Slowing Down to Think

The Thanksgiving holiday afforded me some time to slow down and think. Not a bad thing, but I used to think it was.

I once believed that stopping to think about things, spending the time to re-assess and plan was stupid…a waste of time. Only lazy idiots, wanting to create an excuse not to work, did that kind of yoga-like crap. I couldn’t do enough things at once. I couldn’t jam enough appointments and calls into my calendar. I couldn’t work enough hours. There was simply always more to do. I never said, “No” to anybody or any task.

I don’t think or function this way anymore. I haven’t thought or acted this way for most of the last six years. I now believe that you must give yourself space to determine what is critical in your life and what isn’t. A little space gives you clarity about what’s vital to your business and more importantly, what’s essential to your life.


Having spent my entire adult life selling stuff and teaching others to do so, I’m a fairly competitive person. Us salespeople are always measuring ourselves against other individuals and other teams. At times in my life and career it didn’t seem to make a difference how well I did or how much I produced. It never seemed good enough. There was always somebody else doing better, producing more.

If after a particularly great stretch of performance, I didn’t immediately take notice of the superstar teams just ahead of me, then my direct report would make sure to point them out. This, of course, slightly dimmed the light of the accomplishment I too briefly basked in. The sad truth is that there were long stretches of time in my career when I didn’t slow down long enough to acknowledge and celebrate what we had accomplished as a team and how fantastic it all was.

I was so wrapped up in chasing the next team ahead of me that I didn’t slow down long enough to even fully enjoy the phenomenal success we had created from literally nothing.

Being competitive is good, I dare say even critical for some higher levels of success in sales and sales management. I’m still quite competitive, but my middle age has given me some perspective. My (almost) 54 trips around the sun have caused me to think differently about what I’m competing for and how I’m doing it. My years have caused me to think about what consequence competing has on me, both in a positive light and a negative sense.

I now focus on competing with myself almost exclusively. I notice other top people in my field and I greatly admire some of them. I try to emulate the specific things they do better than me. I try to incorporate some of their successful strategies into mine, but I don’t let their success outshine mine, or eat a hole in my stomach. Before that happens, I slow down and think about how much I’ve learned, how far I’ve come and all the things I’m doing well.

I celebrate the small victories I’ve created for myself, knowing that the most important person I need to compete with is looking back at me in the mirror.

There are other things I think about when I slow down.

It’s hard for me not to reflect on why I’m doing what I’m doing. You know all about this thing called your “why”, your driving purpose. You know it’s not money. Money is simply a result, not a purpose. What are you going to do with all that money once you earn it? How is it really going to change your life?

So WHY are you working so hard? Why are you putting in so many hours? What’s the point of all of this?

When I question my own why, I automatically ask myself what I wish to build and what it is that I wish to become by working so damn hard. These are the words (build and become), which I focus on because they resonate big time for me.

I’m a builder. I always wanted to build a life, lasting friendships, a family and a home, just like my parents did. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to build legacy sales teams. Where I noticed others trying to tear down people and things, I wanted to build them up. I’m naturally a builder of things and people.

The word, become, also echoed with me from a very early age. I wanted to become something—someone. My father told me on many occasions that he wanted me to become a real man, someone that could make my own decisions and make the right ones. He instructed me to become a smarter person, a person of skill. He told me that to become a self-made man was my responsibility. My mother often told me that I could become anything I wanted to, that God had already planted the seeds of greatness inside of me. I wanted to become, and ultimately learned that you never stop becoming.

Slowing down to think allows me to re-assess my why, ask myself what I wish to build and become. Slowing down to think even offers me some clarity on how I might build and become those things more efficiently.

The truth is, slowing down to think about your career and life is not a luxury that only others, less busy than you, can afford to do. It’s a necessity. It’s an obligation you owe yourself and your family in this digitally infested—media driven—input coming at your face from ten different directions at a time—world. And, by the way…multiply all the information and those distractions rushing at you ×100 during the holiday season.

Here’s the rub…when I slow down to think, I gain incredible clarity on what I need to be doing and what I need to stop doing. I gain unbelievable, almost mystic insights on how I can get things done more efficiently.

Slowing down to think is not a lazy, time wasting exercise; It’s not a thing that lazy idiots do…it’s the practice of the wealthiest, most efficient and most productive people on the planet!

So while you’re starting to refine your Christmas and holiday gift list, while you are deciding who’s been naughty and nice, why don’t you give yourself a small gift? Why don’t you pull up your calendar right now and block out two hours? Plan to go to a quiet place that you like. Take some snacks, your headphones and a play list. Check out for two hours and think about the things that are important to your business and the things that are not. Think about the things that are essential to your life and the things that are not.

Give yourself some space to gain clarity in this very crowded world.

This Christmas, give yourself the gift of slowing down to think!

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Can you do two favors for me?

  1. SHARE IT with everyone that you know would benefit by reading it.
  2. Leave a COMMENT…tell me how you plan to use this strategy in 2015?

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2 comments on “Slowing Down to Think”

  1. Jason Hoffard

    Good stuff Joe B! Didn’t get a chance to reach out and let you know that I really enjoyed your “Onboarding” call! Sometimes I feel as though my biggest challenge is identifying why something worked. That call helped me identify the specifics of why success happened when it did. Hope you don’t mind me sharing with IL-S, R and D baby!! Happy Holidays!!


      JH, Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed the coaching call!! Yes…knowing WHY something worked allows us to purposely REPEAT it. Stay tuned more good stuff coming. Have a great Christmas if we don’t connect before hand.

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