Independent business owner, Michael Scully, reflects on what he has learned during his 22-year career in the direct sales industry, and why the journey has been more important than his considerable success.
“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” So said Arthur Ashe, former world number one tennis player.
But when I started in direct sales as a student, in the summer of 1993, I had a very clear definition of success in my mind. It was simply to achieve massive material wealth and live the life of my dreams.
For me, it was not only a route to achieve that success, but also a way to do it in a short period of time, if I was determined and worked hard. I was hooked and I was very happy to postpone my opportunity to go to Oxford University to study maths and instead focus on building a team of direct salespeople. My family was not so excited, but I felt confident I could succeed despite the fact I was 18 years old and had zero experience.
Sales, work ethic, enthusiasm – these things came to me pretty easily, but learning how to mentor a team was a huge challenge for me. I simply couldn’t understand why other people could not see what I could see, or why they weren’t as motivated as I was about the opportunity.
This led to me getting incredibly frustrated for a few months – almost to the point where I wanted to give up – until it dawned on me what was going wrong.
Very often, the problems we face also contain our solutions…
This was the first of many business lessons that I learned. I needed to be patient and coach people properly so that I had a strong foundation for my own office.
But I just wanted to rush to this point, not realising that what I would learn along the way was actually more important and, in fact, was what I needed to know to run a successful business.
I had heard that being single-minded was a huge part of being successful and I still believe it is. But, early on, I used this information to validate my own opinions and found it almost impossible to see things from someone else’s point of view.
This was great if I was going to work alone, but having the ability to see things from other people’s points of view is hugely important if you want to have a big team. I learned this the hard way by losing many people on my team who were frustrated by my lack of understanding of their situations.
I set a goal to run my own successful business long before I truly believed I could…
And certainly before I had the skill set to hit the goal, yet there is magic in the goal itself. I would repeat my goal over and over to myself, convincing myself that I could hit it, knowing that I could never convince other people unless I was convinced myself.
Little by little I began to see myself as a successful business owner and developed the necessary skills. This put me outside my comfort zone when it came to public speaking, dealing with conflicts, pushing people, being patient and being organised.
Even when I wasn’t close to achieving my goal I could see I was getting better in so many areas. This filled me with confidence that I could actually achieve things that, in the past, I couldn’t even conceive of in my own mind. What a breakthrough! This has inspired me to try many things in my life because I realised that most of my limits where self imposed and not actually real.
I have set myself many goals over my career; lots of them I have achieved and some I haven’t. But again, the process of setting those goals and striving to achieve them contains just as much enjoyment and education as attaining the end prize.
Along the way, I have been able to recognise things about my personality: I don’t like to give up, I don’t like to admit defeat, I will keep going even when the route forward is not clear, I will stand by people I believe in and fight to help them succeed.
These are qualities that I didn’t know I had when I started in direct sales, but that this journey has allowed me to develop. And they are traits that help me outside the business as much as within it.
It’s what I’ve learned about myself by being challenged that has given me value and self-esteem…
These are things that can never be taken away from me. I value the lessons I have learned and the experience I can share with other people as a result of that. I believe in living each day as it is and that there is something to be learned in every situation.
Over and over I have been presented with problems. I now know that within every problem there is a valuable lesson from which we can either choose to learn and progress, or we can ignore it and keep facing the same issue in different situations. It’s much quicker to face up to our lessons than run away from them.
It has also become obvious to me that timing is important. There were times I just wasn’t ready to understand something and the only thing that had to happen was time had to pass – you are ready when you are ready.
My personal philosophy is that ‘I am exactly where I’m meant to be’, wherever that is, whatever I’m doing…
Sometimes it’s not clear at the time why I have had to face certain challenges or situations. But I have experienced enough to know that later on it will usually become clear and I will see the value in the situation.
Sometimes the worst of circumstances have led me to my greatest successes and biggest breakthroughs in understanding myself or other people.
Finally, I realised that striving to be successful is ultimately more fulfilling than the success itself…
It comes down to what we learn about ourselves in terms of our commitment to our goal, our determination in the face of adversity, our character when under pressure, and the pleasure in knowing that you gave it 100% and you are a step closer than you were yesterday.
I have achieved more material success than I had ever imagined when I started, but I remain motivated not because I am greedy, but because I am excited to discover more about myself by setting even greater goals.