The Death of a Salesman, the Birth of a…


By Kirk McCarley,

Kirk Mccarley

I was proud of that first uniform.  Neatly clad from head to toe in navy blue with gold trim, topped by a cap with insignia, an optimistic eight year old cub scout set foot in the neighborhood on a sunny Saturday determined to lead my pack in thin mint sales. Early that morning those who knew the McCarley boy at least acted more than happy to procure a box or two.  Gravitating farther from the safe and known vicinity of the 2300 block of Stanley Ave, however, successful sales of the mints began to…thin.

Kinder rejections ranged from, “I promised my grandson I would buy from him this year,” to “I already got some from the nice young man who called earlier.”  Several bothered not even coming to the door.  Worse were the homes of unkempt yards, a bit creepy, rumored to be haunted.  There someone might answer with a steely glare asking, “What do you want?”

A count began as despondency grew.  Ten “no’s” in a row.  Then 20 and upwards.  After house 31 the lower lip began to quiver, tears welling up.  The still relatively full box of merchandise was now worn at its corner and bottom creases.   Abruptly, I stumbled on the sidewalk, dropped the container and split it, spilling mints and boxes onto the parkway and into the street.  I then did what any less than gallant and heroic adolescent would do–I sat down on the curb in front of that last house and fully cried my eyes out.

After a few minutes of sobs, I gathered my wits and slowly trudged home sans the box.  Upon arrival my mother observed the swollen eyes and empty hands and asked, “what’s wrong?” and “where is your box?”  Uttering, “I hate sales,” and “Never want to be a salesman,” I headed to my bedroom and slammed the door shut.

Traumatized by that experience, I never went into sales in my professional career, forevermore loathing asking others to buy or invest in something.  Today when leading clients on a discovery of career choices and opportunities we often reflect back on our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes as youngsters.

I knew of a boy who like me, mowed a few lawns during the summer. When his peers asked what he was going to do after college graduation, he answered, “mow some lawns.”  While they secured their respective “professional” jobs, mocking him under breath, he endeavored to build his business, which eventually became a multi-million dollar lawn empire.

Though a bit older, Debbie Fields was still quite young when she began selling homemade chocolate cookies, ultimately growing into Mrs. Fields, with now 390 locations across the US alone.

Oftentimes opportunity is birthed from despair.  Although my sales experience occurred 55 years ago, why do I still so vividly recall how many times I was denied?  Perhaps an innate element of recall and numerical sense?

As a ten year old, when reviewing baseball and other sports box scores in the days prior to electronic calculators determining an up to date average or statistic involved longhand division or multiplication. Soon, when constant calculation and blunt pencils grew wearisome, I just memorized the answers. That’s parlayed itself into a part-time career in behind the scenes sports production for me for a long time.

Each of us has a special talent, skill, or ability.  Often it takes an objective encourager, such as a coach, to ask the right questions to lead us on a path of renewed self-discovery.  It would be my honor to help in that process.  And, if your kids are selling something put me down for a purchase.