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