I have been battling my weight my entire life. I have been the “fat kid” since fourth grade. I did not participate in sports or exercise. I watched from the sidelines.
Diagnosed with high cholesterol in college, I was put on cholesterol-lowering medication, and later another prescription for heartburn. I was also diagnosed with sleep apnea, as I stopped breathing an average of 38 times every hour. I had to wear a CPAP machine mask at night just to keep me alive and breathing until morning.
In March 2012 that all changed.
One night while walking our dog, I decided to jog instead of walk. I jogged at a very slow pace for about 100 yards, stopped to catch my breath, and walked for a bit. Something changed in me at that moment. A voice in my head said, “This is enough!” It was time for me to take control of my life and set a better example for my family.
Later that week my wife and I signed up for our first 5k in June 2012. After training for three months, we both finished the race. I finished two seconds under 30 minutes. This was my first time running 3.1 miles all at one time. I was hooked! That same afternoon I signed up for another race in July, this time a five-mile one. On one of the hottest days of 2012, I ran five miles in 52 minutes! Next was a 15k relay with two friends in October. I ran my leg at my personal best time. After months of training I was ready for my next challenge, a half-marathon. In Nov. 2012, I completed a 13.1-mile run in two hours and 25 minutes! This June I will run in a six-team, 200-mile relay race from Madison to Chicago, called the Ragnar Relay.
After six months of watching my diet, running and doing other exercise (and setting a better example for my children), I’ve lost 60 pounds and 23 inches. I no longer need to take cholesterol-lowering or heartburn medication. I recently had my sleep apnea problem checked and the occurrences have dropped from 31 to 1.1 per hour. A rate of occurrence for an average person is three times per hour. I will be re-evaluated in June, and I know I am on the way to never needing that CPAP machine again.
What have I gained from this experience? I gained the ability to dream again. My father passed away well before his time and never had the chance to meet my children, his grandchildren. I have made choices in my life during this past year to ensure I will continue to set a good, healthy example for my kids and live long enough to meet my grandchildren – and beyond.
All it took was making a choice between living in an unhealthy way or taking control of my life and my dreams. Today, I really live life instead of just existing.
Have you made the choice to live a healthy life? What do you do?
In the fall of my freshman year of high school, I’d just gotten my temporary driver’s license. My father and I were meeting with our insurance agent to complete my life insurance application at our kitchen counter.
As I matured into adulthood, I carried that strong belief in life insurance my father instilled in me. My life’s road has brought me a great husband, two wonderful daughters, and a large extended family.
Longevity runs in my husband's family. His grandfather and great aunts lived to be almost 100. In October 2002, it came as a huge shock when my brother-in-law, Scott, 42, was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. He passed away in eight weeks.
Thankfully, Scott had life insurance to provide for his wife and two daughters, ages 12 and 15. He had a whole life policy purchased by his parents when he was a youth and a Universal Life (UL) policy he bought as an adult. He also had life insurance through his employer.
There was money for his funeral and burial expenses, enough to pay off the home mortgage, funds to continue health insurance coverage for the family, and money to be set aside for his wife and daughters’ future financial needs. The family could also pay for the unexpected expenses that crept up in the month or two after Scott’s death – the home needed a new furnace, plumbing needed repairs and the car died. Thank goodness he had life insurance that was able to ease the burden on his wife during this time of great loss.
The world doesn’t stop turning when you lose a loved one. A family must continue. In May 2005, we lost my 21-year old nephew in a car accident. Yes, Zach did have a whole life insurance policy his parents had taken out on him when he was a small child. The reasoning was to have money available for final expenses. They used the proceeds for this purpose, and his family used the leftover money for charitable activities in the community, which helped them in the healing process. The last of the money was spent this summer with the donation of playground equipment.
With my father’s passing in February 2010, his Universal Life policy covered his funeral expenses and provided for my mother to move from the old farmhouse to a more accessible home in town.
For whatever reason, my professional road led me to American Family in September 1997 as agent assistant for Herm Leitz (Ripon, Wis.). I have been life-licensed since 1998. What a privilege it is to work for a company that cares for and protects our families in their time of need. Life insurance isn’t just about money – it’s about security, peace of mind and healing to move forward.
Remember, the world does keep turning even though you feel it has stopped. Don’t wait for your world to stop to realize your family isn’t adequately provided for by life insurance.
Editor's note: Learn about the importance of life insurance on our website. You can also watch a video series about different kinds of life insurance products on the American Family Insurance YouTube channel.
I recently took my family to see the movie “Lincoln.” It’s an amazing film about our 16th president, which has been nominated or already won several awards. You get an incredible glimpse into one of the most important and tragic times in our country’s history.
More importantly, the film – and the trip we took to our local theater – allowed for a welcome escape from the everyday activities of work, school, sports, church and more.
Films are themselves a very American experience, and so is the modern-day movie theatre visit. Even the very process by which we watch movies – the darkened room, the stadium seating, the oversized tub of popcorn, the giant screen – provides something we don’t normally experience in our day-to-day lives. (I’d love to eat movie-theatre popcorn every day, but my arteries wouldn’t.)
At the movies, we can live vicariously through characters of yesterday, today and tomorrow; real people or those completely ridiculous and fictional. They show us what it was like to live years or generations ago, or give us ideas for living our lives today.
I’m partial to films based on historic events, like “Lincoln”. But even if you’re a fan of romantic comedies, action flicks or science fiction films, there’s an escape from reality we can all appreciate. For a couple hours, we can put away the smart phone, get off the freeway and away from the office, and see life through the people portrayed in a good movie.
What films have provided you with a good escape lately? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Editor’s note: American Family Insurance powers the 2013 Kids Dream Winter Film Series, which is now showing at participating Marcus Theatres in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. You can get free tickets to these family-friendly films (which run Saturday and Sunday mornings through March 17, 2013) from participating American Family Insurance agents. Otherwise, the films are just $2 per person. Visit our website for more information and to find an agent near you.
Who do you know who might be interested in my product or service?
There’s no more tired a phrase than this in the business world for generating referrals. To my knowledge, it’s never worked effectively. If it ever did, it certainly doesn’t anymore.
When diagnosing the problems small business owners have in referral generation, it comes back to the same question, “How are you asking for referrals?” Invariably, the root cause is technique. The good news is the fix can be easy.
When you ask, “Who do you know?” you actually stack the deck against yourself. Pressure you feel as you ask the question is actually your sales instincts telling you you’re going about it the wrong way. Your instincts are correct, and here is what’s really going on below the surface:
- Asking such a broad question starts a carousel in the mind of your customer, with names and faces spinning around. Just like looking at a real carousel, it’s hard to focus on a single name or face long enough to decide if that person is a good prospect. Frustrated, your customer will simply answer, “I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head.”
- Asking “Who do you know?” is, in essence, a request for your customer to do your job for you. You’re asking him to pre-qualify your leads and have first-hand knowledge of the wants and needs of the person he refers. This can be overwhelming. You can actually lose customers this way.
- Consider the risk you’re asking your customer to take. Asking for a referral in this manner puts the customer in the position of endorsing you, a “salesperson”. No one likes getting sales calls; in fact, the last time I got one, I figured out who “referred” me and asked they never do it again. You may be asking your customer to put a valued friendship or business relationship on the line. No matter how good your product or service is, you aren’t worth that risk!
- Finally, beware any referral you do get with “Who do you know?” It’s likely they will be of low quality, such as people the customer doesn’t know personally, or worse; people he dislikes and wants to inconvenience. Save yourself the lost time and embarrassment.
What’s the right way to go about it? Interestingly enough, you already have the tools to do it. The same methods that made the sale can be used to get high-quality, low pressure referrals that your customer will gladly give – and they won’t even realize that they’re giving you a referral.
The secret? Walking the customer through the process so the referral becomes their idea – just like when you sold them on buying your product or service.
Here are the steps:
- Determine if your customer is satisfied with your product or service. “If an acquaintance of yours asked you about my product, would you recommend it to her?”
- Ask the customer about groups, clubs or organizations to which they belong in a low-pressure manner. “Do you belong to any organizations where you interact with other business owners like yourself?” He or she may answer with the name of a chamber of commerce or trade organization.
- Focus on the problem. “Does the subject of my product or service ever come up in conversation?” The answer will often include a first-hand account of such a conversation or discussion.
- Help the customer focus in a single individual. “The last time it did, with whom were you speaking?” The answer will be a specific person’s name or the names of several people that participated in the discussion.
- There it is; you have your referral. “Would you mind if I contacted her and mentioned her name had come up in our conversation?”
You may be saying “but that only gets you one referral!” My answer: I’d rather have one solid referral of this type than 10 “who do you know?” referrals.
Think about it. I have a prospect name, the referrer’s name, an organization that they have in common, and a specific conversation where my product or service was mentioned. And I didn’t pressure my customer or frustrate them in the process.
As a result, I can go back over and over again to ask for more referrals in the same manner. At the same time, I’m learning more about my customer and potentially uncovering new opportunities for my business through the affiliations that she has.
Editor’s note: Consider referring your small business peers to join our growing Business Accelerator community. By doing so now, you'll be eligible to win an Apple Store Gift Card for $450 (roughly the cost of an iPad®). For every referral, you'll receive an entry into our drawing. (See complete contest rules.) For more information about our no-cost Business Accelerator Program, visit our website.
I brought home a seven-week-old adorable golden retriever puppy about two and a half years ago, and began a volunteer opportunity that would forever change my life. Eli (shown in the photo here), who I named after the quarterback Eli Manning, was one of 11 puppies from a litter who would go on to be trained to live with, and assist, an individual in a wheelchair.
Helping Paws is an organization in Hopkins, Minn. It began 25 years ago and has trained and placed more than 400 dogs. Its mission is to further the independence of people with disabilities through the use of service dogs.
When I decided to pursue becoming a trainer, I was interviewed by Helping Paws and they told me training a future service dog would be a big commitment. I had no experience, but I was sure this was something I wanted to do. I attended classes with Eli at Helping Paws every week and worked with him every day for the next two and a half years.
During the time Eli was with me, he learned to open doors, turn light switches off and on, pick up things that were dropped and even take clothes out of the dryer! We learned how to do these things each week at class. He loved to work, and was always eager to please.
Once a service dog is placed with an individual, it goes everywhere with its new owner. It was important for Eli to start going everywhere with me as part of his training.
I approached American Family about bringing Eli to work with me, and it was agreed I could give it a try, although this was something that had never been done before. I had to go through a process with Human Resources and my manager, Penny Dietz. She and my work group were very supportive, and before long, Eli had become a beloved member of our subrogation department! He was happy to lie under my desk and pick up things I dropped – on purpose – for practice.
Eli has graduated and was placed in October with a man who was injured in a diving accident and attends the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis. They have formed a great bond and are doing really well. The practice Eli had lying under my desk he now uses at college.
One of the things I have learned in talking with people who get service dogs is how much they enhance their lives. Not only are they getting a new best friend but they also feel like they are once again visible in society. Many people have told me that before they had their service dog, people were afraid to approach them or talk to them. With a dog by their side, they were more approachable and felt like a part of society again.
I want to thank American Family for allowing Eli to come to work with me. It was a win-win situation on many levels and I hope others will consider this very rewarding volunteer experience.