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Zen Jeweler: Ski Lesson

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Retailing can be an exhilarating ride, says Jeff McCandless. But beware ? the terrain often demands counter-intuitive responsesSKIING IS A STRANGE SPORT. Like many sports, most of us indulge in it for fun. We learn (up to a certain point) and then we’re ?good enough to get down the hill?. Many of us only ever take a lesson or two, and many of us were just taught by our folks.  
 
What we bring to the sport of skiing, then, is our previous experience in the sports world (much like in our stores), from the things we learned when we were kids. The lessons, if we had any, were about balance and timing on a flat, relatively non-skid surface. In other sports, these lessons make sense, because we grew up on flat surfaces that had no snow on them. 
 
In tennis, for instance, when someone says to you, ?Serve like you throw a baseball?, it makes sense because we learned at an early age what was involved in throwing a baseball.  
 
But when someone says to you: 
 
?Keep your feet together (instead of apart) for balance, then stay mostly on one foot, then lean away from the mountain to turn into the mountain. Now, go faster because it will be easier to control your turns? … well, that’s a pretty counter-intuitive set of instructions.  
 
If you’re in retail, you’re operating on a brand-new surface right now. Whether it’s new designers moving into the area, changing hours at the mall, or even the dreaded ?custom-made? jeweler across town, you need to realize that you are already on the new surface, because it’s been changing under your feet all along. You just haven’t been looking down.  
 
On this new surface, the way you used to do things won’t work. Don’t whine about it, just look for someone who seems in control on the new surface, and ask them for a lesson. Don’t forget, they will probably seem to be moving faster than you are. That’s OK. Haven’t you been talking about ?getting up to speed? long enough? 
 
It’s time to stop hoping that things will return to the way they were 30 years ago (especially if you’ve conveniently forgotten you still sometimes even had trouble making payroll then) and instead reach for the tools you need to carve a few radical turns. No, not those skis ? the barrel staves with the ropes to tie to your boots. It’s time to reach for the Kevlar-coated, Ruthenium-core Flexicarbofiber Bombardier skis! (Translation: New staff, new laser, new vendors, new you!) Open the door and sniff that great mountain air. It will definitely do you some good.

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