A Hard Look in the Mirror

Jan. 16, 2015
The challenges of maintaining proper physical & mental health

About the author: Kelly R. Thompson, CWS-VI, CI, is president of Moti-Vitality LLC. Thompson can be reached at [email protected] or 810.560.2788.


Before I delve into this topic, I should point out that I am not an expert in the fields of mental or physical health, but I have racked up plenty of my own experience with them during my past 16 years in this industry. I even tried looking up some statistics before writing this, but in the short time I spent searching online, all I found were articles telling people how they should be. So I am hoping this article will, if nothing else, be thought provoking. And, I will admit, writing it is forcing me to take an uncomfortable look at myself and how I live my life.

When I was 29 years old and had been a straight commissioned salesperson for almost a year at the dealership I worked for, one of my coworkers had a massive heart attack and died. Mike was only in his mid-50s, and while he was not grossly overweight, he did carry a few extra pounds. He was also a heavy smoker. I remember that he did not have life insurance or much in the way of savings, which put his widow in a bind.

Mike’s death motivated me to get life insurance to help my young family in case something happened to me, but the possibility of me having a heart attack seemed far-fetched. Nonetheless, in the next 10 years I added nearly 100 lb to my body mass. I knew I was out of shape, because I was finding it hard to catch my breath after simply walking up the basement stairs after a plumbing assessment. I don’t remember noticing how heavy and out of shape I was getting. I wasn’t lazy—not by a long shot. But my eating and exercise habits were definitely suffering.

Stressful Careers

Now that I work with sales professionals across the country, I am noticing a disturbing trend. Many of us are overweight, heavy smokers, gamblers, divorced and generally unhealthy. In 2014 alone, Moti-Vitality LLC clients had at least two employees have heart attacks (one fatal), as well as one suicide. I am aware of three salespeople on our client list currently going through divorces and fighting depression, and several more who spend a lot of time drinking or gambling.

I think I understand why to some extent. When you have one sales appointment at 3 p.m. and another at 6 p.m., there is not a lot of time to sit down to a healthy meal, so fast food becomes the easy option. By the end of the day, you are too tired to exercise, and while you may have the best intentions in the morning, there always seems to be something that needs to get done before the day gets started. 

There are a lot of smokers and drinkers among us too. Ours is a pretty stressful career choice, and the vital motivation it takes to stop those habits is tough to find. It takes a certain personality type to be successful as a straight commissioned salesperson. We like the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of winning the trust of our customers, so we sometimes look for that same mental high at the poker table. Often, these habits, as well as the income inconsistency, can and do cause a strain on relationships as well.

All of these things can cause us to have elevated levels of something called cortisol. This has been termed the “stress hormone” because excess cortisol is secreted during times of physical or psychological stress, and the normal pattern of cortisol secretion can be altered. This disruption of cortisol secretion may promote weight gain, and is strongly correlated with the development of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

Small Steps

I am not about to begin lecturing about the evils of eating, drinking, smoking, gambling or anything else. After all, I like to play poker, have a fondness for red wine, and could still stand to lose another 30 lb or so, but I do want to point out a few things that I have been thinking about as I try to keep myself in good mental and physical health.

First, our customers are looking to us to be credible as we recommend ways that they can save money and achieve better health for themselves and their families. We should make an attempt to lead by example. We may lose some credibility if we are overweight and reek of cigarettes when we are advising prospects on healthy habits.

Also, it seems like many of our bad habits support one another. Some of us are overweight, which takes away our energy, so we are exhausted and irritable when we are done with the day, so we snap at our spouses and kids, which causes more stress, which makes it tough to give up that alcohol and cigarette habit, which then impacts our ability to close sales, which creates a financial burden that adds more stress … and so on.

I do not think it is realistic to address all of these things at once, but we have to start somewhere. Running 1 mile on the treadmill each day in the morning or packing a lunch or dinner on Monday, Wednesday and Friday might be good starts. Do something small that will hopefully give you more energy and drive to improve the next thing.

Shortly after I stepped on a scale and realized how much weight I had gained, I managed to lose and mostly keep off 65 lb of it. I am frequently eating out with clients and at odd hours. I have to force myself to stay in shape, and it seems like there is always a reason to skip the gym that day. For me, I have to stay focused on the important things in my life: my kids, my friends and my romantic relationship.

Add the fact that what we do for a living has a positive global impact, and I usually find the motivation to overcome my natural inclination to slip back into my unhealthy habits. It gets hard sometimes to look in the mirror and admit that I need to begin making changes today instead of tomorrow. I remind myself of how much better I feel and how much more I get accomplished when I am able to stay motivated.

Sometimes reminding myself is not enough, so I need to surround myself with coworkers, friends or family members who share a common desire. Is there someone at your company that you could partner with?

All I really know is that I like this industry and I like the people in it even more. I am tired of hearing about these amazing people whose lives were cut way too short.

Download: Here

Sponsored Recommendations

ArmorBlock 5000: Boost Automation Efficiency

April 25, 2024
Discover the transformative benefits of leveraging a scalable On-Machine I/O to improve flexibility, enhance reliability and streamline operations.

Rising Cyber Threats and the Impact on Risk and Resiliency Operations

April 25, 2024
The world of manufacturing is changing, and Generative AI is one of the many change agents. The 2024 State of Smart Manufacturing Report takes a deep dive into how Generative ...

State of Smart Manufacturing Report Series

April 25, 2024
The world of manufacturing is changing, and Generative AI is one of the many change agents. The 2024 State of Smart Manufacturing Report takes a deep dive into how Generative ...

SmartSights WIN-911 Alarm Notification Software Enables Faster Response

March 15, 2024
Alarm notification software enables faster response for customers, keeping production on track