Yes, You Can Be in Sales/Business and NOT Drink

Chris Anthony founded The Sober Exec to help one more person navigate their journey through sobriety

March 2, 2022
Logo for The Sober Exec

When you frequently hear any of these statements, it’s easy to understand why people think that you DO have to drink to be successful in sales or business.

  1. “You have to ‘wine and dine’ the customer!”
  2. “We close deals over drinks!”
  3. “Let’s do happy hour with the team to celebrate a great year!”

If you are sober or a non-drinker, these statements can generate a ton of anxiety. Shame. Or worse. But these statements do not, and should not, limit your success.

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”

— Carol Dweck

In her fantastic book “Mindset,” author Carol Dweck shares that “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.” She contrasts two mindsets — fixed mindset and growth mindset — in the following way:

Fixed mindset = “My potential is predetermined and outcomes are carved in stone.”

Growth mindset = “My effort and attitude determine my abilities.”

With a fixed mindset, the three statements I mentioned become fear-based and limiting:

  • “I’m going to be judged because I don’t drink.”
  • “The deal won’t close because I chose not to drink, and I could lose my job.”
  • “I won’t be viewed as being a part of the team because I stayed sober.”

Read these statements again and ask yourself, do you actually believe them? Does the success or failure of the situation really rely on whether you drink or not? If yes, then maybe the question arises whether you are in the right environment, company or role.

Now, what if you looked at those three opening statements again with a growth mindset? Perhaps it would look something like this:

  • “I won’t abandon my values and self-discipline to be accepted and effective at my job.”
  • “I am protecting my health and well-being.”
  • “I’m showing up as my authentic self and that does not include drinking for me.”
  • Bonus: I will not have a hangover tomorrow.

Which type of thinking is better in your mind? A growth mindset wins every time and offers such opportunity if you let it. But you have to let it. I know that’s easier said than done, but I’m here to tell you that I’ve been doing this for 15 years with my glass of sparkling water, ice and two limes. OK, or maybe sometimes a Red Bull.

Think about this. Many of us have that super-fit, healthy friend or colleague who is always training for their next marathon or some other crazy-ass physical event that requires them to practice every day, eat only between 1:14 p.m. and 6:38 p.m. or something, and stop drinking. No one usually thinks twice about it when they say, “Oh, no drinks tonight as I’m in training, but let’s have a great time and celebrate that deal” — and all is cool. Guess what? You are that super-fit and healthy person! What’s the difference? Nothing. What else do you need to explain?

Your success does NOT depend on drinking. Can you “wine and dine” a customer and not drink? Yes. Can you close deals over drinks? Yes again! Can you enjoy happy hour with the team to celebrate a great year? Absolutely! It was a great year and we should celebrate! But, like me, sip your sparkling water or nonalcoholic beverage of choice, and refuse to wreck what you have earned in your life.

We will explore in a future post how to handle the question, “What do mean you don’t drink?” But for now, just know that it is NOT a requirement for success. If drinking or not means the difference between getting hired, a promotion or someone doing business with you, then you’re in the WRONG place.

I’m grateful that I’ve had a supportive team and employer throughout my sobriety and have sidestepped these kinds of statements with a growth mindset. But if I’m making this sound easy, I recognize that it is not and I’m here to help. Just ask!

And if you do drink, please make it easier for anyone to say they don’t.

Chris Anthony
The Sober Exec

More Relaunch

Don Fertman

Subs & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Part 2: A Day in the Life

Don Fertman woke up one morning 40 years ago and poured himself a drink, as usual. But the future Subway exec didn't know this day would be far from ordinary.

Don Fertman

Subs & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Part 1: With a Little Help From My Friends

Don Fertman, longtime Subway exec, writes about a pivotal moment in his 40 years of sobriety: what happened after he went public about his recovery on "Undercover Boss."

Laptop near a Christmas tree

Here's How To Make the Office Holiday Party Recovery-Friendly

Four ways to make your holiday party more inviting to employees who are in recovery, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Man and woman at break room table with coffee

How Can I Be a Sober Ally in the Workplace?

You're not in addiction recovery, but you want to show up for people who are. Great! Here's what that looks like at the office.

Woman and man with coffee standing by the water cooler at work

Is Alcohol Big in Your Work Culture? Here's How To Sidestep — Or Talk About It

The "Mad Men" era may be over, but some workplaces can still be particularly challenging in recovery. Some pointers on putting your sobriety first.

Two women talking in a garden

Your Guide To Hanging Out and Making Friends in College — Sober

Doing college sans drugs and alcohol doesn't have to be a struggle. Some tips on making bonds that'll last and having a blast.

Men and women in a recovery-friendly workplace

The Benefits of a Recovery-Friendly Workplace

Also called a "recovery-ready workplace," it's a winning proposition for high-quality employers and employees alike.

Smiling sober female college student holding books

10 Top Colleges for Recovery — And Sober Adventure

Recovery residences, specialized counselors, sub-free tailgates and … sober study abroad?! The sober college experience today is better than ever. These universities are showing the way.

New Report

Close