December 8th, 2013 • Ross Martin
(Artist unknown, London, 2013)
(Artist unknown, London, 2013)
It's that weird time of year when people seem to make financial plans. Including life insurance? Guess so, but is there really any time of year when people think about life insurance?
Life insurance isn't exactly top of mind; USA Today calls it "the most ignored in fianncial planning." Dare you to try and find a life insurance salesman under the age of 50.
I recently looked up the nice older gentleman who sold me my life insurance policy 15 years ago, when I was running my own production company in Los Angeles. I gave him a call…
…he's no longer with us.
Life insurance is still pitched today exactly as he pitched it to me: "This here, young man, is a sound financial planning tool."
I bought some for the same reason Forbes says everyone else buys it: I really love my wife, I always will, and I want her to be taken care of if I depart sooner than we anticipate.
After I bought it, I forgot about it. For like a decade. I can't be the only one.
What got me to sit up and look more closely at the value of life insurance, recently, was when my brother-in-law — the youngest life insurance salesman I've ever met — walked me through the list of companies that wouldn't exist today had their founders not leveraged their policies to give them a second life:
I'm betting most of us, even the children of economists, weren't raised to ponder life insurance as an instrument of business entrepreneurship. And yet, when you think about it more broadly, is there a more compelling bet both for and against oneself, than life insurance?
Surely the idea of buying life insurance now to one day leverage in one's business to cover payroll or finance debt is odd. But in some ways, "Two things of opposite natures seem to depend / On one another….," as the most famous life insurance salesman of all time, and the only one to win a Pulitzer Prize, Wallace Stevens, once wrote.
I'd imagine Kroc, Stanford, Penney and many 21st century entrepreneurs might recognize themselves in these lines from Stevens' Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction:
We reason of these things with later reason
And we make of what we see, what we see clearly
And have seen, a place dependent on ourselves.
I had some fun making a video for my team as a warm-up for our holiday party, tonight. I'm so proud of everyone at Scratch for their incredible work this year — our biggest and best ever. This represents the first time I've ever been turned into a Belgian action star from the 90's…
(Artist unknown, Brooklyn, 2013)
Thank you to my friends at Converse for these objects of beauty on my birthday!
Long ago, in what seems like another life, a colleague much senior to me (in age, experience and level) summoned me to his office on a Friday afternoon for a "chat." Sounded ominous, and it was.
I'd been working for the (unnamed) company for some time, and had achieved some early success. Enough success that I wasn't just feeling confident, I was feeling unstoppable. You might say that my ambition was showing.
Like Reese Witherspoon's character in Election.
The executive, a tall man with decades of service under his Gucci belt, started by acknowledging the progress I'd made at the company:
"You've got this little rocket ship, or whatever you want to call it. You're moving fast, and us corporate guys upstairs are moving so slow. You wear your sneakers and your ripped jeans and you think you're soooo cool."
He was right, I did think I was kinda cool, back then. I was also — I didn't realize it — beginning to venture into areas of that company in which I wasn't, shall we say, welcome. Areas that weren't, as they say, part of my job.
"Well," he continued, "You should realize you're one of us now. And you need to, you need to…"
Oh, Lord. I've pissed off this man, big time. I've somehow disturbed his universe. Here it comes. I waited and waited for his next few words, but he seemed stuck. I stared at his shoes, which cost more than my monthly rent.
"You need to know…"
What did I need to know?
"You need to know your, your…"
I couldn't take it anymore. I finished the sentence for him:
"My place?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. "That's all, you can go now."
"Just about all the concessions we make to work in a well-run, non-disturbing, secure, predictably successful, managed environment have to do with giving up our voice."
Today I work in a place that, unlike most others, I'm never expected to give up my voice. In fact, having a voice, not giving it up – and having enough confidence to use it to inspire others – is probably half the reason I have my job.
Last week, we had a huge idea for a client. And by "we" I don't mean me. I'm the one who heard it, developed it with my team, and ultimately pitched it. The client loved and bought it. It was huge.
But the idea itself came from a colleague in an area of our company whose job description couldn't read less like a creative mandate. Someone who in most companies wouldn't even have the courage or the opportunity to express a creative idea outside her narrow lane.
I used to say all the time that one of my biggest goals was to bring creativity and innovation to every area of an organization. Problem is, that kind of hubris presumes creativity and innovation aren't already present in those areas, and that I'm somehow the one who can bring it.
Look closer: creativity and innovation are bubbling under every surface, thriving in every nook. It's up to each of us to find ways to unlock and unleash it. To champion ideas, no matter where they come from. And to celebrate anyone with the courage to express themselves beyond the parameters of their job description.
Great people work hard. Great ideas shouldn't have to.
Know your place, indeed. If where you work doesn't sound like a place that believes in the brilliance of human creative potential, maybe you're in the wrong place.