Matthew McConaughey taught me about sales! No seriously, he did….

It was 2005 and I had just finished a typical workout in Ball Gym, tucked back in the West Quad of Ball State University.  This atmosphere was different than the other campus gym, meaning it was far from the meat market and social club, Ball Gym didn’t have all the amenities and fancy equipment.  Sitting down on my exercise bike, I grabbed a Men’s Health magazine with one of my favorite actors on the cover, Matthew McConaughey.  The articles title was “Work Out with Matthew McConaughey” written by Mike Zimmerman ( 

Little did I know how much this article would inspire me for many years to come, not only in my fitness life, but also in my professional life.

In sales, as in other areas of business, we have a tendency to form habits that eventually define our day to day life.  We have the same customers that we need to see every Tuesday, Wednesday and so forth and missing them would be unacceptable.  We log the same information into our CRM.  We prospect in the same area and see all the same gate keepers who still won’t give us the information we need.  Then, during our call blocks, we get told no so many times that the thought of picking up new business is so far off we can’t see it anymore.  We eventually work ourselves into a mind dulling rut that for many, is so hard to work themselves out of that they begin looking for new jobs or quit all together. 

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it?  I myself have even fallen into a rut where it feels like no matter what I’m doing, nothing positive is happening.  That’s when I get on my computer, or phone, and find my article.  I read the article with the same anxiousness I had the first time and soak in “McConaughey’s Lessons”, as titled in the article, deep into my soul.

McConaughey’s Lessons:  Well, what I’ve learned from them….. (I did not include all of the lessons and they aren’t in the same order as the original article)

Lesson One:  Tie Your Shoes

It’s really pretty simple but so profound.  Tie your shoes.  You can’t really begin anything of merit before you tie your shoes.  Once you tie your shoes, it is really, really hard not to finish what you are starting. 

When we get into the rut of a routine, it is so hard to break it.  Just like getting out of bed earlier, it is so much more comfortable to stay where you are.  If I get up and out of bed and tie my shoes, there is no going back.  It’s on now.  Easiest way to break your rut in business, just Tie Your Shoes.

Lesson Two:  Let It Burn

When times get hard, like running up a hill, it’s easy to quit.  Even those that eventually make it to the top of the hill are so caught up in the burn that they give up.  Sales, business and even life will often feel like you’re running up hill, but once you get to the top, let the burn take care of itself.  Just keep moving.  As McConaughey says in the article, “I won’t walk.  But I’m not sprinting, either.  We’re on a hard-enough course that if I just keep my legs moving, it’s working man.  And, dude, that’s all you need.”

Lesson Three:  Go for Distance, Not Time

So often we plan our day to accomplish a set amount of goals.  We need to make x number of phone calls.  We need to stop by x number of targets.  We need to see an x number of customers.  The problem is when we don’t accomplish everything we set out to do, due to whatever circumstances occur, we feel like failures.

Instead, as McConaughey puts it, let’s put a comma on it instead of a period.  Let’s set out each day to do something productive towards our ultimate goal and not worry about how much, or little I actually accomplished.  At the end of the day, if you are doing something productive towards your goal, you’re going to accomplish something.

Lesson Four:  Throw in a Monkey Wrench

Sometimes we just have to go way out of our comfort zone and do something unexpected.  There are always different rules we believe we have to follow in business, but who set these rules?  And who says I can’t make my own rules? 

Can’t get someone on the phone?  Make some flyers reading “Please help me get a meeting with Dave”.  Then buy 25 cups of coffee and 3 dozen donuts and stand by the front door of the office building handing one of each to every person that enters.  Eventually you might hand one to Dave!  Change it up and challenge the norm!

Lesson Five:  Add Some Adrenaline

The possibility of failing, when taking a risk, is sometimes so scary that it’s paralyzing.  People will protect themselves at all costs.  They won’t call on that business, partner with that firm or bring on that new product line in fear of it not working out.  Sometimes though, you have to take risk to have the best rewards!

People will walk in the front door of the same building week after week and get turned away by the same gate keeper.  Why not sneak into an unlocked side door and act so confused and lost that someone eventually comes and helps you.  Sure, you might get kicked out, but the adrenaline you will feel by taking that risk will propel you to keep pushing forward

Lesson Six:  Master the Art of Running Downhill

We all get to a point in our journey where things begin to get a little easier.  We are beginning to pick up new customers.  PO’s are flowing in and it seems like we can’t be stopped.  This is when, for most of us, we begin to coast.  Just like a runner, running downhill can sometimes be a break and we allow the momentum of the hill to carry us.  McConaughey coast is a sprint!  Sure, the gravity of the hill is going to help you, but you still have to put forth the effort.  Imagine how much more success can come when everything seems to be going right, you push yourself even harder.

There are other lessons from this article that McConaughey discusses but for me, these always find a way to inspire and rekindle the fire that burns inside.  This is my go to for inspiration for how to push through the tough times in sales and remind myself that every once in a while, I need to change it up and get out of my comfort zone.  You might not always keep yourself from getting in a rut, but knowing how to get out of it is way more important.

Remember, don’t just be a sales professional.  Be a professional at sales.

By:  Jonathan Darling

The motivation for this article was provided by the article written by Mike Zimmerman and in no way was associated with the writing of this article.




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