Stoicism and your sales department

Maria Nikolova

Avoiding “happy clappy” self-help gurus and, instead, opting for advice from the Stoics may be useful for your sales department, argues AMB Prime’s Paul Orford.

The following is a guest post by Paul Orford, Head of Institutional Sales, AMB Prime.

Anyone who works within any form of sales has at some time or another experienced the pre-deal anxiety of your mind moving at 1 million miles an hour, and the worry about all the variables that may occur and the impending doom that may follow.

However, if I could give you the answer to all your problems where this would never happen, surely all CEOs would implement it and perhaps go as far as to roll it out over an entire organization.

Without having to resort to the happy clappy brand of self-help of Tony Robbins et al, we can look for the answer which has been with us since ancient Greece…Stoicism.

  • What is it?

Stoicism as a philosophical construct was founded by a gentleman called Zeno of Citium (Modern day Cyprus) in 380 BC and as, a philosophy school, flourished for around 480 years. Its name is derived from Zeno giving his lectures on a ‘painted porch’ (Stoa Poikile) resulting in the school of thought being called ‘Stoics’.

It is commonly thought that it was about being unemotional and unaffected by pleasure or pain (aka being English!). However it is much more than that. It is argued that it is not about the individual not feeling any emotion, they do not want to feel, and show, negative emotion.

This school of thought can be broken down into 4 different sections in how to approach life as a Stoic philosopher:

  • Practical wisdom: The ability to navigate complex situations in a logical, formed and calm manner.
  • Temperance: The exercise of self-restraint and moderation in all aspects of life.
  • Justice: Treating others with fairness even when they have done wrong.
  • Courage: When facing daily challenges with clarity and integrity. “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage” – Seneca.

The Stoics argue that only people who have cultivated virtue and self-control in themselves can bring positive change in others. If this is the case, why do not more CEO’s and HR departments follow this train of thought to make the organization more streamlined in its thinking, and enhance a positive focus in the said environment?

  • Who are the famous Stoics?
Marcus Aurelius, played by Richard Harris, Gladiator (2000)

If you have ever seen the Russell Crowe epic “Gladiator”, you would have witnessed a character called Marcus Aurelius (the older Roman Emperor, not the crazy one). Being one of the most famous Stoics, he outlined in his work entitled “Meditations” that we should only focus on what we are in control of, and understand that we should not focus on the variables that are out of our control.

So, essentially, don’t become a slave to the negative aspects of life which you have zero control over. This is also highlighted by Epictetus – one of the leading names from the school of Stoicism. “We suffer not from the events in our lives, but from the judgement about them!”

In brief, you can save your company a lot of money by not spending tens of thousands of dollars on self-help gurus (and let’s face it, 99% of these people are a waste of time), and perhaps picking up Marcus Aurelius “Meditations” and just taking the core message…don’t sweat the small stuff!

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