Just Keep on Knocking

-What to do when no one is answering their door. –

In the summer of my junior year in college I took a job as a door-to-door salesman for the Fuller Brush Company. I sold household supplies, razor blades and, of course brushes. In those days, well before the internet, this kind of selling was common and there was a constant demand for folks willing to walk neighborhoods I took the job because my mother had just lost a long battle with cancer, and I wanted to earn enough money to have a photo of her turned into a painted portrait to give to my dad.

What I earned depended entirely on what I sold; there were no guarantees. Things went well at first, but then I hit a long bad streak. Hardly anyone was home and those who were just weren’t buying. What’s worse, some people were outright rude and literally slammed their doors in my face.

I was on the verge of quitting, but something my father used to  tell me over and over stopped me: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way; where there’s not, there’s an alibi.” I had always resented this simplistic mantra, but suddenly I got it.

I realized that every meaningful opportunity in life would stay behind closed doors that would never open unless I knocked on them. Beneath this simple insight was another: If I couldn’t muster the confidence and courage to knock on more doors despite the certainty of frustrating and unpleasant experiences, I would never make it.

I earned enough to buy the portrait, and it now hangs next to another one of my dad in the lobby of the Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics, a nonprofit organization I founded in their honor.

I’m so glad my dad taught me to persist and grateful I learned that an important part of character is to just keep knocking.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 4

  1. Good morning,
    Hi, I am Clarita D. Alejo, A Filipina and now living in Wallace North Carolina. As you have said, “Keep on knocking.” I will not have an answer until I will share my problem. I hava a son left in the Philippines, his name is Rael Joseph Alejo. I have left him when I moved here in USA to work with H1B working visa.He was 21 years old already when I went here, so I can’t bring him here.I would like to get my son. I really miss him.With close family ties it’s very hard for me not to be with him.Please help me to get him. The lawyer told me if I can get a job for him and a company will petition and sign for his H1B visa he can come here with us. He finished Bachelor of Arts Major in Economics.Can you help me?
    Thank you and God bless us all!
    Clarita Alejo
    EC teacher at Chinquapin Elementary School NC

  2. “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For whoever asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; whoever knocks, is admitted.” -The gospel of Saint Luke, chapter 11, verses 9 and 10.

  3. Michael,

    Thank you for such a powerful and inspiring message. Persistance often pays dividends, but takes moral courage.


  4. Interesting! I am reminded of the story of the life insurance salesman. We know that it is a difficult type of selling. A friend of a salesman asked the life sales person, “How can you do that job when you know that you only have a 3% chance of scoring a sale? That means for every 100 persons you make a presentation, you get turned down 97 times!” The life insurance salesman replied, “I look at that differently. I see it as every “no” I get, brings me one closer to a “yes.”
    That looks tough to me, but isn’t that the way life works?

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