially important to find meaning in your job in sales.Therefore, you have to understand a bit more about the different approaches on humankind, the whole study of which is called anthropology.
We can fairly say that there are 2 primary concepts in anthropology or the study of human beings today, or (better) two different world views on humankind. One is the so-called socialist mindset, and the other is the more entrepreneurial approach. Because we believe salespeople are “entrepreneurs within an enterprise,” this is the one we favor.
The first is based on a concept that was noticed by an early student of the Austrian School of Economics, Julius Friedrich Gans von Ludassy. In 1893 he coined a very interesting term: Homo Economicus. The word literally means “economic man” and is the “average person” represented in economic theory. It basically says that Homo Economicus is going to react to various stimuli the exact same way every time.
If you’re laughing, you certainly should be. Humans don’t behave that way, and von Ludassy actually invented the term to show that classical economics has an unrealistic view of a human being. While von Ludassy has since been largely forgotten, ironically the term he coined made its way into mainstream economics where it has remained ever since.
This unrealistic world view of the human being as a statistical number is approach number one. It literally means that other people know what is better for your life and what you should do than yourself. Through this view your behavior can be “statistically tracked”, and this is more or less the socialist worldview on the individual.
The second concept runs completely contrary to the first. It says that human beings should be self-responsible. Why should we live in a cage? Why should someone tell us what we should do? We should certainly follow rules, but why should someone else come along and say, “No, you should live this way”?
Your Way, or Their Way?
This second concept is one much more native to human beings and one which resonates with them. One index of the truth of this is the overwhelming all-time popularity of the Frank Sinatra hit song My Way. Why has this song remained so loved? Because at the end of the day it speaks to our hearts: “I did it my way.”
Statistical economics taught in most universities today utilize Homo Economicus–the model of a human that will react the same way no matter who they are–because they are using statistical models to try and predict economic events. But they conveniently forget that people are driven by making decisions, and the decisions that people make are very hard to predict. This is why such predictions are usually wrong. Back in 1949 another founding father of the Austrian School, Ludwig von Mises, wrote a book on this exact subject entitled Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, because human action is central to any economy, and can even change the course of a whole nation.
And human action is anything but predictable. As long as a person is capable of thought, statistics based on Homo Economicus make no sense. You’re not a statistical number. A statistical number can be measured, can be pushed, can be analyzed and targeted. Meaning can be forced on it. But if you are a self-responsible human being (which, in fact, you are), you can change your mind from one day to another. You could decide tomorrow, for example, “I’m no longer eating meat.” If a million people did that one day without any kind of manipulation, statistics would be thrown right out the window and the meat industry would have a big problem. Yet this could easily happen.
Interestingly, there is a segment of society–very prevalent today, especially in America–that does attempt to force us to all think and act the same way, like Homo Economicus.They are defining “the perfect world” and through mainstream media attempt to tell us how we should live. They will tell you what meaning you should have in your life. Conspiracy theories aside, this is an obvious fact–just look over the magazine rack the next time you’re checking out of the supermarket.
On the other hand we have systems such as the Austrian School that assert that every person is self-responsible. You can indeed take control of your life and find the meaning yourself.
Finding Meaning Doesn’t Have to Be Huge
There is also another common misconception in regard to finding meaning–that finding meaning infers that a person must always have a high calling: “I have to change the world,” “I have to conquer the universe” or do something incredibly extraordinary or be famous. This really isn’t true. Someone’s meaning could be found in something like, “I’m raising four children, and I want to be the best mother in the world.” I honestly think such people are the most stable in a society. Meaning for you could be whatever really suits you.
There is a beautiful novel written by Michael Ende, called Momo. One of the characters in this book is a man who just cleans the street on a daily basis, but is the happiest person in the world. Why? Because this was the meaning he found. He’s happy when the street is clean, and the people are happy, and this is his job.
In the old days people found meaning while they were actually performing jobs or professions, instead of beforehand. A doctor found meaning through actually practicing medicine and helping people. A judge discovered meaning in making righteous decisions. A lawyer found meaning not in assisting someone in gouging someone else for money, but in settling an issue between parties on a legal ground. A farmer discovered a love of growing things.
On this basis was built the university education. People found meaning through their professions and become more and more skilled, and these skills started being taught in universities. The university didn’t provide the meaning–it came originally out of the profession. Today we fit people into something and tell them they should find meaning there, but it didn’t begin that way.
I think it’s actually a combination–one feeds the other. For example, a person I work closely with in creating content found meaning in creating content. It therefore gives him satisfaction and purpose, and makes him happy.
What You Love to Do
This brings us to another aspect of finding meaning: My content creator does his job well because he loves doing it. The more he does it, the better he becomes at it. So meaning comes about in something one loves doing. One finds meaning in what they love to do, and this becomes a person’s profession.
As a side note, in my opinion if you are raising children, you should take that same look at what they love doing. You can help them find meaning, because then you know they will survive in life.
This matches up with another point I enjoy making: utilizing strengths. I often point out that organizations waste money in attempting to bolster up weaknesses in their staff. They would do far better to discover the strong points of their personnel and strengthen them. The same is true for an individual–they love doing something, and become stronger at it the more they practice it (I’ve never heard of someone becoming great at something they really didn’t like doing, have you?).
Does any of this have anything to do with being rich? Well, I personally know quite a number of rich people. Some of them have never figured out their meaning, and some of them haven’t really figured out what it means to be happy. Personally I would much rather have a fulfilling life that simply to have 10 cars in my garage (I know that’s not true of everyone, but it sure is for me).
Another way of looking at it is this: What do you find easy to do? There can also be a correlation between doing something easily and doing it well. For example if you find it very easy to speak to people, then you might have a natural gift for sales. Can such a thing be learned? Certainly, and many will probably have to. But when you can do it easily and naturally, there is a correlation to meaning.
So the bottom line is: Do what you love doing, and do it well. Go there, and you will find your meaning.
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