Often, when I meet new people and tell them where I work, their response is to sing the iconic American Family Insurance jingle to me.
This happens all over the country.
If you’re one of those people who hums our jingle when you hear our name, you can thank Charles Ambrosavage.
Charles led marketing and sales promotion efforts at American Family Insurance for 35 years, retiring in 1983. In 1963, he led us through a name change, from Farmer’s Mutual Insurance to American Family Insurance.
As part of that change, he oversaw the creation of our iconic logo, jingle and tagline, “All your family’s protection under one roof,” which is the foundation for the tagline we still use today.
We lost a member of our American Family when Charlie passed away Jan. 5 at the age of 96. But he leaves behind a legacy intertwined with the history of American Family Insurance in a deep and abiding way.
A lot has changed since Charlie retired in the early 80s. We’re operating in more states. Websites and social media have changed how we interact with customers, and they with us. We’ve acquired new companies.
But the values embodied in that tagline and jingle, and what the logo represents – helping families protect their dreams – remains.
Editor's note: Funeral services for Charles Ambrosavage were Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, in Madison, Wis. Read his full obituary here.
Every year, millions of American’s make New Year’s resolutions. They range from the personal (lose weight, hit the gym or learn to dance) to the professional (start my own business, get a different job or be nicer to co-workers) and often involve family, friends and colleagues.
The problem is, by the end of the first month, many resolutions tend to get broken, or at best, severely bent.
For years I diligently made resolutions like everyone else. Some of them I’ve been able to keep while others fell by the wayside. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep the resolution about quitting smoking and have been smoke-free for more than three years.
I have to admit, though, I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. When a resolution gets broken, the person who made it tends to get angry with themselves that they couldn’t make it work. They beat themselves up and get depressed that they broke one of the resolutions they made hoping to make themselves a better person. I’ve even heard people say they are a failure because they couldn’t keep a simple New Year’s resolution.
Who needs that kind of aggravation?
To me, resolutions shouldn’t be something to stress about. Rather, they should be a way to practice a little self-reflection and identify ways we can be a better person, friend, family member or co-worker. I look at them as guidelines, not commandments.
So this year, my resolution for 2014 is to not make resolutions. Instead, I’m going to make “I’d like to” statements. As in, “I’d like to be more helpful to others.”
“I’d like to take on new projects at work.”
“I’d like to lose weight.”
Or, “I’d like to have more date nights with my wife.”
By looking at things as an “I’d like to,” I give myself a little wiggle room. If I have some junk food watching a movie with my wife, I won’t think of myself as a failure and feel guilty about it.
What about you? What would you like to do this year?
What is the one thing you want more than anything in life? Chances are, that “one thing” is the same thing for everyone – happiness. We want to be happy at work, at home, in our relationships, and so on.
But ever wonder why so many of us are sad or just not genuinely happy?
During a break from a sales class, I suggested to the trainer the company should really look into having personal development workshops for everyone. They can boost morale and ignite productivity. This is a question of how much the company wants to invest in the well-being of its lifeblood – its workforce.
Instead, we get refresher classes we’ve taken many times over, or contests with cash incentives only to produce very little good results. Worse yet, job security fears get instilled in people’s minds because of subpar performance.
These systems are flawed. The method of dangling the carrot may produce better results than instilling fear, but both can only produce superficial results.
These aren’t things we do just in the business world. The same is true in academics and home life – "get A's in school, find that right person, work hard, become successful, and you will be happy.” We have all learned and been taught this way. It’s time we did the reverse.
Be happy by being thankful. We can choose to be miserable at our jobs or because of our pay, or we can choose to be grateful for the privilege of working. There is so much power in realizing how fortunate we are for having jobs.
Be happy by looking for the good; don’t focus on the bad. How much we want to invest in the company? Are we with the company only when times are good, or are we willing to work through the bad and become part of the solution?
Be happy by getting good hormones flowing by starting your day with meditation and exercise – even if only for five minutes.
These are just some of the simple steps I take daily to reach my goal to be happy. It is only when I’m happy I think clearly and enhance my productivity.
Happiness fosters success in life, and not the other way around.
Life is too short to be unhappy. Happiness is a choice, and so is misery. Which one will you pick?
Today is a melancholy day for me. Yes, on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m grateful for so much – family, friends, faith, health, career – all the usual blessings we tend to reflect upon this time of year.
But Thanksgiving Day is different this year, and probably will be for years to come.
You see, since I met my wife nearly 20 years ago, I’ve spent most Thanksgivings with her family, usually at her aunt and uncle’s home in northeast Iowa. And each visit was made memorable by my wife’s grandfather, Mel.
I experienced Mel fully each Thanksgiving Day, usually through a barrage of questions and curiosity. That was his thing. The conversations helped Mel connect people through relationships he’d forged in life.
Despite his small stature and quiet presence, Mel built big things. From the ground up, he constructed the story-and-a-half house he shared with his wife of more than 60 years. Mel made his living with his hands, too, most notably as a carpenter and handyman for one of Dubuque, Iowa’s largest department stores.
Mel created with his heart, too, forging countless friendships that lasted decades, often through unselfish acts of kindness, like ringing bells for the Salvation Army, or volunteering at his local church.
His favorite questions started with, “Do you know so-and-so?” Or, “Have you ever met this person?” – Mel's sparkly blue eyes making him impossible to resist. It wasn’t that he was necessarily interested in my answers as much as he was in using my reactions to learn more about me – or anyone else he approached – during those November gatherings.
For an introvert like me, the conversations were uncomfortable at first. But after a few visits, it was old hat, and we would play the “do you know?” game, all the while getting to know each other better.
Sadly, Mel passed away in September after complications from a stroke. He was 91, and is dearly missed on this Thanksgiving Day by those who got to know him best.
I’ll miss those blue eyes, which would draw you into conversation and force your guard down.
I’ll miss trying to connect the people in our lives, and the opportunity to learn more about each other along the way.
I’ll miss visiting Mel, and spending time in his neat-as-a-pin home he built with his hands some 70 years ago. The house is still there – nestled among a sprawling university campus – but it’s not a home without Mel.
Yes, I’m thankful for the time I knew Mel and the conversations we had, but melancholy about having to spend today without his presence – and the opportunity to know him better.
Rest in peace, Grandpa Mel.
It didn’t matter what day of the week it was - that cozy little kitchen always smelled heavenly.
My grandma – or ‘Gram’ as I lovingly remember her, was always cooking when I came to visit her tiny house on Pacific Street. Some days she would be standing over the stove flipping fragrant cinnamon-spiced crepes (nicknamed “penny rolls”), and other times I’d find her cranking an apple peeler to make homemade applesauce – the waxy peels falling to the floor with a light ‘thunk’.
Gram had a wonderful way of captivating you with whatever project she was working on when you arrived. Greeting you with a hug so tight you could barely breathe, she would waste no time involving you in her latest endeavor.
“Go out to the garden and cut me some chives for the soup” she would say in her no-nonsense voice, handing me pair of scissors, and shooing me outdoors as soon as I set my suitcase down.
Gram taught me so many things over the years – but I’m most grateful for our time spent cooking together.
Besides sharing ways to make my own kitchen smell irresistible, she helped me discover the simple joy of creating something with your own two hands. And today, when I pull out recipe cards with her wobbly cursive handwriting, I’m grateful for the sweet memories that come flooding back with each line.
Thank you, Gram. I miss you.
What are your fondest memories of a special grandparent? What made them grand?
Editor's note: In the pursuit of dreams, take time to thank those who have helped you along the way. Each day during November, American Family Insurance will share ideas for showing appreciation for the people, things and events in our lives. We hope you use these 30 Days of Thanks as an opportunity to share your gratitude -- or even just take a few moments each day to reflect on everything good in your life. Visit us on Facebook during November for inspiration and ideas as we celebrate 30 Days of Thanks.