The title of this blog paraphrases a quote from Socrates (Man, Know Thyself) which came to mind when I was recently reading about the possible effects of my upcoming Craniotomy and tumour de-bulking. I’ve read about memory loss, loss of behavioural filters and even personality changes.
This worries me as it’s taken 59 years to perfect being this annoying and I don’t want all that hard work undone by Gary the Glioma!
I’ve spent most of my working life in industrial sales and marketing. I’ve regularly made presentations to large groups of people, even in French on one occasion. I’ve met people that I didn’t know day in and day out and I’ve even had to endure interviews where all six finalists spent a day together effectively fighting it out for the job (I got the job by the way) so it seems contradictory when I tell you that I am actually shy by nature.
I used to find talking to girls that I didn’t know very intimidating and the only one that I ever had the courage to ask out on a date the first time that I met her was my wife, now there’s Kismet at work!
I worked hard to present a confident exterior during my years at The Little Theatre in Leicester and my shyness is why I stayed strictly ‘back stage’. Even though I had loved the few times that I had been persuaded to act on stage, I could never overcome that acute shyness to perform at The Little’.
It’s odd then I guess that I would pursue a career in sales. What motivated me was my need to feel that I was providing my then wife to be with the best possible life style that I could. I loved my job on the Motor Control Sales Desk at the Electrical Wholesaler for who I worked, but the job offered no promotion prospects and paid poorly.
The opportunity to get into sales came in 1985 when the company’s Sales Director, Stan, had to have heart surgery and would be off work for quite some time. I remember it being my wife’s suggestion and she thinks that it was me, however whoever’s suggestion it was, we came up with a plan to put the idea to the company that I could cover in a sales role while Stan was laid up recovering from his operation.
The idea was that I would begin to smarten myself up over a few weeks before talking to the Managing Director and making my suggestion. Somehow I found the courage to speak to the MD, who was surprised but after talking over with Stan was persuaded that it could work and if it did work I would be kept on in a sales role even after Stan returned.
My first day arrived and I will always remember the reaction of surprise when ‘Salesman Stu’ suddenly appeared in the office in a smart suit, with smartly cut hair and shiny shoes!
The first few weeks were a doddle as I just accompanied Stan on his rounds to meet the customers that I would caretake while Stan was off work. My sales training consisted of meeting Stan’s customers, a run through the company brochure and being given the keys to my first company car, a 1984 white Ford Escort 1.4L. I thought that car was great!
My shy nature was put to the test though when Stan returned to work as I then had to go out and find my own customers. It’s an aspect of the job that I now find easy, what is known as ‘cold calling’, but back then, sitting outside of a company and getting up the nerve to walk in and ask to see the site engineer was a real trial.
My first ever cold call took me three attempts to get out of the car and actually go in. It was awful and I was miserable for nearly all of my first year in sales. It clearly showed too because a Sales Engineer from one of our suppliers, a company called Simplex GE, took my boss aside and apparently said something along the lines of “Unless you get Stuart some proper sales training, you will lose him”. I suddenly found myself booked onto a training course at the Coventry Novotel. The experience was good for me as I soon found that I was not alone in my feelings of not knowing what I was doing.
It was however the first time that I had to do any public speaking. I genuinely wanted to throw up before I went on. As I had mentioned to someone that this was the year that I was getting married, my fellow trainee tried to comfort me by suggesting that it would be good practice for my wedding speech and it would make that easier. It didn’t help, I wanted to throw up then too!
The training did help and I stuck with engineering sales. After a while you learn the real secret of selling. It’s not learning 20 ways to close a deal or how to sell fridges in the arctic. You just need to be honest, be natural, know your product or service features and benefits to the smallest detail, know your competitors as well as possible and finally only promise what your company can deliver and make sure that your company delivers what you promised.
Just be yourself, well the business version of yourself, and never, ever behave like the people that you see on TV’s ‘The Apprentice’!
So, here I am after a sales career of over 35 years. I can go into any room and be comfortable talking to anyone. By the time that I retired I could talk about any of my last employer’s products with ease and make most of them work too. I was also happy to present to large groups of people at the drop of a hat, well, ‘Sales Stu’ can but underneath the bravado, ‘Shy Stu’ still lurks.
I’ve always tried to be nice to anyone that I’ve met. I try to be patient and open minded as well as being creative. Whilst I am far from being a perfect person I’m OK with who I have become and the prospect of my personality changing is a genuine worry for me.
I have recovered very quickly from the operation to remove my Meningioma, a lot quicker than many of my fellow ‘Tumour Warriors’ who I chat to on the Facebook group and with no major after effects. This I put down to the fact that my Meningioma was on my spinal cord and not actually in my brain, so apart from the actual operation site having to heal, the operation did not involve my brain.
I am fully expecting a much longer recovery after the craniotomy to remove Gary the Glioma, as the procedure will involve the removal of brain tissue in order to remove Gary as he is entwined with my healthy brain cells and this is what could cause the changes in me.
I have read of people losing the filter between their brains and their mouth and I have visions of that happening to me both good and bad. Me shouting “nice bum” or “you fat git” can both result in me getting a black eye and I also dreamt that I had developed the flatulence equivalent of Tourette’s.
On a serious note, will I still be my usual happy go lucky stoic self? Will I still like the same things that I have always liked such as music, movies & TV shows? Will I still share the same passions as my family. It has made me think about just what exactly is it that defines who we are? Is it our memories, our life experiences or our upbringing?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and whatever the answer, the fact is that you are your brain and having any of it removed must surely have an effect.
I’ve read that the key effects of where in the brain my operation is happening can be:
- Short term memory loss
- Personality Changes
- Loss of behavioural filter
- Loss of creativity
The memory issue just requires a work around, the personality change we can overcome and whilst the loss of creativity would be a blow, what I have come to realise is that none of these matter as long as I am well enough after my recovery to spend time with my family for as long as possible……..oh, and don’t get ‘Flatulence Tourettes’!
The Brain Tumour charity has been a great help to me since my diagnosis. They have a podcast which is always of interest to people with tumours and their families and also have the ‘Brian App’ ( yep that is spelt correctly, it is ‘Brian’) which offers advice and the ability to track your symptoms, appointments and treatments.
Since my diagnosis I have found myself looking at life differently including reflecting on my past life. Music has always been important to me so I decided to put together a playlist that includes songs that I love, songs that remind me of places and times in my life, and tracks that I have discovered more recently that help me to keep positive. I hope it’s something that you might enjoy too and always play in ‘Shuffle’ mode.
Featured Track: Enter The Angel – John Foxx. This track takes me back to my apprenticeship back in the late 1970’s & Early 1980’s. When I left school most of my music collection was made up of classical music, especially the musical comic operas of Gilbert & Sullivan or movie soundtracks. My buddy Richard, who I met as an apprentice, is responsible for introducing me to a lot of new music and this is one of my favourite John Foxx tracks of that era. Take from the terrific album ‘In Mysterious Ways’. It is track #1 on the playlist.