All my life, I've been a dreamer.
Childhood was a time of questions, quandaries and dreams. As one of three daughters, our parents taught us, "no dream is impossible."
Those four words are so simple, so powerful and so true.
In today's world, most of us dream. However, too many of us are afraid to pursue our dreams. The greatest dream destroyers? Fear and inactivity. How can a dream come true, without taking continual actions?
Throughout my life, I've been blessed to meet and learn from people, whose dreams have shaped the world. Elizabeth Taylor dreamed of a world without discrimination, a world free of HIV/AIDS. And Elizabeth went to work. In her lifetime, HIV/AIDS became a manageable health issue, instead of a death sentence. Today, many in the science community believe Elizabeth's dream will happen in our lifetime. The advances in treatment are affecting people all over the globe.
Steve Jobs. Walt Disney. Rosa Parks. People with powerful visions of the future changed the way we live today. Without dreamers taking action, what would happen to our world?
What are your dreams? How will you make them happen? How will you protect them?
People who dream without a plan are hopeful and filled with imagination. Sadly, imagination without implementation is a hallucination. We must grasp our dreams and meld them with passion and focused activity.
One of my first dreams was to be self-employed. At nine, my first design job was selling painted rocks from a wagon. My sister, Mary, is a gifted artist, who sold her rocks for a dime. My rocks were just a nickel. At that affordable price, customers were buying and business was successful.
Design work kept me self-employed while waiting for my next dream to come true. I wanted my own paper route. The newspaper in our community required you to be at least 11 for such responsibility. How would the dream of a paper route enhance the dream of becoming a designer? The goal was to design and market clothing accessories at craft shows on the beach, while selling newspapers to save for college. Having a design degree was an early dream.
Just after turning 11, my dad saw an ad in the newspaper that read, "newspaper carrier wanted... are you the boy for the job?." Dad knew what kind of reaction the ad would have on his daughter's dream. After writing a letter to the editor explaining how a girl could do the job as well as any boy, it worked.
The first delivery was New Year's Day. The papers were extra thick. The young girl wondered, where was her dream amidst piles of newspapers? The dream did not include grumpy customers who wouldn't pay, a sexist customer who said girls should never deliver newspapers, and a girl, doing that job, would never last.
I didn't let that man see me cry. Dad said, "If you believe in your dream, you'll under-promise and over-deliver. If your customer expects the newspaper on their driveway, put it on the front porch."
It was great advice for newspapers and great advice for making a dream come true.
Our city had its first female newspaper carrier, and she became carrier of the year for each of the years she held the route. Whenever Warren Buffet and I speak, we always share stories about our paper routes and early customers.
My college dream of a design degree was deferred by an unexpected adventure in the fashion industry. The gawky, awkward paper carrier accidentally became a model. In a way, that modeling career offered a terrific education and tremendous doses of daily rejection. "Too tall." "Terrible hair." "Too fat." "Bad skin." "One eyebrow?"
It was endless and very helpful. Rejection made me stronger, and it can do the same thing for you.
What happened to college? Well, I'm still dreaming. And while I've been dreaming, two wonderful institutions of higher education have honored me with degrees.
Today, when people tell me "no," my reaction is - at least we're talking. As CEO and Chief Designer of our design and marketing firm, kathy ireland Worldwide, we hear the word "no" every day.
Every dreamer will be told their dreams are not possible. Please don't believe that. If you think you can do something, you're probably right. If you think you can't do something, you're probably right.
So many dreamers know what needs to be done, and procrastinate about doing the very thing that will make their dreams come true. When we lack a certain skill, what are we doing to acquire it? In this internet age, social media, our laptops and cell phones are miraculous fountains of knowledge, leveling the playing field for dreamers all around the world.
Your dreams are out there. Please, go and get them.
Editor's note: American Family has teamed up with kathy ireland World Wide to inspire people to dream and help provide them with the tools to pursue and protect their dreams at the 2013 Dream Camp. The contest encourages anyone with a dream to fulfill in 2013 to share it online with fellow dreamers, add a photo or video, and drum up votes via social media and email to get nominated as one of America's top 100 dreamers.
A panel of judges, including Kathy Ireland, will select the top three dreamers from the 100 highest vote totals. Prizes include an all-expense-paid trip to Madison, Wis., March 13-16 to attend 2013 Dream Camp. The three winners will also receive $10,000 each toward their dreams.
Enter the 2013 Dream Camp contest - or vote for your favorite entries - on the American Family Insurance YouTube channel.
From the moment I heard about American Family's Dreams Protected advertising campaign, I loved it. I thought the messaging was powerful, and really represents what we do as a mutual insurance company. Your dream is out there. Go get it. We’ll protect it.
Personally though, I had a kind of mental “argh?!?” moment when we asked employees to think about their own dreams. I came up with “I want to raise my children to be happy, successful adults.” It’s true, and rather noble. But it’s not really about me.
I went into this existential mini-crisis – liberal arts majors do these things. Do I still have dreams? I had them in my 20s and early 30s. I wanted to go to graduate school and advance my career (check). I wanted to buy a house (check). I wanted to complete a sprint triathlon (check – four times!).
When Dreams Protected launched, it amplified that question for me – Do I have dreams? I’ve never been content to rest on my laurels, so what’s next?
With some introspection and the help of Google, I realized the answer is a resounding YES.
“Goals are dreams with deadlines,” is a quote widely repurposed and attributed to author Diana Scharf Hunt. I came across it many times when I did a Google search on “what’s the difference between dreams and goals.”
And when I read that, everything clicked. My mind raced like a set of falling Dominos. I realized everything I’m doing in the present, all the big and little goals – decisions and actions – are setting me up to reach my dreams.
Some of my dreams are silly and sporty. I want to sing the national anthem at Miller Park (before a game, not just standing by myself in the walkway). I want to attend a Wisconsin football game at every Big 10 stadium (six down, six to go). I want to visit every state park in Wisconsin (13 down, 46 to go).
Some of my dreams are long-term. I want to be young and healthy when I retire, so I can travel with my husband. So I make contributing to my 401K a priority, forgoing some immediate rewards with an eye on that long-term dream.
And even though I’m refocusing on dreams for myself, I do dream big for my children, focused on seeing them become happy, successful adults. So along the way, I talk to them about loving, healthy relationships. I teach them to cook. I praise their schoolwork. I talk to them about setting a budget and shopping during sales.
As we ring in a new year, I hope you’re thinking about your dreams, whether silly and small or big and audacious, and the goals you’ll set along the way to reach them.
Alarm goes off at 7 a.m. Then after a couple of snoozes it’s time to get up, get my son dressed, make his breakfast, get his teeth brushed and toys picked out to take to school. Then out the door by 8 a.m.
After taking him to school, I do some laundry, get dinner prepared for my two guys and myself for the evening, tidy up and clean house, get ready for work, then head to the office by 1:30 p.m. I’m greeted by about 40 e-mails and three voice mails from the day before.
Work ends at 12:05 a.m. I drive home, finish laundry, try to wind down to go to bed, just to get up and start all over again!
Sure, you might call that a stressful day. But, I’m not alone. It got me to thinking, what if more of us shared the ways we all manage stress? Maybe we can help one another.
Here are some simple, yet effective things I try to do to better balance stress in my life.
- Manage time efficiently. Reorganize simple household tasks to save time, such as running errands in batches, or doing a load of laundry every day instead of leaving it all for our day(s) off. Create a weekly family calendar and write out the weeks activities ahead of time. So, if on Wednesday we see that John has a basketball game out of town and it’s a late night that we could plan on something simple for dinner or possibly make it leftovers night.
- Create support teams. Find trusted friends and family who can help with child care or household chores when we work late or travel for work.
- A healthier outlook. Eat foods high in antioxidants like blueberries or whole grain cereals to help regulate our moods. Exercise: Walk on breaks, take the stairs, park further away from building entrances. Schedule time to do something you enjoy like reading, writing, etc.
- Personalize your work space. Decorate it with family pictures and personal belongings so you feel more at home. This has been shown to increase productivity.
- Sign up for workplace programs. Participating in these events with co-workers can promote workplace unity, making the office a little less stressful.
- Take mental health days. Use personal time or vacation and take a day for yourself.
- Search for the positives. Learn to appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t.
Eliminating stress makes our lives less complicated and also improves our moods, making us easier people to be around. This will benefit our friends, family, and co-workers.
Editor’s note: How do you manage stress – especially during the holidays? Share your ideas with our community by leaving a comment.
Contrary to what many of my fellow agents think, I have not been with American Family for its entire 85 years!
I have, however, been here for more than half that time and American Family Insurance has been part of my family even longer than that.
My father, Earl, started as a Farmers Mutual agent in 1956. At that time, agents were required to have an office in their home, so I got to see how things worked up close. Needless to say, things were done differently back then. For one, sales were made and premiums collected in the customer’s home – a far cry from the billing system we have today.
In 1963, the company changed its name to American Family, and soon after that, I started as a part-time agent. I also was working as a salesman at Leed’s Shoe Store in Topeka, Kan., and I have to admit, I was a poor part-time agent.
In 1967, my National Guard unit was activated, and I was up for active duty in Vietnam. Thankfully, I never had to go, but I spent two years at Fort Carson, Colo. The last six months I spent with Project Transition and worked at a different insurance company in Colorado Springs. That agent showed me a different way of running an agency, and in June of 1969, when I was discharged from the Army, I opened my own American Family office.
I was following in my father’s footsteps; however, I wanted to do better. He had a great work ethic, but I knew there had to be easier ways to build a large business and still have fun and a strong work-life balance.
There have been countless changes through the years, and of course, that can be difficult. Around 1983, the company introduced the Wang computer system. It was supposed to solve all the problems of writing insurance and make our offices paperless. That’s when my father decided it was time to retire, as he had no desire to learn a computer system!
But technology continues to make us stronger. Here’s a personal example:
The hailstorm of 1989 hit my office hard. We had more than 1,200 losses. At that time, CAT loss forms were five copies, with carbon paper between each sheet. When filling out the form you had to press very hard to make the information go through – and it took a long time! With our current system, the customer or agent calls the claim office, and it’s all computerized. The process is so much easier for everyone.
The future of our success, as I see it, will be how we stay ahead of what customers and prospects expect. It’s about continuing to look forward – while also learning from and celebrating our great past.
Happy birthday, American Family!
Editor’s note: Read more about American Family’s 85th anniversary from this Dream Protectors blog post by Chairman and CEO Jack Salzwedel.
Many people can’t wait until retirement. They count the days until they can finally ignore their alarm clock and spend their waking hours pursuing personal passions.
It’s the rare individual who sees the traditional retirement years as an opportunity to stay employed, fulfilling their dreams on the job.
Arleen is one of these rare individuals. After 30-plus years of service to the American Family Claims Division, she only recently called it quits. She’s almost 82 years old!
As her supervisor these past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Arleen quite well and saw how work was an extension of her family.
Arleen loved the people with whom she shared her days. She added richly to their lives, and was quick with a story about her adventures up north or a recap of the latest Packers game.
She never complained about anything. In fact, a few years back she broke her leg and ankle in a fall. After taking a few months off to heal, she was back on the job, picking up right where she left off.
Arleen was also a quick study, never hesitating to learn new technology or take on increasing responsibility.
She’s a wonderful lesson to us all about the importance of staying busy at the things we enjoy, and making a positive impact on those around us.
We wish you a wonderful retirement, Arleen. You’ve earned it many times over.