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I’m an old guy, and I’ve been traveling around the sun since 1955. That’s a lot of miles, and in that time, I’ve picked up and dished out a few pearls of wisdom. I’m about to drop those pearls on you right here in no particular order. Pay attention, because you probably won’t learn anything, but maybe you’ll laugh.

  • Flying With Mrs. Eddie Van Halen – It’s 1988, and I’m flying home from Detroit to Washington Dulles Airport. I was a frequent flier which got me upgraded to first class. I had an aisle seat minding my own business when a woman squeezed past me to sit in the window seat. Dressed in sweats and wearing sunglasses, it was Valerie Bertinelli, actress, and wife (at that time) of the late, great Eddie Van Halen. Valerie didn’t seem like she wanted to talk, I stayed quiet. About 50 minutes into the flight, Valerie put down her magazine, and I said, “My wife would kill me if I didn’t ask; what are you doing in town?” She told me she had just completed a movie, “Pancho Barnes,” and she was coming to be on the Larry King show to promote it. She then asked how long it would take to get to Richmond, I told her about 2 1/2 hours and asked why, and she told me Eddie was doing a concert there and she thought maybe she would drive there, but that’s too long a drive and that she was just going to go home and clean the house. I couldn’t believe she cleaned her own house, and I know that when my wife and I cleaned our house, I had to do the bathrooms, so I asked her, “Does Eddie clean toilets?” Her reply?

“Eddie doesn’t do shit!” — Valerie Bertinelli

  • The Importance of Silence – In 1979, when I was a rookie salesperson, I was teamed up with an experienced representative on a conference call with one of my prospective customers. I asked about the budget, which was followed by silence. As I was about to fill the void with verbal vomit, my sales mentor grabbed my arm and put his finger to his lips in the universal signal of Shut the Eff Up. After an uncomfortable silence, the client responded with a number, a number that would never have been revealed if I rushed to make everyone comfortable. When the meeting was over, my mentor said to me:

“The first one to speak loses.” — George Kozar, Expert Salesperson

Later on, I was taught the coaching corollary to this axiom:

“Let silence do the heavy lifting.” Author Unknown

Silence is an effective tool. Don’t rush in to fill the uncomfortable silences.

  • Selling Past The Close – Sitting in the office of a Veterans Administration procurement agent, I’m about to find out if I was to be awarded my first sale in my first real job after graduating college. The procurement guy is speaking, and he says, “Well, I don’t like how your system paginates and your printers are noisy, but I have the purchase order for you; we’re buying it.” I was offended; he didn’t think my product was perfect. I started to disagree with his review when a Senior sales guy who joined me at the meeting kicked me under the table. As we walked to the Metro to go back to the office, I asked my assigned mentor what the kick was all about. He said,

“Never sell past the close.” — Fred Storm

I was reminded of this after I changed my wife’s mind on something, and I kept mansplaining my reasoning, and she said, “GLENNNNN… don’t sell past the close.”

  • Such A Deal – The summer after my freshman year in college, I worked for a liquidator in New York City. Now for those of you who’ve seen too many episodes The Sopranos, a liquidator is not a hitman. Liquidators buy overstock or defective products from manufacturers. These liquidators are often called “closeout retailers” or “bargain retailers.” They sell these products at a discounted price, often below the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Joe was a colorful guy, 70 years old, grumpy, and vastly overweight. He’d buy clothes from manufacturers who had inventory that they knew would be out of style next season, so the retail stores didn’t want them anymore. I remember one time, a lady tried to bargain on a pair of wine-colored, corduroy bell bottoms.  He was selling them for $5 and wanted to buy them for $3. Joy looked at her, handed her a quarter, and said, “Here’s a quarter, lady; get outta here and don’t come back.”  This was around the time of Saturday Night Fever, and Joe had purchased these flowery, satin disco shirts from a well-known brand. He bought them for $2.50 each and sold them for $7 in his 28th St and 6th Avenue store. In a retail store, you’d pay $60 dollars for these shirts. I bought 50 shirts from Joe at $3 each and brought them home, put them in the trunk of my car, and parked at a McDonald’s, where all the kids hung out. Joe gave me sales advice, his advice, sell them for $20 – $30 dollars. His words, “When people ask you where did you get them, don’t say, you bought them from me, say,

Hey, I don’t ask you where you get your clothes, don’t ask me where I get mine.”

He taught me without lying or saying, they fell off the back of a truck. This gave the impression that buyers were getting a great deal.  Such a deal.


  • Married To The Lucky One -I’m now married to my second wife. I know that I’m very lucky to have met her and can’t believe that this wonderful woman married me and I’m not the only one who can’t believe it. Even since Nancy and I started dating in 2007, her friends, my friends, and my family kept telling me how lucky I am. I’m sick of hearing it. What am I, chopped liver? I know I am lucky, and yet, I am of the personal opinion that Nancy is lucky too. Nancy and I got married in 2012, and while mingling with the guests, I was speaking with my 17-year-old son and his buddy, and I joked about how sick I was with everyone telling me how lucky I was. My son’s friend’s response displayed that he was wise beyond his years.

“Think about it this way Mr. Hellman, it’s better to be the lucky one than the one who is married to the lucky one.” — Bo C.

  • A Consistently Wrong Indicator – I had a very creative uncle. He was a dedicated bachelor and did well with the ladies. Had an apartment in the West Village. I loved visiting him. He was a sports gambling addict.  Before every NFL Sunday, he would call my Dad and a bunch of other people to get a consensus on his picks. Uncle Harold had one person he’d call who he would pick, the opposite of what the guy picked. When I asked Uncle Harold why he even bothered to call him, he replied,

“A consistently wrong indicator is almost as good as a consistently right one. — Harold Kagan

Uncle Harold, Hiding Out at Smith Mountain Lake

Footnote: My late uncle Harold’s gambling strategy didn’t prove effective. In the later years of his life, he escaped from his Bookie Deptors and left New York to live out the remainder of his life at a friend’s home in Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia.

  • Martians and Marines – In 1982, I was selling secure computing equipment to the Marine Corps. One day I was training a young marine enlisted man in Marine Corps Intelligence how to use the system, and as we were working, an elderly disheveled bag-woman entered the office holding up an old retro Motorolla kitchen radio. She began to spin a tale. Apparently, she was an alien, probably an illegal alien but not the kind that came from Latin America, like the kind that came from outer space. She had been on earth since 1958, and in that time, she has helped put down revolutions in Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, and Botswana. This morning she was listening to her radio, which picks up foreign agents, and she overheard foreign agents plotting to overthrow the United States. As she was listening, the agents sensed her presence, scarred her brain, and damaged her radio, so it now only picks up AM radio stations. She was here to report the foreign agent plot and see if the marine could fix her radio. The marine listened to the story intently, didn’t crack a smile, and made the most brilliant reply;

“Ma’am, if there are foriegn agents involved, you don’t want marine corp intelligence, you want counter intelligence and they’re down the hall. — Nameless Marine

  • Bad Breath – There is an old adage regarding making less-than-adequate team members available to the industry that goes like this:

Bad Breath is Better Than No Breath — Anonymous

I’ve learned that’s a misnomer. If you have a second baseman that can’t cover 2nd base and flubs all the balls that come their way, the team is better off playing with 8 players covering for an absent second baseman instead of pretending that someone is covering the base.

  • Fear Crushes Creativity – There is freedom in having nothing to lose. Twenty-five years ago, I was running a sales meeting out of town in Chicago. We were at Mike Ditka’s bar on Rush Street. As we were there, one of the single sales guys, let’s call him Charles, because that was his name, had his eye on an attractive lady sitting at the bar. Men would approach her, but none were invited to sit down with her. Finally, Charles says to our group, watch this, and he walked over to the young woman and talked to her for 3 minutes before he was dismissed. As he came back, we all laughed. Charles then said I’d like to see any of you do better. No one took the challenge, and then Charles said, come on, Glen. I was married, hadn’t been on the prowl in a bar for 10 years, and prior to marriage, I was never good at meeting women in bars, but the challenge was there, the pressure was off, I didn’t need to score… I was married. So I had nothing to lose. I walked up to the lady and totally winged a conversation that went thusly (which is a word I use to appear as a member of the intelligentsia (which is a word I use to let you know I’m superior to you.))

Me: Buy me a drink
Her: What? That’s not how it works; you’re supposed to buy me a drink.
Me: No, I don’t want to do that to you.
Her: What do you mean?
Me: Well, let’s say I buy you a drink, and we talk, and I’m kind of a funny guy, so you laugh, and we have a few more drinks. Pretty soon, you’re drunk, I ask you to go home with me, you’ve had a good time, and you think you owe me something; you feel beholding, and you say okay. I don’t want to put you in that position.
Her: Okay, I’ll buy you a drink.
Me: No, I don’t want your drink.
Her: Why not?
Me: Well, you’ll buy me a drink, we’ll laugh, you’ll buy me another drink… [She proceeded to grab me by the tie (we wore suits and ties back then) pulled me close, and said, I like you.

And with that, one of the women in the group came up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Come on honey, we only have the babysitter ’till 10.

So besides the fact that my female colleague pulled me out of the fire, what is there to learn from that? That guy who did that well picking up that woman in the bar was not looking to get lucky. This was a game. I had nothing to lose, and because I had no fear of failing, I did better than I ever would if it mattered.

Dance like no one’s watching… or fear of losing is a drag on performance. — Author Unknown