We learn the greatest lessons in life at the deepest and darkest of times. In scary, life changing situations we can be given a view of something that resonates deeply with us. Many of us, including myself, find this new perspective when we take on disease, loss of loved ones, or other challenges that we have little to no control over. This new understanding of the fragility of life often allows us to take from the negative situation and transpose that into a life lesson. It's not easy, and often is met with reluctance as opposed to welcoming this new change. When I was diagnosed with brain cancer at 39, I was given a new set of lenses to see life through; Once I found it, I grabbed it; I owned it; I made it mine. I had a better understanding of how quickly life changes, and how important it is to live in the now.
The pandemic I believe has taught me lessons that I have been utilizing as well; lessons on business, life, and self satisfaction. It all started with my business. I have multiple occupations. I am a VP of an insurance company, Transamerica. I am a professional speaker, I travel all over the country doing main stage speaking at conference events. I am an author as well. The majority of my day is utilized by seeing my clients, driving 150-250 miles a day, and wholesaling Transamerica investment products to financial advisors. I have been doing this for almost 24 years, and love doing it. I have long standing relationships, and look forward to helping advisors put plans in place for their clients in advance of the bad. No one plans to fail, they fail to plan. During difficult times, like what we have globally all taken on, knowing you have a plan in place prior to the bad alleviates regret, resentment, and avoids decisions based off emotions form what happened yesterday. When I was diagnosed with brian cancer at 39 years old, my father-in-law was dying of pancreatic cancer, I had 3 children under 5, and life changed immediately. Knowing I had a plan in place allowed me to focus on the fight at hand and avoid the "wish I did this.." mentality. This was what I preached every day, and I was the shoemaker whose children had shoes! I was ready for a long and difficult fight! That was 7 years ago. For all the optimism and new perspective on life I took from cancer, there was an anxiety and fear that I would push deep down into my belly. I had a Grade 3 Astrocytoma, something that could grow back. It required surgery, chemo, radiation, and constant tests to make sure it doesn't grow back. This was my journey, cancer was just along for the ride, I would fight with no concerns because planning in advance led me knowing that my family would be taken care of if things didn't work out. I still needed to find an outlet for my fear and anxiety; that's how I started writing. I wrote emails and messages as a catharsis to remove this from my belly, as it needed to get out; I wrote for me; I never cared if anyone ever read it. It led to me writing a book called "Starting at the Finish Line" which became a best seller. People are attracted to honesty and realness, and I wrote that memoir for myself to quell my issues; I never dreamed it would help others globally the way it has. Humbled does not do justice to how this made me feel, as it was truly unintentional.
With that being said, I found more lessons for my business and my life from this pandemic. I spent so much time on the road speaking and wholesaling, when travel subsided I need to find other ways to do my business. I started taking on virtual meetings through Zoom, Skype, and other platforms, and they allowed me to be much more efficient then I have ever had been. I never really digested how much wasted time was happening in my day. Meetings were longer then they needed to be, car time was unnecessary, and it was an archaic practice that was due for a change. I now do 10-12 Zoom meetings a day, averaging 2-4 people per meeting. Each meeting is 30 minutes. I see more clients, I get more done, I am more efficient and this is something I will continue to do going forward. Yes, face to face contact is important, occasionally, but I will do at least 2-3 days a week in video meetings, which opens up less travel, less stress, and more structured family time. Change breeds complacency or change breeds opportunity. This opportunity is real; it's a way to master a new craft and create more quality time, and less waste of time. For those who completely go back to old ways, it's giving back lessons and practices to take advantage of technology, and they will retract from making client connection easier and less monotonous. Reality is most would rather not travel to connect. Are you catering to make the experience client friendly, or avoiding that and doing it your own way regardless how they feel? It's all about the experience, and by not adapting and learning from difficult times they can find others who will cater to their desired way of conducting business going forward.
I mentioned earlier large conferences are canceled. Virtual ones are not. I have been doing a ton of webinars for very large companies and firms and connecting with and inspiring through a different means, but getting the same message across. The responses we get should really be looked at by all industries. Rather than flying to a sales meeting, losing two days traveling, going to non-stop all day sessions, losing concentration because 10 lbs. of material were jammed into a 1 lb. bag; sales people love the virtual meetings for connection and inspiration. There is no travel, they can continue their business, and the response is they often now realize how much time they sacrificed away from family and clients for little to no reason. Many companies I work with also point out the amount of overhead they have gotten rid of by not holding conferences, allowing some employees to work form home going forward is enormous. I really enjoy the webinars, and it is not the meeting of the future, it is the meeting of the now.
For all the negativity of the virus, pandemic, market volatility, jobs being lost, deaths of loved ones, this is a real and terrible situation that has impacted millions of people globally and my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone reading this. There are also lessons that we can take, we can accept, and we can own to make us better going forward. Efficiency leads to more time to connect and grow business, more time with family, and better work life balance. Are you willing to make changes that better you in the long run?