Recently I traveled to Boston to give a talk to a room full of female financial advisors. This is a regular gig for me these days; I’ve worked with advisors all over the country. But there was something exceptional about this seminar. The rooms all look the same, but the view? This one was unforgettable.
The conference room windows looked out on a corner bus stop. Whooee, right? But of all the bus stops in all the towns in all the world, I didn’t figure to see this one again. Yet I could never forget it, either. Once upon a time it was mine, and I hated it.
When I landed my first job — a temp assignment, but still, a job — out of college, I couldn’t afford a car. So I relied on the Summer Street bus to get me back and forth from work and the South Boston apartment I was sharing with a roommate. The joke was on me: this bus wasn’t reliable at all. I probably spent as much time waiting for it, freezing my ass of that winter, as I did riding it.
The job wasn’t much either. I earned $12 an hour to handle paperwork in a wholesale commercial furniture showroom. The day’s work my boss handed down took about five minutes to finish; I spent the other seven hours, 55 minutes studying my Series 7 manuals, hoping to up my game with a cold calling job at American Express Financial Advisors. I had to hide the manuals in desk drawers so the showroom boss would think I was doing my all for his operation. A crystal ball, through which I could see some kind of payoff, would have been a warm comfort as I made the daily schlep out the bus stop, in snow, sleet and hail.
So I stood in a cozy, climate-controlled auditorium, earning a nice fee for dishing out motivation and self-promotion tactics, and tried hard not to stare out the window. The juxtaposition was striking, you might say. If only I somehow could have overlapped an image of my earlier self out on the corner, waiting for a bus that seemed to hobble along just to help remind me how insignificant I was. If only the attendees could have seen and felt what I did.
That would have been worth as much as the insights into prospecting and successful presentation I was providing. Today I’m here — back then I was out there, about fifty feet away. You know how far I’ve traveled to complete this circle? That would have been a seminar for the ages.
Yes, self-promotion comes easier as you develop your chops, experience and contacts. But it begins with the determination to believe you can do better, that it’s worth it to freeze while waiting for a bus to take you to a crummy job that offers one single perk you can leverage – in my case, free time to sneak/study. And it’s sustained by remembering that you’re only on the Bus to Nowhere if you stop trying.