Anyone in this business knows you need something to connect with clients socially. For me, that thing is cycling.
Back in 2001, I was 10 years in the business, a steady $200,000 to $300,000 premium producer and thought I had achieved all of my goals for the first decade of my career. The problem was that my 70-hour work weeks had allowed me to gain 40 pounds and develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol at the ripe old age of 32. I had lost my health in my pursuit of financial success.
I begged my cardiologist to hold off on medication for one more month and promised I would lose weight. He agreed, so I dusted off my old mountain bike that was buried deep in my parents’ shed and started riding. Every day, either before or after work, I would do loops in Central Park. Workouts started at 30 minutes and quickly progressed to an hour. My fears of decreased production quickly faded, as I had much more energy throughout the day. After a year of this, I was looking for any excuse to ride more. I had lost 15 pounds, my suits fit better and I loved the way I felt. I started to ask prospects and clients if they rode, and if so, did they want to ride together?
Prospects I rode with almost always turned into clients, and clients I rode with turned into better clients. I also started to meet people while riding and brought up what I did for a living if the opportunity presented itself. The combination of new revenue from this additional form of prospecting and expanding business with a few key cycling clients got me to the next level, while happily spending more time out of the office and getting my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol to normal levels.
Certainly, I could have stopped there, but like many reformed workaholics, I had to take it to the next level and try bike racing. I entered my first race in 2004 and was immediately hooked, even though I had no idea what I was doing (and neither did most people in this beginner-level race). I had to learn more and ride more if I was going to get better. I also had to meet more people on the bike if I was going to train 12 hours per week. Surprisingly, I met more people training than I did casually riding. Turns out there were a lot of suit-and-tie guys like me racing at the amateur level, and I quickly became friends with many of them. Some of them needed a person like me, and it was quite logical for them to become my clients.
After I won races at the novice level, I started racing at the intermediate level at the age of 37. To be competitive in these races required more training, so I formed a group of people I met throughout the last few seasons to ride every weekday at 5 a.m. Other folks riding alone at that hour noticed us and asked to join in. By the end of that season, we were a group of 12 regulars, meeting every weekday morning. Out of the group, nine of the 12 became clients, and one who didn’t got me quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Two of the gentlemen that became clients worked for a large European bank and introduced me to their HR director. That led to the largest multi-life disability sale of my career — 245 eligibles with 42% participation.
Today I am 43 and won my second state championship in 2011. I’ve also qualified for the World’s Masters Championship in South Africa this August. I am 40 pounds lighter than my peak, have a resting pulse of under 50 and one of the best cholesterol ratios my doctor has ever seen. As far as production, not only did it not suffer, but it also grew beyond my wildest expectations, culminating in my being recognized as one of the top 10 producers for my company in 2011 out of a 5,000-plus field force.
Was it the weight loss or the amazing relationships I developed? Did the better fitting suits lead to the CNN and CNBC appearances? Was it just the overall higher confidence level? It’s probably a combination of all of them. But I know I wouldn’t be flying first class back from my company’s conference in Ireland right now if I hadn’t dusted off that mountain bike in my parents’ shed.
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