013: How I Create Reality Distortion Fields (And Why I Protect Myself Against Them)

Prefer to just listen? Here’s the audio-only version:

Steve Jobs wasn’t the only person who could create reality distortion fields. Most really good sales people do it all the time.

And while it can be a great blessing in life—it can also be a curse.

I know this from firsthand experience. 

At some point, you become so good at sales that people will buy whatever you’re selling.

You become so good at understanding how to talk with people that they’ll get on board with your proposal.

And in some cases, what you’re selling might be an idea that seems right to you… but is just plain wrong. Yet, because you can sell it so successfully, it seems right to others as well.

I’ve been wrong so many times in my life. In some cases people are successful at pointing it out to me. But in many cases, I was more successful at championing my idea, and we invested a lot of time, energy, and resources into executing a project that was doomed to fail from the beginning.

I wish I hadn’t created those flawed reality distortion fields so successfully. All that time and energy could have been invested more effectively.

Over the years, I learned how to create a “reality distortion field barrier”. Basically, a strategy for protecting myself and others from being blinded by an idea that’s shining bright, but leading us astray.

And this is what I share in this episode of the podcast: a way to protect yourself against the risk of being too good at sales.


Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti. Today I want to talk about an unusual problem, right? Most of the time when I record content, when I teach people what I know, it’s all about helping. People and teams and companies to become better at selling. But what if you are too good at selling right now? This might seem like a weird question, um, that want to play to most people, but it is something, it is a problem that I’ve discovered very late I had in my life. Right. And I’ll, I’ll explain to you the scenario on what the implications are and how to counteract that. What to do about it. A little bit. It might be enlightening for, for many of you in maybe other areas in your life. So can you be too good in sales? Can the fact that you are incredibly persuasive in the way that you explain ideas or try to convince people of your point can being too good become a problem? That the answer is simply yes. Right? Um, and here’s the scenario. One thing that I’ve learned over the last few years. Is that oftentimes, especially within the context of my team, but I’ve seen this also externally when I sit down with founders and give them advice when it comes to their companies and their challenges. When I speak and I don’t do this consciously, um, I can be very, very influential. I can at times in a moment be even charismatic and I can be exciting and inspiring in the way that I put things in the way that are worth things. And the end result is that oftentimes within a meeting, people might get overly enthusiastic and too quick to buy into my ideas. Now. Oftentimes my ideas are not that bad, but once in a while, or even quite frequently, I am wrong, or maybe what I think is the best option or the best way forward, isn’t really the best way forward or the best option for that person, that team or that situation. And so what I’ve learned over time and in different stages is that. Being very, very good at selling can be dangerous when you’re wrong, right? When you are convincing somebody or a group to do something, that’s not the best idea and. I’ve learned that very late. This is a kind of an unexpected problem to have, but what I’ve learned and what I’ve seen and observed over time was that sometimes I would join a meeting, I would listen to the problem and the different opinions that, that different people had, uh, around a certain situation. And I would step in oftentimes very forcefully and very convincingly and be like, alright, here’s really what’s going on. Here’s the problem. As I see it. Here’s the right solution, the right move forward. Are you all on board with this? And people would just go, shit, Holy fuck yeah, Sally’s right. Let’s do that. Yeah. We’re all in. And there’ll be like hype, hype, and excited. And then a day later, or two days later, a week later, people came down from that high, you know, maybe they sobered up, you know? And they realized. That motherfucker wasn’t right. Steli was actually wrong or what we are where that excited about today. When I look at that same approach again, it does not seem that smart or that brilliant or that right. And I’m grateful and I’m lucky enough that I have people in my life that have been in my life for many, many years and have given me that feedback and I’ve learned to adjust to that. So. What that means is that today in an order to counteract that, especially when I speak and give advice and sell people on my ideas and, and I’ve not had a lot of time to really do my research, do my homework, look at the data, and be truly convinced that I know the exact right solution when I’m in a meeting. And in that moment I have the, the, the enlightening thought or a path forward. And I get a great response, a great buying on my pitch of my ideas, of my solutions. I give people and teams a disclaimer and I tell people, listen, we’re all hype. We’re all excited that this might be an amazing idea, but let’s take a second. You know, since we hadn’t had a lot of time to really digest this and meditate on it and look at it with a little bit of distance and with perspective, let’s actually see how we feel about this solution or this proposal in a few days. I want all of you to take a few days. To really think and reflect on this, to do a bit more research and then to come back. You know, when you, when things have calmed down a little bit and see and reconfirm that this is really what you should do. And this is really the, the, the path forward for all of us. So I’ve learned to when people are too quick to buy in on my solutions and when I’m too quick in selling people hard on my ideas to give the disclaimer and give people the permission, the explicit permission. To change their mind and to reflect on this and not to buy in too hard too quickly. And that is something I do within my company and my team and my direct reports. This is a habit I’ve developed that I utilize. A lot of times, and especially when I give advice to founders, those are snapshot, right? Snapshots. I, I, I meet with you for the very first time. I have maybe 30 minutes to hear your story, hear a little bit about you, get a bit of context, ask a few more questions, and then I’ll, then I have to give you advice. And the thing that always scares me the most is when founders get overly excited, overly buy into what I was selling them in that moment and go, Oh my God, this is bill. This is going to change everything. And I go, let’s chill. I’m grateful that you think my ideas are valuable in this exchange has been useful. But take a few days here, a few other opposing opinions. Ask a few other people for advice. Do a bit of research, kind of . Then make a final decision. Don’t, don’t, you know, take this very moment and an example and your excitement in this moment. For, for, uh, an indication that this is absolutely the right thing to do. It may be the right thing to do. Maybe not. Maybe it was just, you know, maybe just sounded like the right thing to do in the moment. So, and I think you can take this in many other areas in life. There’s areas in life where. You have a special status and authority where people just will default to believing you and doing what you say, more so than believing and listening to their own voice and their own experiences or the data. And you might be a person that is developed sales skills and communication skills over many, many years of hardworking. And now in . Conversations, you’re able to convince people quickly and all that. That’s exciting. That’s awesome. Hopefully you work really hard and hopefully you use this very ethically and you come from a really good place, which is something I try to do. But even if you do that, you, you need to look at every, every single one of your strengths as a potential weakness. And so I’ve learned that my strengths of convincing people and exciting and motivating people in the moment and changing their mind that that is. Incredibly valuable, but it can be a weakness. It can do harm given the right context. So I’ve learned to be very mindful on how I use my superpowers, and I’ve learned a lot from a good friend, Hiten Shah, who we do the podcast together. We’ve been doing a podcast for three years now called the startup chat. And he’s very, very mindful and asking lots and lots of questions and allowing oftentimes other people to make a decision. Although sometimes he’ll jump in as well when he’s very convinced that he knows what to do and give you clarity in the direction and the ideas that excite. But both him and I, we both. Usually say oftentimes the words, it depends. This may be a good idea. I really don’t know. You should focus on your customers more so than on what any other experts is. The experts are telling you, including myself at the end of the meeting, or it has changed when people are excited about your ideas. When people have bought into your proposal, sometimes it’s smart to give them a little disclaimer, give them all way out, kind of clear their vision. If you fog the fog, that vision with all your enthusiasm, excitement, and your authority and your expertise and your directness and your level of clarity and tell them, Hey, take a few days to actually think about this before you fully commit. Maybe you want to go and get some opposing opinions before you truly fully commit to this idea. It might be the right idea. But who knows. So he go, I’m pretty sure you didn’t expect me. If you know my content, you probably didn’t expect me to ever talk about the risks of being too good at sales, but they are. Anything that you’re too good at or that you’re really, really good at, you need to be using in a very mindful way. So I hope you found this useful. I want to hear from you. Have you ever been too good at selling? If you ever sold somebody on something you shouldn’t have sold them to, in hindsight, how have you learned and evolved that adjusted? How do you use more mindfulness and five fullness in regards to being an amazing salesperson? I want to hear your stories. I want to learn from you. So just send me an email, steliefti at gmail.com. What was excited to hear from you and until you hear me next time, let’s go and get them.

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