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The Sporting Advisor

Athletic competition can help advisors cope with daily wins and losses.

By Alexander J. Scholp, CLU

What a great life. What a great career. How often have you listed all the benefits and advantages of being in the insurance and financial services industry? Hopefully, every once in a while, when you lose a big case or a client jumps ship, you stop and count your blessings.

The ability to get back up, shake it off and move forward allows for continued success.

Do you ever fantasize about a different career? I do. Before I entered the life insurance business over 30 years ago, my chosen calling would have been as a professional athlete. Imagine being paid to play basketball six months out of the year—or football, or golf. Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify. Physically, I just wasn’t that good. I didn’t have the professional training and instructions; I probably didn’t have the ability; and I wasn’t one of the tallest, strongest or fastest people in the world. In other words, I wasn’t gifted with the physical abnormalities some of the greatest players have.

LeBron James, for instance, is 18 years old and was the top NBA draft-pick chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is 6 feet 8 inches tall, weighs about 240 pounds and plays point guard. I’m thrilled you cannot see what I looked like at 18. In his first NBA game, James scored 25 points, made nine assists, six rebounds and four steals. When I played basketball, I wasn’t that good.

Even though I could never compete with James on the court, I have had a long career in amateur athletics, a career that has helped me throughout my professional life. As a young pro, I made a proposal to an orphan policyholder that I thought would convert him to an active client. Instead, he took the recommendation to another agent—who also happened to be his friend—and this agent sold him on a different idea.

Like a discouraged rookie, I took this incident to a veteran agent who picked me up off the turf, dusted off my uniform and sent me back into the game with some sound professional advice. I took this advice to heart and was able to win back the client after all. My experience in amateur athletics helped me stay in the game, accept a temporary setback, compete and eventually win.

If not basketball, then …
But I still often daydream about life as a professional athlete. So how about football? Well, the size and strength necessary to play in the NFL are even more critical in football than in basketball. Even if you are big enough and fast enough to play in the NFL, who would want to? The injuries are disabling and permanent. Besides, I don’t like pain very much.

How about golf? That doesn’t take size and strength. Tiger Woods looks pretty normal, but what we don’t see are his invisible traits—his mental strength and concentration, combined with his hand-eye coordination. But, as unbelievable as Woods is, Vijay Singh was the PGA’s top money winner in 2003. He won more than $7.5 million last year—a $900,000 lead over Woods. How good can one be? For me, sad to say, golf was, and still is, out of the picture.

The value of competition
Being an amateur athlete, however, has enabled me to appreciate the lifetime benefits of staying in shape, understand the advantages of competition and accept defeat along with victory. The constant exposure to rejection and refusal—experienced not only in the field of insurance and financial services and sales, but in life in general—is better handled if one has a background in sports. The ability to get back up, shake it off and move forward allows for continued success. Maybe that’s a gift, too. Who knows? Maybe those super-successful advisors are gifted in the way some athletes are.

I needed a career that placed more emphasis on brains than brawn, or maybe it’s more persistence than anything else. All I know is that I would never want to be remembered for saying during an interview what former NFL quarterback Joe Theisman once said: “Nobody in football should be called a genius. Football players are not like Norman Einstein.”

You tell ’em, Joe!

Alexander J. Scholp, CLU, is a member of Dayton AIFA (Ohio). Address comments to him at 2090 State Route 725, Spring Valley, OH 45307.


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