Sunday, August 14, 2011


Conservatives will tell you that the advent of reliable birth control redefined sexual morality. They are entirely correct, although I would not agree with the implications of their statement. Sexual morality prior to reliable birth control was built around creating a social structure in which children would be raised in a stable family situation because it has been understood since time immemorial that children are best raised in a family of some kind, thus the premium placed on virginity traditionally.

With the advent of reliable birth control, it became possible to have sex with a minimal chance of unintended pregnancy. Suddenly, the groundwork was laid for a sexual revolution in the 1960's, when a new generation discovered that the traditional reasons to avoid premarital sex no longer existed. The concept of withholding sex until marriage was no longer as vital as it had been.

As feminism increased equality, allowing women to enter lucrative careers where they could support themselves, the need to marry for economic stability almost completely left the picture. No longer would a woman need to preserve her "virtue" to trade for economic support, as she could now support herself.

This progression opened up a vast variety of lifestyle options. With sex no longer leading to parenthood, people could have satisfying sexual relationships without them needing to provide economic support necessary to take care of children. The stability of a monogamous relationship, traditionally needed to support the family unit, is no longer necessary for many people who do not want children.

Interestingly, this same social progression has led many people to believe that marriage is no longer even necessary for raising children. In my work, meeting with parents, I find that less than 20% of the parents I meet are married to the parent of their child. Single parenting is no longer shameful, as it was in previous generations. In fact, it is not even seen as irregular.

As marriage ceases to be the norm, some people feel less social obligation to take care of spouses and remain committed their relationships. As many act less trust-worthy, many choose not to trust. Expecting that they will eventually be abandoned, many people chose to develop their own independence, financial and others.

The traditional American family is no longer. The future which conservatives fear is here, and it happened long before gay marriage was legalized. Yet, even with all these fundamental social changes, society goes on, the farmers still farm, the sun still rises and sets, and chaos does not reign. We live in uncharted territory, and most of us have lived in for our entire lives.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Protecting Your Children From Success

When I was 7 years old, I would wander about on my own or with friends. Walking down the street or in the woods. No one told me I was in great danger or that I was about to be abducted. No one told me to be careful not to hurt myself. My basic animal instincts were sufficient to keep me safe.

This freedom to explore served me well twenty years later when I found myself in a difficult financial position. The only solution involved a tremendous leap of faith, going to work a commission job with no guarantee of success beyond my own confidence. Fortunately, that confidence, built over years of independence, served me well and I am now quite successful.

Unfortunately, most American children are robbed of that opportunity by a culture of fear. Before I go further, I should make clear that most of the parents I meet are good parents and good people doing their best to raise their children well. It is not their fault. They are caught up in a culture of helicopter parenting and paranoia.

As I said, when I was growing up, I might leave for the afternoon and come home safely, a little tired, possibly bruised, but more confident. This was before cell phones. My parents simply had faith enough in me to believe I would make it home safely as I always did. Many of the parents I meet with won't even let their children out of their site in their own home. Most of them will not allow the children to play outside without the parent being outside to watch. What message does it send to a child that they must be supervised 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the first 11 to 14 years of their life? Even patients in a psych ward have more freedom than some of the children I see.

As I say, the parents who do this mean well. They want to keep their children safe. Fed a constant diet of fear from both the media and their peers, they believe in a world where child molesters and predators lurk behind every bush and tree. Every road contains windowless white vans waiting to abduct an unsuspecting child.

While protecting their children from the extremely rare phenomenon of abduction, they fail to protect their children from the very real and very common phenomenon of underperformance. The parent shares their fear with their child, teaching them in adulthood to keep to the safe path, never take risks, and guarantee themselves a life of mediocrity.

You see, as Eric Giglione says in his Daily Locker Room every great thing that you ever see was created because someone took a risk and had a goal, but how can a child ever learn to have goals and take risks if they are supervised for every moment of their early lives.

I'll leave you with an interesting fact from the Department of Justice NISMART report, a comprehensive report on missing and abducted children:
In 1999, 12,100 children were reported abducted by strangers, 357,600 were reported to have run away or been kicked out of their homes. You can draw you own conclusions about what the greatest danger to our children is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Put Down The Donut

One thing that I love about my job is that I get to see a very real cross section of middle America. Perhaps not the most flattering examples, but I get to see many of the kinds of people that you might hear about through the media who cause you to ask "do people really do that?" Yes, they do.

As you know, I sell life insurance, which means that people give me a listing of their medications. You can tell a great deal about someone's state of health by finding out what drugs they take. I was meeting with a woman the other day who had diabetes. She told me that it ran in her family, implying that it was just something that she suffered from due to bad luck and bad genes. A common medication for diabetes is Metformin, and most people take about 500 to 1000 mg. 2000 mg is a level at which it is difficult to get life insurance.

She was on two other medications in addition to 2500 mg of Metformin. This is an impressive drug load, but the best part of this story is what she was doing at the exact moment that she described the contents of her home pharmacy. In her hand she held a glazed donut which she was absently putting into her mouth.

Thanks to my regular reading of Craig Fear's blog, I am well aware of the dangers of sugar. In fact, when I first noticed the donuts on the table, I thought to myself that I used to enjoy donuts, but that now I think of them as a one way ticket to Diabetes land, which is not a land which I wish to visit.

This woman apparently does not read Craig's blog.

In a nation where people tell you about the 2500 mg of Metformin they take every day while eating a sugar glazed donut, one does not have to wonder why countries from Japan to China to France are surpassing us on the world stage. How can we hope to have out kids compete in math and science when we can't even teach them to put down the donut before it kills them?

Note: At the time of this posting, I was an agent and manager with American Income Life, a fantastic company which is one of the best places to learn the ropes of sales while helping to educate and protect families who really need the insurance protection AIL has to offer.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lessons Far Larger than the Office

Yesterday, I found myself involved in a fairly epic apartment moving project. I had thought that I was volunteering to help out for a couple hours with many other people. I discovered, as I was riding in the truck, which was the only way for me to get back to my car and which was not going back to my car until it was unloaded, that almost everyone else who was supposed to help had bowed out. This meant that the moving team was myself, a man of moderate strength, another slightly stronger than myself, and a roommate of limited carrying capacity but a great deal of pluck.

Did I mention that the closest place to park the truck was about 150 feet from the door?

It was during this adventure that I found that my time at American Income Life had well prepared me to tackle the unloading of this truck. What I might have seen as an impossible task a year or two ago was tackled in a reasonable period of time.

Every Obstacle is Merely a Challenge to Be Overcome

AIL has taught me that in any situation, there is a way to win, no matter how difficult it looks. The key is to focus on success in the task rather than focusing on the obstacles to the goal. A year or two ago, I would have been quite frustrated finding myself in a situation where we were expected to do more than anticipated with less resources than we should have had. Yesterday, I simply applied myself to solving the problem.

It Never Hurts To Ask

One concept that is very important to train in a new salesperson is the idea that it never hurts to ask. Most people will not be upset if you ask them for something, as long as you are willing to accept a negative answer with a pleasant smile. Thus, when I encountered a curious neighbor, I immediately asked him for assistance and he provided us with a second dolly.

Work Smarter Not Harder

When we looked at some of the things that we would have to move and the distance we would have to move them, I first thought it would take all night and possibly result in the removal of my arms. Then, I applied my large human brain to the project. By using the dollys and other tools available we were able to make short work of an impossible task.

I am not trying to suggest that my time at AIL has prepared me for a successful future in the moving industry. Rather, the concepts of pushing myself and my limits, having faith that people will help me, and being smart about how I work apply not just to creating my success in the field and in the office, but have made me a better and more successful person in all aspects of my life.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I Jogged Today

I went out jogging today. It wasn't impressive. I jogged around a building, paused at my door for a four minute breather before making the run again. I suspect I that I went about 300 yards if that. Not exactly a marathon runner's work out.

When I don't exercise for too long, I start to get what I can only describe as a clogged feeling in my chest. It is like a car that is constantly driven at low RPMs which accumulates gunk which can be cleared by taking it up to 5000 RPMs for a bit to flush everything out. I have not had time to get to the gym, so I figured I might as well take advantage of the gym that nature provides.

This got me thinking about other things that I should make a habit of. You see, I am in the terrible habit of taking my hands off the steering wheel of life. I get too caught up in the day to day distractions and worries that I forget about the long term. It's not a new year, but this weekend does start a new quarter, and in business, a year is too long to wait, so let's make some resolutions for 2011Q3.

Jog Every Morning (when it is not so hot as to cause heat stroke)
The great thing about being out of shape is that exercise does not take very long at all. Even with my breather, my jogging adventure took all of 8 minutes. As I get better, it will take a little longer, but I suspect that I can get up 30 minutes earlier to get a bit of exercise.

Make a Blog Post at Least Three Times a Week
I enjoy writing, and I have heard unsubstantiated rumors that some people like reading this. I have not written much lately, not because I have had nothing to say, but because I have not believe that I had the time. Again, I suspect that this post will take all of 20 minutes. Obviously, I can find 60 minutes per week to write.

Listen to More Sales, Leadership and Inspirational CDs
My new car has a CD player, and since I got it, I have been listening to various CDs which I will link to at the bottom of this post. My closing ratio has nearly doubled since I have started doing this. Speakers like Zig Ziglar remind me of the attitude I should be carrying in my work which I occasionally forget.

Get Back on the Video Blog
I stopped my video blog for two simple reasons. My rechargeable batteries stopped holding a charge and I never got around to getting new batteries. I suspect I can surmount that mighty challenge and return to video blogging. The other issue was that I started trying to do things that required more editing, and by more I mean any editing. I got too busy to actually edit them together, so I never uploaded them and didn't record one for the next day because I had one pending. When one is busy enough, it's all to easy to be stymied by stupid things.

There we go. Four simple things for Q3.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

What is Exciting?

What makes something exciting? Some people get very excited about new babies. Others get very excited about sporting events. Today, I am very excited about two things. First, I am excited because we have interviewed a great group of new people who could do fantastic things for our team. Second, I am excited because our Western Massachusetts team will be heading out to the Pittsfield area this weekend to see union members who need service.

This trip to Pittsfield will be intense. There are hundreds of people to see and only 5 agents, so we will be working long and hard to see as many people as we can. Some people would look at this and just see a whole lot of miserable, hard work. I think about it and feel like I'm preparing to perform on Broadway.

You see, I don't really get excited about babies. (I pretend to so as to seem more normal, but they don't do much for me.) I enjoy sports sometimes, but I don't get too excited about that either.

What does excite me is the chance for something awesome. When I saw "awesome", I mean it in the traditional sense: causing of awe. This group of people we have seen this week may well be awesome. This weekend, cramming about a week's worth of appointments into three days will be awesome. We will be focused like we've never been focused before. There are no groceries to shop for; no bills to pay; no friends to call back. We will have one mission and one mission only: three solid days of excellence serving our members.

Three days of excellence. That is exciting.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Low Expectations

I once heard about a study, which I unfortunately cannot site, in which two job ads were posted. They were completely identical except that one said that they job paid $30,000 per year and the other said that the job paid $70,000 per year. Which one got more responses? The job that paid less got far more responses than the job that paid more. Why? Because people have an idea of what they are worth. If you think of yourself as a $30,000/year person, you won't apply for the $70K job. It's clearly not for you.

America was once the land of opportunity, and it still is, but the current generation has been led to believe that opportunity is no longer available for common people. Either you get lucky and strike it rich or you will be doomed to struggle your entire life. The third option, the path which most successful people have taken to get to success, that of working hard and working smart to get where they want to go, is seen as a non-starter for most people.

This concept is, of course, extremely relevant to my current line of work. American Income is one of those opportunities that, for the right person, will allow them to climb from wherever they are to wherever they want to be. It's not easy. It's not for everyone, and it doesn't hand you success on a silver platter, but it does provide the opportunity.

The problem for me is that most people I meet do not see themselves as people who will ever be successful. If I tell them that they could be making $100,000 per year within two years, they will assume that either the position is not one that they can succeed at or that it is some kind of scam. They would rather work an hourly position for $9.25/hour for the rest of their lives than take a commission position where they can earn what they are worth. This makes sense if they think they are only worth $9.25. Thus, we are in the peculiar position of having to undersell the opportunity to make it sound more believable.

The tragedy is that parents are teaching their children to settle. I don't know if they are trying to protect them from disappointment or simply justify their own failure, but they are hobbling their children by teaching them that they are what they are born as and should never expect anything more, and, worst of all, that anyone who tries to show them better is clearly trying to take advantage of them.

America is more the land of opportunity than it has ever been, if only you are willing to step up and seize that opportunity.