One Conversation Leads To Olympic Glory And LTCI Success

We are all aware of the long term care crisis looming. But how do we encourage more Americans to plan appropriately? How can we tell the story in a way that inspires people to create and have faith in their own plan? I use an example from my own life as an Olympic athlete as my guide to encourage folks to trust me and the process.

In the autumn of 1975, a conversation with my Central Jersey Aquatic Club (CJAC) swimming coach would set my life on an unexpected trajectory toward Olympic glory. What I didn’t realize at the time is how important that chance encounter would also be to my future long term care planning clients.

It was a typical evening in September, the air was filled with the sounds of water splashing anthe coach’s commands echoing off the pool walls. I was a newlywed and was there not to swim but to accompany my husband Bernie, who was coaching part-time. As I sat in the stands, my attention divided between my homework and the bustling activity below, I could hear a thud, thud, thud growing closer. Suddenly, looming over me was Bill Palmer, the CJAC head swim coach. His words were direct and challenging, urging me to join the elite swimmers in the pool.

Here’s how that conversation went:

“Hey, you should be down in that pool training!” Bill said with his usual forceful conviction.

“Bill, I’ve already trained twice today,” I shot back. “Thanks, but no thanks; I’m exhausted.”

“No, Wendy, I don’t mean just tonight. I mean every night!”

“Well, I can’t fit that in with my courses, college swim practices, and racing.”

“Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, the Olympic trials are in 10 months. I can get you ready.”

“Bill, Bill, Bill,” I snarked back. “I have school and college swimming. I can’t possibly train with you at that level of intensity and time commitment. I just couldn’t.”

“Listen to me, I can get you ready. You can train and follow the dream you’ve had since you were a little girl. But you will have to leave college and give up your scholarship. You would train with the team twice a day, once on Saturday, and take Sundays off. We’ll keep you in the gym to continue lifting, but with a different intensity, very specific to your starts and turns, power in the legs, back, shoulders, and abs. Power… I have a plan all written out.”

Bill then pulls a 10-month plan off his clipboard and hands it to me. “I can get you ready for the Olympic trials. Barring any major illness or injuries, I believe you have as great a shot as anyone in the fly and free at making the team.”

I am looking at these workouts, the times I will need to hit in practices, the diet, the strength workouts, the five to six hours in the pool a day, the time…the swim mileage, the intensity, and the major commitment.

Bill is waiting for me to agree or disagree, and he wants that answer right then and there. I kept looking at him, speechless. “I’m married. I will be 21 years old at those Olympic trials,” I said. “No one has ever done that before.” And in that instant, I started to think maybe I could do this. Maybe I needed to shift that negative age thought and grab hold of Bill’s belief in me.

“Bill, do you really believe I can do this? Can I make the Olympic team in 10 months?”

“Here’s what I know for sure, Wendy,” said Bill. “You are so talented, hardworking, mentally and physically gifted, focused, and absolutely one of the strongest swimmers I have ever coached. Yes, I think you have a great shot at making the team.”

“Really? In 10 months, you can have me ready?”

“Let me tell you this, Wendy. We can get you ready. We can train, we can do it all right. You give up school, you and Bernie commit fully to this, and that means only swimming. You will not do anything else but swim, eat, rest, swim, eat, sleep for 10 months, train with full intent and intensity, I believe you have a great shot. But I cannot guarantee it, Wendy. We could do all of that, and there is always a chance you will not make the team. There is a chance that you could get sick or injured and not meet the time standards of the trials. But here is what I can absolutely guarantee you, and it is this: If you do not try, you will spend the rest of your life wondering if you could have.”

Trust the Process
Bill Palmer saw in me the potential to ascend to the zenith of swimming excellence. That conversation marked a turning point, informing future discussions I would have with clients about planning for long term care. Both required a vision that looked past the immediate, an evaluation of what could be, and a commitment to plan for something where the fruits would only ripen in the distant future. Just as I placed my trust in Bill’s foresight and coaching, my clients would need to place their trust in my expertise and guidance for their long term care.

The common thread weaving through these experiences is the transformative nature of meaningful dialogue and the critical role of planning, preparation, and faith in the process. My road to the Olympics began with the recognition of my own potential and the acceptance of the intense training and discipline it demanded. In a similar vein, effective long term care planning begins with the acknowledgment of the necessity for a plan resilient enough to stand the test of time, providing security and peace of mind. That may sound crazy, but it’s true.

The Power of One Conversation
My Olympic gold medal and my accomplishments in steering clients through long term care planning stand as evidence of the enduring influence of those crucial conversations. I have over 300 clients with long term care policies and not one of them has ever come back to me wishing they hadn’t made that decision.

I often think about that conversation with Bill when I’m starting a conversation with a client and coaching them through planning for their long term care. In those moments, I can change the course of someone’s life. Both conversations showcase the remarkable power that foresight, trust, and dedication hold in the pursuit of one’s aspirations, be it in the competitive world of sports or the complex arena of financial planning. My story serves as a testament to the idea that sometimes, just one conversation can indeed alter the trajectory of a lifetime. I hope it will inspire you to have more of these conversations with your clients and encourage them to have faith in the planning process–they will not regret it.

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