A day walking in the shoes, well, let’s be honest – there’s no way I’m in ANY way prepared/trained/ready to walk in the shoes of ANY Bookperson, so I’ll re-word to “A day ‘following’ the shoes of a Bookgirl.”
I am the mother of a current “Bookman” and a Host Mom to a team of “Bookgirls” this summer. The following are my lessons learned/mysteries solved/anxieties relieved/renewed faith and gratitude to Southwestern Advantage for an AMAZING growth opportunity for these genuinely unique and talented Bookpeople.
So….it didn’t start out like I planned; the day rousted me at 0500. Too early! I took a leisurely shower, drank a cup of coffee, stalked Facebook, and let my routine communicators know I would not be responsive via phone today. I’d packed lots of food the night before, turkey roll-ups, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, pretzels, and lots of water. I knew the exact time Sarah, my Bookgirl, would be heading out the door; and I was standing by the door dressed, hair in a pony tail, bag of food and water slung about my shoulder, and, of course, a very tight grip on a full tumbler of dark magic coffee!
I was ready 5 mins early. Standing quietly. Listening to the music that was permeating the house. Waiting to step across the threshold to see what the day would hold. Was I nervous? Hell yeah. I’m 51 years old! I keep in shape, but….30 years older than these book kids?!?!? Okay, I was only moderately worried, but I still had a conversation with my internal organs and let them know I was boss and would be running the day.
My husband watched me standing at the threshold like a Dad waiting to send his kid out to their first day of school! Secretly, he’s always known how much I’ve wanted to experience what my own son has done for 2 summers and knew how valuable this experience was going to be for me… good, bad, or indifferent, he was supportive all the way through.
Finally. Time to GO!!! I stepped outside with Sarah and got slammed with 80 degree humidity before 0700 hours. Yikes!!! How was I going to fare being out here until 10 pm??? Or later??? Mind over matter, I said to myself. You spent two Tours in the desert (Lt. Col., U.S. Air Force), you got this! Sarah thought I might take my own car I think, as a way to “excuse” myself. But, I said, “Nope, I’m riding with you!” This necessitated the evacuation of countless numbers of water bottles from the passenger side of her vehicle before I was able to take my seat! Before we left the parking spot, Sarah received her first motivational call from a fellow person on the Bookfield – how cool!!!
We drove to the “breakfast spot”, a local taco joint, very unassuming with AMAZING food! Our team of 5 ordered and sat together to fuel, laugh, share, and get the day started. We told stories, ran to gas stations to get rubber bands so that we could braid hair, discussed the merits of iced coffee, shared the revelation that Max Lucado was a book kid, spoke to other “regulars” of the taco joint, talked about and shared each others breakfast selection and drank water from large red tumblers to prepare our bodies for the day ahead! At the end of the meal, all five listened intently and purposefully, as Sarah shared pertinent, valuable, and uplifting verses from the Bible.
We excitedly gathered for “execs” (a morning cheer routine of sorts). What an amazing energy boost and just a ton of fun to start the day! We did some ridiculously crazy things in the middle of a parking lot, and do you know what I noticed? Each and every participant sported a HUGE grin, laughed, shared, and had NO concern that they may be perceived as “weird” or “different.” It was a thrilling experience.
We got in our vehicles and headed our separate ways to find our turf for the day. Sarah and I had a long drive and during this this shared the rules of my “following.” What I found most impressive is, that although I’m her senior in age and life experience, this was HER turf, HER business, HER day. She had no qualms about setting up her expectations of me and ensuring I understood how the day would flow! On the road to her turf she spoke to her Mom and they prayed together! Her mom took time out of her day to share a prayer with her daughter. How very sincere and thoughtful! Then, Sarah had her own discussion with God and gave the day over to His will – all the while verbalizing all the things that she was grateful for! What a calming and supportive way to start the day.
We reached our turf. Here it was – our first knock. I was utterly overwhelmed with, “Am I standing in a good spot?”, “Did I pick the right place to sit and face Sarah while she spoke?”, “Am I blending in and being unobtrusive?” I focused in on Sarah; I listened to her communicate, deliver, understand, and appreciate every family she encountered. From that first home at 8am, we proceeded to knock on doors until 10pm. I like to think I got better at knowing where to stand outside a home, where to sit inside a home, how to be sure I was supporting Sarah, and being able to appreciate the full experience until we started the long drive home after the day was done.
I woke this morning. Late. Yep. Remember, I’m 30 years senior to most book kids. I slept hard. I came downstairs to find my house of Bookgirls getting ready to head out for another day. I called them “Amazons!” There is no word more fitting to be able to do what I experienced yesterday, six days a week for 12 weeks. I told them how I initially thought of their male counterparts as “Gladiators!” Amazons and Gladiators. Courageous young individuals who are willing to risk, explore, experiment, grow, learn and positively influence the lives around them. I hope to grow up some day and be an “Amazon” or a “Gladiator.”
So, I know, you’re thinking, what was so amazing? What makes them an Amazon or a Gladiator? What distinguishes a Southwestern Advantage book kid from your average college student? Well, I’m here to tell you: Book-kids are confident, intelligent, sensitive, strong, resilient, brave, fearless, tireless, committed, devoted, self-aware, visionary, dedicated, kind, honest, and possess integrity and honor. They walk the talk. How do I know this, you ask? For two years I’ve had the privilege of knowing and spending time with countless individuals who have devoted themselves to this path of growth and dedication to service.
My 20 Lessons Learned/Best Practices observed from the Bookfield:
- Self Care: Drink plenty of water BEFORE your day starts, get your sleep, and eat a big breakfast to fuel yourself.
- Spend a few moments speaking with a loved one, a trusted peer, a mentor. Take 2 minutes to share some time with someone who will pump you up and have your back ALL DAY LONG!
- Give thanks to God or your Higher Power, whatever your choice. Have a discussion with them that yesterday, last week, last month, last year, do NOT have the power to drive today! You and God or your higher power, will drive TODAY. Stay in today. Leave tomorrow behind. Wait for tomorrow. It will get here.
- Positive Self Talk! ALL THE WAY TO your turf! Remind yourself of your strengths, your accomplishments, your amazing contributions to families, your engaging smile, your firm handshake, your reliable and trustworthy eyes; know and reinforce that you are meant to be on the Bookfield!!
- Plan your day – study your maps, capitalize on recommendations and referrals.
- Above all, exude confidence! I firmly believe that the success Sarah achieved was due to how she exuded confidence in the tools, in her approach, in the way she knew that she could help families!
- Never stop. All. Day. Long. We. Never. Stopped. We snacked on food and water in between houses. There was no leisurely “snack break”, no “planning break”, no “lunch or dinner break”. It is only 12 weeks. Expand your horizons, commit to something different. KNOW you are capable of being different from the “9-5’ers” who are completely bored and unfulfilled!
- Be genuine! Convey your interest in EVERY family whether they have interest in you or not. They WILL remember and share stories about you if you are GENUINE. My bookgirl was genuine in EVERY encounter of her day, from the first, to the LAST – AFTER 15 HOURS! When you do well, people may share it with 5-10 people, when you do poorly, they will share it with everyone. ALWAYS keep your emotions in check. If they overwhelm, take them out in the car, with a peer or trusted mentor, or, even better, put it away until later and don’t give it control over your day!
- “Is there a place we can sit down?”….grab your bag and take action, people like to follow confidence! Keep your momentum going!
- Ask questions. Get involved. Find out what the family’s primary goal is and discuss how your tools might help them meet their goals!
- Tailor your conversation to the family. Don’t recite generic pitches. My bookgirl would throw options out and wait for a response. I would get uncomfortable with silence, but she did not. Her patience paid off. Families would inevitably suggest a way that they could obtain the tools that they needed.
- When the family expresses interest and the child(ren) is excited about the product, tell them, “I can show you how ordering will work. I just need your address…pull out your iPad or order sheet and gather address, phone, email, and ask them if they’d like to use cash, check, or credit card. One of the fascinating things I learned is that my book girl didn’t sit and wait for a “Yes, I would like to purchase.” Once there was excitement and positive feedback on how the tools would help, she took action. 100% of the time she was handed a credit card to complete the purchase or schedule payments.
- Don’t take “No” for an answer! If you are greeted with, “No, I don’t want to buy anything”, or “No, I’m not interested” before you even get your first word out, be patient, engaging, and allow them to understand your intentions. “Let me just show you what I have; I’ll only take a few minutes.”
- Take pictures with ALL your customers. Have every family, buyers or not, pull up your Facebook page and Like it or even make a comment about you! Even the “non-buyers” were all engaged and Liked the page! Two sales were probably made just by recognizing people on Sarah’s page. Others promoted her credibility because family and friends had “liked” her.
- Ask for the Oreo in the cookie jar, ask for a bottle of water, ask to use their restroom. Why not? It makes you human and memorable. Ask to have a piece of your favorite snack. This family is now a new friend of yours – it’s OK!
- Remember to thank God THROUGHOUT your day, whether you are on track for your goals or not. Remember, this day was turned over to God early on; if you do your best, exert every effort, success will come.
- Shake hands, engage with children who want to crawl in your lap and pretend to chew on their ear, laugh when you rip your book’s posters apart, smile at the overweight labs that jump on the couch and sit in your lap too, or the feral kitten that hisses at your every word. Continue to smile and be GENUINE. Success WILL follow. Remember to give thanks to those who are supporting your journey.
- Remember that each day is a blessing and an opportunity; yesterday is gone and does not have the power to influence today. Continue to move forward and focus on your goals for today.
- End your day with a connection. A friend, a mentor, a family member, another book-kid. Find someone with whom you connect and find peace with to share the highlights of your day, wrap it up, learn from it, gain closure, and move forward.
- No. Matter. What. Remember, you are on the Bookfield to provide a service to families. Some will recognize that, others won’t. Appreciate the ones who do and pray for the ones who don’t. Incorporate ALL these principles and you WILL be successful. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing these things with my own son and also, this summer, with a group of amazing girls living in my home.
Thank you for this amazing opportunity. You are among the percentage of young adults poised to take the world by storm – by virtue of the amazing experiences you’ve had through Southwestern Advantage. May God bless you with continued success and opportunity to enhance the lives of those you touch. Every day.
With God’s Grace,
A Grateful Bookfield Mom
San Antonio, TX