The “Magic of MDRT” is a phrase often heard, but what does it really mean? There is, of course, magic aplenty at an annual Million Dollar Round Table meeting. The idea of over 7,000 people from all over the world in one room is in itself a form of magic, given the diversity of the group.

In Toronto this year, members from countries that hate each other listened, learned and cheered together in unison. Ethnic, cultural and religious groups, often at odds with one another, sat together and drank from the same well of knowledge.

The opening session, always inspiring, is an important part of the magic that seems to pull everyone together in a common mission that lasts even beyond the few days together.

But there is an element of magic that transcends all of this and the sales ideas as well. I guess if I were to try to label this particular form of magic, it would be in two words– “mutual support.”

The magic of mutual support was captured in a very tangible sense by two of this years array of fine speakers. The first of these I would like to mention is Ronan Tynan from Kilkenny, Ireland. Tynan is best known for his participation in the singing group “The Three Irish Tenors.” Less well known is his personal story of overcoming challenges not connected to his singing career.

Tynan was born with two malformed legs which ultimately had to be amputated below the knee. Despite this obstacle, he developed into a superb athlete, winning 18 gold medals and setting 14 world records in international track and field events. He went on to complete medical school and became a doctor working in a Dublin hospital. During this period he attracted national attention by winning a prestigious national singing contest–and thus a great singing career was born.

Overcoming such obstacles is in itself a form of magic, but he attributes his success to an even greater magicthe support of others. Throughout his presentation, he emphasized the fact that his greatest source of strength and inspiration was the fact that others believed in him. He acknowledged many mentors, particularly his family, and stressed the importance of not forgetting those who encouraged you along the way.

When he went off to study voice and improve his singing ability, it was his fellow doctors at the hospital that took up a collection (some giving as much as 2000) to finance the venture.

Over and over in Tynans presentation there were examples of mutual support that carried him to success. Or, as he himself put it, “encouragement is the flame that lights the candle of success.”

Commenting on how the encouragement of others kept him focused on his goals, he said, “The will to succeed must be preceded by the will to prepare.” I could not help but think of all the people in our business who do not understand this as they pass up opportunities to prepare with LUTC and CLU courses.

An examination of any roster of people in our business clearly shows that professional designations are more likely to appear behind the names of those at the top of the heap than those toward the bottom. The people who are not adequately preparing need more encouragement from people who could be their mentors.

The second speaker who related how the magic of mutual support changed his life was Billy Martin, an agent in Salt Lake City. Martin first qualified for MDRT in 1983, but following personal problems in his life, he went into a tailspin, resulting in a period of virtually no productivity. But in the years he had qualified, he had made fast friends in the MDRT band, his study group and MDRT leaders.

Martin credited these friends, in particular Steve Blake and Wilmer Poyner, with believing in him and, through mutual support, lifting him from despair to the “top of the table.”

Like Ronan Tynan, Martin emphasized over and over how the encouragement and support of his family and MDRT associates were the essential components of his comeback.

As I listened to these speakers, I was reminded of a true story I read more than 40 years ago. Some of the details have slipped my memory–but the lesson it taught never has.

In a Midwestern university, a group of male journalism students formed a club for mutual support. Each time they met, some member would produce an essay for the others to critique. Recognizing that the profession of journalism was a tough nut to crack, their idea was to case-harden the members to the marketplace realities they would have to face. They tried to emulate the tough editor their works would be submitted to before publication and thus better prepare them for the working world. Criticism was harsh and forced them to work harder.

Female journalism students heard of this club and decided to form one of their own. But they could not carry it off the way the guys did. Each time a member presented a paper, they could not bring themselves to criticize. Instead, no matter how feeble the attempt, they encouraged it.

The upshot of these two clubs was that the male club never produced a single writer of note. The womens club, on the other hand, produced some of the finest writers the country has ever known. The harsh criticism of the men stifled creativity, whereas the encouragement of the women brought nourishment to all levels of talent.

As Ronan Tynan said, “My mentors never pushed, they offered only support.”

I believe that is the real magic of the MDRT.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, July 13, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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