Goggles Fall Off, Dresses Rip; Carry your Ace through Unexpected Chaos
Coaches have said to me, the only certainty in life is uncertainty. So you must learn to prepare for uncertainty. For Michael Phelps, it was having his coach make him race at an early age, without goggles a couple of times, so he could prepare to swim blind, knowing where he was in the pool at all times. This would come back to help him at the moment he needed it most in the 200 Butterfly in Beijing; it happened to be the race where Phelps could break Mark Spitz's record and become the most decorated Olympian of all time. I remember feeling anxious when Phelps dove in with water-filled goggles on his first of four laps, thinking it was over for him. But he didn't miss a stroke; his race was perfect, his focus never more on point. Phelps broke his own world record and said it was the "unexpected chaos" his coach had prepared him for throughout his life that helped him continue on.
I've felt the same sort of chaos happen in moments of high anxiety and focus. It reminds me of my of my favorite quotes from The Alchemist, "before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything it has learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream." The night before my final Ivy League Championships, my performance suit ripped in the locker room and my coach drove to Rhode Island to find the only size 24 royal blue Speedo legskin suit on the East Coast. Having a great team around you to deal with chaos when it matters most is an important lesson that I was reminded of this month. I was (finally) invited to present to my #1 distributor's #1 account.
There was a lot of nervous prep from the executives at the distributor on what I was to say and how to deliver the message. Perhaps they are conservative; perhaps I can be a loose canon on big sales calls...needless to say, I met the distributor's key account manager at their warehouse early, with cold beer and a killer presentation in hand. We drove to a bustling warehouse, walked through a sales bullpen, and waited for our presentation to begin inside the owner's office with 8 guys and one gal. Story telling happened on both sides, and all the beer was sold in with ease. I was thinking "What was all this prep about from the Big Bosses? This guy is easy." I was then escorted out to meet the sales guys in the warehouse bullpen, and had my back to dozens of warehouse guys. A couple minutes into chatting, a girl ran out of the office with a panicked look. She said, "Come here!" I thought it was going to be another one of those situations where all the men tell their bosses "Meg's mouth got us kicked out of the meeting." Did I say something wrong?
The sweet gal says, "Your entire dress is ripped, all the men are staring at you in the warehouse."
Most horrific moment ever. Bare ass in a beer warehouse. I tried to keep my focus; I thanked her and grabbed my guy's arm; "Think of your two daughters in an emergency. I have an emergency. We have to go." My guy grabbed a folder from the sales guy's desk and ran behind me as to block these guys from seeing what they'd been staring at for God knows how long. We met the distributor's off premise manager in the parking lot (we were set to change cars and throw me into another key account in the area) and threw a Corona jacket around my waist. We then headed to Macy's on the way to our next sales call, where, I kid you not, my Budweiser Distributor Off Premise Sales Manager picked out dresses for me and brought them to a dressing room. The first one I tried on, I bought, with BDOPSM saying, "baby, I know this dress is only 30 bucks, but you look like a million bucks." I told him back, "This will be the month Ace hits targets for the first month ever. Only extreme chaos could warrant success with you guys."
Later that day, I had lunch with the owner of the distributor in my new dress. I told him the story, to which he responded, "Now that's a partner, baby!" Then, after seeing yet another month of hockey stick Distribution growth and triple-digit Volume growth, yet still not hitting Monthly Targets, he told me to keep the reigns tight, never stating, or even hinting, my expectations for Ace were unrealistic after nearly 2 years of demanding more. To the only distributor allowed to call me baby (drivers to owner), who have come so far in their development of craft beer and Golden Road in LA, thank you for leading me through chaos and preparing me for the unexpected. Your friendship has been one of the most rewarding parts of building Golden Road for me. Congrats to your first month of green thermometer success - it will only get better from here!