For two weeks in February I spent most of my evenings watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The performances were spectacular and I marveled at the accomplishments of the young athletes from around the world. Watching them, however, can also be a great way to develop an inferiority complex. When I think about how hard it is for me to just stand up or walk on ice and then to see what those skaters can do, it does induce a bit of inadequacy to my self image.
But then I realize that these athletes were not endowed with these abilities at birth. They may have been born with a certain amount of talent, but it has taken many years of practicing and training and a disciplined work ethic to bring them to their present level of perfection in their chosen field. Going for the gold is all about work and sacrifice.
But is that not true in any profession or endeavor? The doctor, the dentist, engineers and scientists all require training and practice to engage in their professions. But it is the degree of discipline in their work ethic and habits that usually determines their level of achievement.
This, I believe, is especially true in our business. There may be a few born salesmen or saleswomen, but most of those who are successful get there by training, practicing and working hard.
Some years ago, I approached Ben Feldman in the lobby of the New York Hilton. He was sitting in a phone booth talking to himself. As I came near to him, he looked up kind of sheepishly and said, “I am getting ready to call a prospect and I was practicing my approach.” Even Ben, who had already captured the “gold” in our business, still had to practice.
The same is true of others who have reached for and gained the medal podiums of our business. I have known many, if not most of them, and they all have much in common. They have professional designations such as CLU and ChFC, evidencing that they have learned the tools of the trade. And they are listed among the highest levels of the Million Dollar Round Table, demonstrating that they know how to use those tools. But all of them are disciplined in their work habits. Of course, there are some who have reached a point in their careers where they can more easily attain their goals, but in the beginning it was work that brought them to the top.
I was fortunate that early in my career I had a mentor who taught me a lot about work ethics. Before my life in insurance, I traveled the state of Arizona as a salesman for a major industrial and automotive corporation. My territory was widespread and for the most part, small towns and large copper mines. During this period I became friends with Fred, a 3M salesman, covering many of the same accounts that I did. We often arranged our travel schedules to coincide so that at least we had company in the evening while dining in the small towns we covered. Fred was older than I was and I learned a lot from him during those dinner conversations.