In one of the episodes of the Jesse Stone television series, a young woman tells Jesse “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.” I laughed as I heard this metaphor and wondered “How often has it taken me more than one kick of the mule to learn my lesson?”
My initial reaction was “more often than I care to admit.” Upon further reflection I recalled that, generally, I hadn’t tried the same approach twice. I had either tried a different approach or had pursued another potential source for collaboration in my pursuit. In other words, I intuitively realized that there is no education in the second kick of the mule.
While this may seem like a matter of semantics, I’m going to suggest that it isn’t. Trying the same pitch to the same audience fits Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
But when I alter my pitch or change the audience to which the pitch is made, I’m exploring new avenues. I’ve learned that my earlier approach didn’t work and, thus, made adjustments in an attempt to get the desired result. Here’s a personal example that illustrates this point.
During my years as a business consultant, while driving to my next appointment, I’d replay the sales call I’d just completed. First, I’d consider those instances where I gained the potential buyer’s interest and excitement. I’d make note of the language I used that generated this result so that I could use that language again.
Next, I’d consider those instances where the potential buyer’s interests waned, where his eyes glazed over. Then I’d play with the language to see how I could avoid getting this result in the future.
Through this simple exercise I became increasingly precise in the language I used in my sales calls. I had fewer and fewer instances of glazed, uninterested eyes and more instances of interest and excitement. My close rate improved with each insight employed in my sales script.
What’s this mean for you?
One of the reasons that human beings subject themselves to the second kick of the mule is that they don’t take the time to evaluate the results they get. It’s easier to assume that the other person is a moron, that the timing wasn’t right or some unknown, external force was at work. Consequently, we don’t examine our contribution to the unintended result.
The simple act of asking “What worked well?” and “What didn’t produce the desired result?,” assures that we don’t subject ourselves to the second kick of the mule. Fortunately, these questions can be answered quickly; it only takes a few minutes to replay a conversation that lasted an hour or more.
The insights gained from these questions help you continuously improve your approach…and your knowledge of the audience that’s most likely to be open to your pitch. This is as true for personal interactions as for business transactions. After all, business transactions are the result of interactions between people.
For our kids
When you see kids setting themselves up for a second kick of the mule, share with them the metaphor from the Jesse Stone series: “there’s no education in the second kick of a mule.” The kids will love this metaphor which means they’ll remember it for years to come.
Share with them the approach outlined above for evaluating what worked and what didn’t in each interaction they had. As they experience the benefits of the insights gained from asking “What worked well?” and “What didn’t produce the desired result?,” they’ll quickly develop the habit of evaluating the results they get from each and every interaction they have with others. Their results, and confidence, will improve throughout their lives.
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