Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fear and Midwestern Matter-of-Fact-ness

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love.  - St. John, the Evangelist (I John 4:18)
Having grown up in the Midwest, I developed a unique regional personality trait: simply being open, honest, and personable with others. Some call it Midwestern matter-of-fact-ness! And since leaving the North in my early twenties, I've lived in the South, the East, and the West, and I've visited just about every place in between. Some places I've liked more than others, but it's usually the people that tell me a lot about a place. Some places like the South, people are slower paced, polite, and respectful. Other places like the East, people are hurried, cold, and aloof. Out in the West, I've found people friendly, but self-absorbed and stand-off-ish.

I think the regional social differences in the U.S. have a lot to do with how crowded a place is, how cosmopolitan a place is (or the racial and ethnic makeup of the area), the climate, the economy, and many other factors. But deep down I think regional social differences have more to do with fear and insecurity.

Early in my career I took a position as a field service engineer which required me to have a lot of social interaction with customers and colleagues. I stumbled quite a bit in the beginning because I had erected many self-preserving barriers. I wanted to keep people at arms length in order to keep them from hurting me. What I had to learn the hard way is that doesn't work well in sales and service. To be successful in business, you've really got to be more open and honest with others as it's easier to do business with friends and acquaintances than it is with enemies and strangers. At the very least, you have to give customers the impression you're being open and honest with them, but I've found being authentic worked the best for me as customers aren't stupid and they can tell if a sales or service provider is being disingenuous.

Digging deep into my soul, I rediscovered my Midwestern matter-of-factness and started opening up more to others and being more authentic. Eventually, I became one of the most successful field service engineers in my company; by the time I quit, my annual sales revenue were twice the national average, and my customer satisfaction rate was 98% in a business that demands only 80%. But I think more telling than this is that I've stayed acquainted with many of my customers and colleagues since leaving that job.

I realize that being introverted inhibits many people from developing their own Midwestern matter-of-fact-ness. I too am an introvert, and surprisingly you'll discover that many other success people are introverts as well. Being introverted just means you've got to try a lot harder than extroverts do as you've got more social fears and insecurities to overcome.

Fear is what keeps most people from truly being successful in their chosen work. Most of your colleagues are on par with you as far as technical knowledge and business skills. So the difference is how open, honest, and personable you are. By confronting your own fears and insecurities, you too can become more successful in business and in life by developing a more open, honest, and personable style or Midwestern matter-of-factness.

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