Last month, I wrote about the men who, by their patience, vision and perseverance, founded some of our most important institutions and raised the level of professionalism within our business. These were serious men pursuing serious goals. But along the way there have been others who, in a more light-hearted way, have taught us and motivated us to be better at serving the insurance-buying public and also working in support of our institutions.
They were a small band that brought humor to our meetings, thereby lightening up an otherwise serious business. But laughter was not all they brought. Their humor was laced with anecdotes and illustrations that made our products and our mission more understandable and more vital.
Creative uses of our products and how best to convey our message to prospects and clients were their stock in trade. It was a wonderful way to learn. My former minister used to say, “The anecdote is not the Truth, but it is the basket in which you take home the truth.” Their stories helped us to remember important lessons we might otherwise have let slip quickly from our minds. They were great basket weavers.
One of these good humor men was Fred Donaldson of Alabama. Freds favorite tale was about a statue in a small town in Alabama; I believe it was Enterprise. The people of this town erected a statue of the Boll Weevilstrange for the scourge of cotton fields to be honored. But there was an important point. The boll weevil had decimated cotton crops in the area and the community faced ruin. However, the loss of that source of revenue forced the community to find ways to attract new industry to replace cotton as their mainstay. They did this successfully and by raising the statue thus acknowledged that their current well-being was triggered by the disaster brought by the boll weevil. Fred taught us how to rebound from tragedy.
Another of these teachers was John Savage. John, with the circles drawn on a blackboard, made the most complex ideas look simple as we laughed with him and his presentations. One that I remember most vividly was two circles wherein he demonstrated that there were two kinds of peoplethose who saved from the top of the circle and spent the rest, and those who saved what was left at the bottom of the other. He then pointed to the circle where savings occurred at the bottom after spending and said, “These people always work for the people in the other circle where savings precede spending.” A lesson hard to forget.
Another entertainer was Charlie Flowers who, with Texas-style humor, dissected sales concepts like split dollar and deferred compensation in ways that anyone could understand. Charlie had laughs in every line, but there was a serious and important point behind every line.