Thursday, August 24, 2006


Some of you know I've been out of work since the end of June.

We made it through last month due to the great genorosity of our Mission House Church members and also because we cashed out an old 401k account that had about $2,800 in it. This is how we covered rent and bills up to this point.

Now things are getting scary. I've been searching for a job, preferably in the non-profit/ministry side of things, but the way things are looking, I'd be happy to wash dishes if it meant I could cover our bills.

As a favor, a friend of mine recommended me to his boss as a potential telephone sales rep. I've done this sort of work before, so it didn't seem that difficult. Plus, the pay was very good and we certainly had no other options open, so I took the chance.

The owner met with me and informed me that, the way they handle new hires is to give them 3 days to produce using a purchased phone list of potential clients and see how they do on the phones. We call this "Cold Calling" in the sales biz. It's the worst kind of sales you can do, in my opinion.

Still, it didn't look that difficult so I took the challenge. Three days to prove myself. No problem.

The first day I hit the phones hard. I made around 55 phone calls and never sold a single item. It was grueling work actually. The psychological and emotional stress it takes to pick up the phone again, and again, and to call total strangers and rip through a pitch (all the while making it sound very conversational and "non-sales-like"), is very hard on the ego. But, oh well, I thought. Maybe I just had a bad day. The next day was sure to improve.

But the second day, after 77 phone calls, I had a blank sales sheet. Not one single person had taken our product. Of course, more than 40% of my calls had gone to voice mail, or been wrong numbers, but of the 15 or 16 people I actually spoke to, most were uninterested or already had a source for what we were offering. I was frustrated. I felt like a failure. Worse, I was partially angry at my employer-to-be for handing me a crap list of prospective clients and expecting me to turn lead into gold. I felt as if I was set up to fail.

At the end of the second day, my friend Greg, (who helped get me in the door at this place), called me at home to inform me that his boss had mentioed that he expected me to sell six or seven items on the third day if I had any hope of being hired on full-time.

I wanted to spit. At the rate I was going, using their garbage phone lists, I was convinced that even Harry Houdini couldn't pull a sale out of that hat, much less six!

I told my friend that I'd rather have a root canal than to return to another day of non-stop calls and empty results at that place.

Then, that next morning I woke up around 5:30am and started wrestling with God over it. I thought of the Children of Israel who refused to enter the Promised Land just because there were Giants. I told God it would take a miracle for me to get 6 sales in a single day when, after 2 days, I couldn’t even do a single one.

Then I told God how much I really, really, really, hated this job. How it was like pulling my soul through a cheese grater. I thought about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, how he asked if the cup could pass from him, yet nevertheless, he did as God commanded.

I remembered that I’m writing a book on the power of weaknesss; about how when we are weak, God is strong. I thought that if I didn’t at least give God an opportunity, I’d never know what could have happened.

I also thought about the fact that rent is coming due, along with a lot of bills, at the end of this month and the first of next. I know we’ll need cash and at least I’d get paid around $100 just for coming in and taking one last swing at the phones.

I got up. I got dressed. I made coffee. I prayed some more. I asked God for the strength to get back on the phones and I confessed my weakness.

Maybe this was another way for me to learn to die to myself, to take up my cross and to follow Jesus? Maybe this is how real faith works, I thought.

I also thought about how I would have to tell my sons that I quit the job I was doing just because it was too hard. I also thought about how a failure is really only someone who doesn’t try.

So, I got in the car and drove to work.

On the way, I prayed. I sang worship songs. I cried. I asked God for strength.

I realized that this was an opportunity for me, to let go of what I wanted in order to be a good provider for my children, my wife, my family.

I walked into the office and headed for my desk, and that phone, facing possible humiliation at a third day of zero results.

I took a deep breath, gathered my courage and whispered a prayer to God for help. Then I picked up the phone and started to make my first call.

After about 3 hours I made about 30 calls. All zippo. Not a single sale.

My boss came over eventually asked me if I just wanted to call it quits and I said, “Yes”.

So, I got a check for about $260 and said goodbye to my friend Greg and walked out to the car.

Strangely, I felt invigorated. I had faced my dread in God's strength. I had failed to produce results, but at least I discovered what I was made of. At least I didn't take the easy way out and quit.

Now, I'm back on the job trail. Seeking God's face and listening for His voice, which, I believe, is really what God wants most of all; to hear my voice calling out to Him and to know that I am putting all my hope and trust in Him alone.



bnims said...

dangit man! my heart goes out to you

Anthony said...

Keith you are in our prayers. I've been in similar straights and I know that God will come through.

Carrie Cosby said...

You and your family are in my prayers Keith! I know how it is to not know where you're going to get money to pay for the things you really need and the stress that comes from not having a job. Of course, I know all this from a single woman's point of view - not a man with a family to provide for. My heart goes out to you Keith! God provides where you least expect it!