The One That You Feed

    As I contemplate the often tumultuous and topsy-turvy long term care industry of 2018, I am reminded of how much it remains unchanged from the industry that I entered nearly twenty years ago. Certainly the human elements of need, denial, and peace of mind are still very much in evidence, with the most dramatic changes relating to the wider range of products available for offer, the now electronic and virtual submission and delivery systems offered by the carriers, and the need to market ourselves via social media as opposed to direct mail.

    Another thing that has not changed is the necessity for us to remain in congruence and to harbor strong beliefs about our profession. Success truly begins within ourselves and the paradigms with which we operate each and every day. As I have long maintained, “Ninety percent of this business is attitude, the other half is activity.” In other words, we are what we believe. This premise is best illustrated by a Cherokee parable:

    One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside of all people.

    He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. 

    The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that you feed.”

    I have heard and read variations of this story countless times over the years. Heck, you can even find it on Pinterest and other social media sites. It is just one of these stories that stays with you like oatmeal on your ribs on a cold winter morning. The last line of the story is short but poignant, and places the responsibility for our successes and our destiny squarely on our own shoulders. 

    So what does this story have to do with sales producers of long term care insurance? Everything.  Every day, as we rise out of bed, we have to make the decision as to which wolf we are going to feed. Are we going to hit the street with the proper beliefs, client-centric attitudes, and desire to serve our clients by educating them, overcoming denial, establishing need, and truly serving the client as their advocate? Or, are we going to succumb to the negative angst associated with being part of a “dying” industry permeated with rampant rate increases, tougher underwriting standards, negative press, and in some cases greater skepticism on the part of potential clients? Our success is largely dependent upon which wolf we are going to feed that day!  

    You may be sitting there and saying that you understand, and that this message makes sense. Truth be told however, you may not necessarily be taking the wisdom of the story to heart. Clearly, the first perspective’s focus is the one that allows both you and the client to win, but it is still a battle that you have to wage each day. I dare say that there are days that we all let the evil or bad wolf win because that’s what we are feeding with our thoughts, energy, and outlook. It is easy to get discouraged, frustrated, if not out and out angry when declines are piling up, clients are not remitting premiums or signing necessary documents, or doctors are sitting on requests for records prompting applications to time out.  The key is to not get mired down in that muck and to remember that ours is a noble profession. That it is up to us to provide the peace of mind that our clients are seeking, by making sure that the all-important LTCI policy is in place when they do reach for it on that fateful day when their life changes forever.

    Sadly, the bad wolf never looks the same when it either abruptly or stealthily appears. Sometimes it’s when we are feeling like  our work simply does not matter or that the entire population is stacked against us because they are either unhealthy or simply don’t have the financial means necessary to buy the very policy that could be a life preserver for both themselves and their family. Sometimes it isn’t even directly work related, and that evil wolf can appear because of something that has happened with one of our children or other family members and we simply get distracted and allow self-doubt to overwhelm us and to win the battle that given day. 

    I was 48 years old when I finally figured out that fully 95 percent of what I worried about never came to pass. When I considered the sheer amount of lost time, energy, and (graying) hair, I resolved that I was going to take my already “the glass is half-full” attitude and make it even stronger. The result: Liberation and a much smaller need for antacids and fewer appearances by the evil wolf.

    The attitude of both wolves that battle within us can be summed up as a constant visualization of their respective positive or negative success. This success is largely based on the perseverance exhibited in the life of an individual wolf as well as the pack of which it is a part. The same can be said for humans in general and long term care advocates particularly. It’s all about feeding the wolf you want to win in the end. 

    Only you can decide which wolf you are going to feed. I would encourage you to remain focused on the positives in life. There are so many blessings and great abundance in each of our lives if we but take the time to reflect on them and adopt a genuine and consistent attitude of gratitude. The evil wolf only wins when we feed it and allow it to cloud our vision. Embrace the good wolf, and find the success that you have been seeking.

    Don Levin, JD, MPA, CLF, CSA, LTCP, CLTC, is chairman of the board of the National Long Term Care Network and the managing general agent of PNW Insurance Services, a national brokerage which offers long term care insurance, short term recovery care, life insurance and annuities to the general public across the country. The long term care planning specialists and staff of PNWIS are proud to offer comprehensive individualized planning solutions to their clients while also working through a strategic alliance of financial planners, estate planning and elder law attorneys, CPAs, and other businesses and organizations.

    Levin has been in the long term care industry since 1999, during which time he has been an award-winning agent, district manager, regional sales manager, marketing director, associate general agent, general agent, and divisional vice president. Levin is also a former practicing Attorney-at-Law, court-appointed arbitrator and is a retired U.S. Army officer.

    In addition to his various law and life and health insurance licenses, and the above designations, Levin has also earned Green Belt certification through GE’s Six Sigma program, and is a graduate of GAMA International’s Essentials of Leadership and Management. He has also taught Managing Goal Achievement®, Integrity Selling® and The Way to Wealth® to hundreds of leaders and salespeople over the past fifteen years. He previously possessed FINRA Series 7, 24, and 66 licenses.

    Levin earned his Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School, his MPA, from the University of Oklahoma, and his BA from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Defense Strategy Course, U.S. Army War College.

    He is a published author of nine books in a wide range of genre.

    Levin may be reached via telephone at (509) 348-0206. Email: