How to Waste Time in Space

It was embarrassing. My monthly result had rocketed ahead. It was miles above everyone else. My commissions were record breaking. People who knew me said I had clients to die for. People who didn’t know me asked for my technique. All I would say was that I worked hard, and I worked … hard. There was nothing more to it.

But, there were grumbles in the team. Their praise for me was thin and their aloofness obvious. I got nasty glares or, worse, no eye-contact. Even my friend Albert seemed at times to look through me as though I was a sheet of shiny glass.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. I sell insurance. I guess that sounds ordinary. But, the thing is, I sell insurance for commercial space enterprises. They make equipment, organize payloads, and some are working on chasing Richard and Jeff into the space travel business. They all admire or envy Elon’s extraordinary achievements. They would do anything to emulate those guys’ success.

So, the companies I deal with are out of this world. And, the fee scale is astronomical. I have met and worked with some big names. Every day, I have a brush with fame.

For a while, I tried to ignore my work colleagues’ snubs and snide remarks. I tried to revel in my success. My manager was both perceptive and kind. She gave me a small office in a quiet corner of the sales floor. People called it the ‘Perspex Prison,” but I liked the way it muted the office sounds, and the walls were my favorite color: sky blue. However, my pleasure didn’t last long. In fact, it soon became excruciating pain.

Unfortunately, the situation in the office began to take its toll. I wanted people to like me because, generally, I like them. I wanted to have friends in the sales team. Liking people is what attracted me to sales in the first place.

It was a concern that became an obsession. I asked Albert what I should do.

He had a talent for explaining things simply. “Your colleagues have a problem. They think you are making them look bad. And, you have a problem, which is that your colleagues don’t like you for making them look bad.”

He put his hands together in prayer and touched his lips. “Ease back. Take it more slowly. Sales is a marathon career not a sprint.”

I took his sage advice. I started using excellent supports like MercurySays to get more done in less time. My estimate was that I put in two hours less work a day than I had before. I wedged my door open. People noticed me sitting back, daydreaming, sipping coffee. They seemed to relax with me a little more. Someone left a cupcake on my desk. I guess they didn’t want it. It was a nice gesture.

I wondered how my current new client would see the situation. He was the CEO of an astrophysics engineering firm. He saw the world differently, sometimes from the profound perspective of the glossy emptiness of space. My manager asked me about him. She seemed … interested. She wanted to hear any gossip I knew.

My situation suddenly got worse. It became clear during the following monthly meeting when my manager announced our sales achievements. She always linked the multi-colored data sheet from our sales and CRM program to a big flat screen in our meetings room. She’d changed the background to my name to a sky blue, for obvious reasons. When she tapped her mouse, I was shocked. My results had not gone down. Worse. I had made more sales than during the previous month.

You can imagine the trouble this caused with the sales team. They thought I must have cheated. Maybe, I worked weekends or overnight. Someone privately suggested that our manager had faked the figures. That was unfair. She would never do that.

So, I made an obvious choice. During the following month, I worked even fewer hours. Of course, I was still using MercurySays and other technical supports, so I got most jobs done in about five hours. The rest of the time, I wandered around the office. Made small talk. Drank too many coffees. Copied the behaviors, attitudes, and language of my colleagues.

The following monthly meeting was a sickening disaster. My sales had lifted from the previous month by 37%. Another record broken. I thought my work colleagues might do me harm. When our manager put her hand on my shoulder (that’s as close to a hug that she allowed herself), the chill breeze that blew through the meetings room was noticeable. I was in real trouble.

So, I doubled down. I did just three hours of real work every day and I tried even harder to show my colleagues that I was just like them.

Before the next monthly meeting, I knocked on the door of my manager. I asked what my results were. She thought for a moment then said: “Close the door, will you.”

Then, she slid behind her desk and opened the data dashboard on her computer. A wide smile broke across her face. She pointed to the relevant entry with my name on it. I was now selling nearly 60% more than the woman who came in second. All the others were miles behind. It was a catastrophe.

I begged her not to tell the others in the monthly meeting. She was surprised at first. But, her insight and compassion quickly took hold.

She said: “What’s going on? I need to know what you know.”

I explained that I wanted to be more social with the other staff. A faint smile flickered across her face. Then, she said: “Let me tell you something. It is just between you and me. I’ve never told anyone this before. I put in about three hard hours a day and get most jobs done.”

I was confused. Why was she telling me this? Then, my slow brain clunked into gear. But, she was quicker than that. She said: “So how many real work hours are you putting in?”

I stuttered then lifted my courage. “About the same.”

She laughed aloud. People outside her office looked up at the sudden noise.

She said: “It’s perfectly clear. Work fits into the time you give it.” She peered at the numbers. “Your results are up again and that’s what counts.”

Then, she leaned closer. She asked a few technical questions about an insurance package I was organizing for one of my big-name clients. Then, her tone shifted and she said: “So, tell me, what’s he really like?”