KEYS TO THE
GATES OF SUCCESS—
NOW AND IN THE FUTURE
A discussion about leadership,
investment, and winning
You are never too old, you are never too poor, you are never too busy,
and you are never too successful to invest in yourself.
By Dr. William T. Hold
Few times in the history of America—or possibly the modern world—has there been a greater need for leadership in both the business community and government. This is especially true when we envision leadership as building strong relationships, fostering understanding, and strengthening collaboration.
While leadership has many faces and can take many forms, it has almost always involved elements of risk taking—in short, the willingness to take a risk. This does not mean “blindly rolling the dice, cutting the deck, or praying for a winning lottery ticket.” And it does not mean failing to understand that “there’s no education in the second kick of a mule.” What it means is that it’s critically important to be an intelligent risk taker.
Leadership means having an entrepreneurial spirit, having knowledge and understanding, believing in yourself, and having the courage to invest in your-self. The crucible of life’s experiences continuously indicates that these are important keys to the gates of success that we want in some fashion to discover and open.
Given the history and the mystique of the insurance industry over the centuries, it is hard to believe that people in our business are not the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit. Those involved in insurance work hard, they believe in the value of their efforts to help clients achieve their goals, and they are willing to be risk takers. Leaders in our industry also invest in their own businesses and provide the resources for other entrepreneurs to be successful.
I believe that the individuals within our business provide daily witness to the entrepreneurial spirit, especially those in the agency world. For decades, “experts” have predicted the demise of the independent agency system from almost every imaginable cause, with the possible exception of an invasion of locusts. Currently, agencies have never been a more valuable investment—with literally hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into the business.
There are individuals who complain that “insurance people” are not liked, admired, or loved by all. In many cases, that is a characteristic of the entrepreneur. They are often criticized and accused of just being lucky. However, they are respected and admired by many as the “uncommon person.”
People often observe that the most important element of achieving success is the will to win—that burning desire to win or succeed. However, far more important than the will to win is the will to prepare to win. The courage, patience, effort, and time put into preparing to win far exceeds the simple desire. Preparation, knowledge, and understanding the nature of the work ahead are the foundation stones of success. The will to win can be a fanciful dream; being prepared is a reality.
Preparation and knowledge are essential to being able to deliver an understandable message of practical value to an employee, employer, and/or client. A message of value is crucial in developing mutually beneficial relationships that drive individual and business success.
We all should understand that whoever owns the relationship will ultimately, in almost any relationship, be the winner. We should understand also that in many insurance-related transactions, the following become very relevant in the relationship:
- Price becomes the issue in absence of value
- Price replaces value when there is an absence of innovation
- Price is what the client pays; value is what the client receives
In the world of investments, we often hear advice such as, “invest for the long term,” “invest in assets you understand and that have demonstrated value,” and “plan your investments with specific goals in mind.” The litany of advice goes on and on.
But too often, we neglect the mos important and valuable asset we have—the asset that is the prime source of our future income and wealth, namely ourselves. We have stated that success requires a belief in oneself and courage. That belief in oneself can be clearly demonstrated through the willingness and courage to invest in yourself.
The best investment people can ever make is in themselves, especially given the vagaries and volatility of various investment markets and the overall economic climate. It is interesting to note that, while many individuals are afraid to bet on themselves, they will gamble at casinos, bet on sports/games and horse racing, and buy lottery tickets.
When we invest in ourselves, there are no house odds or percentages in play. That’s because we are the house. We have the best odds of winning and we have some assurances that the game is not rigged. As the house, we become the engines of our success. We need to build the value of our stock and increase the amount and certainty of our income now and in the future.
While there are many reasons and/or excuses given for not investing in oneself, we should emphasize the following: You are never too old, you are never too poor, you are never too busy, and you are never too successful to invest in yourself. I will guarantee that when you invest in yourself, others will invest in you and with you.
As we discuss the ideas embodied in the keys to success—things like leadership, investment, and winning—some individuals believe that, because they are just one person, they cannot make a significant difference and that their achievements are simply individual achievements.
Throughout history, individuals or very small groups of people have changed the world and our lives. In addition, those individuals or groups that have made the big differences were not always the biggest, richest, or the most powerful. They were simply the best.
Many of these individuals viewed the world not as it was, but as it could be or would be. In their world they focused on creating memories instead of just talking about them, and on actually living the dream.
Who are these people who have the leadership skills, the knowledge, and the willingness to invest in themselves? How can we find them? Where are they? Why not try looking in a mirror? You are very likely to see one.
P.S.: On a lighter—and entirely different—note, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to share some thoughts and insights with Rough Notes readers over these past several months. And I’ve enjoyed hearing from you on what I’ve written or just to say “Hey.” One response to my May 2022 column entitled “People” caught my attention, and I thought I’d share an abridged version of it with you:
“Very well composed article … like a fine wine described by a sommelier, with tastes of grapes in a vineyard grown with care and growing methods that have helped the grapes survive even the harshest climate changes. It hits the palate with sweet tastes, but when danced around the senses, there are substantial undertones of salt with slight bitterness. “Some pickers are simply employees, some are paid enemies. The vineyard master, winemaker, and sommelier must work to encourage the drone employee and the potential ‘paid enemy’ to rise above mediocracy and contribute to the quality of the pour.
“To avoid producing a box wine destined for the dollar store, leadership must constantly walk among the pickers, supporting them in more ways than financial, with injections of consideration, personal involvement, appreciation, and caring.
“Yes, there will always be a few bad pickers, and cutting them with dignity could prevent them from contaminating the crop and carrying bitterness as a life-long aftertaste.
“In time, the master winemaker should sit back, enjoy the fruits of his lifetime of labor and sip the results of his efforts. Let the young sommeliers take charge. Give supportive guidance, and if the fine wine once made begins to taste like Dr. Pepper, the new consumers may never know the difference, because taste buds change.
“Now I’m going back to my Red Bull, a derivative by-product of Dr. Hold’s Root Oil and Raging Bull cocktail, mixed with a dash of bitters, shaken and not stirred, with chipped Ice.”
William T. “Doc” Hold, Ph.D., CIC, CPCU, CLU, is executive chairman of The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, which he co-founded in 1969 as The Society of CIC. Under his leadership, The National Alliance has grown to become one of the most prestigious insurance education organizations in the world. In this column, Doc shares his personal insights and opinions, which are not necessarily those of The National Alliance or its board members.