Reflections on a Hall of Fame Career (How did I get here?)

 

“I never thought I’d be in the Hall Of Fame. A kid from the hill.”

—Yogi Berra

I’m writing this article a week after the event, my induction into the Aflac/West Territory Hall Of Fame.

I was inclined to write some thoughts down about that evening right away—when I got home the next day—but my heart advised me to wait a week so that I could sift through the thoughts and emotions that lingered. I’m glad I did because I’ll be able to extract a deeper meaning of an honor such as this.

The call came to me from Adam Michaels. Adam was the guy who followed me into the position with Aflac that I vacated in January of 2009. He performed well (as I knew he would—he’s 100% bankable) and he was recently promoted to the Territory Director position for Aflac in the Western U.S. (Aflac is the company with the Duck that I joined in 1987 and retired from at the end of 2008) The call was brief, but Adam expressed his desire to have me become the first inductee into the H.O.F. for the Aflac/West Territory. His opinion was that no other person would qualify as a better “first-dude” to “go in” and he seemed not to like the fact that it hadn’t been done sooner. (He’s a classy guy)

Joe Buzzello.HOF

So the date and time of the induction was set. It would happen at a hub meeting at the Hilton/LAX for over 450 sales coordinators, many of whom I know, some of whom I still talk to on a regular basis and some newer folks I’ve never met. So with my wife, daughter and big sister in tow I sat at a table in the crowd and tried to soak it all in—enjoy it.

“Tried” is the operative word.

Honestly, this kind of thing is not my most favorite kind of thing any more. Processing the adulation, praise, kind words and heartfelt “thanks” isn’t necessarily easy for me based on where I’m at in my life. When I was younger—WAY younger—I couldn’t get enough praise and recognition. I thrived on it and even needed it to continue to perform at all. (See my novel – Drawing Circles for a better understanding of this)

But I’m 55 years old now.

I think I know who I am and what I’ve accomplished…I don’t need people patting me on the back and telling me I’m great. I don’t need a long introduction. Just get me up on stage and let ME thank a few people and maybe even do a little teaching. But there was going to be a steady stream of people that approached me to ask for a photo, ask if I’d sign one of my books for them or just tell me that my mentorship had touched them or my training content had reached them in some way. And this began before dinner and that’s when it hit me—my first reflection of the evening…

…I love this!

In some ways I even needed it.

You see, I have been out of the game for a few years, sitting on the sidelines writing and speaking and coaching, but not actually IN the game. And because I have been out of the game for a few years, my handle on what I did, what I built, who I touched, it faded with each passing year. And the recognition—I’m a mature man. I don’t need it. But I do.

Because that’s the human condition.

It’s especially the condition of us humans that sell things on commission and try to get others to do the same. (There’s no lonelier job) We NEED to be reinforced. We NEED to be told that we are doing (or did) something great. It’s the fuel that we NEED to be able to get out of bed each morning and face tough prospects. We NEED this fuel to survive and thrive.

And boy…did I get my tank filled last week.

It began with a full-blown comedy routine courtesy of Dan Bredeson and Rich Kunz. These are two guys that call me a “mentor”, but I assure you that they are smarter and more talented than me. I’m glad they chose comedy as a way to introduce me (with a few heartfelt and vey kind words added) because I would have been a blithering idiot if they chose the serious route. Then they brought me up on stage, the lights went down and there was a ren minute video tribute—a montage of acknowledgments—from some of the people that were with me and around me for that great and long career with Aflac. (Even Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters shouted out, “Joe B. Sucks!) The testimonies were both sweet and irreverent, and I wouldn’t have chosen it to be any other way.

Then Adam handed me the Hall Of Fame award, a piece of glass so heavy and sharp that it could be listed as a WMD. And then it was just me on stage, alone with my words of thanks for the great team that made the award possible for me to accept. And I hope I did a good job of expressing how much it really meant to Beth and myself.

I mentioned in my talk that night that Beth had received a clean PET Scan that morning. Beth has been living (well) with breast cancer for five years and although she is taking medication and regularly having tests, you wouldn’t know she still has a spot on her rib and has to deal with all of that crap because she doesn’t complain…not one word. I became emotional when I spoke of Beth’s test results because that issue was FAR more important to me than my H.O.F award. I also became emotional when I spoke of Jimmy Hill and especially Bill Krzciok. Jimmy and Bill were mentors that were so critical to my success and I still haven’t quite gotten over the loss of my good friend, Bill K, who passed on last year. Read about Bill Krzciok here

So, in addition to my reflection about recognition—we all need a little once in a while to re-fuel our tanks—my emotions swelling up about Beth’s fight with breast cancer and the loss of a mentor tell me that there are things more important than just production numbers, leading indicators and metrics.  I think I did a good job of thanking people and doing a little teaching while up on stage for that brief time. After I walked off stage there were more pats on the back and people saying, “Thank you!” It seemed much easier to accept and enjoy the adulation as the night went on. I grew a bit more comfortable in knowing that I was receiving fuel and passing some of that fuel on.

And I guess that is another important reflection from my H.O.F. evening.

It’s our job to uplift each other—make each other better.

Aflac’s sales slogan this year is “We’re BETTER TOGETHER!” and I believe they got that right. Just as my mentors gave me fuel, Jimmy, Bill K., Joe K. Lynn Barnson and Tracey Keiser (and more recently, Adam Michaels, Todd Mason and Shawn Smith) I’ve taken the time to re-fuel others…make them better. I even had several very sweet people tell me that is was their goal to emulate the way we built our legacy team—stopping to make sure nobody doing the work was left behind.

This is a HUGE thing to me because that means people are hearing the message…the PAY IT FORWARD thing. You didn’t get to where you’re at alone—all by yourself. You had help…why not take the time to help someone else? My favorite little comment on Facebook was from a dude named, Sergio. (I Love this guy!) He was at the H.O.F. evening and this is part of what he had to say on Facebook:

“Joe B., you inspire me and make me want to achieve that kind of legacy in my lifetime!”

So Sergio is already focusing on what he’s going to leave behind—the long term, his LEGACY. He’s thinking about how the people he coaches (and his chosen organization) will look like (and function like) when he’s retired. Sergio is focusing on the BIG things and the details of how that all gets done will take care of itself. My guess is that he’s placing one foot in front of the other each day and trying to DO the best and BE the best for his people.

And I guess that this leads me to my last—and probably most impactful—reflection from that evening and from my career.

As I sat there last week soaking it all in, the lyrics from the Talking Heads song, Once in a Lifetime came to mind.

And you may find yourself

Behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house

With a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, well

How did I get here?

I often ask myself that.

I have far more than I need in life and a lot more than most people would have thought I’d wind up with. I wish you could’ve seen me when I began my sales career at age 18. I was a MESS! I was certainly near the top of everybody’s “Least Likely to Succeed” list.

But here’s the thing, I didn’t begin my commission sales career with the proclamation, “Joe B. will become a multi-millionaire in sales and business, own property and entities, lead and mentor others, write Amazon best-selling books have a wonderful family and become recognized in corporate Halls of Fame.”

No way. Not even close.

My proclamation was more like; “Joe B. has to have a good production week so he can pay a few bills.” So, how did I get here? Simple. I was very big on keeping it simple and I adhered to the following practices, just to name a few:

  • I got OUT of bed and into the field every morning!
  • Constant Activity—I never stopped moving
  • I Failed Forward—I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes
  • I became a Lifetime Learner—a voracious reader and listener
  • Letting the past GO became a hard-fought practice of mine
  • I would look to the future—but stay in the PRESENT
  • We had a great Sense of Humor about things

There was no magic bullet. I put one foot in front of another every day until 20, 30, 35+ years ticked off the clock. Somewhere in there my wife (our bean counter) said, “Hey we don’t have to work so hard anymore if you want to slow down and smell some roses.”

And at some point I did decide to do that…slow down a little.

And now when I look at the tangible and intangible things I and WE have accomplished, I am amazed. Like I said…we have far more than we need and I have a lot more than most people thought I’d wind up with.

So…

Those are a few reflections a week after a company of very kind people inducted me into their Hall Of Fame. Yogi’s quote at the top of this article says it all for me and I can also say:

“I never thought I’d be in anybody’s Hall Of Fame. I was just a lower middle class kid from the San Fernando Valley.”

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 Joe Buzzello is a nationally recognized expert on direct selling and sales leadership. He has built legacy sales teams and experienced unprecedented success in individual and business-to-business markets as well as the network marketing industry. Joe has held executive level positions for Fortune 500 companies, but he has never strayed far from the art and science of selling, which he loves. In early 2014, Joe began writing, speaking, and coaching through his proprietary platform, The CAP Equation©. Please visit Joe at: http://www.CAPequation.com

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18 comments on “Reflections on a Hall of Fame Career (How did I get here?)”

  1. Dennis Hartin

    Wells said Joe and certainly well deserved! Congrats on your success and Beth’s clear scan as well.

    • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

      Dennis, thanks so much for shouting out. And…THANKS for your video congrats! So cool of you to take the time to do that. The video montage was phenomenal! I will catch up with you in August, buddy!

      • Kathie Leininger

        Joe it was wonderful reading your blog. You have truly inspired me to be a better leader. You have such a big heart and care so much about people. My team has been growing like crazy with my agents recruiting people to our team. I have been thinking about what you said at the Hall of Fame dinner about CITI. I think that that is what’s happening in my team. I have been connecting on a “heart” basis with each agent, investing in them and in turn they have trusted me and I can influence them. However, I do need to get back to your classes as there is so much more I need to learn from you and also I need some one on one coaching in specific areas.

        • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

          Kathie, Kudos to you for the work that you have done! When the student is ready the teacher appears! You are so easy to coach because you take action. Also, thanks for your kind words. Let’s stay at it the rest of the year and schedule those one on ones!

  2. Wendy Derovan

    Hi Joe- I really appreciated this blog from you as I wasn’t able to be there for the award ceremony, and you made me feel like I was right there. My Aflac life began with you, and I honestly couldn’t imagine that one day you would no longer be our SSC, for whatever reason. I learned so my from my time at AFLAC while you were there, and I have passed a lot of that on to others, including my children. You created an organization that encouraged us all to perform at our highest levels, to help each other and build the brand and the company, and most of all to take care of our clients. Money was just the natural outcome of those efforts. As you know, AFLAC has enabled Norman and I to live our dream in our move to Israel. And though I still come in to do AFLAC work, it’s certainly not at the pace that I used to. I miss the old AFLAC, and that is always tied up with you and the culture that we all enjoyed back then. As I used to say to my recruits-AFLAC is an opportunity to make a great living and to do good in the world.
    I didn’t know about Beth having a spot- I thought that she was totally cancer free. She will be in our prayers, and you know that from Jerusalem, those prayers are a “local” call. We look forward to hearing good news from her!
    Arizona??? Also can’t imagine you leaving the compound, but I imagine that you found a nice compound in Scottsdale. Wishing you and your family good health, happiness and a happy settling in to Arizona.
    Thanks for everything! Wendy Derovan

    • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

      Wendy, you are so sweet and your comments put a big smile on my face. We had a very special legacy team and you were a HUGE part of it! So happy to hear that you and Norm are continuing to live the life you want to. Beth is in good health…but, yes…one darn spot! So, prayers…MORE than welcome from the Holy Land. Continued health and happiness to your family, Wendy.

  3. Bill Mandel

    Joe B, you have an incredible knack for inspiring others at the same time as bringing tears to their eyes. I am very glad first and foremost for the great medical report for Beth, and I will continue to hold her in my prayers for continued good health. Although probably every one of those 450 in the room that night have told you how much you meant to them, ( or continue to mean to those who you dont personally know but have read your CAP book), I can tell you that you have had a tremendous impact on my life, and I treasure your friendship. You will be missed, and one thing I can say definitively is Joe B Does Not Suck!!! So as Roy Rodgers said, Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

    • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

      Bill, you are so sweet to say those things and your words made me smile. Yes…the PET scan was, BY FAR, the best news last week and your prayers are so appreciated. You are a good man and I also value knowing you. Yes…happy trails…full of cactus! LOL!

  4. Tarek T Arek

    Hello Joe, you do not know me, in all honesty I only know of you. I have read your book The CAP Equation and have taken much of it to heart. I love reading your writings because though you have great success and massive credentials you are genuinely humble. It is a characteristic I admire. I am in my ramp up period, just contracted under Tim Martin’s team in the Phoenix area. He speaks highly of you as well and is a very nice guy. Apparently you know him too, his acknowledgement is on the back of the book. I just wanted to say a few kind words about how your book and your blogs inspire me to be better than I was yesterday and look to be amazing in the future, one step at a time. It is truly my pleasure. My name is Tarek T Arek. I hope someday I may have the pleasure to shake your hand. Thank you.

    • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

      Tarek, WOW! It’s always so heartwarming to know how my work touches people’s career. When you put words down on paper, sometimes you don’t think anyone will read them or even care. I know that sounds funny, but every author deals with that strange emotion. Thanks so much for shouting-out. It is great to hear from you, and yes…we will meet one day!

  5. Gloria Beoto

    Hi Joe just wanted to say congratulations this could not happen to a better guy
    like I said before the first day I met you you’re wearing and Elvis Presley costume you rocked it then and you’re still rocking it now and I’m sure you’ll rock it in years to come because that’s the kind of guy you are . Joe B you do not Suck. God Bless you on your next Journey. I sure it will be one for the books

    • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

      Gloria, you are so sweet! Thanks so much for the shout-out. Yes…this next part of the journey is going to be a blast!

  6. Kristen Brunzell

    Joe, you are a true inspiration, amazing mentor and someone I talk about regularly with my District Team. It was a joy and honor to be there and watch you be inducted in the Aflac West Territory HOF! Congrats and I continue to look forward to great things! Cheers!

    • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

      Kristen, Wow…thanks so much. I don’t think we got to see each other at the event. 🙁 Thanks for always being so supportive. You rock!

  7. Jeff Hyman

    Congrats Joe and great news about Beth! Your HOF is well deserved for an Aflac Legend like you. You have touched so many lives along your journey and you have trained so many agents who have become successful in their own careers.

    I enjoy reading your blog and I always find something new that I can use in my own life.

    Take care and enjoy the moment!

    • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

      Jeff, thanks so much for your kind words. It was a great honor, one that I share with so many people. Thanks for being so supportive of this work that I love so much. You are a good man.

  8. Lynette Stevens

    Great words from a very inspirational person. Thanks for all you do for those in the field, Joe! Congrats on your award!! Well deserved!

    • jbuzzello@buzzellogroup.com

      Thanks, Lynette! I accept the honor for that great team.

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