Twenty-five years ago, an incredible man came into my life named Grady W. Jackson.
I met Grady in the showroom of an automotive dealership in Illinois while marketing a sales program. He was energy in a bottle. I still say to this day, he had the best smile of anyone I have ever known. Grady could go in a pitch black room and literally light it up. He was a spark plug, and his natural enthusiasm was infectious.
Grady attended our sales training event with 400 other salespeople from the area. Something caught my attention right away: Grady was the first person to arrive to the event. He took his seat middle stage in the front row. Throughout the event, he took notes as if each word would change his life. At every break, he peppered me with questions about techniques and strategies. One thing was clear, he was there to learn, and to learn as much as he possibly could.
One Week Later
At the end of the workshop, Grady approached me and requested to have dinner as soon as possible. We met at a restaurant called Ozzie's in St. Louis the following Wednesday. Grady wanted to discuss career possibilities with our company. He said his entire life, he had wanted to be involved in helping others reach new heights in sales.
I explained to Grady that we don't recruit people from the organizations that we train. He said he was determined to achieve his goals. We finished up our meal, and little did I know what would transpire in the near future.
A Knock on the Door
Grady showed up at my office in St. Louis a month later with a big smile and said, "Where's my desk?" I said, "What are you talking about?!" He said, "I quit, and I want to go to work for you today." I immediately called his former employer and cleared it with him. That day, Grady became a new sales rep for our company.
He was the most eager-to-learn student and employee I had ever met. His work ethic and desire to excel were astonishing. Within four weeks, Grady had become not only our most productive representative, but he was outproducing the other four sales associates combined. He was literally a closing machine.
Grady possessed an amazing set of personal tools: he was filled with enthusiasm, energy, passion, and a winning attitude. He simply would not take no for an answer and was relentless in his prospecting and activity management. He mastered his sales presentation and continued to produce incredible results. Within 90 days, Grady was producing $100k a month in gross revenue.
After six months with our company, Grady was promoted to Field Sales Leader and began managing the sales team and our market expansion initiatives. In every task he faced, he excelled and positively impacted our organization in countless ways. He was an inspiring sales professional to be around, and I will always be grateful for his vast contributions to our early growth.
What I didn't know then brings this story to a sad and tragic turn. Grady had suffered with a consuming addiction for years. Unfortunately, this was never noticed in the early months of his career. When I did begin to notice a change in Grady, he would repeatedly deny there was an issue. My concerns heightened when he missed a meeting here and a meeting there, and after a few weekends with no communication, I sensed something was definitely wrong.
Finally, Grady admitted he did have a problem. He claimed it was just an alcohol issue, but that turned out to be far from the truth. We had many discussions about the problem, and we were working on a plan to get Grady the help he needed. There is an old saying that you can't help a person who will not help themselves. That is profoundly and sadly true.
I received a call at 8:48 am on a Saturday morning from one of our clients in Illinois. Grady was speaking at their Saturday morning sales meeting and had collapsed mid-speech. They called an ambulance immediately, and he was taken to the hospital. Without delay, I headed that way to check on my friend and team member.
Upon arrival, I learned Grady was in the Intensive Care Unit. He had suffered a major stroke related to a drug overdose and was still unconscious. The hospital couldn't find a single usable vein for an IV. Grady was a heroin addict, and his years of self-abuse had caught up with him in the worst possible way.
As I stood by his bed, sadness and anger consumed me: how could such an incredible man not overcome the demon of addiction?
The Last Day
Grady never regained consciousness, and his family made a decision to remove him from Life Support. I was completely devastated as Grady and I had become such close friends. I realized after it was over why I had never seen Grady in a short sleeve shirt. I would have known the truth as his arms were covered in needle marks. I was heartbroken, and of course overcome by all the questions one naturally asks...could I have done more?
We met with Grady's family and did all we could to ease the pain. We worked to help with their kids and set up an education fund. The truth is none of this in any way eased the pain of Grady's passing. It would be impossible to fill his shoes in his family and within our organization. It wasn't the revenue we missed. His incredible optimism and passion for life would leave a hole that couldn't be filled. The laughter and the joy he brought to everyone he came in contact with would be painfully absent.
Habits will either serve or slay a person. Grady had everything going for him, but in the end, his habit of addiction took his life while he was still a very young man. Anytime I see someone with a radioactive smile and that special bounce in their step, I think of Grady. I still miss him and cherish the time he was part of our journey. If one person reads this and this story helps them admit they need help or gives them the courage to confront someone else they suspect is struggling, then sharing this painful story was worthwhile. The reality is we need each other.
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Copyright 2017: Paul Cummings Enterprises.
About the author: For over 30 years, Paul Cummings has taught dynamic life changing strategies on sales, customer service, communication, building a better business, and leadership. Millions have had the opportunity to learn what it means to live and work at Level 10.