Mombasa, Kenya 1983

I grew up in sales.

Long before my successful sales career I was selling candy, mangoes, pizza, burgers, Indian food, landscaping, computer parts, cars, alarm systems door to door and so many other things.

Always sales. A little over 30 years later, and I’m still selling, but I find myself in a position of mentorship and training more and more often.

In light of that, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to quantify exactly what it is that I’m looking for in potential business partners and employees, and I’ve realized a very specific common strain runs through most of my favorite candidates: Experience in sales.

When you work in sales, whether it’s door to door, services B2C, B2B, working the floor at a convenience store or a big box store, working the register at a family business, or taking orders at a fast food restaurant (I know that’s more service-oriented, but it’s still the same set of skills I’m talking about), you start gaining the one thing that I think is really important for everybody to understand: The ability to read the customer.

If you’re unable to read the customer, to adjust to a customer’s response in real-time, directly in front of your face, I think you’re missing out on something that makes every great businessperson truly exceptional.

We’re living in a faster world, and if you can’t reverse-engineer your customer’s finish line in order to make him/her happy, you’re going to have a very hard time breaking through the scale and the speed that we’re now dealing with thanks to the streaming economy.

As somebody who likes to rant– and let’s be honest, I love to rant. I love to talk.

I love to hear myself talking. I love to be heard– It’s shocking to me how much I like to listen.

To be honest, I used to struggle with it.

“Why the heck do I like to listen so much?”

And then it dawned on me (which probably prompted me to write this article): “Oh… I’m a sales person.”

I had no choice.

Customer walks in and I had to listen.

Long before I could spout about what Keypad would go best with that system, I had to hear what system they were going to install.

Long before I could go on about what system they should buy for their vacation , I had to know how many windows were there and, more importantly, what their preferences and lifestyle were.

And so, my friends, I implore you to recognize the world we’re living in; to recognize that the consumer will always be right forever.

I implore you, if you’ve never worked sales, to try and find a situation that allows you to do that.

I implore my sons and all college students to highly consider taking a summer job stocking shelves or working a register.

The soft skills (which are, in my opinion, hard skills) that you will learn in that job will be transferable to everything you do for the rest of your life.

This piece was originally posted on my website. Head over to LinkedIn, I’ve got over 30 features over there. Take a look.


Family First, Nothing Else Matters

Recently one of my closest friends said to me … hey I tried calling and texting you and you’re never available during work hours.

Well, sorry DAVE, I’m at work! Call me on the weekends when I’m sipping on a warm coffee ☕️

When I finally spoke to him, we chatted about how busy I am from 8-6 on the daily.

It’s no recent secret that I work a lot.

And when I say a lot, I mean a shit ton, and to be transparent, I do it 9-5 M-F.

I used to brag about the 18 hour days I worked and was def proud of the grind and the hustle, and nowadays?

I firmly believe it’s what you do in those work hours that matter the most.

For me, A five or three minute 1:1 meeting is a normal occurrence on my calendar.

I wake up at six and don’t stop working till 5 and then it’s family time and writing my thoughts like this till ten or eleven at night.

This is what works for me, and Ill never tell you to be just like me.

You should always focus on what provides you with the most value, what forces you to work as hard as you can.

But because I am always working, I get a lot of questions about my family life.

It usually goes something like this: “Hey Zarir, you preach family first, but how can that be when you never stop working?”

I’ll be honest, it’s a fair question.

The image I project of myself doesn’t really allow you to see the other sides of my life.

But that’s just the point.

The way that I storytell my life vs. the way I storytell my private life are very different. And that’s very much intended.

I play in extremes.

My son had a trumpet 🎺 concert next week for Christmas, and I will be the first parent in line for it, mask and all.

On weekends, I am all in.

100%. I’m not playing 4 hours of golf.

I’m not doing a lot of things other people are doing.

I’m all in on the kids.

I’m not trying to argue that my normal Monday-Friday weeks aren’t intense; they definitely are.

But because of that intensity, I have found my cadence with my spouse and my children that directly balances it out.

And the truth is, my wife and I have chosen to say very little about our kids in public.

I understand why people question my ability to be a good dad of three sons.

It might seem like the kids aren’t around a lot, right?

Well, Gabe, Noah and Solomon are teenagers.

I would prefer to keep that part of my life private until they can decide, although I do post pics of us on Twitter and LinkedIn and they haven’t said anything, they like it especially when I’m posting a rant video on Instagram about telling kids to be kind and empathetic.

A lot of public figures are very open about their families on social.

And that’s fine too.

But it was my personal choice to make sure this part of my career, the public image, didn’t bring them into the limelight without it being their choice first.

Lately I’ve been posting more about them and my life as a kid growing up in Mombasa and Nairobi and London and all the places I’ve lived in US.

So I guess what I’m saying is this: never assume you have the whole story.

Yeah, you see me working and in meetings and traveling and hustling.

But there is a lot you don’t see too.

As time progresses, I know I will have to adjust my schedule.

That’s part of life, and that’s just what I do: I continue to always adjust based on what is happening in my life.

Bottom line: there are a lot more things going on here than just the things you are making assumptions on.

You do what works for you, less judgement, more kindness.

Thee End.