Selling Widgets


by Dr. Jason Pittser, Fellow Traveler on the Path of Simplicity and Awareness

This past Saturday afternoon a great friend and I, along with our wives, were at a downtown Nashville honky-tonk. It was the typical downtown Nashville atmosphere – people from all over, great live music, drinks flowing. Interacting with the crowd between songs, the lead guitar player (above) asked if anyone was in Nashville on business, “trying to learn how to sell more widgets.” My friend and I laughed and agreed that to a man who plays guitar for a living, most of the business world must look like a chaotic mess of people rushing around trying to sell more widgets.

When you take a mindful look at it, selling widgets is exactly what many of us do in our professional lives. Some widgets are more important than others and some widget-selling is more meaningful. But when you boil it down, it is still selling widgets. My friend is a contractor and I’m an optometrist. Having shelter and being able to see are important, but custom homes and high-end eyewear are nothing more than widgets. Gregg Popovich, head coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, holds the NBA record for most consecutive winning seasons and is one of only five coaches in NBA history to win five or more championships. In an era when professional sports franchises change head coaches on a whim, he just finished his 19th season as the Spurs head coach. P. J. Carlesimo, one of Popovich’s former longtime assistant coaches, was asked what has made Popovich so successful for so long. His first response? “He has a lot of interests outside the game of basketball.” Before his team played an Elite Eight game in the 2015 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament, Gonzaga coach Mark Few was asked if a win and a trip to the Final Four would validate him and cement his legacy. He responded, “As long as I can look into the eyes of my wife and children and see that I’m okay, that’s all the validation I need.” Two of the most successful coaches in the game seem to have an awareness that coaching basketball for millions of dollars, on some level, is nothing more than selling widgets.

What occupies much of our attention in our personal lives amounts to selling widgets as well. Ask the parent of a terminally ill child how important it is to get your child onto the best youth sports team or into the best private school, and I bet you’ll hear something similar to selling widgets. Arguing about what religious denomination has the right formula to get you into Heaven? Selling widgets. Wearing the right clothes or driving the right vehicle? Selling widgets. Getting into a back and forth about politics? I’m not sure that even reaches the level of selling widgets.

Widgets matter and selling them matters. Both may improve our life situation, and as in all things, we should always sell widgets to the best of our ability. Widgets aren’t good or bad, and neither is selling them. What is bad is losing awareness that we are merely selling widgets. And contrary to what our unobserved thinking tells us, maintaining an awareness that we are simply selling widgets makes us better at many things – including selling widgets.


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