Vidal Sassoon…

…who died today in Los Angeles – once gave this fantastic interview on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs. His name is associated with 60s glamour, but he grew up in a two room tenement in the East End of London after his father left his mother. His mother and his aunt lived in one room, five children lived in the other.

Then at the age of 5, he was sent to live in an orphanage, where he lived till he was 11. His mother was allowed to visit just once a month. During the war he was sent to live with a family in the English countryside. Back in London in his mid teens, he brawled in the streets of East London with Oswald Moseley’s fascists. He then spent a year in the Israeli army.

“All the experiences I had gave me strength rather than pulled me down.” 

He was so ambitious, he admits, he let his work ruin his first three marriages. But his fourth marriage, when he was 62, lasted until his death. His daughter Catya, died of a drug overdose at the age of 33 in L.A. “You can’t go through life in a fairytale,” he said. “The downs come and you have to steel yourself.” He’d have made a fine Stoic, tough, willful and resilient – as far from the Warren Beatty/Shampoo vision of the celebrity hairdresser as you could imagine.

Also this interview in the Telegraph with Chrissy Iley.

“Sassoon’s dark brown eyes are on fire when he talks of his war memories. “We took a hill and attacked at four in the morning, took them by surprise. It was a hill overlooking a main road where the Egyptian heads of the army were heading. If they had passed this spot they would have been in Tel Aviv in a few hours but we took them. Many Egyptians died trying to get up that hill. They had terrible casualties. A faceless man sent them out there and they probably wanted to be with their loved ones.”

Was he very sad that he had to be part of that killing? “I wouldn’t have had any self-respect if I didn’t. Somebody had to be one of those somebodies.”

While Sassoon was off becoming a somebody, his brother was at home becoming an accountant. He later died of a heart attack in his forties. “He wasn’t a drunk but somehow he lost his nerve,” he says. “He was always asking: ‘Why was I put in an orphanage?’ I never asked that. I knew she couldn’t help it. I accepted the situation, he did not.”

One of the great forgetters

A piece in today’s NYTimes about Phil Mickelson’s resilience – which helps to explain why he has had a great career and players who seemed as good as him when young never did as well as professionals. He has the traits we see in great salespeople: an ability to forget, a keen feel for the odds of success, an absolute enjoyment of the process, and a desire to be the hero of his own life story.

“The root of his success is his abiding love for the game, a passion so pure it enables Mickelson to shrug off the bad shots, block out the fear of failure and focus on the act and art of playing.

“I call him one of the best forgetters in the game,” says Harry Rudolph, an old friend and rival. “He has an amazing gift for being able to forget the last shot, last round, last tournament, and move forward.”

Mickelson takes joy in the process, so his emotional well-being is not tied to his results. He can play to win because he has nothing to lose. “You’re going to make mistakes,” he said. “It’s going to happen. You have to deal with losing. It’s part of the tour. Out of 156 guys each week, one person is going to win, so 155 lose. But you can’t worry about that…Rather than play tentatively or with concern or fear or let somebody else hand it to you, I’ve always liked to get the tournament in my control where if I execute the shots, I’m able to pull off the victory.”

Another old rival, Manny Zerman says: “Phil always tried to hit shots that most people wouldn’t even think of trying. Phil is exactly what you see, always trying to be heroic.”

The Art of the Sale / Life’s a Pitch in the Financial Times

Tuesday and Today, the Financial Times ran two articles drawn largely from my book on salespeople.

Selling Deserves a Corner Office

Portrait of a Perfect Salesman

Management Today (UK) Review

Great review of Life’s A Pitch in Management Today by Ivor Dickinson managing director of the British estate agents Douglas & Gordon.

“This is a fascinating read, both inspiring and at the same time humbling. As well as some riveting stories, Delves Broughton goes some way to explain how selling is a fundamental part of our life and that we are all engaged in it in some way every day…The easiest way for me to determine whether a sales book has been worth reading or not is to observe the amount of notes and underlinings that I have made. On this score, Life’s a Pitch proved to be a clear winner, every page being littered with notes by the time I had finished reading it.”