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Everyone needs an Al

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I spent 13 years as communications director for the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors-Pennsylvania (NAIFA-PA) before coming to InsuranceNewsNet. I learned a great deal during that time about the life insurance business. But, more important, the members taught me so much about life.

I still receive a “life lesson” from one of the members from time to time. A few days ago, one such lesson came my way. A NAIFA-PA leader with whom I had become friends over the years had just been presented with a major association award. He emailed me a copy of his acceptance speech so that I could share in his big moment. Halfway through his prepared remarks, I read something that smacked me upside the head and made me realize: I need an Al.

Let me explain.

The award recipient described his 35 years of NAIFA-PA membership and all he had received professionally and personally as a result of his association activities. Along the way, he had grown close to a fellow member named Al. Their friendship started while they were both on the volunteer leadership track. But a shared tragedy – the deaths of their mothers – brought them even closer.

That was eight years ago and their friendship is still going strong. In fact, I don’t think “friendship” is an accurate word to describe their relationship. They have become each other’s cheerleader, champion and confidante.

As my friend described it, he and Al live on opposite ends of the state. One of them is an early bird and the other is more of a night owl. So, although most of their communication is done by telephone, they communicate a bit differently. The early bird calls the night owl’s office voice mail before the business day begins and leaves messages that total about 20 minutes. When the night owl arrives at work, he takes the time to listen to these messages and let them sink in. In the evening, around 7 or 8 p.m., the night owl does the same thing with the early bird’s voice mail. He gives the night owl a chance to take the time to listen to these messages as well. And when their schedules are in sync, then they have a “real time” telephone conversation.

“The beauty of this is that both of us must listen with no opportunity to respond. We really listen,” my friend said in describing these voice mail conversations. “So when I do respond and call Al back, I have really heard everything that he has said.”

My friend truly believes that everyone needs to find an Al. It doesn’t matter where that person lives or works. The most important thing is that you and your Al really listen to each other, care about each other and understand what is going on in each other’s life.

So, after reading this, I had to ask myself: Who is my Al? Where do I find an Al?

Maybe I need to stop asking myself where my Al is and, instead, ask myself whether there is someone else out there who needs me to be an Al for them. I think that, like many of life’s occurrences, it will happen when I need it most and expect it least.

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Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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