Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Inspiration That Makes Me Speechless

Many of you know my ability to talk and write can get rather lengthy at times...especially when I'm passionate about something.  Well, this post I am very passionate about, but I will do my best to keep it reasonable so you might read on.
Most of you are aware that my wife, Julie, is a teacher. About 2 years ago I went with her to a conference in Atlanta where she was asked to speak. After she spoke, a lady approached her and asked if they could talk.  That discussion took place on a bench outside the main hall where people were coming and going.  The lady who approached her was an editor for Stenhouse Publications. This editor, Holly, asked Julie if she could take what she just presented and make that into a book. She was flattered and thrilled. Many times when we get that way we say things and then wonder if we really knew what we were saying. Julie said yes and the journey began.

Now, I am never a fan of things that stress people out. In fact, I do my best to help remove obstacles from people's lives if I can. This holds especially true with my wife. The months passed and then a year and with each passing moment this book idea seemed like a mountain that might not be climbable. I've known Julie for over half of my life and you know what? I learn new things about her all the time. Through the process I was inspired in many ways to evaluate and adjust my life in areas I felt I needed to as she went diligently through this process.  Here are just a few:

1 - Remember what you agreed to and don't back out. How often do things come our way that we choose to tackle, only to decide we just can't do it and we bail before ever really giving ourselves a chance? You know what we call those people? Quitters. I'd rather not ever be lumped with people like that. Julie had many times she wanted to say, "I've had enough. Writing is not for me. I'm done."  In fact, I may have even encouraged her to do just that at times when she seemed frustrated. However, she would not fall prey to that feeling and she would press on...remembering the promise she had made.
2 - Get mad, get over it, and get moving again. No one likes to be judged. We get tense if we are evaluated on our work because our work is personal and our own and we don't want to hear anything about it. "You can state your opinion, but I'm not changing my ways" is our statement. In book writing, you can't have this attitude. Your editor has a vision for you and your work and you have to be willing to trust them when they ask you to change this or expound on that. It's tough to do and you'll run the gauntlet of emotions. However, on the other side of that is a moment of clarity and you realize that what you thought you had may look different but now it's a little better. Basically, humility rules the day and that's a big life lesson we can all learn from.
3 - Don't think outside the box...eliminate the box altogether. Everyone has a story to tell and something to say. We have thoughts and ideas and then we think to ourselves, "I'll just keep to myself because people have already said all this" or "I don't want to have people make fun of my ideas or tell me 'that's not how we do it'". While I witnessed the process this book took, I was amazed at how Julie's eyes would light up as her brain sparked a new idea. Fortunately, she was working with a wonderful editor who encouraged her thoughts and ideas. What came out of a pretty black and white process was a product full of color that could not be duplicated. In life many things tell us to think or feel a certain way. Those are the boxes we live in. I got rid of mine and you know what happened? Things got really colorful and kind of fun.
4 - Just when you think you're done, there's just "one more thing". If you think there is an end to something, be prepared for one more thing. Often times we miss this little detail or forget something completely. There is nothing more frustrating to us and we pound our heads on the desk and call ourselves stupid. There were many times a chapter seems finished or the order of the book was set, but guess what...there was usually just "one more thing". The end result of that one more thing could be the difference in something that is finished or something that is AMAZING! If one more thing will make something amazing, I'm in.
5 - Be confident in your matter who notices. As you can tell by now, writing a book is a huge undertaking. It's not like just putting things down on paper like we did our term papers in school. However, when Julie looked back at 23 hard months of writing and re-writing she had moments where she thought to herself, "What if nobody reads it?" "What if nobody cares?" That's an easy road to take but it really diminishes the process and the fact that what she had to say already had caught the attention of an editor who felt she had a voice that needed to be heard. What we need to remind ourselves of is that we should never apologize for our hard work. Our confidence in our work will always shine through and people are bound to notice.
There are some other things that I took away from watching Julie go through a process where she was so deeply involved, but those are what come to mind right away. By the way...her book was completed and released just a few short months ago in June! You can see the official page for the book here

You know what else? Others are seeing the value in what she has written. Other teachers can take her book and work on their classrooms and their way of reaching their students and look for ways to be better and more creative in the classroom. Julie has often inspired me to good things, but the lessons I learned as I watched her go through this process will hopefully continue to make a positive impact on me and others that I serve in years to come.
Does someone or something inspire you? Have you learned some great life lessons through the process of others? Feel free to share in the "Comment" section of this blog.
Obviously if you have insurance/benefits needs and/or questions I'm a phone call (205-370-8453) or an email ( away.

PS - Guess who is working on ideas for her next book.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 NAHU Leadership Conference...and "The Star Spangled Banner"

A couple months ago, I was helping to prepare for the Alabama Association of Health Underwriter's Conference in Birmingham, Alabama.  As part of the program of events, I was asked to use some of my musical contacts to acquire a group to perform "The Star Spangled Banner" to help get things going.  I contact my old high school and their band director was more than happy to get a small contingent together to play a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem.  However, day two would have no such pomp and circumstance and it was requested that I provide a solo version on my trumpet.  I was more than happy to oblige.  I prepared and did well.
Apparently I had done well enough that the main coordinator of the conference contacted the person in charge of setting up the Region 5 & 6 Leadership Conference which was to be help in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The next thing I know I am taking my local chapter President-Elect status and my musical abilities to New Orleans to kick off the conference there.  Needless to say I was both flattered and little nervous.
People are always amazed that I still get nervous after all my years of playing.  I'd be scared to know what it would feel like NOT to be a little nervous.  I feel nerves enhance what we do and show a deep level of concern that we really want to put our best out there for others to see.
This conference would be a combination of the two things I feel very strongly and my abilities as a health and life insurance professional and an up and coming President of the Birmingham Association of Health Underwriters.  My rendition was well performed and well received.  When the cheers and thanks died down, I was in full "learn mode" so I could capture all I could from other NAHU leaders from all over the Southern US.
Feel free to check out the few pictures from the conference I loaded below:

Let me tell you what struck me the most that many of you reading this can relate to:
1 - No matter how much we believe in something, it's only until others give that positive experience feedback that we make a difference. Have you ever been a part of something and felt like you were the only one who really cared about what was going on in the group?  Have you ever tried to get others involved, only to be summarily turned down and made to feel that what you were doing was essentially a waste of time?  It's kind of like that with NAHU/AAHU/BAHU.  Until others hop on the train we won't truly see that together we can do something special for ourselves and our clients in our insurance industry. The rules apply to any group or organization.
2 - There will always be naysayers.  Don't fight their arguments, build your own beliefs and let them be heard.  They are everywhere.  The people who say, "No" and "Waste of time and money" and my favorite..."What's in it for me?" We all have those people in our work or our organizations.  While we look for solutions, they sit by idly and just fold their arms and grunt.  Forget them.  Get a plan and some people who will help you and watch the naysayers either hop on or disappear.  Either way is a better way.
3 - Some expect to just be entertained.  Do you really learn anything and make a difference by just watching?  Nope.  Last I checked life was not a spectator sport.  Neither are the things that matter to us.  If we want what we do to be viewed with importance and have a sense of excitement to it, then WE have to get going.  We can't just expect to "sit and get".  In fact, what you find many times is that those who have the "What's in it for me?" mentality would make great additions to a project or idea even they might have.
So, thank you for the invitation.  It may have been to provide a rendition of our National Anthem, but I got much more out of it that I hope I can take and use now and for years to come.
My question to you is this...would you like us to help each other?  Maybe you have an idea or a need and you're having a tough time getting your head wrapped around to starting it.  Contact me and I'd love a brainstorming session.  It doesn't even have to be about insurance.  Anything at all and we can get a ball rolling that may change lives and attitudes for the better.  I'd love to be a part of it if you'd like me to be. I'm always a phone call (205-370-8453) or an email ( away.