Attitude training: The toothless shark

Hundreds of razor sharp teeth and a dorsal fin are heading at you. You instantly feel your heart jump out of your chest. With your head bobbing just above the surface, you are left helpless, with 30 metres of froth and chop between you and the safety of the shore.

Your only hope of survival is to stay calm and composed and face the terrifying beast head on. As the shark draws nearer, your instinct for flight kicks in, you panic, ripping your head towards the beach and frantically kicking your legs and swimming without taking a breath. It’s a race to the shore, but in the back of your mind it’s a race you will never win.

In contrast, John is an experienced spear fisherman. For nearly 20 years he’s been diving in shark infested waters. He comes in close contact with sharks frequently, some harmless, others big enough to swallow him whole. His passion demands that he accepts these fierce predators with grace and appreciation, not fear and intimidation. John knows that if he keeps his wits about him the shark will not be triggered into investigating or harming him.

Anyone can swim in shallow and calm waters. However, when you are faced with a potentially dangerous situation, your instincts take hold and adrenalin determines the outcome. When every ounce of you is screaming to flee, often the safest path is to hold your ground and stay calm; the challenge will then have no reason to consume you. You can then adjust your approach with poise and certainty.

A shark can be viewed safely up close as a creature of beauty. You have to understand the shark is in its natural habitat, you’re only a strange looking object in its world. The shark’s survival relies on being curious, particularly to things that send it emotive signals that could either bring with it an attack or its next meal.

I don’t recommend swimming with sharks unless you have a deep understanding of their nature, adequate advice and training, and are willing to live with the risks. To enthusiastically dive into bloodied waters with a great white is as reckless as it is brainless.

Challenges and setbacks are part of a businessperson’s natural habitat. To succeed you’ll need to train yourself to see these situations as if they are a shark without teeth. They may appear terrifying, however, if you stay composed and look closer, the challenge is no longer experienced as a razor toothed predator; it’s now a harmless beast driven by instinct that can be challenged and overcome.

To see the shark with this much clarity and confidence is always a matter of attitude.

Trent Leyshan is the founder and CEO of BOOM Sales! a leading sales training and sales development specialist. He is also the creator of The NAKED Salesman, BOOMOLOGY! RetroService, and the Empathy Selling Process.

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