There are more than a few people who think this classic 07:09 scene from Glengarry Glen Ross is the outline for achieving success. I should know; I use to be one of those people. It is extremely well written by David Mamet, and perfectly acted by Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, and Kevin Spacey (Al Pacino is not in this scene.)
What follows is an analysis of this great work, written in an attempt to separate fact from fiction. Each comment below is in reference to the dialog at or near that particular time mark in the video. All quotes are spoken the character (Moss) played by Alec Baldwin unless otherwise specified. I suggest you watch the video first, and then return to the comments.
* * * WARNING – EXPLICIT ADULT LANGUAGE * * *
“I’m here on a mission of mercy.”
He is. He volunteered his time as a favor to the company owners to offer advice to other salespeople who have in fact already lost their jobs, and just don’t know it. He is giving his time for free, and his objective is a just cause. Do not confuse or conflate objective with method. Perhaps you do not like his tone, his attitude, his language, or all of the above. Learn to ignore the messenger and their delivery style. Learn to focus on the message. Let the process of living life teach the messenger the seven virtues at a later time and place. In such situations, recognize God wanted you to hear the message being delivered, and He trusts you enough to find it in the worst of circumstances. Did you notice how Ed Harris’ character so grew angry he got up to leave . . . only to return to his seat? Do not make the mistake of quibbling with God over His choice of messenger. Rejoice in the fact God sent you a message.
“Second prize is a set of steak knives.”
What? You wanted 2nd prize to be more equitable in relation to the Cadillac Eldorado 1st prize? Perhaps a Hawaiian vacation? There are no moral or fairness issues at work here because you do not understand the gap between 1st and 2nd place prizes. If and when it is your company and your contest, you can set the contest rules and the prizes as you wish, and you can make 2nd prize anything you want. Until then, accept that the rules where you work are the rules where you work. Do not waste your precious energy becoming upset over that which you have zero control.
“You can’t close the leads you’re given, you can’t close shit, you are shit, hit the bricks pal and beat it because you are going out.”
There is no excuse for Baldwin to label those in his audience in this manner. For those who emulate Baldwin let me sum up his language this way for you: You will lose more employing this language than you gain. Those in the habit of employing this language appreciate what I just said because it engages them not by invoking principles of morality and immorality, but instead simply points out the fact that in the long run it hurts their bottom line more than it benefits. Further notice in this document, as in real life, now is not the time or the place to segue into a discussion on the moral treatment of employees. In other words, there is a time and a place for that discussion, but it is not now and it is not here. My goal here is to influence behavior by speaking to the person where they are and in a language they currently understand, not speak to a person where I wish them to be using principles I know at present they reject. You do likewise. Yes, be observant, but know when to speak and when to remain silent. Know what to comment on, and what to ignore until a later date. It is not your job to address, much less fix, every broken person you meet in life. Say a silent prayer for them, because sometimes that’s the best we can do at the moment.
“You drove a Hyundai to get here tonight. I drove an $80,000 BMW. That’s my name.”
“That’s who I am, and you’re nothing.”
Baldwin is what he owns, and what he owns, owns him. None of his possessions themselves are at fault. The fault lies in how he uses his possessions as verbal clubs to demean and insult others with less talent than he possesses. But for all he knows the other people would make superior accountants, lawyers, or anything else and they just don’t know it yet. They have not yet figured out that a career in sales is not for them. So, does that mean until they do figure out what their calling is in life they should be insulted and treated like dirt? Clearly, not. And soon enough when such people inevitably leave the company, they have absolutely nothing good to say about the prior company they worked for. In the long run, more damage than good is caused by the poor treatment of employees.
“Always be closing. A – I – D – A.”
As mentioned above, Baldwin’s objective is to help. At this point he is teaching some fundamental sales techniques. If you allow the fact he is loud and arrogant to interfere with paying attention to his message, you lose out. Again, ignore the messenger and their style of delivery. Do not make the mistake of wishing, much less asking, others to embrace your more collegial style of delivery or interpersonal relations. Delivery and relationship style is a byproduct of temperament, and adult temperament is what it is. It is not going to change, and if you get stuck on temperament you are going to miss out on a lot of good information simply because you have labeled the messenger a jerk, and then you shut down. Who cares if they really are a jerk? Focus on the message. Always focus on the message in these situations.
“Good father? ____ you! Go home and play with your kids. You want to work here, close!”
“You don’t like it, leave.”
True. Self-explanatory. But they stay. Why? 1. Fear of risk. Better to stay in a dead-end job than take the risk of leaving. 2. The perception there are no other options. Maybe there are no other options, but get a second opinion anyway from someone very bright, who does not have any vested interest in the choice you make.
“These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they’re gold. And you don’t get them. Why? Because to give them to you is just throwing them away.”
Baldwin continues with his demeaning and sarcastic delivery, but if you are a part of his audience that is not be your concern at the moment. Your only focus should be whether or not he is speaking the truth. You may not like the news a messenger delivers, but like or dislike has never made any difference to the truth. Do you have the talent to do the job? Are you in the right position where you are? Is your present career truly the right career for you? Could you excel where you are, or elsewhere, if you gave more effort? Went back to school? Gave more effort and went back to school? There are many questions to be answered, but precisely not one will be answered correctly when emotions are engaged and the truth spoken by the messenger is ignored because the messenger was an egotistical jerk. Who cares about the messenger! Only the messenger has to care about the messenger! Everyone else should focus on the message!