MOTIVATING TOP PRODUCERS
By: Michael Aun, FIC, LUTCF, CSP, CPAE Hall of Fame Speaker
President- Central Florida NAIFA
The insurance industry has one of the highest failure rates of any profession today. Research done by the industry insiders suggests that almost 90% of the people who enter the business will be gone in five years. Why then would someone pursue a profession where the odds are so solidly stacked against you?
Could it be that the rewards for success are so extraordinary? Could it be the independence the profession provides? Could it be that insurance professionals are doing God’s work? I suspect this drives people as much as anything.
In James 1:27, St. James tells us “Religion that is pure… is to care for orphans and widows in their affliction…”
Several years ago, I had the privilege of working with the Million Dollar Round Table. As a member of that great organization, I have had intimate contact with them and have attended their meetings for years. MDRT meetings are said to be the best meetings held anywhere in the world.
I had the privilege of being a Main Platform presenter in 1989 along with fellow National Speakers Association members, W. Mitchell, CPAE and Brian Tracy, CPAE as well as former quarterback and television personality Terry Bradshaw and a host of others.
One of the projects in which I have been intimately involved with was a study that did research with the Top of the Table members. The Top of the Table is THE BEST OF THE BEST IN MDRT. Many of these top performers make a million dollars plus per year. MDRT was interested in learning what made these folks tick… what made them who and what they are?
One of the most startling parts of the research was that many of these top producers came from dysfunctional environments–broken homes where drug abuse, alcohol or other addictions were prevalent.
Most became caregivers early on in their lives. I suspect this is what caused most of them to consider a profession that directed much of its effort toward helping others, i.e. “To care for orphans and widows in their affliction…”
Having been in the life insurance profession since 1974, I too have concluded that the best of our producers came from environments that might be best classified as “flawed.” Again, it begs the question, “Why does this profession’s elite seem to come from such humble and soiled beginnings?”
It occurs to me that many of top producers in a variety of industries come from similar backgrounds. I never thought my own home to be dysfunctional in the conventional definition of the word. However, I did come out of an environment that could be defined as non-traditional. I had ten brothers and sisters.
My parents were not alcoholics or abusive in any way, but let’s face it, they had their hands full raising 11 children. My dad worked two jobs to support us. Neither was able to attend all our school functions. It was simply impossible to be in that many places at one time.
They never saw me play an athletic event. They were not able to be there when I won the South Carolina High School State Oratorical Contest. They were not able to be there later in life either when I won the World Championship of Public Speaking for Toastmasters. By the time I got the CPAE Hall of Fame Speaker award, they were deceased.
I’m not sure but I suspect that in my own life I have sought the honor offered by the privilege of the platform as consolation for absence of applause at home. I’m just not smart enough to know how “on target” I am here. The privilege of caregiving is an honor that we have that should not be abused.
On the other hand, our real strengths as leaders come from our ability share from within. The great speaker Christopher Haggerty, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, made a comment at a National Speakers Association meeting back in the eighties. “The great strength of a leader in the balance of this century lay in his ability to show his vulnerability.” How profound!
CHAMPIONS TURNING NEGATIVES INTO POSITIVES
One thing that is consistent with all champions is that they turn negatives into positives. They never let their shortcomings become the dominating factor in their lives. They build around the negative so that it becomes surrounded with the positive, thus eliminating that which is less than perfect in their lives.
Perhaps there is no greater example than the story of Shelly Mann. She was born with polio. No one ever expected her to be much of anything in life. She would always be dependent upon those around her, so her doctors said.
Shelly was put into a pool at Sister Kenny Treatment. Her first stroke nearly drowned the child as she could barely hold her arms up. She was three months behind every other polio victim in that pool.
Her first stroke she ever took in swimming took her three months. Here were all the other girls splashing around having fun and she hadn’t taken a stroke yet. Which one would you pick to be an Olympic Champion? Certainly not Shelly Mann.
She developed that first stroke into a stronger stroke. And slowly, but surely, she turned the negative in her life into the positive. Her coaches watched as she improved and improved and how she developed into a champion swimmer. And finally, the world watched her with tears in her eyes as she climbed on the box to receive the Gold Medal in International Olympic Games as the breaststroke champion of the world.
It’s not just in the sports world that this appears. Many of the greatest speakers of all times stuttered as children. There are literally millions of salesmen that as children were stutterers. Do you know how many of the greatest leaders in America were stricken with an illness or negative in their lives?
Think of Abraham Lincoln. He didn’t have much education.
- He failed in business in ’31;
- He was elected to the legislature in ’32;
- He failed again in ’33;
- He was defeated for the legislature in ’34;
- His sweetheart died in ’35;
- He suffered a nervous breakdown in ’36;
- He was defeated for speaker in ’38;
- He was defeated for lecturer in ’40;
- He was defeated for Congress in ’43;
- He was elected to Congress in ’46;
- He was defeated for Congress in ’48;
- He was defeated for Senate in ’55;
- He was defeated for Vice-President in ’56;
- He was defeated again for Senate in ’58;
- And he was elected President of the United States of America in 1860.
If we had the tenacity of purpose, the kind of commitment to a cause that Abraham Lincoln had, then we’d succeed at anything we do.
Think of Teddy Roosevelt, as he fought to recuperate from a crippling illness. He became known as Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt. Think of Jack Kennedy, as he fought back an injury that kept him in pain throughout his adult life.
These folks turned the negatives in their lives into the positives. They took the negative and they made them challenges. That’s how they succeeded.
Are you aware that every single atom in the world consists of a negative and a positive? The electrons are negative, and the protons are positive. Now the negatives can come and go. But the center of the atom is the positive proton.
Do you want to know what it takes in life that makes for greatness? It’s the centering of your life in the positive. That’s what makes the difference. If you’ll make your nucleus one of positive nature, no matter how much negative there is around you, you can succeed at anything that you do. If you can conceive it in your mind that it is possible… then it is possible! Doing it is then only a matter of a process that must be completed.
THE PRICE OF VICTORY!
Sometimes we find that the price of victory is not the hours of labor and toil that it takes to win, but rather that tiny bit of extra effort that we exude at the finish line. In race after race, the difference between victory and not-so-distant second place was ever so slight.
Just ask Blaine Lindgren. He came off the last hurdle racing toward a sure gold medal in the 1964 Olympic Games in Rome. The only problem, Lindgren went in straight up at the finish line while America’s Hayes Jones, in the outside lane, leaned ever-so-slightly at the final second to touch the tape first and to take away the gold medal, barely nipping him by a hundredth of a second.
Can you imagine how minute a hundredth of a second is? Do you know how many hundreds of gold medals have been won by a hundredth of a second? In almost every race, it is the difference between the first and second place winners.
It’s the tiny bit of extra effort that often spells victory and defeat on the oval, and it’s the same tiny difference that often makes the difference in life. In Innsbruck, Austria, the gateway to the Brenner Pass and the capital of the Tyrol, seven gold medals were won by less than one one-hundredth of a second.
Do you know that you can’t even see that on the electronic scoreboard? There’s hardly anything you can do with your hands to illustrate just how little that is. A blink of the eye is a fifth of a second. Can you imagine training ten years of your life and then loosing by that small of a difference?
In Munich, Germany, one athlete lost an Olympic Gold Medal and a World Championship by just two one-thousandths of a second. You can’t even illustrate it. No move you can make, no device that is available to the human eye can illustrate how minute a thousandth of a second is.
When it comes to life, just the slightest lean toward the positive can make the difference. It can change your life if you’ll only give it a try. But most of us don’t want to pay that final price to gain the ultimate satisfaction.
We fight through life, and then we cause it all to collapse because our attitudes are not right. But we can change all that if we’ll begin today by leaning toward the positive.
One of my twin sons, Jason, has spent three of years at the U. S. Olympic Training Center on the campus of Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. He was there for two reasons: (1) to try to make the US Olympic Team in weightlifting, and (2) to earn his graduate degree in microbiology. I can assure you the latter is more important than the former.
Jason tells me about some of the many athletes he met in Michigan. NMU trains weightlifters, boxers, speed skaters and wrestlers, to name a few. One of the most astute observations he makes is that the difference between the top ranked Olympian in the world and the guy who is ranked tenth is the minutest amount of weight or speed. The difference between greatness and mediocrity, many times, is infinitesimal.
Just like in life, the difference between the great and the average guy is only three or four inches… the width between their ears.
As my late friend Zig Ziglar, CSP, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame was fond of saying, “It’s your attitude not your aptitude that’s going to determine your altitude in life.” The key is to never give up and never give in.
COMMITMENT IS ABOUT NOT QUITTING
Life requires commitment. When I think of commitment, I think of a young, crippled black child by the name of Wilma Rudolph. She was born premature with polio, weighing only four and one-half pounds. She was raised on a ghetto farm in the backwoods of Tennessee.
At the age of four, she was stricken with double pneumonia and scarlet fever. The deadly combination left her with a paralyzed and useless left leg. Doctors told her mother: “This child will never walk!” Her mom’s only response was a line from a favorite hymn, “Wilma can climb her highest mountain if she’ll do it one step at a time.”
Her first step was a very painfully massaged step. They had to teach her to walk with a steel brace. After five torturous years, Wilma was able to take a step without the brace. The next five years were spent developing that step into a smooth, rhythmic stride.
On her 13th birthday, Wilma joined the track team. Her critics nicknamed her “Limpy Wilma,” because she came in last in every single race. Still, she would shout above the laughter of her teammates, “I’ll never give up… I promise you… I’ll never give up!”
One day she came in next to last in a race. On another occasion she finished second from last. One day she was second from first… and one day she won herself a race. Finally, she won every single race she entered in the entire meet. That day, she won herself a new nickname, “Lightening Rudolph.”
“Lightening” came to the attention of Coach Ed Temple at Tennessee State University. He said, “Wilma, come with me, I’ll coach you.” Wilma said, “If running will get me an education, not only will I run for your school, but I’ll run harder and faster than I’ve ever run in my life… I promise you! I’ll never give up!”
Now away at school, Wilma would have to draw her motivation from within. Her inspiration, her mother, died. But Wilma did have the ability to motivate herself, because in 1960, Coach Ed Temple picked her to represent the USA in the Olympics in Rome.
Those who were in the stadium that year thought that Wilma looked a little bit lonely. She was an unknown black athlete. She walked with a noticeable limp. Many were asking the question aloud, “What’s she doing here?” It took them exactly 11 seconds to get the answer because when the starting pistol cracked, she tore up the cinder path in a world record 11 seconds to capture her first Gold Medal in the 100-meter dash.
Her second race was the 200-meter dash. Everyone knew that Germany’s Yetta Hynie would win this race. She held the World’s Record and was heavily favored. Everyone knew it but Wilma.
Again, the starting pistol cracked. Wilma and Yetta jumped to the lead and turned the race into a fighting duel. With a burst of speed on the backstretch, Wilma pushed out the lead, snapped the tape and captured her second Gold Medal.
Several days later, Wilma would be competing against a revenge-seeking Yetta Hynie. The race was the 400-meter relay and once again, everyone knew the German foursome would capture this event. They held the World’s Record, and no one would dare challenge them- no one except the Americans.
Again, the starting pistol fired. The Germans and the Americans both jumped out to a commanding lead, turning the race into a fighting duel. The first runners handed the batons to the second, the second to the third.
When the third runners handed their batons to Wilma and Yetta, they were in a dead heat, side by side. However, Wilma dropped her baton, and the great German Yetta Hynie raced all alone for what appeared to be a sure victory.
No one knows what happened in that next instant. Wilma was hopelessly behind. With less than ten seconds to go and less than 100 yards from the finish line, she reached down and picked up the baton. And in what Olympic historians have come to call a miracle today, she pulled up beside the great German Yetta Hynie. The two raced neck-and-neck, stride-for-stride to the finish line. One hundred thousand screaming fans were yelling “Go Wilma! Go!”
The rest is Olympic history. Slowly Wilma pushed out to the lead, snapped the tape, and captured her third Gold Medal–the first American woman in the history of the Olympics ever to have done so.
The message I leave with my audiences is to never give up. When I think of this, I can’t help but think of Wilma– Wilma Rudolph! She never saw obstacles… only opportunities! That is the same thing top producers see every day they wake up.