Humility and Equanimity in Sales

Dear Friend,

I’ve been meaning to write about the importance of humility and equanimity in sales. From my personal past observations, it seems these are attributes only a few salespeople have.

What are humility and equanimity?

Humility is defined as:

“a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.”

Equanimity is defined as:

“mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.”

The Monkey Brain

Recently I was enlightened by a sales colleague about the concept of the Monkey brain. It was from a book he read.

The Monkey brain is hubris, fight, flight, any emotion or reaction that ties us back to the days when we started walking upright.

Our reaction must be the same, always.

When you give a presentation, it’s the Monkey that says “you’re going say stupid things” or “you don’t look pretty enough.” When you sign a great sales deal, it’s the Monkey that says “YAH! I’m the King/Queen, nothing can touch me!”

The Monkey Brain is not enlightened. It is the attachment to this world, it is that prevents you from achieving moksha. It is what causes the downfall of many a Salesperson.

Leave the Monkey Behind

When you are in Sales, you are essentially asking someone to trade resources (money) for something you have to offer. Your offer must be more of a perceived value to that person that they are willing to part with their money.

This offer. It can be anything. It can be a product or service.

You must sell it so that your organization can survive.

It is the Monkey that goes out hunting for the tribe.

The Monkey gets scared if the potential sale appears to be falling through.

The Monkey parties when the sale goes through, just like if he killed food to bring back to the tribe.

The Monkey falls into the same trap every time because it is the Monkey Brain.

You must leave the Monkey behind.

Humility and Equanimity

Humility is not of the Monkey, it is an understanding that you do not understand everything. Humility is looking inward to oneself and finding that Monkey, hiding in your emotional trees and quieting him. Humility means that you will try your best and do your best, but not let the Monkey control your fears.

Equanimity is not of the Monkey as well. When the Monkey wins, he is elated and thumps his chest. When the Monkey loses, he gets angry and depressed. In life, we will win and we will lose. We will learn and we will make mistakes. It is how we react to the good and bad that is equanimity. Our reaction must be the same, always.

We are doing our job when we win and we are doing our job when we lose.

Be Humble.

Be Equanimous.

Make a Big Impact in Your Life

I owe all my success in life to effective communication. This includes my professional life, my love life, and my social life.

In this article, I’d like to share two tips for effective communication in your professional life.

It’s just three small tips with huge payoffs! Read on…


In my professional life, I work as a sales engineer, data scientist, and master of duct tape. I stick things together to make them work in a high technology field. It’s one of the most affirming and exciting things I’ve ever done in my life and I look forward to going to work every day.

How did I go from “zero” to “hero?”

I didn’t go to school for computer science or data science, I have a degree in Civil Engineering. I worked as a Professional Engineer for over 20 years. So how did I get here?

I got into this field by luck, curiosity, hard work, and communication. I had started a blog on data mining that turned into a full-blown career in the startup world and data science, and I couldn’t have done it without communicating complex ideas simply and effectively.

It appears that recruiters are searching for those communication skills as well:

However, the difference between a good Data Scientist and a GREAT Data Scientist is often not found in their technical ability or their amazing mathematical genius. Data Science exists to provide a service to business and business is run by people. If Data Scientists cannot comfortably communicate with their non-expert colleagues and bosses, then their effectiveness is greatly reduced. They need to communicate easily with people, to understand, to interpret, to translate.

How did I go from “zero” to “hero?” By learning public speaking, writing with style, and making pretty pictures.

Take a Toastmaster’s class

One of the best things I ever did for my career was to take public speaking classes. Before those classes, I used to only speak to other engineers. When I typically started a conversation with them I would say, “I used a c value of 0.95 for that section of impervious cover.

They’d nod their heads and understand what I said perfectly. A non-technical person would be scratching their heads wondering if I was speaking in a strange language.

…I seem to make people cry a lot…

Over time I learned that it’s the non-technical person that was in charge of budgets and/or making business decisions. If they have no idea what you’re doing or you can’t persuade them that your project is critical, they’ll allocate time and resources elsewhere.

You must communicate effectively to non-technical people to persuade them for that important win, budget, monies, or decision.

So what’s the solution here? Is it making pretty images or large displays? Is it writing at a level for non-technical readers, or is it being able to speak clearly? The answer is all three.

Achieving proficiency in all three is completely feasible but it does require some time on your part.

How do you do it? How do you start? You enroll in Toastmasters.

Yes, you get your ass up in front of people and work toward becoming a certified Toastmaster. To achieve that status you need to give 10 speeches, each one with a specific focus.

The first one is the hardest, it’s the icebreaker. You have to get up in front of people and introduce yourself for 3 to 5 minutes.

Then you progress into speeches to inform, to persuade, or to evoke an emotional response (I seem to make people cry a lot).

My current career relies heavily on the skills I learned being a Toastmaster, as does my partner’s career too.

The best part about joining Toastmasters is that it doesn’t break the bank. Yes, there’s a membership fee but it’s nominal and you have clubs in churches, libraries, and schools. Just visit Find A Club link and enter your zip code. Done!

Joining Toastmasters all those years ago was the best thing I ever did, it yielded the highest professional return in my life for the smallest investment of time.

Elements of style

I met Robert in graduate school. He was a Canadian man in his late 60’s, retired, and living in the States with his wife. He woke up one morning and enrolled in business school where I was.

“Tom, this book made a big difference in my writing and I hope it does the same for you.”

We hit it off and worked on many class projects together. Over the semesters he started to share his life with me. I was impressed and inspired by the life he had led up till then.

As a son of Chinese immigrants, he settled in Canada, worked in a dry cleaner, then owned a pizza parlor, started and sold a newspaper, and became a writer.

He was the most interesting man I’ve ever known up till that point and he remains a good friend to this day.

As our graduate life came to an end, we went down to the local pub for a celebratory drink. We had spent a good 3 years together, writing, learning, and presenting. We reminisced about all the good times and commiserated on the bad times.

You’ll never remember all the Macbook versions out there but you will remember the Apple logo.

After the second drink, he reached into this bag and handed me a small sliver-looking book.

He looked squarely in my eyes and said, “Tom, this book made a big difference in my writing and I hope it does the same for you.”

Robert handed me a book titled “Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.

It’s a tiny book that packed — and I mean packed — elements of writing compositions, style, and grammar.

Over the years that gift has made a big impact on my writing and I refer to it when I need to edit a lengthy text or just need some inspiration.

Thank you, Robert, you have no idea how your thoughtfulness has impacted my life.

Visuals, it’s about the visuals

The last item that made a big impact on my life is understanding that the majority of people in this world are visual learners. That means they learn best from pictures and visualizations.

A single photograph can inspire a call to action or change the narrative of war.

I took up photography many years ago as a way to express my creative outlet and have spent countless hours reviewing and analyzing photos.

In that time I’ve learned a few things about images and visualizations.

The most effective and powerful images are the simple ones. I’m not talking simple flowcharts, but the ones that are stripped down to their bare essentials and focus on my key thing, whatever that thing may be.

Every commercial and every advertisement we see seeks to focus your eye on one thing.

You’ll never remember all the Macbook versions out there but you will remember the Apple logo.

How many Nike shoes did you have? You’ll remember the swoosh first.

When you create visuals and images, you have helped the viewer train their eye to the most important part of that image. That’s how you make an impact.

To see a non-commercially inspired set of images, I suggest you visit an art museum. Walk around the halls in the different periods, see what images resonate with you.

I’m partial to the abstractive art and Wabi Sabi types of Art. I like minimalistic art because it makes a powerful statement that leads viewers to read into any way they see fit.

You will need to figure this out for yourself and see what works best in your career!

TL;dr

Sign up for Toastmasters. Learn to write better. Make pretty pictures.


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What If No One Ever Saw Your Photography?

I came across a curious YouTube video a few weeks ago where the creator went into a philosophical discussion about creating photos and having no one ever see them.

He referred to Vivian Maier, a woman that died in 2009. She had let her storage place lapse two years prior and all her contents were “won” by John Maloof, Ron Slattery, and Randy Prow. In her storage space were decades of developed and undeveloped film of her street photography work.

© Wiki Media Commons

Vivian spent all her free time photographing over decades and never showed anyone her work. It was only just before her death that her work was shown and took the world by storm.

Can you imagine a person like her in today’s world with an iPhone, Instagram, and Facebook?

I can’t.

She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved … She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn’t show anyone. via Wikipedia

She never posted her work on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. She never did it for the likes, recognition, or adulation.

If the right people didn’t find her work, after letting her payments lapse, she would’ve died in obscurity. No one, except her living relatives, would’ve known who she was and her odd quirks.

My initial reaction was “OMG, how lucky we are to know her work” but how many Vivian Maier’s are out there? And how many will we never know?

Why Shoot if You’re Not Going to Show?

In today’s FOMO world and siloed social media, we’re driven to create content and share our photographs. If our creative work is well received we might get a like or a comment. On the surface, this instant feedback is good. You can learn faster and course-correct as needed.

But the darker side to instant feedback is that you get hooked on it. You might tie up your entire self-worth or voice as a creative in little likes and hearts.

I find that incredibly upsetting. We are more than just social media likes and hearts, at least I’d like to think we are.

Plus, developing your style and your voice takes time. It takes making mistakes, falling, and getting back up again, time after time, to develop who you are as an artist and photographer.

Perhaps it might be a good thing NOT to show your work for a long time or even at all. You need time to find your voice and develop your style if you want to be an artist.

Some find themselves faster than others, and some — like yours truly — can take decades.

Here’s a mental exercise. What happens when you do show your work and it’s not well received? Do you then change your style to match what general society likes or wants? If you were to change, what is the reason why? Is it for the likes and hearts?

If you couldn’t care less about the likes and hearts then it begs the deepest and hardest question to answer, why do you shoot at all?

This, dear friends, is a question I struggle with. Why do I even shoot at all? What is my voice? What is my style? What is my message? Do I even need to have a message?

Box of Positives & Negatives

My partner and I moved our entire family to a new house 5 years ago. When we did I boxed up all my old positive slides and negatives in a box and promptly forget where I put them.

A few weeks ago I found them again and was amazed at some of the old work I did. Granted, I have to scan them in (and I’m lazy that way) but I held the positives up to the light and remembered.

© Thomas Ott

I found my old landscapes from New Mexico and my 3-week exploration of the desert Southwest. I found my scrap metalwork at Port Newark. I found my old flower work.

And I found 100’s of negatives that need to be sleeved and stored. A lot of work that I will reserve for the winter if I have time.

© Thomas Ott

That box of positives and negatives reminded me of Vivian Maier. She photographed and stored her work, never to be seen again. I photographed and stored my work and forgot it. Did Vivian forget her work too?

A Life Worth Living

If I died my family would probably throw them away, a large part of my life gone. I would hope they would at least look at them before they tossed them away, but the probability of that is very low because everyone lives digitally now.

My images, good or bad, are pieces of my life. They provide a window into my past life, a place where I’ve been.

Then there are photographs of me that other people have taken. One day when they die and their work gets thrown away, that photograph of me will be thrown away too.

Will my life have been meaningless? Watch this NY Times video, it hit me hard.

In a world where photography is cheapened, a world where we hustle, a world where we live and die by the likes and hearts, is there any true meaning to photography left?

I say yes.

Its meaning can take many forms but its first and foremost’s meaning is what it is for you.

This is you. When you snap that shutter, it’s you.

A self-portrait is you. A photo of that rock you took, is you. A photo of your loved ones, it’s you. A photo of your lover, it’s you.

This is it. This is your life, the wonderful meaning that is you. Photography is just another way to bring meaning to your life if you let it be.

If you let photography be the avenue for your self-discovery and your meaning then the likes and hearts don’t matter. They become noise around you, and you are the signal.

Your work matters, if it’s only for an audience of one.

A Resurrection of the Spirit

In Nietzsche’s “Human, All Too Human” he says that the Resurrection of the Spirit is based on the following:

“On a political sickbed a people is usually rejuvenated and rediscovers its spirit, after having gradually lost it in seeking and preserving power. Culture owes its peaks to politically weak ages. “

After seeing the rise of Trump, the Tea Party, and the full-frontal assault of a woman’s right to choose and voter rights, there is a big attempt to preserve power by the Right in this country.

While we are not out of the woods with this level of Fascism in our country, and we need to root it out of the darkest corner and fight it tooth and nail, I can’t but help wonder if we’ll usher in a newer American spirit.

There are bright spots emerging. My children are more open with their lives, they express themselves more. They connect and communicate with their peers in ways I never did at their age.

It’s not just the technical aspect of that connection, but it’s a big part, children these days are exploring the meaning of their sexualities, partnerships, social justice, and environmental justice.

While it remains to be seen, some of these idealistic kids will get into politics and eventually outnumber the old white-haired men that are desperately trying to hold on to power and nostalgia of an age that never existed for nonwhite people.

Yet, to get there will require turmoil and upheaval, and we haven’t seen the last of Trump-like Nazis, riots, school shootings, racism, and assault on women and minorities. Let’s hope that there are more good people willing to step up and “hold the line,” so we can build a new country, one that is more inclusive and kind.

I have hope that it can be done.

I’m Looking Toward 2022 as a Time for Renewal

Christmas is over and we hosted our annual dinner with my family as we do every year, except this year there was one empty seat at our table.

I spent the next few days in a daze thinking about my late father and something a woman said to me at his memorial.

I had just given a long eulogy about my father and the importance of reflecting on his life and the love he had for our family. How you can’t take anything with you when you die but only leave memories behind.

How it was up to us to make the best memories we can, ones where we will be remembered as good men and women. To be the best person we can be and how important it was to love and to share our love with our families and friends.

She came up to me as we were closing down the memorial and said some pleasantries, how much she liked my eulogy, and then said, “Well, you’re the patriarch of the family now.”

Patriarch.

The words didn’t hit home until I looked to where my father used to sit at our table.


What does even mean to be the patriarch of the family?

I don’t know but I can tell you that I’ve never been a man to shirk my responsibilities. My frail mother and aunt need my help now and I will step up to do my filial duties. To be there for them, to help them sort through my father’s belongings and find where he’s hidden his wealth.

I will be there, along with my sister, to help both of them navigate the bills, keep an eye on the house for repairs, and make sure they’re both safe and sound.

How does it feel to be the patriarch of the family?

I don’t even know what I’m feeling right now. I feel like I was given a crown to wear and I’m left with more questions than answers. My mother and aunt look to me now to help guide them because that’s what they relied on my father for.

This crown feels heavy but I will do my best as my father’s son to do my duties to my family.

Even if that means putting aside my grief for the time being.


It’s a few days before New Year’s Eve and I can’t wait for it come and pass. I don’t want to be awake to ring in the new year. I want to be in bed, with my electric sheets on, going to sleep early.

I want my partner to slip into bed next to me and put her cold feet against my legs. I want her to snuggle next to me and whisper “I love you.”

I want to wake up the next day and feel like I’ve been given a blank book, one with no mistakes in it. One where I can scribble, draw, make jokes, write of love, poetry, and so much more. I want to strengthen good friendships and cut out toxic ones. I want to do my duty as a son and as the family patriarch to the best of my ability.

I know that January 1st is an arbitrary day but this time it will feel like a fresh start for me, and if there’s one word to describe what I want from next year it would be “renewal.”

I want to heal from all the trauma that came to me this past year and feel the sunlight on my skin again.

The storm is over and the sea calms around me. The wind is picking up and as I unfurl my sails to catch the winds and let them carry me forward.

I look back and think of my father, I remember.

I turn and feel the wind on my back as my sails fill. Salt spray stings my face and I look ahead to the horizon and a new year for me and my family. I look toward renewal, hope, love, and laughter.

Dawn has finally broken and the sun is rising.

I write this with tears in my eyes.

We two have paddled in the stream
 from morning sun till dine
 But seas between us broad have roared
 since auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend
And give me a hand o’ thine
And we’ll take a right goodwill draught
for auld lang syne

Happy New Year.

Happy New Chances.

Here’s to the blank page, and a fresh start.

Doesn’t it feel wonderful?

The Donkey

Dear Friend,

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Donkey. The Donkey is like the Monkey but worse. The Donkey is a metaphor, no Donkeys were harmed in the writing of this essay.

Master Foyan

Zen Master Foyan said “In my school there are only two kinds of sickness. One is to go looking for the donkey while riding on the donkey. The other is to be unwilling to dismount once having mounted the donkey.”

The Donkey is you. It is the world.

The Donkey

We all ride on our Donkeys. We all have our attachment to things.

Money.

Sex.

Love.

Acceptance.

Booze.

We ride on these Donkeys all our life, sometimes not realizing it.

Sometimes we realize the Donkey but we are too scared or comfortable to dismount the Donkey.

I am a Donkey rider too. I realize I’m on the Donkey, and I want to dismount.

It’s very hard to make the Donkey into a donkey.