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How do we make 2015 our greatest year yet?

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How can we serve our prospects and clients professionally and achieve our desired level of career success? What specific things can be done to increase appointments? How can we successfully inspire prospects and clients to take action once we have those appointments?

I will spend the next few columns discussing exactly how to achieve those objectives in days or weeks, rather than months, years, or worse, never.

But you must start by eliminating fear from your practice. You must be willing to try new ideas without reservation. This is the most powerful advice I will ever share with you. New ideas allow for continued growth and improvement as advisors, counselors and friends.

I struggled for 16 years. Although I listened to great sales coaches including Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins and Zig Ziglar, I could not find success. I went to speeches, listened to tapes and read columns by legends like Ben Feldman, Roger Zener, Tom Wolfe and John Savage, but it was not making any difference in my practice.

Now I understand that I was the problem. I was a coward. I was afraid to actually try their ideas. I worried that I would make even less if I tried these strategies, or scared that if I tried them, I still would not be very good. I was afraid of failure, and I was afraid to commit to the qualities that build excellence.

Then I was lucky enough to be fired. I was not fired because of poor production, but because of the miserable attitude I inflicted on everyone around me. My attitude deteriorated the longer my career suffered. But someone saw promise in me. He forced me to try the techniques I had been shown. I found success faster than I ever could have imagined. So now I am asking you to make a commitment to yourself:

Promise yourself that you will try three of the ideas you find in this and future columns within 48 hours of ­reading them. Try these ideas and practice them. It will be scary, because you will not be comfortable with them right away and it is ­easier to do what you already know. But if you try it, you will see instant positive results. Those results will occur because you found a way to overcome the fear we all face when we try new things. You will adapt and grow. Improved professionalism comes by adding new skills and techniques. And the most important skill for a successful career is the ability to ask amazing questions. We have been taught to tell people things. But it has not worked, and it never will!

Asking powerful questions is the key to success in our industry. I ask all the agents I work with to take a legal pad and go to a quiet place for an hour. I ask them to pretend they’re the client, and to write down all the questions they would like to be asked if an agent or advisor was working with them. The process requires them to pretend they are in three different age categories.

Age 30: Questions should concern protection and accumulation.

Age 50: Questions should give consideration to accumulation, taxes and retirement income.

Age 70: Questions should encompass retirement income, taxes and preserving their legacy.

Going through the process helps them develop their own powerful questions. I do not want them to sound like me, but like the best possible version of themselves. In my experience, agents begin to see instant improvement. You can, too.

Next month’s column will include a variety of amazing questions that will help you achieve the success you are searching for. But this month, right now, make a commitment to do something to accomplish a spectacular 2015 and build an amazing career.