What do Perception, Motivation and Grit have in Common?

Personal BrandingSuccess Strategies

Have you heard the story about the two shoe sales reps?

Their story highlights a few commonalities between Perception, Motivation and Grit.

It’s a simple tale with an interesting twist.

Here it is:

Two shoe sales reps are hired and given a new territory. There new territory is somewhere in the jungles of South America.

Both reps are excited to get started in their new roles. They learn everything they can about the product lines. They take the time to understand the pricing, shipping and sizing options. They hop on a plane and fly to their new territory.

After they land in-country they hop off the plane and look around. After a few minutes they head back into the airport terminal and find a pay phone.

The first rep makes a call back to the factory and tells them:

“Don’t send anything. No one here wears shoes.”

The other rep also called back to the factory and said:

“Send everything we’ve got! No one here wears shoes!!”

Notice anything different?

  • Both sales reps took the same flight.
  • Both sales reps are selling the same thing.
  • Both sales reps saw the same thing.

Or did they?

Perception, motivation and grit can influence they way people interpret what they see.

Let’s explore that.


Both saw the exact same thing. Each took away their own perception.

Which one was right?

Can they both be right?

Perception is Reality

There is an old saying that says “Perception is Reality” and it is quite true. Each sales rep took their own preconceived notions into the situation. Each had their own biases and their own lenses and filters with which to look at the situation.

Which one had the “right” perception? What can change perception?


One thing that can change perceptions are the underlying motivations that drive each persons behavior and willingness to interpret a situation.

There are tomes written on bias. This post is not intended to go into details on bias. Rather it is to explore the inter-operation of perception, motivation and grit. And the impact each has on all of us.

What ultimately drove the sales reps behavior? Clearly it’s driven by their motivation. It’s not possible to tell from this simple story whether each sales rep is “properly” motivated. But, it’s fairly clear that one of the reps is not very motivated to continue exploring the possibilities of selling shoes into this market.

Motivation is directly tied to your perception and it’s also tied to grit.

This is where grit plays a role. The ability to make an observation, apply your perceptions, and evaluate your motivations will be impacted by your grit.


This has been somewhat of a buzzword for the last few years. There are a lot of different ways to interpret what this means. Your definition is probably a little bit different than mine.

My definition of grit is simple:
Even though the times get tough they stick to it.

They are determined to see it through. Or, as noted below, they are determined to see something through to the end.

This does not necessarily mean they stick to it no matter what. Conditions change, situations evolve, and alternate solutions present themselves.

  • If you want to read more about Grit take a look at Microsoft Alumni & Integral Fellow Paul Shoemaker’s book “Can’t Not Do

Grit is something that is both a nature and nurture trait. It can be developed, but there needs to be a seed of it in the person for it to really grow and develop,

Which sales rep are you?

There is no wrong answer here. Different situations call for different behaviors.

Some people are always up for a challenge. The harder the better!

Others are more pragmatic. They look at the situation, they look at the solutions, they look at what could be. Then they’ll make a decision on how (or if) they want to act.

Those that can align and tame their Perception, Motivation and Grit will stand out in their careers.

But, for you … right here and right now …

Which sales rep are you? What do you call back to the factory and say?