Locked Down Blues

Three Keys to Battling Depression and Staying Motivated During The Coronavirus Lock Down

“I think I’m depressed.”

Until last week, I had never uttered those words in reference to how I feel about my work.  Not once, ever!  Sure, I’ve gotten the blues over personal matters and had less than stellar days, but I love my work, I love helping my clients and I love life.

That is until recently.

Since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown started six weeks ago, I’ve managed to remain pretty up-beat.  I closed a large deal just hours before the lockdown went into effect, so my income has remained stable to this point.   I started out looking at quarantine as an opportunity to integrate some exciting new technology into my business, clean up some lingering projects and make myself ready for the big wave of recovery that I was convinced was just around the corner.

Well that’s all done now.  I’m video conferencing like a pro, my inbox has never been so clean, and I have officially run out of new projects.

Last Wednesday, at precisely 10:10 am I had completed every item on my to do list and was done work for the day.  And that’s when it hit me.  Without a clear plan and a to do list long enough to topple the CN Tower, I started pacing the floor like a Caged Tiger and after a few hours of that I just sat down and moped.

It didn’t take me long to realize what had happened.  I wasn’t taking my own advice.  For weeks in this space and over on my video channel I’ve been telling everyone that this is going to be a long recovery and the world will likely never be the same again.  But somehow, I convinced myself that my business would be fine, I’d recover quickly and pick right up were I left off sooner and stronger than everyone else.  But when the phone stopped ringing, and the busy work went away I was left to face a stark reality, I am completely unprepared for a long wait.

As I thought about it, I began to formulate a plan for how to stay motivated and keep doing business over the coming weeks and months.  Here are things I am thinking about that have, so far, pulled me out of my depression and given me a renewed sense of purpose and hope moving forward.

It’s Not About Us

I find it always helps to keep a little perspective in times like these.  Not that there have ever been times quite like these before but that’s kind of the point.  To date, worldwide over 3 million people have contracted COVID19, 208 thousand have died. By way of comparison, official estimates place the number total deaths during the Vietnam war between 200 and 300 thousand.

In Canada, over 48 thousand have the disease and 2,700 have died.  The impact of the economic shut down is staggering, with just over 1 million people having lost their jobs and having to rely on government assistance to pay their rent and buy groceries.

The human suffering that this pandemic continues to bring is beyond anything I have ever experienced.  As far as the history of pandemics goes it’s still relatively small but this is currently the largest death toll of any infectious disease since a strain of flu swept through Hong Kong and killed a million people between 1968 and 1970.  With no vaccine in sight, COVID19 could easily surpass a million deaths by the time it’s over.

The slowing of our businesses and social isolation pale in comparison to these statistics.  It’s not about us.  It’s about the millions who are sick and the hundreds of thousands who continue to die.

Control What You Can Control

You can’t control the outcome, but you can control the input.

I made a list of 10 tasks to complete everyday that will have a significant impact in moving me closer to my goals.  Each of these 10 tasks are 100% within my control.  Achieving my goals depends on other people reacting favorably, I can’t control that, but I can control the things I do and when I do them.  If I complete these 10 tasks everyday, I will put myself in a good position to capitalize on the reactions of others.

Not all these tasks are related to business success, some are purely personal and mental health related and that’s okay.  Having some personal goal specific tasks are key to living a balanced life.  Some of my daily tasks include, 15 minutes of meditation, making cold calls, responding to correspondence and checking in with friends.  Having a well-rounded list helps to keep both business and personal life in perspective.

Celebrate and Reward Success

What happens if I don’t complete all ten tasks in a day?  In short, I haven’t done my job and in the long run I will fail to achieve my goals.  Achieving a goal might not be enough to maintain motivation though.  It’s important to have something to look forward to.

If I complete all ten tasks every day for five days, I can reward myself by taking a day off.  If I achieve certain other benchmarks, I do other things, play a round of golf, buy a new toy, take a vacation etc.  These are the prizes that keeping things in perspective and consistently completing specific tasks will lead to.  It’s important to take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labors otherwise what was it all for?


I’m happy to report that I don’t feel depressed anymore.  By paying attention these simple keys, I hope to stay positive for a long time.  How are you staying motivated during these difficult times?  I’d love to hear from you, write me a note in the comments below.


It’s Not About You

The following is an excerpt from my newest book length project.  The working title of this new book is “LeaderSheep; Leading from a posture of submission in Business, Ministry and the Kingdom of Heaven” and is tentatively scheduled for release in early 2018.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 11:1

Few books of the last quarter century have been more influential in Christian circles than Pastor Rick Warren’s,  “The Purpose Driven Life”.  In 2007 Publisher’s Weekly declared Warren’s magnum opus of Christian living the “best selling non-fiction hardcover book of all time.”  In just 5 years it had sold over 30 million copies and become the second most translated book in history behind The Bible itself.  In recognition of the influence he had had on a generation of Christ-followers  Warren was asked to pray for the nation at the inauguration of President Barak Obama in 2008.

The Purpose Driven Life was originally published at a time when America, and indeed the entire world, was reeling from the first act of war committed on her soil since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  The terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center and The Pentagon on September 11, 2001 shook America’s confidence to its core and sent people searching for answers to life’s biggest questions.  The sub-title of the book “What on Earth am I here for?” spoke to those people in a deeply profound way and helped to drive sales of The Purpose Driven Life to stratospheric heights.

But if anyone thought that The Purpose Driven Life was going to give them a feel good, step by step motivational message about how to get back on track through some inward journey of meditation and search for meaning they wouldn’t have gotten off the first page.  For those looking for that type of self-centered motivation the book opens with a punch to the gut that Warren delivers in a signature style reminiscent of an iron fist in a velvet glove.

The first four words of The Purpose Drive Life are “It’s not about you!”   

I can’t think of a better way to start talking about LeaderSheep than by setting the expectation, direction and tone of this work with a reminder that the purpose of leadership is not self-promotion.  It’s quite simply not about you!

In order to be LeaderSheep we must first recognize that we are not leading for personal gain or personal reasons.  Sheepish leaders have a clear sense of purpose, that much is true, but first and foremost they know that their purpose has actually nothing to do with them and everything to do with the flock.  If you are going to be a sheepish leader the first thing you need to do is find the purpose of the thing you are leading, be it an organization, a division or a product launch.

For more on finding purpose or to follow my progress I write this new book contact me at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.  As always I crave your feedback, questions and comments are always welcome…

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.





Four Rules for Motivating Salespeople (and Walking a Tight-Rope)

For the past couple of days I’ve been locked in a debate with two sales coaching professionals over the value of quotas.

Except for a brief stint in my early 20s as an inbound customer service rep, I’ve been in sales my entire working life which now spans over twenty years.  For about half of that time I was a partner in the business but my contribution has always been on the sales side as opposed to the operations or administrative side of the things.  I think that makes me pretty well qualified to talk about how best to motivate salespeople.

Here’s what I’ve learned;

1 – Quotas don’t work. 

A quota is a minimum standard imposed by management as a calculation of what it costs to train and maintain a salesperson in their current position.  It takes into account the cost of resources the salesperson uses, like operations personnel and support staff, company car, office space and so on.  It has nothing to do with what the salesperson needs to survive personally and everything to do with what the company needs to be profitable. 

But at the end of the day most employees, salespeople included, don’t really care how profitable the company is.  They just want to make sure they make enough to keep their own bills paid.  By setting a quota management has tipped their hand, it’s no longer a reward to strive for but a punishment to avoid.  In the long run it breeds distrust and resentment between management and the sales department, it’s not long before the salespeople on the bubble start looking around and asking; “does the HR director really need 3 assistants and a company BMW?”     

2 – Treat Salespeople like Partners.

Partners don’t have quotas, they have bill collectors.  If a partner can’t take enough money out of the business to cover their personal expenses they stand to lose a lot more than just their job.  In my over twenty years in business no quota could motivate me more than when the bill collector called and threatened to cut off the hydro in my home.  (In the early years that exact scenario happened more than once)

Feel free to reward salespeople who hit targets but those targets should not be minimum standards and come with a punishment for missing them.  A bonus is a bonus, not just a thinly veiled reverse of a quota.

 3 – Be Transparent.

This goes hand in hand with number two.  If you’re treating your salespeople like partners they need to know the true cost of running the business.  They need to know all the numbers that go into the so called quota calculation but they also need to have a vote as to how money is spent. Maybe not a full voting share, like an equity partner, but they at least need to be told why the HR director has so many assistants and be given an opportunity to suggest improvements to efficiency.  After all, they brought in the money that’s paying for all those things, they should get a say in how it’s spent. 

4 – The Sky Is The Limit.

I’ll never forget the day, as a young salesperson I first realized how much money a well structured commission could net someone if they were willing to work hard.  The CEO personally delivered my pay-cheque to my desk and congratulated me for making more than he did!  That one event, coupled with the knowledge that it is also very possible to make nothing in a commissioned environment was all the motivation I ever needed.  By giving your salespeople a realistic shot at being the highest paid people in the building you eliminate the need for any kind of negative reinforcement like quotas.

 Of course all of this assumes we are talking about a pay structure based 100% on commissions and not employees who receive a set salary or a hybrid of base plus commissions.  The minute a company starts to give salespeople something just for showing up they’re no different than the secretary or any other hourly employee and my whole argument against quotas falls apart. 

Then again in my humble opinion a salesperson with a base is kind of like an acrobat working with a safety wire, no matter how high they go their accomplishment is somehow less impressive than if they had worked without it.  When Nick Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a tight rope it was impressive, but everyone knows ABC never would have let him die on live Television and the safety wire he was required to use made sure he was never in any real danger. 

Working in sales with a base (which necessitates a quota) is like walking a tight rope with a safety wire and where’s the fun (or risk) in that?