Nobel Prize winning Psychologist Daniel Kahneman said  “The remarkable thing about your mental life is that you are rarely ever stumped.” 

How interesting.  This little quote has roiled around in my head for a month.  Can’t shake it.

Think about how true it is.   Heck, I’m gonna do this or I’m gonna do that.  Or goshdarnit, I’m going to do nothing!  Bottom line is most of the time,  I know what I’m gonna do.   And most of the time we make judgements and decisions in a flash and rarely are stumped or stuck in a quandary.

I read Kahneman’s quote in the Heath Brothers latest book called “Decisive” ( big thumbs up from me). The book has some compelling methods to help us all make better decisions of course ( if we ever allow ourselves to be stumped) but that’s for a later blog or two.

Lets just chat a bit about the stumped thing.  Stumped is what I think we should be more of.  Here’s why:

  •  When was the last time you talked to a prospect, did some great discovery, built credibility and commonality, talked pain points and said, ” You know, you’ve given me some things to think about and I’m not sure exactly what the best thing to do is, let me get back to you in a couple of days.”  Answer? Never.  You’re in sales, you’re never stumped and you and I both know it. 
  • When was the last time you launched a project to tackle a problem and didn’t  pretty much have the answer already embalzoned in your brain about what you think is the right solution?  Way less than you think.  You’re not stumped.  No Never.  Not you. You can, like nobody else, see the future clearly.
  •  When was the last time you didn’t judge, label or categorize someone you just met because you were so comfortable with “waiting and seeing” what this person was really about?  Not often enough.  You’re never stumped when it comes to giving an opinion on the new person even if you just give that opinion to yourself.

The you here is me ( and yes, likely you too). 

I’ve pitched an idea or a solution well before I knew what I should really do – I should have been stumped.   I’ve launched a project ( just this week as a matter of fact) tackling a problem that I am brazen enough to think I already know the answer to, until my LEAN mentor smacked me upside the head and said “You need to be stumped in the beginning for this thing to work.”  I’ve judged someone in just 20 minutes of conversation and another in probably 30 seconds – and did it not long ago either – both are awful things to do.  Not fair and frankly, stupid.   Stumped is what I needed to be there and always. 

Not being stumped can get us into trouble; that’s the message here.  Conversely,  being stumped can do some great things like impress the hell out of a customer and get them the best help possible.  Being stumped can get your problem solved better because you didn’t presume you knew the damn answer.   And being stumped is certainly the best way to treat people you meet all the time and to get the most and the best out of that relationship.

Stumped ain’t bad.  Stumped is good.  So all you people out there with the answers ( and that means you too McCarthy) quit talking to me, I gotta work these things out like I don’t have any idea. 

Till next time,

Grow The Business.



Mark’s Blog

Mark’s Twitter


6 thoughts on “Stumped

  1. Mark: This is probably one of the most important blog posts I’ve read in months. As sales people, we feel we always need to have the answers. It really limits our ability to innovate and to help our customers. Being stumped blows things wide open. It gives us the freedom to start figuring things out, to truly collaborate with the customer and solve their problems.

    Thanks for such an AWESOME post!

    • David, thanks for your kind comment and added perspective. That quote I truly couldn’t get out of my head this month; “I’m not stumped enough” was all I could think of. I am trying though and yes, we all should be especially when we are working with customers; it really feels like a better way

  2. Mark – love the post. Another word I use for “stumped” is curiosity. Curious leaders and sales pros have developed the habit to clear their heads (and sometimes hearts) of pre-judgement and just experience the problem. Either way – stumped or curious – the key is letting go of ones attachment to being the SME or chief problem solver and the attachment to the need to be right, control the conversation, or to gain agreement. When you let go of this attachment you gain more clarity, become more collaborate, and develop unique solutions that set you far apart from you competitors. Most important though, when you admit that you are stumped you are seen as authentic, human, and trust worthy. Because people buy you these traits are priceless.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s