Skip to content

Month: August 2020

What I Learned Selling Cars

How to sell by being vulnerable and present

About 15 years ago I was selling cars at Hoffman in East Hartford, CT. It was one of the many dealerships right on Connecticut Blvd, in the shadows of interstates 91, 84 and route 2. They had Ford, Lexus, Porsche, Audi – but I worked at the Saab / Oldsmobile store. What a combo, right? Saab and Oldsmobile! Don’t they just go together like peanut butter and broccoli?  

This would be the first time I’d try to make a living without doing physical labor, although walking up and down the length of the car lot in black pointed dress shoes that don’t quite fit IS laborious.

I had answered an ad in the CT Post where they promised training and a job, for only $300 bucks. What a deal! (after wasting thousands to go to UCONN, only to drop out and spend the next 5 years pulling wires through nasty crawlspaces and fiberglass insulation sticky hot attics) – So, I was excited about a change of pace, and this car sales thing was just what I needed, partly because talking to people, especially the idea of selling, terrified me. I knew it was time to face that fear and work on myself, and I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

They ran us – the new recruits – through a 2 day seminar style training, complete with workbooks and tests. I learned some basic tactics and procedures to sell cars, but it barely scratched the surface in terms of what I would need to really do this job successfully. Especially me. I was NOT a people person.

But, I was competent enough to memorize some scripts and follow directions.

“Hi, welcome to Hoffman. What kind of vehicle were you hoping to purchase today?” Then, the most important part, to gain control and avoid being dragged around the lot, test driving 10 different cars without a commitment, “before we get started, let’s talk a minute about what you’re looking for … follow me”. And the trick was to just turn around and expect them to follow, without waiting for their consent – just start walking.  

And that worked! But it felt very douchey.

I never wanted to be THAT kind of salesman. But, what did I think selling cars was going to be like? I knew the stereotype – hell, it runs in my family! My grandfather, my uncle, and a few cousins either owned small car lots or were somehow “in the business” all throughout my childhood. I remember hearing about how my mom drove a different car every week in high school, as John Pinto Auto Sales turned over stock. They were good people, but this is a tough business.

Well, I wanted to do things differently, and embrace the idea of being nice, real, and authentic, and just try to help people.

One of the other salesmen, Bob, worked at Saab with me. He has since passed away, a super good guy, always so relaxed. There was constant drama at our little store, sometimes behind closed doors, and often right out in the showroom, but Bob was Mr. Chill – and he was successful.

Bob had a stack of Joe Verde newsletters on his desk. I was drawn to them because of the big headlines promising advice and tips for selling more cars. Since I was growing a bit discontent as the shiny newness of my budding sales career wore off, reading this stuff got me fired up again!

I became very interested in the whole self-development thing. But it wasn’t about the tactics or the one-liners, it was the belief and mindset stuff that resonated with me. It became clear that the way I was meant just as much, if not more, than what I knew. How I showed up mattered. The way I felt inside made a difference in how effective I was. I started to become more self aware, and I loved that feeling of hope – that making little improvements in the way I think can drastically improve my life.

For the next couple years, that car sales experience turned out to be a master class in human nature. I got paid to talk to people, notice their reactions, and adjust. Sometimes they were happy and sometimes they yelled at me. (Car shopping brings out the worst in people, because everyone is afraid of getting screwed, and I can’t blame them!) But I knew why I took that job – why I was there. It wasn’t about selling cars, it was about me growing as a person. In a way it was like a boot camp.

Another guru I started listening to at the time was Zig Ziglar. His big thing was, “you can get what you want by helping enough people get what they want.” Huh … think less about me, and more about them? That seemed obvious, but it’s not easy to put into practice. True, I cared about other people, and I thought I was a good person, but that’s not the same as putting my own needs aside long enough to really see things from the other person’s perspective – to really listen to understand, not just waiting for my turn to talk.

That was the big lesson. Learning to be present with people, to see the human being, with all their hopes and fears, sitting eyeball to eyeball with me.

To this day, whenever I’m aware that I’m trying to manipulate and force my way through any situation, things rarely go well. But when I slow down, and allow myself to be vulnerable and let the moment be what it wants to be, I often make the sale.

So what happened, that caused me to “wake up”, so to speak? I have a theory. Because I put myself into a continuously uncomfortable situation, I was forced to take a look at myself in a new light. And I had no choice but to grow.


Share this post:


This song, written by my wife Heather Liebensohn (I helped a little) is one of my favorites from “The Quarantine Sessions” … songs started since COVID.

While we were fighting, thousands of people were dying
While we were spiting, thousands of families were crying
While we were shouting, thousands of hearts were breaking
While we were spouting off, thousands of lives were taken

There’s got to be a better way than where were are today

He said, she said, they said, I said, PLEASE!
Got in my head, saw red, couldn’t breathe!
Can’t let it get the better of me, no!
The rage is contagious! The rage is contagious.

While we are feuding, thousands of doctors are healing
While we’re disputing, there’s thousands of nurses unyielding
While we’re complaining, there’s thousands of rescuers driving
While we’re busy blaming, there’s thousands of medics reviving

There’s got to be a be a better me than who I was today

He said, she said, they said, I said, PLEASE!
Got in my head, saw red, couldn’t breathe!
Can’t let it get the better of me, no!
The rage is contagious! The rage is contagious.

I need to find a higher point of view
So hard to see the truth when what is right to me is wrong to you!

#TheRageIsContagious #TheQuarantineSessions

Artwork by Abby Liebensohn, “Something About Summer”

More music at Parkway South

Share this post:

A Cosmic Shift in Perspective

This one picture of the universe changed my perspective and has really made me start to appreciate my life more, even when things are not going so well – I still get to have this one of a kind experience. This video clip is from five years ago, so I look a little different without a beard and with less hair! (who has LESS hair when he was younger?)

I’ve been fascinated with pictures of space and the universe for a long time. I’m not exactly into astronomy, and I don’t know much about the planets and the constellations. For me, it’s more about perspective.

One day I was listening to The Howard Stern Show, of all places, when that general curiosity materialized into a very useful tool for coping with life. It also sparked what I now believe to be my life’s mission obsessing over what it means to live in the moment, and what true human connection feels like.

Howard was interviewing Judd Apatow. They were talking about Jerry Seinfeld. Apparently Jerry has a picture of the universe on the wall of his writing room that he uses to put things into perspective. In other words, what does any of this really matter when really we are just a speck on a speck on a grain of sand?

This resonated with me. Somehow contemplating the vastness of space and dwelling on how tiny and insignificant we are is strangely empowering and freeing. It’s been a slow gradual shift – sort of an awakening – to the idea that it’s not so much about conquering things and racking up successes, but more importantly, those things represent opportunities to experience life. That’s a complicated way to say it’s about the journey not the destination. But now I understand what that really means. It’s not just an overused proverb.

This speech marked the culmination of an amazing group improv class I took with Jenny & Ellen who now own The Bolder Company.

Also, check out this scale of the universe simulator, it’s so cool! Thanks to my friend Ed for sharing it with me.


Share this post:

Something Real

There’s a feeling I can’t shake
That pulls me down like it’s a weight
Oh how cunning when love turns to hate

I pretend that it’s all fine
There’s no reason for a lie
How much longer can I keep holding the line?

Give me something real
Something I can feel
Let me know that I’m the one
Or tell me that we’re done
Just give me something real

Yeah we’ve talked but it still hurts
Because I don’t believe the words
I can’t go on, doubting my worth

You don’t have to try so hard
To put up walls to protect yourself
How am I gonna a play a part
In a story that you just won’t tell?

More music at Parkway South

Share this post:

Do You Feel Like Life Is Passing You By?

How can we think our way into change when our brain is the problem? We don’t need more information, we need power and inspiration. By seeking out experiences which will completely overhaul our thinking, we wake up and start to change our perception of reality.

Looking back at my younger days (this is already starting out like a Bob Seger or Bryan Adams song) … I realize now that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I was trapped in thought patterns, spinning my tires, and I didn’t have a clue.

Even when I thought I was being open minded, constantly learning new things and actively seeking (with humility), but I wasn’t addressing the real problem – my incessant thinking.

I remember my daily hour long commutes from Shelton to Bristol (this is in CT), and then back home again, driving my blue piece of crap Pontiac with its broken ignition and leaking head gasket, where I spent so much time listening to seminars, training, and self help books on CD. I would pepper in some vocal warm-ups and general “deep thinking” and contemplation all while heading down the road. I was trying so hard! I’d often stop at the halfway home mark at Dunkin Donuts for a coffee and a smoke, and to take a moment to reflect. I was always so excited about whatever new idea I had latched on to, that I thought would fix everything for me. I was a self help junkie, hooked on shiny metal objects and the search for the holy grail.

Hope was keeping me alive and it was propelling me forward. And I needed it. We all need it, because life is hard. But, 10 years later I realized that, although I had made nominal improvements, and I DID stay sober and manage to provide for my family (and not murder them … 3 small kids, including twins, one with autism) – I was actually “stuck” in spite of all my best attempts at chasing success.

I had been living completely in my head, replaying the past – either romancing it or beating myself up about it … or forecasting the future – worrying about what’s going to happen or making plans to control it. I was insane – doing the same things over and over, expecting different results, for years. Life was passing me by, because I wasn’t living in the now, in the moment, I was always in yesterday or tomorrow.

I was completely missing what was right in front of me. But how could I not see what was happening? Why didn’t anyone try to tell me? Would I have heard it if they did?

So, what am I talking about here?

Thinking can’t fix thinking!

Even when I sought out help, turning to successful people for advice, and paying coaches to guide me toward a breakthrough, I was still stuck, because I was trying to solve the wrong problems. No matter what I LEARNED, I was still standing in my own way, blocking progress. Because I didn’t need information, I needed to have an experience! I needed something to happen that would completely transform and change my operating system. Not a software update but a new install.

Self help wasn’t the answer. My perception of reality needed to change.

I had to stop grabbing at stuff, taking random actions in a desperate attempt to fix whatever issue was on fire at the moment, and stop, take a breath, and create some space between my thoughts and my actions. I needed divine inspiration – a power greater than myself, well, at least greater than my thinking mind. Whether we call it a higher “God” power, or a deeper “inner subconscious” power, it had to be something truly revolutionary – something that I had never fully tried before.

But like I said, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I knew something was wrong, and I was seeking out a solution, but I never considered the solution could be as simple as “stop thinking”. I had tried meditating before, but I didn’t understand the point of it. Because I’m a thinker, I always need to know why I’m doing something or else I won’t truly commit. I might go through the motions, but inside I’m judging it, saying to myself, “that’s not gonna work, I don’t really believe that”.

What ultimately worked for me was acknowledging that my thoughts aren’t everything. The subtle surrender to the fact that there is a power and wisdom beyond my thoughts, that when I get out of the way, and I can BE in the present moment, the world makes more sense. I don’t know how to tell you the straightest path to get to this place, to awaken, to have this change in perception of reality, this complete operating system overhaul, because I had to go through hell to find it. But, one thing I know for sure, by focusing on and working toward a solution to what I consider to be “the right problem”, this idea of practicing presence and spiritual awakening, you’ll start to notice things you hadn’t noticed before, and more will be revealed.

Really, it all begins by creating a small space in between your thoughts. Small spaces become bigger spaces over time, which allows new power to come in. You can start practicing that right now.


Share this post: