Reflecting On Play Nice, But Win by Michael Dell – Deciding on Your Destiny

Michael Dell’s struggles as a young man to do what he loves instead of what his parents wanted him to resonates. It’s built into the Asian culture that traditional prestige careers are typically the only acceptable path to our parents, as many Asian comics like to riff about. Going against parental pressure can be tricky. I remember breaking to my mother I wasn’t going to law school, even though I got in because it meant leaving my daughter with her for three to four years. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be feasible. I didn’t have the best childhood. I wanted better for my daughter.  

However, I couched it so she could hear it; in financial calculations. I would have an estimated 90k debt upon graduation, an estimated low number. After all, I was accepted into Santa Clara University School of Law and Silicon Valley ain’t cheap. I also dated a criminal defense lawyer at the time, who my former roommate set me up with. While it wasn’t a match, although he’s a lovely man, he gave me the ins and out of practicing law and determining whether I wanted to do contracts or trial law (criminal/family/personal injury). I also knew a corporate lawyer whom I asked questions and had a personal trainer at the time who held a law degree. I wish I were making this up. 

See, my mother believed in the importance of an education (even though the schools I attended were terrible because I lived in a poor neighborhood after the divorce). 

She wanted me to become someone great – a lawyer because I successfully argued my way out of a possible expulsion in elementary school when I was busted for my too successful bubble gum business. I was trying to help my family out because we were po’. We couldn’t afford the last “or” to become poor. The school officials saw it as a gateway to becoming a drug dealer, which I can proudly say I never became.  I saw it as a way to get Kraft American cheese rather than government cheese, which has a weird taste. Although bubble gum can be pretty addictive, it still hasn’t been classified as a drug.  

In college, I even turned down Pfizer, who recruited me to sell their new drug, Viagra, because I didn’t want to become a legal drug dealer. Looking back, that one was probably a mistake. It was a big mistake. I could have been swimming in money and creating win/win situations all over the place. Hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?

I enjoyed how deeply the book goes into his struggles to choose his path and go against his parents’ wishes to follow his heart (and the money).  In his case, he’d be crazy not to continue due to his success, but it’s still hard to tell the people you love what they don’t want to hear, even if it’s the right thing to do. 

I never set out to be a salesperson. I don’t think most people do.

It’s not an easy career between the pressure of a job that demands results, its stigmatized reputation (despite top sales experts’ best efforts), and the need to learn behaviors against standard conditioning (accepting rejection as necessary).  As a single mother, it was one of the best options. I had office hours, gender pay equity (sometimes…as we all started with the same base pay and comp plan in entry-level sales), and benefits. 

However, I sold candy to kids in my neighborhood from the 2nd-5th grade. I sold Campfire calendars, Girl Scout cookies and lost money on a lemonade stand. I was the VP of Marketing for my Junior Achievement company, where we sold mugs with Starbuck coffee and accessories, and we were profitable. I took a telemarketing job selling portrait packages for Olan Mills, a photography studio because I was tired of the customers at McDonald’s. That was an awkward job because it was before caller ID. All I’m going to say is that sometimes people would answer the phone when they really shouldn’t. Needless to say, when they did, they weren’t happy to hear from a telemarketer.  All of this happened before graduating college.

Looking back, sales chose me.  It’s no surprise I’ve been in/around it for many years. 

I’m not the female Jerry Maguire I was gunning for in college. (Sidenote: I worked in NCAA sports – student development as an intern for my university. Besides, becoming an agent felt natural. Who wouldn’t want to become Jerry McGuire? Go Huskies!)

I’m not Ali Wong, even though my customers and coworkers often found my jokes amusing.

I’m not the storyteller/writer I thought I would become in elementary through high school. Yet I…

Get to connect and broker win/win solutions like Jerry Maguire.  

Get to make jokes to break the tension inherent to the buying process.  

Get to tell stories about how others overcome similar situations a customer faces (and hear stories about the same).  

Get to problem-solve and help others. 

I’m grateful for a career that enables me to indulge in what I love to do the most, every day. 

Though my mother would probably tell you, I still should’ve become a lawyer.  

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