Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 September/October The Back Page

Are You Sleeping Through the Opportunities??
Nearly 200 years ago, the American short story “Rip Van Winkle” became an instant classic. The main character, Rip, is an unambitious man who is very good at avoiding two things: work and his wife.
One day, while wandering in the mountains with his dog, he discovers a group of strangely dressed men drinking and playing games. After accepting some of their liquor, Rip becomes drowsy and closes his eyes for a moment. When he opens his eyes again, he is surprised to find that his dog is gone, his rifle has rusted, and he now has a long beard.
Rip makes his way back to his village only to discover that everything has changed. His wife has died, his friends are gone, and the portrait of King George III in the tavern has been replaced by a portrait of someone he does not recognize—by General George Washington.

Rip Van Winkle had been sleeping for 20 years! And in the process, he had missed one of the most exciting periods in the history of his country—he had slept through the American Revolution.
In May 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used this story as an illustration for his speech “Don’t Sleep Through the Revolution.”

Today, I would like to take the same theme and propose a question to all of us who are engaged in this noble profession: are you sleeping through the Opportunities?
This is one of the most remarkable periods of the world’s history! There is great need for our services and an unlimited number of families and businesses that need us. We have wonderful solutions to the financial problems of prospects and clients.
I suppose there are a variety of reasons why it is easy to become a bit sleepy with regard to fulfilling our purpose. Let me mention three major ones. As I do, I invite you to ponder if any might apply. If you see room for improvement, I ask you to consider what could be done to change for the better.
First, selfishness. Those who are selfish seek their own interests and pleasure above all else. The central question for the selfish person is “What’s in it for me?”
I am sure you can see that this attitude is clearly contrary to our purpose; serving one another. When we seek self-service over selfless-service, our priorities become centered on our own recognition and pleasure.
Past generations had their struggle with variations of egotism and narcissism, but I think today we are giving them serious competition. Is it any coincidence that the Oxford Dictionary recently proclaimed “selfie” as the word of the year?
Naturally, we all have a desire for recognition, and there is nothing wrong with relaxing and enjoying ourselves. But when seeking the gain and praise of the world is a central part of our motivation, we will miss the fulfilling and joyful experiences that come when we give generously of ourselves.
What is the remedy?
The unselfish give of themselves. These may be small gifts of charity that have a grand impact for good: a smile, a handshake, a hug, time spent in listening, a soft word of encouragement, or a gesture of caring. All these acts of kindness can change hearts and lives. When we take advantage of the unlimited opportunities to love and serve our fellowmen, including our spouse and family, our capacity to love and to serve others will greatly increase. Those who serve others will not sleep through this season of opportunities.
Another thing that may cause us to sleepwalk through this significant season of the world is addiction. Addictions often begin subtly. Addictions are thin threads of repeated action that weave themselves into thick bonds of habit. Negative habits have the potential to become consuming addictions.
These binding chains of addiction can have many forms, like pornography, alcohol, sex, drugs, tobacco, gambling, food, work, the Internet, or virtual reality. Our common enemy has many favorite tools he uses to rob us of our potential to see opportunities for providing service to others.
What is the remedy?
The first thing we must understand is that addictions are so much easier to prevent than to cure. When we are tempted to do things we should not do, let us listen to the loving warning of trusted family and friends. They often notice changes in behavior or performance before we do. The best defense against addiction is never to start.
Always keep far away from habits that could lead to addiction. Those who do so will be able to devote their heart, might, mind, and strength to the service of others. They will not sleep through the Opportunities.
A third obstacle that prevents us from fully engaging in this work is the many competing priorities we face. Some of us are so busy that we feel like a cart pulled by a dozen work animals—each straining in a different direction. A lot of energy is expended, but the cart doesn’t go anywhere.
Often we devote our best efforts in pursuit of a hobby, a sport, vocational interests, and community or political issues. All these things may be good and honorable, but are they leaving us time and energy for what should be our highest priorities?
What is the remedy?
Even in this demanding business of providing service to clients, it is easy to spend a lot of time just going through the motions without having our heart in it.
Balancing family, physical and mental health, work, worship and recreation can be challenging. But these are the challenges we all have. It helps to focus on the important principles rather than the superfluous things that cause us to lose our vision. Those who live up to sound principles will not sleep through the opportunities.
A Call to Action
Don’t allow selfishness! Don’t allow habits that could lead to addiction! Don’t allow competing priorities to lull you into indifference or detachment from family, your work or your commitments to the ennobling and rewarding benefits of service!
There is too much at stake for us as individuals, as families, and as insurance and financial advisors to give only a halfhearted effort to this noble work.
Let us be awake and not sleep through this remarkable period of world history!


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