Aaron Hemsley's training programs translate some of the fundamental knowledge of modern behavioral science into specific and practical strategies for resolving everyday production problems. He does not imply that self-change is something that can be achieved without significant effort. The main theme of each of Hemsley's change programs is relatively simple: it is that we are active participants in our individual dilemmas. Production problems don't just happen to us - they are complex experiences which we can control. The principles and strategies we teach you are aimed at helping you confront and eliminate the problems that force you to sabotage yourself and simultaneously make a quantum leap.

In contrast to some popular assumptions about heredity, behavioral research validates the fact that we can "learn" to maximize our performance. No one is destined to perform their potential, to sabotage themselves or to live lives of quiet desperation.

To say that a salesperson has a problem is somewhat misleading since a problem is not a possession in the usual sense of the term. All production problems are behavioral problems. It is a feeling that things are not the way they should be.

Personal Growth

Personal growth is not something that is achieved without effort, patience, or a minimum of discomfort. These may not seem like welcome or encouraging revelations in a brochure, but they are not meant to be discouraging. As a psychologist, I am continually impressed with salespeople's capacity to make dramatic changes in their lives, sometimes after years of relentless pain. My point is simply that self-change is seldom an easy or rapid achievement. It is, to be sure, richly gratifying, but it has its price; persistence, the courage to try, and an openness to learning some basic skills. These are hardly programs for individuals who are looking for an effortless change process. I would argue that such a program does not exist. If you are willing to accept the fact that self-change requires time, effort and conscientious practice, you will find these programs both satisfying and relevant. No matter what form it takes, change and growth presents a challenge, and the adapting person is one who is relatively prepared to meet these challenges.

Typical Self-Improvement Programs

There are numerous books and seminars on the market which could be loosely grouped into a category called "self-improvement." Some are specific in their promises and their focus. Some guarantee to improve your attitude, to make you more positive, to grow rich, to manipulate others, to protect yourself, or to increase your motivation. Others lean toward a more general promise of improved awareness, greater happiness, and better overall adjustment. Most contain dramatic case histories which illustrate how this or that strategy changed a person's entire life. The self-improvement strategies endorsed by these popular self-help programs are equally diverse. They range from specific exercises to rambling sermons on positive thinking.

Here we have another set of how-to-save-your-own-life recipe programs - right? What possible grounds do I have for arguing that these programs might be helpful where others are not? How can I possibly believe that these are different?

Well to begin with, I am not arguing that every single self-help program is the worthless product of some charlatan. Many are well written and contain recommendations which are not unreasonable. The vast majority, unfortunately, cannot claim any form of scientific evidence in their behalf. This is rarely conceded by their authors, of course, who may be wildly enthusiastic about their miraculous powers of their pet theory. In reality, not only have they never validated their claims, more often than not, they are merely repeating simplistic out-of-date misinformation. Typically, they are marketed by charismatic salespeople, but they are full of little more than psycho babble and theories that not only fail to produce change, they have never generated change. If they were effective, why do nine out of ten people who follow them fail? Telling a high achiever to be positive is ridiculous, how does one think they became a top producer? The question is, how are you supposed to know which techniques have been scientifically studied and which are nothing more than armchair conjectures of some self-anointed guru.

Until we have better controls over programs and books which are marketed as "self-improvement or self-help," people will have problems in trying to decide which programs have validity.

So, how am I supposed to convey to you that Hemsley's programs are different - and, I hope, better - than many which are expertly marketed by talented motivational speakers. And more importantly, how are you to judge whether my confidence is well-founded? In answering these two questions, I shall be previewing some of the themes and issues which will be emphasized. For purposes of clarity, let me list them.

First, unlike the vast majority of popular self-improvement books and seminars, I will not promise to help you attain a permanent state of happiness. Whatever else it may be, success is not something which can be captured and contained. It can, of course, be frequently experienced, and it is my hope that the strategies outlined in these programs will help you experience more frequent and higher degrees of success. You should bear in mind, however, that the underlying assumption is that personal problems are inevitable. No one can totally escape them, but all of us can learn psychological techniques which will help us minimize their impact our ability to prospect and sell.

A second point of departure between our programs and others is that, in it, we argue that maximizing one's performance, changing behavior and solving performance problems requires time, effort and skill. This effort and skill are not beyond your reach, however, and you need not possess exceptional intelligence or willpower to develop them. In many of today's self-help guides, the secret to success is said to be "insight" or "awareness." While I am hardly an enemy of insight, I do not believe that awareness is sufficient to alleviate most personal problems. Awareness must be accompanied by action to maximize one's performance, to create a quantum leap in production or to solve performance problems.

This means there are no miraculous keys to nirvana, no overnight paths to maximum performance. The resolution of today's and preparation for tomorrow's problems requires effort, persistence, and a willingness to experiment with new ideas. As you practice and refine your psychological skills, it becomes easier to confront and eliminate performance problems.

A third difference between these programs and other self-improvement books and seminars is the extent of its scientific backing. In contrast to the majority of today's self-help programs, our training programs contain techniques that have survived considerable scientific research. When I say "scientific research," I do not mean simply that there are testimonials on file from people who have benefited from the techniques. Virtually every self-improvement program can produce dozens of glowing testimonials from past clients. However, few of them report how many participants failed to improve, or how much improvement a person would have experienced without following the change program or following a different change procedure. Testimonials are warm fuzzy's, but they have never, and will never, be considered research. Case histories are a valuable means of illustrating how a technique can be applied, but they are not adequate in demonstrating that the technique is useful and apparently better than no change program at all. These demonstrations can be accomplished only by rigorous scientific experiments in which trained investigators objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of a technique.

The techniques presented in Hemsley's change programs have been validated in double blind studies on life insurance agents and stock brokers. Like life itself, however, science is an endeavor sprinkled with both success and failure, happiness and frustration. It would be a gross lie to say that every person who has ever tried to develop personal problem solving skills has been overwhelming successful. At this time, we still have much to learn about how and why salespeople act, think and feel the way they do. We have made considerable progress in the last few years, but we are still a long way away from knowing it all.

Another difference between these programs and most of our competitors is that I admit that I cannot absolutely guarantee you that the techniques in these programs will work. I present them with a cautious optimism: they are the best we have at this time, but our best is unfortunately imperfect. You can be assured, however, that my confidence in their usefulness is shared by a large portion of my colleagues. Indeed, I am essentially revealing some of the most respected behavioral and cognitive change strategies for eliminating self-defeating behaviors and maximizing performance.

This last point may have been somewhat disconcerting. If you are like most people, you would like a written guarantee, that this will work. Otherwise, why invest the time and effort? As much as I would like to offer such a guarantee, my integrity will not allow me to do so. I cannot guarantee the amount of effort that you will put into following through the program. I can say these change strategies have helped hundreds of other salespeople and I would expect them to work for you. All you have to do is follow through and you will be amazed at the difference in your life as you adapt these strategies to your daily life.