Because behavior seemed to be the key to answering the client problem, Jordan started looking at agent behavior, too. His personal experiences — the rejections he faced when working for Home Life early in his career, the agents masquerading as “investment representatives” in the ’80s — told him there was likely a self-esteem issue among agents. Agent identity was “a recipe for schizophrenia,” Jordan says.
This was when Jordan began delving into his own personal story and emotions — something he’d been reluctant to do in the past. “I didn’t want to talk about my mother or my family,” he says. “I didn’t think it was relevant; I thought it was hokey.”
He grew angry with his dad and that cashed-in life insurance policy. He got frustrated with agents who weren’t doing their best to protect families like his. And everything boiled over at the 2004 MDRT show, while he was giving his main platform address.
With balled-up fists, Jordan recounted his family’s story.
“I want to know, where was the person of significance, the advocate, who could have taken my father, even pushed him up against a wall and said, ‘Don’t you understand you have to have life insurance?’ Jordan told the audience. “You have to understand what your sacred trust is. You have to overcome your reluctance to make the call. It has to come from the heart to go out and find people like the elderly woman or my mother because you have to protect them … If someone is disrespectful of you or treats you like a used car salesman … do you know what you tell them? What I do for a living is I protect the innocent when someone dies prematurely. I provide a worry-free retirement that people can’t outlive. I protect their assets when they get sick. I provide a legacy when they die. Because I live a life of significance.”
The audience couldn’t get enough. “I was going nuts up there, going nuts over my father,” Jordan says. “Screaming and yelling. And people loved it.”
A life of significance
Jordan started giving a version of that presentation everywhere he spoke and eventually wrote it all down for his book, “Living a Life of Significance.” His mission since then has been to take that core message — that agents do something extraordinarily important — to insurance professionals around the world.
“I think a lot of my message is that people need to realize that they do something significant, because that’s what gives them the courage to persevere,” he says. “For a long time, we’ve been living in this paradigm of selection and timing. ‘If you do business with me, I’ll select the right investments and get you out at the right time.’ That’s wrong. It takes credit for bull markets and mistakes volatility for risk, which it’s not. It’s time to bring agents back to the idea of the fundamentals and the basics.”
It’s a new mindset that could revitalize the industry and bring new talent into a graying field, Jordan says. “In recruiting materials, we put more emphasis on how lucrative the profession can be,” Jordan says. “Not that that isn’t necessary — because you run a business — but it’s gone too far. We need new people coming in who care, who like teamwork and feeling good about what you do.
“I think we need to emphasize more the positive impact our profession has on our clients. This customer-centric culture is best summarized by the Jesuits who say ‘Men and Women for Others,’” Jordan says.
And if agents feel like advocates, empowered to connect with and help their clients, they could close the growing life insurance coverage gap in America as well as ensure that retirees, living longer and increasingly without pensions, don’t run out of money.
“It’s a big opportunity, but we have a big execution risk,” Jordan says. “Reps have to visualize, every day, the difference they can make. The bottom line is, if your heart’s not in the right place in this business, you have to be an extraordinary human being to make it.”
Jordan’s message seems to have had an impact on agents across the globe. His book has sold more than 25,000 copies to date and is soon to be translated into four languages. (To order a copy, go to www.theamericancollege.edu/significance. All proceeds go to The American College.) He’s also in high demand as a speaker at events as far away as Australia. At the GAMA LAMP conference, we had to move our interview location after agents kept stopping by to thank Jordan and shake his hand.
“It really seems to have resonated,” he says. “When you boil it down, all people are the same. Everybody just wants to do the right thing.”
Despite his hectic travel schedule, at 60 years old, Jordan doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon. “I’ve got a retirement date — it’s two weeks before dialysis,” he likes to joke in his presentations.
Jordan plans to continue his work in Behavioral Finance at MetLife and as an industry speaker, from which he donates all his fees — more than $600,000 so far — to charity. But he’s also open to whatever the future holds.
“If I was strictly motivated, I’d tell you what my plan is,” he says. “But I’m strictly inspired now. A minor point now turns into the major point 15 months later. So, who knows?”
For more on Joe Jordan, see: