Many people suffer during the holidays. It is an exceedingly busy time of the year and many of our years are filled in preparation. We measure our goals annually. We compare this year with the last and see what hope we have for what remains. We reflect on our lives. No wonder Halloween seems to kick it all off. It can be a nightmare. Maybe that’s why my whole body broke down last week and today on Thanksgiving I’m still recovering. The stress of it all can be overwhelming. But I’m thankful for that sickness. While it spelled out complete failure in achieving my goals, since I was laid up in bed, it also gave me time to reflect and find a quiet place in the midst of the struggle. I needed to adjust the timing of my vision.
Timing is seldom as we would have it. I have learned that the hard way many times. Then when the age of sixty five approached, it pushed itself onto my vision again, only to humble me, once more. So as if to ad to my nausium (sic), as the holidays approach, rather than being the Santa Claus that can help everyone I would like to help this year, I find myself fortunate to have a roof over my head, and food for my growing family, just barely making it. Here on Thanksgiving Day, with fifteen minutes I’ve set aside to express my thoughts – stretched by typos and editing much longer, I’m reminded by the occasion that I am indeed grateful for the Living God, who speaks to me despite my poor listening ability, even if it requires removing my health for the sake of slowing me down and finding that quiet place.
For many of us, myself included, the happy memory of youthful Thanksgivings gathered around large families, breaking out the leaves on the dinner table, enjoying parlor games, and if like me being able to swim and go to the beach without being cold because we’re from Florida’s paradise, and as children, having few cares in the world, we think to ourselves, “how can any Thanksgiving ever be like that again?” Most of the people we loved are gone, and certainly that carefree life is gone. We are the providers now, and we are not doing the best job of it. Family fortunes are lost. It’s up to us now to bring about good endings to our lives. Entering the senior years we consider what we can do with our remaining days to make the best of them. Some of us have more work to do than others. Some have achieved their dreams and have provided their children with the great experiences we had when we were young. If that’s you, I’m super glad for you. It’s exactly what I would hope for myself and for anyone.
Others grew up under-privileged. For these, I have a dream they will know one day what Thanksgivings like that can be like. Some have. Not enough. Never enough. I wish we all had that. Don’t you? We all have that opium of the people called religion to offer what the world fails to. That’s what I’d think if I’d lost my faith anyway. I’m among that 1% of philosphy post-graduates who is still a theist. Academia is misguided. I am here to show them their error – the details of which belong in some other blog. Today, I share my Thanksgiving Day thoughts. I am at a particular place in a particular way. I caught a very bad flu bug a few weeks ago that I still haven’t shaken. My head still sounds stuffy. I’m still in bed quarantining myself as best as I can from my wife and children.
This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. I was supposed to be on the phones. I was supposed to be in pharmacies helping people during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. A person with an active virus and a conscience doesn’t do that. Change of plan.
So, this is what I heard from God in my quiet time about it all. Next year is another year. You can do what you can. If I had been designed to be a natural born salesman, I would be wealthy right now. I am not a salesman. I am an educator. I am a visionary. I design things. I see what the future could be like. I try to spell it out for others to work together to achieve. We each have our gifts and our role and our calling. Should I be insulted by the successful salesmen in my life, or the otherwise well-to-do who think I lack what it takes to succeed? Should I feel looked down upon? Should they feel superior to me? Should I feel inferior to them?
No, not at all. If they want to look down on me, that’s their life. I won’t judge it. But in my quiet time, I came to terms with what matters to me at the core of who I am and affirmed the sense of purpose I’ve had growing inside myself from my youth. I know now more certainly than I ever have that I’d rather be poor than sacrifice my convictions. I may make a living by commissions, but I am not and will not become a salesperson. I will be a visionary and an educator. I will be a consultant.
Salespeople annoy me. They tell me what I want to hear so they can keep my attention until I give them what they want – my money. They annoy me endlessly with phone calls and advertisements that clog up my time, my voicemail, my inboxes. They disrupt coversations and the work I’m doing. They hire telemarketers who ruin peoples’ lives and take their money. I have to pay money to remove the interruption of their ads. I’m on a budget. But they won’t leave me alone. They think they’re better than me because they make money doing that while I resist selling things to people I woudn’t sell to myself if I were them. They justify it in their minds as what needs to be done to succeed in this world because it’s the only thing that works.
Sadly they are right. Still, they dismiss the fact that I have a conscience and won’t hurt anyone else to earn my money. I just can’t. Even if they want me to call, most don’t want me to call. If they really want what I’ve got, they’ll get on the phone and get it taken care of. They’ve probably already taken care of it or they would have called me back, typically within a day, if they haven’t come across something that gave them second thoughts already and changed their mind. I know this because they tell me. So I’ve learned that the odds are I’m disturbing someone even if I’m just following up on business they initiated. To a successful saleman, this is a form of weakness on my part – maybe some rationalization or excuse to avoid rejection. I can squeeze a lot more out of my leads if I’ll just imitate what they do. Others may suggest I’ve self sabotaged my success by resisting their sound advice. But that’s not true. I do press back and override that fear and I definitely do my follow up where a professional standard ought to be set. It’s courteous. It’s expected. It’s right -both to them and to myself. But there is a gray area. And in that area the phone gets harder to pick up, or easier if its on my side of the gray. But I don’t like their level of use of the phone.
They want me to call twice in a row, or three times. That way the prospect senses urgency. They want me to do this three times daily for each lead – morning afternoon and evening. Can’t miss that way. They want me to keep calling for months. They want me to use an autodialer, plus texts. Its all a numbers game. They’ve even suggested I buy years old fifty cent leads and bragged about how that’s how they got their start.
Hell to the no. I hated the phone long before this. I hated the phone for the simple reason that it isn’t asynchronous. I personally hate getting calls at the wrong moment and hate playing phone tag. Emails and texts are read at the receivers’ convenience. They don’t even have to think of how to politely hang up if they’re not interested. And they can unsubscribe, which reduces my costs and their future hassles. But with phones, the National Do Not Call Registry is almost useless. Robo programs to detect and deal with spam and scam calls are yet another waste of money. They don’t work.
But it’s not just the phones. It’s personality types. Learn them. Build your corporate culture around them. What do you want your company to be? What does your conscience tell you?
I should be clear about this. Empathy is not absent but different for a salesman than it is for an actual empathic consultant. A salesman will pick up on others’ feelings only to use them for their own ends. I pick up on how people feel because out of natural instinct I ask, “what if that was me?” We both have feelings. Salemen have feelings. The difference is the way our conscience works. Consultants don’t like using people.
Some people also think that successful salesmen all have alpha personalities. They will win at all costs. This is an unfair characterization. I actually respect most alpha types. They have an energy and a charisma that keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny. Not all successful salespeople are alphas. Many are. In truth, to be a successful salesperson, all you have to do is follow the rules and the scripts. It’s a numbers game. A good script and a good system can make success inevitable and for an alpha. Any path to success is a winning path, so many successful salespeople are alphas. Simple. A consultant at heart, by contrast, may take moral issue with the system itself and avoid or alter it. That probably won’t stop an alpha. Recruiters, just choose the corporate culture you want. Hire at least a few genuine empaths if you’re interested in building a better system.
So to be clear, its not alphas but pushy salespeople that are the problem. For me, I would rather fix problems than be a part of them. Yet, I’m forced into the irony that it takes money to make money. And that is yet one more problem in this world I would seek a solution for if I could. I do have a knack for designing systems. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t reinvent wheels. Wheels work. I only reinvent wheels claiming to be wheels when they don’t work. I fix flats. And I value the sprocket of innovation. I sew them to my top hats because I get passionate about creating high impact change – seeking to fix only things I believe are broken, things that nag me by their pain for attention. It’s a heck of a thing to think about when you are in your bed high on Nyquil for weeks at a time. Does it really have to be true that it must take money to make money?
Oh, I wish you knew how I’ve thought about that problem.
All of this is to say, don’t be surprised if you find messages from me in your email. This is known as drip marketing. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that I can balance my principles. You may find me dressing up my ads with entertainment. You may find me exceptionally courteous. You may get some thoughtful but obviously mass emailed holiday notes and reminders in the least pushy ways, that you must excuse because such niceties have become expected business courtesy among the highly capitalized, with whom I’m expected to compete. And in the years to come, you may see the JamesCarvin.com web site morph into an insurance educator’s paradise. That’s my goal. If you want to know anything about insurance, JamesCarvin.com will be the place to find out about it, whether you are a sales professional, or a prospective client.
That’s all fair game. I may even call. This is the line between push and pull marketing. I prefer to be contacted because you got engaged in a subject I was writing about. You asked me questions. That is pull. That is the world I would want to live in. And I won’t fail to call you when I myself would want to be called in the same situation it sounds like you’re in. Allow me to live the future I want if I can. So, I dream of ways. I clear my sinuses. I dream some more. I pray more.
I’ve been very general about the difference between salespeople and genuine consultants. If you’ve kept up with me, you know that I recently got another college degree and that I have now started an insurance business. Since then I have sold quite a bit of insurance to people, thinking about what I would personally want and need. I consider this all a continuing education. Unfortunately, I’ve come to tangibly realize through actual contact with the public that the people who need insurance the most are the people who can least afford it. There is a learning curve involved in continuing education like this and no one gets credit for it. But being wired as I am, when encountering snags and SNAFUs, I continue going to great lengths to find solutions to hard problems I’m personally running into. This tendency has proven to be the downfall of many an entrepreneur. I realize I’ll have to choose my battles wisely.
Still, I get frustrated when I can’t help people who ask me for help. Your problem is always my problem. That’s not how a salesman thinks. A salesman doesn’t have time for problems. They are in this for themselves. The only problem you have they care about is the one that profits them. You won’t hear a downside too often, if there is one. Maybe you’re lazy or just lack time. What you want is a recommendation and to get it done. Or, you’ve already made up your mind. You’re not asking for information. You just want to get your contracts set up so you can get to your next chore. Your lack of time to invest in solving this problem is understandable. A consultant and an educator doesn’t want to waste your time or theirs either. A medical doctor has his or her next appointments, as well. You don’t have to listen to their advice but you can bet they wish you would. If you don’t trust them, then change doctors if you can. Let me check your insurance and youre network. A true consultant just want to make sure they’ve really solved your problem. And in fact, if what you want isn’t in your best interest, then it’s in our best interest to slow you down and ask if you’ve got a moment to rethink it. Maybe we should even step in and sell you what you need rather than what you want. We ideally have a good diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. Let us earn your trust. And at times, let us be pushy.
As I roll around in my bed in the middle of the night, high on Nyquil, my thoughts are on pushy salesmen. That’s funny. Who’d a thunk it?
But it’s relevant. I may be predisposed to hate pushiness, but that doesn’t mean I won’t push you into a decision when I know it’s in your interest to make one, if you’ll allow me. I may even seem forceful. One too many times I’ve lost a sale, only to find out someone chose a product that was to their detriment. It compares to knowing your child is about to step out into traffic. There is a time you must take command. Force a sale. Sternly warn and admonish. There is a time to say to someone, “don’t think about this.” Sign up now. Adjust later. We lose prospects way too often who say, “I’ll think about it.” What are you thinking about? My consulting gave you your best answers because I cared about you. I know my competitors. I could have contracted with them if I had wanted to. Did you hear me when I told you this?
One too many times I’ve made the mistake of setting up another appointment only to hear my client chose another company with another product. Even when my appointment was in home, face to face, they’ve done this. They respond to the first ad they see as soon as I leave, having given them something to think about. That’s a rookie mistake. Not only have I walked away from money but people hurt themselves and make bad choices just because I let them. It’s irresponsible of me to be so polite. Within 24 hours of my stepping out the door without a contract, they’ll call a salesperson instead of a consultant.
They won’t know this though. Salespeople are trained to sound like consultants when they aren’t wired by God to be consultants. They are slick. They withhold information they know could be a deal breaker. And they sometimes lie. Learn to discern. Calling a trusted name makes no difference. Think about it. Long standing brands hire salespeople. They teach consulting to their salespeople but they don’t hire empaths because true empaths won’t work for them unless they have the right products. They work for their shareholders. Their volume isn’t built on better products. It is built on a thirstier sales force. I won’t say trusted brands can never be trusted. I have contracts with many of them. But I wouldn’t recommend you go to them directly. They can only sell you their own products. And they are very good at doing that.
For a true consultant, this matters. They will be independent and build their business much more slowly than average in order to contract with all the right suppliers. They will rarely be held captive as an employee of one company because that will not likely be in the best interest of the majority of the people they would like to help. People don’t just lose money and benefits when they make inferior buying decisions. They don’t just pay too much for policies that way; they hurt their families. If I care about that, I need to be pushier sometimes. I also need to take more time and emphasize the importance of doing what I’m asking. It may be in a client’s best interest to let me save our time by directing a conversation. I might even run the risk of being a sheep in wolves clothing, but I’ll be honest and direct with you about it. Still, I don’t want to deprive you of the quality time you really do need.
The family that gave me a raw lesson on taking more time, was a life policy. The woman used her thirty day think about it period to shop other companies. I educated her before and after the sale, but didn’t think to warn her not to continue shopping around since I had already checked and knew she had the best policy she could qualify for. I’d spent more than the average amount of time the field marketing organization I was working with recommended but I should have ignored them. She went and got a cheaper quote over the phone as soon as I left – and it was even a company I represent, probably my favorite insurance carrier, in fact.
Tragically, the only way she could get contracted was by lying on her application over the phone, avoiding the disclosure of the specific info I had just asked her and she had disclosed to me. She was declined on that policy but not before canceling the good policy that I had just written for her, thinking she had cleverly scammed the system. She hadn’t paid attention to the fact that I had just told her that the underwriters were going to look at those meds and decline her app using a background check, so being honest was essential. She failed to trust me. I should have repeated myself. This is no made up story. She died from a fall in her home just two days after she cancelled the lower face value policy I produced for her. She listened to her friends, who said she could buy more for less because they could instead of me. I should have taken extra time to warn her and explain why she should trust my word over her friends, why should think of me like a doctor. My license came with much study and my experience has value too. I should have repeated myself. I should have gone out of my comfort zone and warned her not to be dishonest. I could have found a delicate way to say it. This was a poor woman. It cost her children their entire would-have-been-tax-free inheritance. I felt that family’s loss very deeply.
It’s tempting to give more examples of why being pushier can make sense. This is what experience teaches. But I’m still not a salesman. This is consulting. Consulting can seem like pushy sales. Pushy sales can seem like consulting. When you are with me, you are consulting someone who really doesn’t want you to suffer, really treats you the way they would want to be treated, and sometimes isn’t pushy enough. My approach earns me a living more slowly. But I have to live by my principles. Bear with me while I am still learning but let me earn your trust.
Integrity comes at a price. I have been living through what it is like to be hardly able to make ends meet. And I have learned about what “the system” offers. Still I trust in the value of waiting, in doing things right. In the end, I believe people will come to me. I will be recommended. I should be recommended. I will have to earn that. But that’s the right path. It is a path I’m dedicated to and grateful for, in fact, as I reflect on it this Thanksgiving Day, hoping for one last decent week in the Annual Enrollment Period as I finish my Z-pack. I say this not as a platitude but knowing with reborn clarity what drives me. You see …
When we moved to Tallahassee it was because my sister was in a nursing home on Medicaid here and she needed someone to check on her care. Spending every day visiting gave me a good dose of what life in nursing homes is like. Many were never visited by their families. Some didn’t have any. Many groaned in agony not to be tended to for a very long time. And we had moved my sister to Tallahassee because of the possibility she had been abused in her previous nursing home. In 2017, my brother also suffered a very humiliating death one year after my sister. Everything in me called for changing the way things were in that system. It wasn’t just about me and my realization that in the coming days I too would have to deal with stretching out a retirement income so that I wouldn’t have to suffer the death of the poor, or use up any savings paying for health costs, depriving my children of the privilege I had when I was young.
It all started to pain me when my son suffered with kidney stones at an even greater rate than I did. I regularly give birth to a stone at least once every seven years. I’m currently overdue for one. Maybe returning to the vegeterianism of my youth has helped. But as for the system, it lacked a sufficient health plan by the time my son suffered from his first one. And when I couldn’t afford the ritalin my other son needed to get through school, health plans were on my mind yet again – but by then I didn’t have a good group health plan from an employer, I was on my own and Obamacare hadn’t been invented yet. My wife had her stroke at thirty eight in 2003. She’s been paralyzed in one side ever since. This avalanche of health problems in my family happened shortly after this photo was taken, when I still had a good government job. Never mind the health expense; the loss of two incomes in the family, both hers and mine, resulted in bankruptcy and has made life difficult ever since.
This photo symbolizes a turning point for me. It represents the time before this endless struggle, crystalized by that bankruptcy, so hard to recover from as a sole bread winner and sole caregiver in a family with special needs. I’m grateful for this beautiful family and I’m grateful for me. I was a family man. What drove me was love. I’m grateful for that love. But I must admit that this was not a natural gift. My sister was abandoned by her husband when she had her stroke. I often thought of what life could have been like if I’d simply run from my difficulties, but such thoughts were always fleeting. I didn’t let them fester long enough to frustrate me and make me feel resentful. Never let temptation fester. It is inevitable. But its end is unthinkable.
I want to be honest with you. I’m not trying to paint myself as a saint. These are just my thoughts this Thanksgiving Day. Sure I put my best foot forward. That’s just professionalism. But honesty matters. I won’t go so far as to say I was grateful for my predicament or any of my hardships. I won’t even say that on Thanksgiving Day. Truthfully, sometimes I was grateful for my suffering but generally that wasn’t how my feelings would be characterized. But this isn’t about some display of humility. It’s actually something much better than that. In truth, any gratitude there occasionally was for all my hardships was as part of a larger package of love. Empathy is a love that doesn’t necessarily come from natural instinct so much as the pain of loss with its healing wounds and scars. Empathy was granted to me by my helpless sister. And to be even more accurate, it was first instilled in me by my mother, who saw me and saved and protected me often when I was beat up by my own older brother at a very young age. My sister’s room was also a place of refuge for me in those days. And my mother loved us all unconditionally. I learned forgiveness and unconditional love through her. My brother may have been rough, but we knew unconditional love. And for that, how could I be anything but grateful?
Perhaps my mother’s protection set a foundation. My mother was strong and good. That in itself was an exceptional blessing. But it is said that in our weakness God’s strength is perfected. God spoke to me through my helpless sister, reminding me of the helplessness I once felt as a toddler seeking my mother’s protection. You see, any grace I have in having acquired exceptional love, comes from a divine purpose, where all such things came together for good in me. Only through my sister’s suffering could I have fully felt this. I simply couldn’t imagine a world where my wife was abandoned the way my sister had been. I don’t attribute my compassion for others to any natural gift of mine. I absorbed it the hard way. I felt my sister’s pain. And it seems, after all is said and done, that these health issues have to some extent shaped and defined my calling. That’s something I’m grateful for in this moment. There is purpose underneath this hardship. I wish I always had an attitude of gratitude. I do at times. But most importantly, I have love. Not necessarily being loved by others, but being inclined to love others, even those who hurt me.
Salesmen are succinct. I blog. Alpha males never show vulnerability. They just win. That’s how people are designed. And most aren’t alphas. I’m not one. I’m not a beta either. I’m confident in who I am. I’m happy to hold a meaningful conversation. And few would fail to describe me as a leader. Look up sigma males and that’s where I think you’re likely to find me. Vulnerability may turn women off, but I’m not on a woman hunt and as vain as I sometimes can be, I’m becoming too old to care. Commanding conversations may be useful for phone skills in sales, and I may not be as good at curt persuasion as I wish I was. But like the sign on my sister’s wall said, “God doesn’t make no junk.” She lived by that and so can I.
So as I’ve reflected on my life in this recent quiet time, what I’ve sensed God saying is that I’ll be okay just the way I am. I just need to slow down and not beat myself up for failing to meet my own unreasonable hopes and expectations. I’ll be able to provide for my family, and perhaps, as a bonus, He will in the years to come, still speak through me not just through the wider vision I’ve shared through through the years as I’ve set the foundation for The Pamalogy Society and all it might potentially entail, but at least, and perhaps foremost, by utilizing these life lessons to build my legacy one step at a time, even with a modest if lengthier than hoped daily struggle paying monthly bills at the present time as I build my insurance business. Whatever is being molded and shaped in me, that is what I’m grateful for. I release my own vision and invite whatever is most pleasing to the Lord by His greater strength, knowledge and wisdom, and offer my utmost gratitude to God’s grand design, rather than my own, as wonderful as what I already see may seem. My own best masterpiece will be the path of least resistance to that of my Designer. In this work, not just in my own life, but in the fullness of that Realm, I not only bring my utmost gratitude, but rejoicing and awe. And my best advice to you on that is … Be there!