Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pants Around My Ankles!

If there's one thing I've learned in this world, there are fewer things that make you feel like an imbecile than starting a new job. With the remote possibility of getting got dropping trow to take engage in an emergency bowel evacuation (thank you, maximum punch homemade burritos), nothing makes you feel as exposed and ignorant as trying to accomplish something in a brand new occupation. I've had the profound pleasure of sticking my foot in my mouth, looking like I know what I'm doing and fooling myself into thinking I'm gonna nail this sucker!

I'm rebooting my professional life as an insurance salesman. I can hear the collective sucking in of the internet's breath now. Stop it! As I've been deep in the bowels of the humor and entertainment industry, I've heard the jokes, complaints and bemused guffaws at my chosen profession. Honestly, I've heard them for every profession, so in reality, I'm a bit immune to any off-hand criticisms, especially from armchair non-employees. Unfortunately, I did manage to step my foot in it recently on an all-day bender on the phones. I was calling leads, trying to make appointments to come out and see folks when I got the daughter of a deceased woman answering the phone. It was the fourth or fifth phone number I'd dialed where the unfortunate target of my calls had passed away. Unfortunately, I was a bit unfocused by this point. The first thing that came to my mind was "Fantastic, another lead that has me calling people who've passed on!" I think that is actually a reasonable thing to run through someone's mind. Brace yourself - this is where it gets awful. The first thing out of my mouth? "Fantastic."

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet? I just told a still grieving daughter (or granddaughter, I'm not sure which) that it was "Fantastic" that her relative had passed away four months ago. Not surprisingly, she didn't think so. I spent the next thirty seconds apologizing profusely and getting my body as deep under the nearest rock as possible. After getting of the phone with this young lady, I turned the phone off and sat thinking about my idiocy. I found my idiocy to be palpable and engorged. I considering a brief visit to a medical clinic or possible dousing myself with industrial hemorrhoid shrinkage formula. That's all well and good, but what did I learn from my experience?

I'm actually an incredibly nice and caring person. How could I make such an astounding mistake in manners and sensibility? Fatigue, mostly. I had been on the phone dialing like crazy for hours and hadn't taken a break. I learned my lesson and now I take a break every hour, get up, walk around and stretch. Sometimes, I even partake of a refreshing beverage. I learned later that this is a necessary practice for everyone, not just something my addled brain must utilize to prevent tossing emotional daggers to the hearts of those who've lost loved ones.

I've chatted with folks about insurance, although I'm far from an expert. I have a long way to go to be able to handily riff through the complexities of insurance and annuities without pausing to look through a manual to get the full story across. However, even with the limited (although very intense) knowledge I've attained in the past few weeks, I'm head and shoulders above the level of understanding most people have about their own insurance and needs. It's not just the truth about insurance but pretty much any industry. While I was in IT, I knew plenty of others in the IT industry who were more knowledgeable than I about many computer-based subjects. However, I was head and shoulders above most normal people. The more you study, the more you immerse yourself, the better an expert you can be in whatever you choose to do professionally. Honestly, anyone can do this with most any profession. There aren't a lot who have the patience or perseverance, which is why so many quit before they reach the point where they're good enough to make a living and even excel at it.

After two weeks of studying and testing to get a license, and another two weeks of on-the-job training with what I consider some of the top experts in my field, I'm feeling fairly confident that I can do this. I'm about to enter three intensive days of training, but I'm already chomping at the bit to go out there on my own and make some solo sales. Of course, I realize I'm not really quite ready, but I'm fooling myself into thinking I am. I need to take a breath, put my nose into the books (in this case forms and instructions), and continue to partner with the best agents around to complete my internship. I won't lie. It's hard to hold back. I'm a natural at talking to people and finding out what they need. But I need to be more than a natural. I need to be an expert so I can guide them there with the best knowledge and offer them the best options. They're my clients and I care about them. So, I need to do my best to study and excel so I can offer them the best service and products.

When you think about it, isn't this a mirror of what the best in all professional fields do? Don't just give it a passing effort. Really dig in and study up on your job, Become an expert in your field so you can do the best job possible. That's the best way to succeed and the best way to be a fully contributing member of society. IMHO.

I truly believe I've done this with my novel writing. I think my scripts are up to snuff as well, but I've learned that all the hard work in writing can't equal success. You have to become an expert in so many different professions to truly excel at being an author. I'm still getting the hang of marketing. The hardest thing about it is, there are a lot of theories and suggestions, but no one has a textbook or solid list of instructions telling you how to get your book out there. It's tough. I hope all the aspiring writers out there realize that the first part of being a successful author is excelling at the craft of writing. The second piece is excelling at marketing and promotion. I'm not giving up on that target, but I find it interesting that it's been easier to become an insurance agent than it has to be a successful author. I'll be at it for a year or two before I feel I've really nailed it down, but I've been writing for over a decade and success is still just out of reach.

It's been a sobering realization about how tough some professions can be when they don't seem to be that complicated on the surface. I hope some of you can get some inspiration from both my flawed execution and my perseverance in the face of professional adversity. Keep trying and stick with it folks! Oh, and try to keep your pants on while you're thinking about dragons.

All the best,

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