Industry Trends

‘Opt In’ to Happiness


My daughter is a proud graduate of the University of Connecticut. She has many happy memories of her time there – being part of a sorority and working as a manager for the baseball team, to name a few – but she wasn’t always happy with her experience. 

Dani had a trying freshman year. She was so excited about starting college, full of dreams and enthusiastic about fresh beginnings. Within the first few weeks of arriving, however, the thorns began to appear on her rose … Her roommate, despite much Facebook vetting, wasn’t a good fit … the football stadium was off campus (20 miles away) … she wasn’t sure which major to choose … the campus was in the middle of nowhere and she had no wheels … the cafeterias were no good, and the dorm was old …

“Welcome to real life!” I remember telling her. During our regular phone calls and text conversations, I spent a lot of time listening to her challenges and, when appropriate, helping her think through solutions. More often than not, I talked to her about attitude vs. aptitude, and focusing on opportunities vs. dwelling on the negatives. 

Essentially, we talked about choosing to be happy. For all the difficulties she faced, she also had a lot of really great things happen in her first year of college … She lived away from home for the first time … became a part of a terrific sorority community … got on ESPN at two football games … found some really close friends who turned into future roommates … landed an internship with the Bourne Braves so she could spend her summer on the Cape … And her college experience blossomed from there. 

By focusing on all of her great accomplishments, Dani was able to find her happiness at UCONN. She still had to address those other issues, but she didn’t let them completely derail her. 

So, how do YOU attack difficult situations? "Stuff" happens, but you have the power to determine how it will impact your day. A wise man once told me, “We don t have bad days. We have bad moments that we choose to let become bad hours, bad days, etc.”

When bad stuff happens, take a moment to think about how your reaction will frame the way you feel the rest of the day. That doesn't mean you should let everything roll off your shoulders – because sometimes direct response is needed. But, try not to let that negative event carry over into other parts of your life. "Opt in" to happiness, and you’ll find more opportunities than difficulties.   


About the Author
As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.


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Random Thoughts: The Meaning of Service


A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the retirement ceremony of my friend, Dick Formica, a.k.a. Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, Commanding General Army Missile and Space Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (the Army has way cool titles). After 36 years of service to our country, Dick made the decision to hang up his boots and try life as a civilian. 

Suzanne and I met Dick and his wife, Dianne, almost 17 years prior, when they moved in next door to us in Burke, Virginia, while he was on a tour of duty at the Pentagon. Our kids became fast friends and spent the next four years together. An Army brat myself (my dad was career Army after graduating from West Point), I knew Dick wouldn’t be staying anywhere very long. After we met, Dick had four other assignments, including a stint in Afghanistan. This kind of movement can be hard on a family, so I know it wasn't just Dick who was "serving." 

At Dick’s retirement ceremony, there was plenty of brass in the room, but I was struck by the soldiers who attended, including a few wounded warriors. One in particular was familiar to me. Col. Greg Gadsen was the commander of the garrison at Ft. Belvoir, where the ceremony was being held. Col. Gadsen played football at Army; that's where I first saw him. He was later wounded in Iraq, losing both legs to an IED. Having inspired the New York Giants when a former teammate invited him to speak, Gadson is often seen at their home games and even has an honorary Super Bowl ring. 

But, it's the fact that the colonel continued to serve on active duty, not retiring until 2014, that amazes me. I'm not sure what the Army's benefits are, but I imagine a double combat amputee would earn a pension that would allow him to retire to nice civilian life. Instead, Greg chose to continue to serve his soldiers and the Army in a leadership position. He knew he was making a difference. 

The same holds true for any of us. While I don't think the sacrifice given for our level of service is akin to that of Col. Gadsen or Gen. Formica, I do firmly believe that what we do matters. The benefits you provide do make a difference in people’s lives, and it is incumbent upon all of us to be great tellers of that story. 

People often see insurance as a “necessary evil," but I would say that you’re all heroes, serving families in your own special way. We help people protect what they love about their lives by managing life's emergencies. Because of what we do, when an emergency happens, kids are still able to go to college, a mother can still support her family after the loss of her husband, and families get to stay in their houses. This is service! 


About the Author
As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.


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Random Thoughts: Goal Setter vs. Goal Achiever


As the holiday season approaches, we're getting to that time of year when people start to reflect on their accomplishments and decide on their resolutions for the coming year. 

For most people, this is a very reactive process. Weight gain, a poor job performance, being unlucky in love, or just frustration about mounting debts causes them to set a new goal they are bound and determined to accomplish. For most, after a few weeks of toiling away at their new initiatives, they slip back into their old habits, failing to accomplish their goals that were so important only a few short weeks ago. 

I've been on this roller coaster many times in my life and would like to share a few learnings that I hope will help you not just be a goal setter, but become a goal achiever.

To start, I believe goals need to be very specific, measurable, and have a limited time horizon. For example, instead of saying, "I'd love to travel in Europe," a more detailed pronouncement like, "I will spend a week in Paris with the family while the kids are on winter break this year," is more likely to stimulate you to act. 

It's also important not to try and bite off too much at one time. I try and stick to three or four goals at any one time, then move on to another once I've accomplished one. 

That's another thing – goal setting is not a one-a-year activity. Living with your written goals on a daily basis dramatically increases the chances of success. 

Goal setting does not have to be scary. Keep it simple, be specific and track your progress often. These simple steps will help you become a goal achiever. I look forward to hearing your stories and providing any support I can.

About the Author

As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.

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The Power of Creating Options


As a coach, one of my favorite things to do is help other professionals use their natural talents to reach their potential. It’s especially rewarding to speak with those just starting out in their careers. For someone who’s spent nearly 30 years in the workforce, it’s always interesting to chat with someone who has no idea where their journey will take them.  

In my journey, I moved from Plan A to B pretty quickly. Now I’m on Plan M (and probably on my way to Z). I went to college to be an engineer (albeit at a liberal arts institution). After two years of daily bewilderment in the classroom (I'm stubborn that way), I finally decided it was not the path for me and switched to economics. 

I hadn't gone to Swarthmore for the sterling academic reputation. Actually, had I known what I was getting into I probably wouldn't have gone. I wanted to play two sports in college and was a good (not great) student in high school. My guidance counselor/football coach had sent three other kids to Swarthmore before me and felt it was a good fit … so I went. Looking back on my time there, beside a diploma from a great school (and meeting the love of my life), the best things I got from college were the ability the think critically and react positively to the disappointment of failure.

After a quick eight-month stint at a consulting firm where I fed punch cards into a computer (yes, I'm that old) I leveraged a few contacts to get an interview to be an insurance underwriter so I could move closer to my fiancé (now wife, Suzanne). Imagine trying to prep for an interview (pre-Internet, mind you) to find out what an underwriter does.

Somehow, I convinced them I was the guy for the job, and I spent two years getting a great fundamental knowledge of insurance by evaluating someone's medical and financial history. The transactional nature of this role was not for me, so I moved on to the sales desk, where I learned how the career and brokerage sides of the life business work from the field's perspective. My performance earned me the chance to manage the team and eventually add the advanced sales group under my watch. Knowing I spent more than a decade of my career in sales, you may think this experience was the catalyst for my transition to the field … but it wasn’t.

When Suzanne had child No. 2, she decided it was time to focus on being a mom, and I needed to find a way to double my income (to replace hers). Given my experience, there were limited options in the home office. So, I took the leap and asked for the opportunity to become a wholesaler. We moved the family to D.C., and I started pounding the pavement to build a business in life brokerage. 

The double income was available, but by no means guaranteed as I was on commission. "Eat what you kill" was the mantra, and my family needed to eat. I figured out how to prospect, be efficient with my time, market myself as the product and manage a budget. During this time, I also discovered I didn't like taking orders (from my boss or my customers) and preferred to be the one building the plan. But the wholesaling gig did pay off and, after a few years, I was able to replace Suzanne's income and even surpass it. I was lucky enough, however, to have a boss and mentor who recognized I was not going to make it as a wholesaler long-term and advocated for me to get an opportunity in sales management.

Now nearly 30 years into my insurance "career," I finally found my calling, sales management. The role has allowed me build new things, satisfying that old engineering urge and develop and coach people. Now that I've come full circle, I find it ironic how my series of unintended (random if you will) steps have led to a nice career in insurance. When people now ask what I do, I'm proud to say that I help people identify and realize their dreams. It might be funny to describe my role that way, but I believe in what we do for our clients and should be doing for our employees. 

While this path wasn’t planned, it was made possible because, at each step, I worked hard to be the best at what I was doing at the time. I truly believe this earned me the opportunity to do the next thing, and the next thing, and so on. Along the way, my experiences helped add to my competencies and I did my best to supplement them by reading, networking, taking classes, and just becoming a more valuable employee.

If you know what you want to do the rest of your career and have your path laid out, I applaud you. If you don't, and still feel you are searching, don't fret. By making the best of each opportunity, keeping the possibilities open to all that may be ahead, and adding to your skillset every chance you can, you’ll create more OPTIONS, which I truly believe will allow you to have a great career and a fulfilling life. Please go create some OPTIONS for yourself today.


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Random Thoughts – Make Every Day a Vacation


The last week of the summer usually comes with mixed emotions. Many folks use it to soak up a few more days at the beach, some have already sent the kids back to school and started the routine again, while others are figuring out a plan to sneak away in the fall when the crowds are at a minimum. 

This was a very non-traditional summer for Suzanne and me, so we are in the group looking for a fall getaway. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great summer, just not one that lent itself to significant down time. I started my new job in April, my son Bobby and his wife Jessica got married, and my daughter Danielle relocated to Hartford after graduation to start her first job. To top it off, we adopted two puppies that have kept us busy and required most of our attention over the weekends.

While most people really enjoy what they do for a living, it’s hard not to spend at least a few moments on vacation day-dreaming about what life would be like if we could be on vacation all the time. My non-traditional summer got me thinking about ways I could make each day feel a bit more like vacation. Here’s what I came up with …

  • Anticipation – A lot of the excitement around a vacation is the lead up to the actual event. The planning. The choice of location and activities. Each steps builds a level of anticipation. What if a few times a week we added an event –  a date night, a visit with friends, a movie – to recreate that anticipation on a smaller level?

  • Breaking Routine – Having a solid routine often supports success, but one of the joys of vacation is deviating from our routine and experiencing life from another vantage point. So how about working out at lunch so you can sleep in an extra hour once or twice a week? Maybe drive home a different way or carpool with a friend? If your role allows, how about working from home mid-week?  

  • Relaxing – How many naps do you take on vacation? I probably average one a day. But, in my regular routine, it’s probably one a month (at best). Since most of us don’t work at Google, daytime naps aren’t commonplace. As an alternative, consider closing your eyes for five minutes, doing some deep breathing exercises or just getting up from your desk and walking a lap around the building. Anything that will let you mind relax can have a positive impact.

  • Experiencing New Things – Scuba diving, horse back riding, zip lining, yoga – have you tried new things on vacation? I have. This week, what if you tried one or two new things for the first time? Take a spinning class. Go to a new restaurant. Read a good book. Look up an old friend. Pick something and give it a try.

  • Happy Place – Is there a place – in your home or nearby – where you just feel at peace? For me it’s Wolf Run Shoals Park. Suzanne and I, at least once a week, get the hiking boots on, put the dogs in the car and hit the trail. There’s just something about the woods and the trail along the rambling creek that just lets us relax. Some folks might have a pool, a favorite reading chair, a man cave or just a warm bath. Make use of that happy place to get in a positive mindset.

For most of us, work is a financial necessity and, hopefully, something we enjoy. Vacations rejuvenate us and allow us to reconnect with our loved ones. Hopefully, a few of these ideas will allow you to experience that great vacation feeling each and every day. 


As executive vice president of life sales distribution, Bob Klein is responsible for all of Ash Brokerage’s life, long-term care and disability income insurance sales. He is driven by his desire to help others get the most out of their natural gifts, and he gets the most satisfaction from seeing others grow and succeed.

random thoughts