Assume He’s Earned It


That moment stayed with me all week while vacationing in Maine for a few days last week. 

He shuffled slowly, eyes riveted on the beach, his elbow tended by his middle aged daughter as he made his way to a table at the ocean front restaurant. 

He looked well into his 80’s or even into his 90’s, and I had a passing thought that maybe this beach was just one of many he’d seen in a lifetime as a civilian and perhaps as a Serviceman.

But it was what the younger gentleman dining alone said that struck me.  He broke from eating, stood and pulled out a chair for the elderly man and when the daughter mouthed “Thank you” the single diner said  “He’s earned it.”

“He sure has” the daughter beamed. 

The lone diner had no idea what this man had done to “earn it” and nor did I.  But the point is that there was an assumption that he had.

Giving help this lone diner so simply reminded me, was something not given out of pity or helplessness or ignorance or obligation but rather, out of assumed respect for the person. 

That’s a lesson we need to hear more of it seems to me.  There are some assumptions we need to change.

I grow worried that in business (and elsewhere in our lives) there’s a “prove to me” perspective too many of us take when meeting or working with people for the first time.  That we as sales people and managers and trainers sometimes approach prospects and existing customers, as well as new and veteran employees,  as people that need to earn the chance to be “worthy” of our time, our work, our humbleness and our help. That the help we give is a magnanimous gift on our part vs. help being given simply because it has already been earned.

It’s not that the old man in Maine may have served our country or done something great to “earn it”. Who the heck knows what he’s done but the presumption should be more often than not, that we are privileged to help people vs. the other way around.

  • Assume before calling on this prospect that she isn’t inexperienced just because her business is new but rather that she’s a 20 year business veteran now branching out on her own.   Assume that and you’ll do all the research required before you visit or call and be in a far better position to provide real help.
  •  Assume that this new hire class has collective sales experience like no other class before (as in this economy without a doubt they do).  Assume that and giving the “What Sales is Really All About” speech might change to real help in the form of a selling workshop fostering discussion about how to sell in a sketchy economy.
  •  Assume that the owner you are talking to also does most of the selling for his company.  Assume that and slamming in 4 product pitches or 3 trail closes isn’t the help you’ll give today. 


You can add your own new assumptions about each member of your staff or the customers in the territory you just inherited or the leader you now report to.  Just make sure the assumptions are that they’ve already “earned it” because chances are they have.

Till next time,

Grow The Business.



One thought on “Assume He’s Earned It

  1. Very good statement. I agree with what you say and it put me in mind of a philsopher whose philosophy was based upon the premise that morality is the treating of people as “ends in themselves” and not as “means” to do what you want to do. I think this is something very hard to do in practice but if you look in a historical context, the great civilizations in their “glory years” tended to have that respect for their own people — an element of common decency and fundamental respect. I believe we have lost a lot of that as everyone thinks about “how can this person help me” rather than “this person is a human being and as a human being deserves at least provisial respect”. After all, no need to respect them if in practice they do not deserve it.

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