The Popcorn Principle

By the age of five, most civilized human beings have experienced the guilty pleasure of eating popcorn. And you’d be hard pressed to find an adult who hasn’t cooked up a batch.

One of my favorite things about making popcorn is that it stimulates all of the five senses in a way that nothing else can. You experience hearing in that unmistakable “pop, pop, pop.” The unique scent of popcorn permeates any movie theater, tantalizing you to come to the snack line and have your credit card ready! Taste, of course, is also a sense that comes into play–although with popcorn your mouth generally begins to water even before you eat any. Finally, to add in the other two senses, you can see and feel popcorn, and will never get it confused with anything else on earth.

More fascinating to me, though, is what we like to call “The Popcorn Principle,” which holds true in popcorn, in business, and in life.

The Popcorn Principle simply states that certain actions repeated, when done in the proper sequence, will always yield the desired outcome.

Growing up in the 1970s, I first experienced popcorn in my mother’s kitchen the “old fashion way.” With no instant popcorn, no microwave ovens, or heat poppers, I used to watch mom heat oil in a pan on the stove. She’d then pour in the kernels, hold the lid on, and slide the pan back and forth over the flame until the popping began. Once the corn started pushing the lid off the pan, she’d pour the whole batch into a bowl and pour on the salt and melted butter! Oh baby! Here go those senses again!

Today, we take a flat paper package from the box, remove the plastic wrapping, place it on the carousel inside the microwave–“this end up”–and press the button that says “popcorn.” The salt, butter, cheese, caramel, spice, or any other specified popcorn flavor is all predetermined inside that little paper bag full of seeds. Just put it in, press the buttons, and step back.

The Popcorn Principle states that if you follow these directions to a tee, you’ll end up with a perfect bowl of popcorn every time. Why, then, do people still mess it up?

The challenge with this principle, you see, is that people don’t like to follow directions.

What would happen if you put the popcorn into the microwave, followed all the directions perfectly, but got impatient and took the bag out before it started popping? “It’s not working!” you’re thinking as you stand there and stare through the glass door.

What would happen if you wanted it extra hot, so you decided to let it cook longer than the allotted time? This conjures up images of a fiery black, charred bag being rushed out onto the back porch. Have you ever tried to get the smell of burnt popcorn out of your kitchen?

Then we have the group who wants things fast, fast, fast! Who has time to wait two minutes for the popcorn? We’re going to try a blowtorch to expedite the process!

These examples seem silly because we all know how simple it is to make a bag of microwave popcorn. If he or she follows the directions on the box, every rational human being has “faith” that the ends will justify the means. This is actually the use of the Sixth Sense, which is faith, belief, or intuition.

It’s important to understand that The Popcorn Principle also holds true in your business and personal life.

In his best selling book, The Slight Angle, Jeffrey Olson talks about the consequences, both positive and negative, of small disciplines repeated.

To put this in perspective, if you went out to a fast food joint for lunch and hammered down two burgers, large fries, and a large soda, chances are you wouldn’t drop dead of a heart attack on the car ride home. But with this small act repeated–say, a few times a day for a few years–chances are good that you might.

You are unlikely to contract lung cancer if you go outside right now and smoke a cigarette. But if you chain smoke a few packs a day for a few years, you will greatly improve those odds.

Everyone has experienced watching his or her credit card balance grow higher and higher each month without even making a purchase. It’s called compounding interest (a.k.a., paying $362 for a roll of breath mints you ate a year ago!) And that’s just another example of The Popcorn Principle.

Let’s change the tone to a positive one.

If you join the gym on January 1, and show up for a full workout, will you go home with the body you desire? NO! You’ll go home with a whole lot of sore muscles and a little voice that says, “Are you crazy? Don’t go back there!” It’s those who find a way to ignore or suppress that little voice, who go back to the gym every day–even if just for a few minutes a day–and develop an exercise habit, who eventually–over time–achieve the body and fitness level they desire.

A financial planner will advise you to invest your money in such a way that it will continue to grow. Isn’t that a foreign concept? “You mean, if I invested $1,000 years ago I’d have $6,000 today?” Yep.

So, how does all this relate to sales?

Simple. If you follow the steps of the selling process faithfully and consistently over time, you will get results. Will it happen in five minutes? It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t. The speed at which your popcorn pops, so to speak, will depend heavily on how well you practice your sales system consistently.

Will it happen over time? Absolutely, one hundred percent guaranteed.

The secret is simple: choose and practice a few simple disciplines–negative or positive–compound them daily, and then project your life forward.

Don’t focus your time or energy on the few kernels at the bottom of the bag that didn’t pop. Instead, enjoy the corn that did!

Adapted from Appreciation Marketing–How to Achieve Greatness Through Gratitude.