“When the legends die, the dreams end; there is no more greatness.”—Tecumseh
The Paths We Follow
Recently I have been reading about the history of Indiana and Ohio. In particular, I am studying the process by which the land was surveyed, divided into land parcels for purchase, and how the Native American traces, trails, and pathways became our modern-day roads and highways.
For thousands of years, herds of bison passed through the forests of Ohio and Indiana during their seasonal migrations. Thousands of buffalo, each weighing 1,000 pounds or more, made innumerable passes through the forest and created thoroughfares that were wide, pounded hard, and without question the easiest way to get through the dense forest. The indigenous peoples used these trails as conduits of trade, communication, hunting, war, diplomacy, and cultural interaction.
When surveyors and map makers were defining the Indiana and Ohio geography in the early 1800s in advance of the settlers, every Indian trail they drew was originally a bison trail.
In Southern Indiana the most prominent early line of travel was called the “Buffalo Trace.” It entered Indiana at the Falls of the Ohio River (modern day Louisville, KY) and progressed Northwesterly to Vincennes, IN.
“The buffalo was a large, heavy animal with a comparatively small foot. He could not cross low, swampy, marshy land, and being gregarious, he could not remain long in one place, for hundreds and sometimes thousands of them ranged together. Their pastures vanished rapidly, and they had to move frequently. Their small feet and heavy bodies necessitated their roads followed the highlands–indeed the ridges, or watersheds…. He was a good civil engineer and pathfinder. In fact, he found the road and man followed in his footsteps.”1
As time marched on, the bison disappeared. The death of the last documented bison in Ohio took place in 1802. Meanwhile, many Native American routes evolved to became bridle paths, wagon roads, paved roads, and even highways, some of which survive today, at least in part, along their original courses.
In 1914, an archaeologist named William C. Mills, published a work entitled Archeological Atlas of Ohio. In this book he wrote, “The importance of the aboriginal trails of Ohio to the settlement and development of the state, can hardly be overestimated.”2
Many American Indian trails and traces crisscrossed the landscape prior to the arrival of European settlers. One such North-South path passed directly through the heart of what is now the city of Columbus, Ohio. What is now known as U.S. Route 23 was once the Scioto Trail, the great pathway of the Shawnee tribe. Tecumseh himself frequently traveled it. This trail connected the fishing waters of Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie, to the hunting grounds of Kentucky. Much of the Southern portion of the Scioto Trail paralleled the Scioto River.
“In the 1820s, Colonel James Kilborne, the founder of Worthington and a representative in the Ohio General Assembly, lobbied heavily for a proper road to connect Columbus to Lake Erie. The legislature approved the creation of the Columbus & Sandusky Turnpike Company to build a highway in 1826.”3
The 106-mile-long turnpike was open for business in 1834. In the early 1900s Ohio was forced to invest in paving the well-used gravel road due to the emergence of the automobile. In 1926, the road was incorporated into the United States Numbered Highway System and became U.S. Highway 23.
“US-23 is nearly identical to the trail American Indians blazed centuries ago.”4
Following the Path of Legends
In many respects, the processes, products, procedures, and methods used today in the financial services industry have their roots in history. The steps of the industry’s legendary progenitors proved successful, attracted followers, and created norms, which led to training, and resulted in how thousands of independent financial professionals conduct business today.
I have been blessed in my career to have met some of the true legends in financial services. Some of these men and women have since passed on. I began this article with a quote from Tecumseh: “When the legends die, the dreams end; there is no more greatness.” With all due respect to this great Shawnee chief and warrior, I disagree.
Point: The greatness of legends is what they do and say which other successful people emulate, and so the greatness continues.
Lester Albert Rosen was born on November 19, 1912, in Brooklyn, New York.
“He graduated high school from Adelphi Academy in 1929. He immediately entered Wharton School of Finance and Commerce of the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics in 1933. Mr. Rosen entered the life insurance business in 1933 with Union Central Life Insurance Company and remained an active agent for this company until his death.”5
Lester served the country he loved for five years in the Armed Forces during World War II and attained the rank of Major. At Kennedy General Hospital he met Patricia Jefferson, a dietician, who he always described as the “most beautiful woman in the world.” They began a marriage in 1945 that lasted all the rest of his life–61 years.
I first met Lester in 1985, my initial year working for Union Central as an Advanced Sales Specialist in the home office. He was 73 years old and going strong. I assisted him on a few business and estate planning cases with product selection and case design. This was similar to providing Bill Gates with computer advice.
Question: What made Lester, the man, a legend?
- As a leader in the civil rights movement, Lester Rosen was president of the Memphis Human Relations Council.
- He served on the Urban League Board and received the J. E. McDaniel Community Service award in 1985.
- He served on the board of the National Conference for Community and Justice.
- He was a past vice-chairman of the Memphis and Shelby County Human Relations Commission.
- He was a member of the President’s Council of Christian Brothers University.
- He served the B’nai B’rith Home and Hospital for the Aged.
- His service to humanity was recognized by a life membership on the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army.
Question: What made Lester a legend in financial services?
- Rosen served as past president of the Memphis Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
- Rosen served as past president of Tennessee Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors;
- Rosen served as past president of the Memphis Chapter Society of Financial Service Professionals;
- Rosen served as past president of the Memphis Estate Planning Council;
- He was past president of the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table;
- Rosen served as past president of the National Association of Life Underwriters; and,
- Rosen served as Past President of the Life Underwriter Training Council.
The American College of Financial Services was founded in 1927 by Solomon S. Huebner. “The College’s Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) program graduated its first 21 designees in 1928.”6 Lester earned his CLU designation shortly thereafter.
The first meeting of the Million Dollar Round Table took place during the 1927 National Associate of Life Underwriters meeting at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Lester Rosen was an early recipient of the MDRT® distinction. He served as president of the Million Dollar Round Table in 1962.7
The Legend Lives
One way for a legendary person’s influence to continue is by creating an award in that person’s name. The Lester A. Rosen Humanitarian and Achievement Award was created in 1996 to honor Rosen’s lifetime of service to the insurance industry, to Ameritas (Union Central Life, at the time) and to his community of Memphis, Tennessee. Recipients of the award must exemplify great professional success while maintaining a high level of commitment to community service.
In my career I have personally known these Lester A. Rosen Humanitarian and Achievement Award recipients:
- C. Robert “Bobby” Brown, Sr. CLU LUTCF
- Juan Elias Calles
- John B. Tickle
- Mitchell Wm. Ostrove, CLU, ChFC, AEP, LACP
Each of these professionals exemplifies the commitment and others-mindedness of Lester Rosen. For instance, Mitch Ostrove once invited me into his home, blessed me with a round of golf at his club, and has always treated me with kindness and respect even though he is truly a man of accomplishments and singular success! He is dignified, gracious and humble, just like Lester.
I also count it a singular blessing to call Jack Dewald my friend. Jack is a living legend. Jack has received numerous awards and achieved many remarkable achievements, including:
- Member, MDRT, Top of the Table;
- Past Chairman of The LIFE Foundation;
- Board Chairman of The Marketing Alliance;
- Past Chairman of NAILBA;
- 2013 Recipient of NAILBA’s Douglas H Mooers Award for Excellence; and,
- Member, Walton College of Business Alumni Advisory Board.
Jack also lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and was mentored by Lester Rosen over the course of many years. “Mr. Rosen,” as Jack always refers to him.
Jack kindly gave me a copy of Mr. Rosen’s book that he wrote for LIMRA in 1991, entitled Talk Life Before You Talk Life Insurance.
From the Forward:
“The year was 1929. In September I matriculated at the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce of the University of Pennsylvania. In October the stock market crashed. In November my roommate had to quit school to go to work in order to help his father support the family. Men were committing suicide by jumping off bridges and turning on the gas. Bank after bank closed, bankrupting depositors. Insurance companies invoked the contractual right to delay six months in processing cash-value loans. Story has it that a man walked into the home office of one of the giant New York companies and said, ‘Gentlemen, it is now ten o’clock. I need a $50,000 cash loan by two o’clock. If I don’t receive it, you will have a death claim for $250,000 by four o’clock.’ He got the loan.”8
In 2012 Jack Dewald, following Mr. Rosen’s example, wrote his own book entitled Ten Sales Concepts to Relish, Remember, Repeat. In the Introduction Jack quotes a story that Mr. Rosen once shared with him.
“Seems a grandfather was speaking with his young grandson and asked, ‘I’ll give you $10. Would you rather have a ten-dollar bill or ten one-dollar bills?’
After thinking about the generous offer for a few minutes, the grandson replied, ‘I’ll take ten one-dollar bills.’
Granddad then asked the young lad why he wanted ten one-dollar bills instead of one crisp ten-dollar bill.
The young man wisely responded, ‘In case I lose one, I’ll have nine left.’”9
Point: Another way for people to become legendary is to so infect others with their model of behavior that other people cannot help but catch the imprint of that character, live it, and spread it to others.
It Starts with c’est moi
Most everyone is familiar with a very old, very common French idiomatic saying, C’est la vie, which means “That’s life” or “Such is life.” In short, it expresses a sort of restrained, slightly fatalistic lamentation that this is how life is and there’s not much you can do about it. There is nothing especially heroic about this.
On the other hand, the French expression c’est moi is an extremely important interpersonal phrase. French people use it when responding to expressions of gratitude. C’est moi literally means “It’s me” but this translation doesn’t really get to the heart of why people use it to respond to an expression of gratitude.
In fact, it is actually short for c’est moi qui vous remercie, literally “it’s me who thanks you.” In English, when responding to another person thanking us, we might say “No, thank you!” (stressing the “you”) or “You’re very welcome.”
Point: At the root of a legendary personality is gratitude. It is an extreme gratitude that deflects gratitude. It is a gratitude that looks for ways to give rather than receive, to serve rather than be served, and to give all one has in total commitment just because of the privilege of having and enjoying hard work.
The power of gratitude begins where our sense of entitlement ends. This is the stuff of legends.
When I met Lester Rosen, he humbly accepted the assistance of someone who knew next to nothing and had minimal experience. He was gracious towards me, and he expressed sincere gratitude for any little thing I did.
The same thing can be said of Bobby Brown, Juan Calles, John Tickle, Mitch Ostrove, and Jack Dewald. These men are legends because of their accomplishments in our industry, but they are also legends because they bear the imprint of greatness as exemplified by their gratitude. They always have the c’est moi attitude and response to people and circumstances.
If you aspire to become legendary, hope to achieve greatness, and want to accomplish your dreams, consider these various ways of expressing c’est moi:
- Keep a gratitude journal, and daily record three things you are grateful for.
- Practice the art of seeking reasons to be thankful for other people.
- Make gratitude a priority in your interactions.
- Thank your clients for every conversation, referral, or new product they purchase.
- Each day, respond with “No, seriously, thank you” to the gratitude expressed by at least one person.
- Appreciate where you are now, and remember how far you have come.
- Focus on the people in your life, rather than the tasks or material blessings.
Gratitude requires action, and a conscious effort to be grateful is a skill you must acquire. Legends make gratitude seem effortless because they formed the habit in their daily routines.
There is a positive relationship between gratitude and a sense of social or community responsibility. When you see your gratitude extend beyond your life so that you want good things to pour over into other people’s lives, you are on your way to greatness!
In a letter written to the early church in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Give thanks in everything.”10
British neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and writer, Oliver Sacks, achieved legendary status. As he approached his death in 2015, he published his last book entitled Gratitude.11 Here is the secret to his greatness:
“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
To you, Lester, and to all the legends in our industry who received the Humanitarian and Achievement award in your honor, and to all the legendary people in the life insurance industry who refused to let the dream of greatness die, I say, c’est moi!
- Early Indiana Trails and Surveys (Indiana Historical Society Publications, V. 6, No. 3.) Paperback – December 2, 2015, by George R. Wilson.
- “You Have To Talk Life Before You Can Talk Life Insurance,” by Lester A. Rosen, CLU, Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association, Hartford, CT, 1991.
- “Ten Sales Concepts to Relish, Remember, and Repeat,” Jack Dewald, CLU, RHU, 2012, ISBN: 1466412208.