Are You Successful or Valuable?

Are You Successful or Valuable?

The late great Albert Einstein once quoted “the value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive. Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”That is a very valuable lesson from one of the smartest men that ever lived. But do most insurance agents believe that? If so, do they strive for that? Let’s explore some data.

Most insurance agents I believe strive for success. Meaning they are looking for material gain such as money, assets, cars, boats, large houses, business property, planes, etc. Our society is geared to material wealth. There is nothing wrong with material wealth. It can be used to do great things for those less fortunate, discover new technology, new medicines, and shelter ravaged areas, feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Our media and entertainment celebrate successful people consistently. We are taught money buys us happiness. So, if that is true, why would a rich person commit suicide? Could be a lot of reasons, but I have yet to see an example of a really happy person killing themselves. Successful people can leave money and assets to their loved ones or favorite charities. They create jobs and build things. In other words there is a lot of good that can come from successful people. A poor man never gave a job to anyone. Hence is why we celebrate our successful celebrities.

However, what about a person of value? Why would that be better than a person of success? Let’s look at the assets of a valuable person. Instead of money and assets they strive for respect and honor. Their wealth is in their character, not just reputation. The difference between character and reputation is character is doing the right thing when no one else is looking. I believe a person of respect is more valuable than a successful person. You can be the richest man in the world and be mean, nasty, hated and certainly not respected and what can you gain from influence? See a valuable person has more influence than the rich jerk because of respect. He can accomplish 10x more than the wealthy person can buy with his money. A man of honor is one of the most respected people you will ever meet. It is becoming rarer today to hear the expression “your word is your bond”. What else does a person have if they do not have honor? There is no trust, respect, value, accountable or creditable.

What I believe Albert Einstein was saying in the quote is that in order to really make an impact with your life, the money will only place you in with other rich people. That person is just another grain of sand on the beach. It’s the selfless good deeds you do that will set you apart from the rest of the herd and etch your name into history.  One of the greatest quotes I ever heard was from an old mentor of mine in my young days in the insurance business speaking about a friend that he did a lot of business with. He was able to enter into business deals with a hand shake. He said “I trust him so much that I would shoot dice with him over the phone.” That is the type of business man that I personally strive  to be.

“There’ll be two dates on your tombstone and all your friends will read ‘em but all that’s gonna matter is that little dash between ‘em.” ~Kevin Welch

Image By Za3tOoOr! Via Flickr


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger and team leader with over 25 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

42 Responses to Are You Successful or Valuable?

  • Here’s the link to Linda Ellis’s “The Dash”:


    “here’s lies the remains of a person who gave what people wanted and in turn got what he/she wanted.”

    No person was ever honored for what he received.
    Honor has been the reward for what he gave.
    – Calvin Coolidge

    Human Kindness is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that… “No Man Can Sincerely Help Another Without Helping Himself.”
    – Charles Dudley Warner

  • I love it Duke! You find some really cool quotes and I always appreciate your valuable feedback. Much continued success my friend. Tim

  • I truly believe that a person of value will have long standing success. A person who has no value, may reach success but it will be fleeting and hollow.

  • Well said Loran, I totally agree with you. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you Blake for the kind words, much appreciated.

  • Don’t most parents teach this at a very young age? Wealth is not a predictor of anything but ability to make purchases, economically speaking, and the self-perception it offers to a person who places high importance on it as a self-worth indicator. This is why it is all relative. “The pursuit of” through your abilities can be more fulfilling to a person than being surrounded/numbed by it through birth or marriage. American Dream sound familiar?

  • Thank you Doug, I appreciate that. Cheryl, I am not sure it has anything to do with parenting. Parents teach their kids not to do drugs or have teenage sex, yet we have a big drug problem in this country and a high teenage pregnancy and STDs rate. We are in agreement about self-worth. I have worked with well over 1,000 insurance agents in my past 20 years, there are more in pursuit of a commission than helping a client. In my experience “valuable” agents are much harder to find than just another salesperson agent. I appreciate you sharing!

  • Tim, I am surprised that you have met more agents focused on commissions instead of helping people with proper planning, as required by most financial services’ ethical standards and compliance regulations. I suppose it varies by companies and person, considering some companies still think the zero-base, 100% commission approach from the ‘bull-pen’ brokerage days is a good strategy for all new hires. To me, it seems in conflict with the “proper planning” ethics and responsibility of the profession.

  • Cheryl, it shouldn’t be a surprising number. The DOI stat for agent trunover is over 80% gone within their first two years. I just had a conversation with one of my carriers VPs who told me just in TX since 2008 the L & H licensed agents went from just over 125,000 to now just over 24,000. The national stat since Obamacare is that over 1.5 million L & H agents left our industry. I can tell you are one of the “valuable” agents by your responses. Be very proud you are in the minority. I know it is hard to imagine when you do things the right way that there are a lot of agents out there that don’t. I wish you much continued success! The industry is lucky to have you.

  • Thank you for the kind words Bill, I appreciate it.

  • As an insurance agent I always face people or prospects who will ask you about your awards and credentials, whether you drive a Benz or BMW or are you even a mdrt award holder. It’s been a tough road to walk on and for 5years I have been showing them that being there and listening to them and understanding their needs is more important than one that has all the logos and ranks.

    I do not fault those who chooses to buy from people who are successful in that sense but I feel that the basic service and objective should be clear. It’s not about “what I think you should get but what you want to achieve.”

  • Steve, be proud, you sound like you are doing things the right way. Classic Zig Ziglar, “help enough people get what they want and you’ll get what you want.”

  • I used to be blaming myself for not being able to clinch a deal. But as years gone by, I changed that negative mentality into a positive one. To me, being successful is to be respected. If one do not have the basic courtesy of being thankful to our fellow colleagues or co-workers, and they only show that to those who pay for their commissions, then I think even if you’re the CEO of the company, I don’t think you should earn any respects.

    Simple gestures, maybe just a smile, is the basis of service to start with. It makes a difference when you smile and I think we shouldn’t be greedy with ours and give it to anyone whom we see and I am sure that will brighten up their day as well as ours!

    When one is happy, one will be a step ahead of having a good day, good appointments, and good results. That’s what changed me this year and although I am not closing big cases, but I am definitely doing so much better than any other year and enjoying my work.

    I might not be successful as the top % of high earning agents, but I seek success to be respected and be valuable. It’s a long road ahead but I am sure I will achieve it if I believe in it! Thanks Tim for your encouragement, I am greatly honored and I really hope to make a difference one day!

  • Steve, I have no doubt that one you will be one of the greats in our industry!

  • Thanks Tim! There is still alot to learn and I am picking then up one by one and working hard towards it. Let us make a difference to everyone that we meet. 🙂

  • Tim, that works in high-integrity cultures. I did that in a small business, and it was simply exploitative in the end. Only professional cultures can value leadership designed to promote success for the greater goals, and not personal agendas with interpersonal competition.

  • Thanks, Tim. It’s not something I would advocate for career-minded professionals, and I can only use it to teach my children about entrepreneurship in Colorado (how business is vastly different in different geographies).

  • Any success may only last for a moment. Hopefully being valued will be a lifetime achievement.

  • Cal, great thought! One person’s discard is another’s gem.(as they say in shopping for antiques)

  • Cal that is a great way to put it into perspective. Thank you for sharing that thought!

  • I believe that one can be of value by doing the the right thing, and treat others how they would want to be treated. One’s success will come after that and of course there are different ways to measure success depending on the individual. I like your post.

  • Erik, you are dead on. Caring about people will never go out of style. Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it.

  • Insightful indeed! Its about the quick buck. Society has taught it to value wealth rather than character and honesty.

  • Being honest, caring, a good listener, giving options with understandable explanations are some of the valued traits that will keep us in the business and make our clients return to us because they are satisfied. Value should always be first success will follow.

  • Gail, you would think it would be that easy, I find it is not. When interviewing new agents I can always tell the difference. The “valuable” agents want to know how we can help them help their clients. The “successful”, and I use that term loosely, ask “where do you get your leads and how much can I make.” Just like Armstrong stated “its about the quick buck” for those type of agents. I contend that “valuable” agents are still hard to find.

  • Tim, from my experience, I have seen agents that are looking to be successful at all cost
    being very dishonest and full of greed and tend to have more clients complaint. In the long run they tend not to have a solid root to stand on but continue to push themselves out of the business. Madoff and Enron. I still believe in good old human value. Each one of us knows right from wrong….Feelings, consciousness. I have to sleep at nights. This is just for me.

  • Gail, that is precisely why you are an agent of “value” and ultimately “successful”. I really appreciate you sharing.

  • Tim, another way to look at this is why I felt it was not ok for Sales to say to the small business team: “I don’t care what happens after I close it; my job is just to land it in the boat.” That thought doesn’t work well in consultative or relationship-based selling, where you are dedicated to helping a buyer make a confident, informed decision. Nor is it acceptable in teamwork-based cultures, where you expect that the client is ideally suited for the business opportunity and will be successful in it. (having the buyer’s best interests in mind for the significant commitment)

  • Cheryl, I completely agree, these are the agents always hunting new opportunities and new lead sources. The have burned every bridge by forcing the sale and have built no relationships to cultivate referrals for future business. It is sad and very true.

  • What a great piece! I totally agree-
    People who provide value and build relationships based on trust will ultimately end up keeping their clients business and earning important referrals.

  • Thank you for your kind words Aviva. You obviously are doing it the right way. Much continued success!

  • “It is strange the way the ignorant and inexperienced so often and so undeservedly succeed when the informed and the experienced fail” – Autobiography of Mark Twain

    What constitutes a life well spent, anyway? Love and admiration from your fellow men is all that any one can ask.” – Will Rogers

  • Good definition and explanation of both. Thanks

  • Ron, thank you for your kind words, I appreciate you sharing.

  • Hi Tim
    Being successful is what life is all about, you want a nice car/ house/ food to eat
    you want your children to have a good education, I run a successful company in the UK and I believe success breads success and I am great value to all my hard working staff Succesful and valuable mean the same to me

  • Lawrence, as you read from my blog, I am a big believer in success. However, I do not believe that success is what life is all about. I believe life is more about a person’s value. You can be both but success does not make a person valuable. However, Value can make a person successful. thank you for sharing your opinion, I appreciate it.

  • I am a mercenary and mercenaries are always expendable. that is who we are.

  • Bill that is a very interesting view of life. Thank you for sharing it.

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