How TJ Nelson excels at sales while battling chronic Lyme disease
By Fred Diamond
Is it possible to have a high-energy, successful career in sales and have chronic Lyme disease?
On my Sales Game Changers Podcast, I interview high-performing sales leaders around the globe. They give tips for sales professionals on how to take their careers and lives to the next level.
Because someone in my life is a chronic Lyme survivor, I searched for sales leaders to interview who have built thriving careers while managing their Lyme treatment.
I found one who truly inspired me – TJ Nelson, owner of Direct Solar in Las Vegas.
From the outside, he looks like any successful sales achiever. Smart, productive, energetic. But behind the curtain, he’s dealing with the constant pain, fatigue, and struggles many Lyme survivors deal with. He was officially diagnosed with Lyme in February 2017, but believes he probably was bitten a year earlier.
So how does he do it while managing his illness?
“After I got Lyme, I couldn’t even work for a year and a half. I couldn’t do anything, and everything fell apart,” he told me. “I couldn’t work and didn’t really know if I was going to make it for eight months, if I was going to die.”
Once he got a sales job, he said he would go to an appointment, come back home, lie in bed, get up, go to another appointment, come home, and go back to bed. It was a nightmare. Basically, before he contracted Lyme, he was able to sell with energy and charisma, and then afterwards it was just employing pure survival sales mechanics and a struggle to make it through the day.
He said that before he had Lyme he was always pushing and making things happen. After the diagnosis, he realized he had to acknowledge his limitations.
Accepting what Lyme brings
He said, “One of the best analogies is, let’s say you have a Lamborghini and maybe before you get sick, you can drive at 120 miles an hour. Then you get sick and you can only go 35 MPH now. It can be frustrating, and you might try and drive faster than that, and then you’re going to hurt yourself. But you can still get to the destination, you just might have to do it a little differently. You might not be able to take the freeway. It can be frustrating not being able to drive 120 miles an hour, but you still must just drive. And you can still be successful and have a great career.”
Even though he’s figured out a way to be successful, he said he must accept the rigors that Lyme brings.
“I have to live a very strict life. It’s meditation, bed at 11:15, morning routine every day, eating only healthy food every single day, taking the supplements and everything to keep that state alive,” he said.
“Every single day I track every little symptom. Every day, I’m tracking how much I sleep, any symptoms I feel, if my feet are burning, my stomach’s weird, my throat feels off or my neck hurts, or my neck’s tight. I’m tracking that every single day so whenever I talk to my doctors, I’m sending them that list so it’s easier for them to identify patterns. Doctors love me, I make it easy on them. Every day, I’m 100% aware of any symptom of Lyme that I’m feeling, all the time.”
A weird balance
I asked him how he handles salespeople on his team who complain, since any complaint, compared to his Lyme, would be lame.
“I say, If I’m sick and I have to inject Toradol into my arm to make it to the meeting and run the meeting, you can show up and just sit there. It’s a weird balance. You have to be loving and caring, but if you’re too caring then you actually hurt the person because then they feel like it’s okay and they buy into their own excuses and their own complaining.”
I asked if his salespeople are performing better because they see his limitations and if everybody knows that he has chronic Lyme disease?
He said, “Yes, they do know because I literally have vitamin I.V. people come in and I talk about it. There’ll be some meetings where I talk honestly about it and share, ‘This is what I’m going through.’ I do have to be careful, though, because I don’t want people to view it like, ‘There’s so much pain you got to go through’ and all that, which sometimes it is. You’ve got to have some pain tolerance, but they definitely know I have it.
One of them texted me and said, “I see you at the top and you’re running the company and you have Lyme. When I wake up and I don’t feel good, I literally think of you and say, I got to get up and do something today because TJ’s doing something.”
You’ll never know…
In closing, I asked him for some advice for people with Lyme who want to pursue careers in sales.
“You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t fully go in, you just never will know. If you fully go all in and you fully commit and you surrender to these principles, again, results don’t come overnight, they come over time. You just stick to it day in, day out, do it no matter what, then you will succeed.”
You can listen to the episode and read the complete transcript here.
If you’re struggling with Lyme disease, I hope you’ll find TJ’s story encouraging.
Fred Diamond is based in Fairfax, VA and can be contacted via Facebook. For a living, he runs the Institute for Excellence in Sales and hosts the Sales Game Changers Podcast. Someone close to him is a chronic Lyme survivor which led to his advocacy for Lyme solutions. He is always looking to interview sales leaders who have overcome Lyme to achieve career success.
Other guest blogs by Fred Diamond: