Never quit, and you will conquer

par Donna Glasgow | January 12 2009 08:57PM

Growing up black and poor in the southern United States, it is safe to say that 65-year-old Solomon Hicks did not get an easy start in life. However, his own unwavering faith in his future brought him all the way to the top of the life insurance field, including winning Prudential Financial’s highest honour, the President’s Trophy Award, seven times.

In a presentation entitled Extraordinary Everyday, Mr. Hicks recounted his fascinating and inspirational journey to a packed audience at the recent Insurance and Investments Convention in Montreal as part of a presentation by the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT). Mr. Hicks, founder and CEO of Solomon Hicks Financial Services, Inc., is a Lifetime and Top of the Table of MDRT. He is also a professional speaker, career coach and consultant.

He told the audience of a defining moment in his life that happened when he was a young boy working in a restaurant. He was told to clean but never drink from the "White Only" fountain. Eventually, he began to wonder how "white water" must taste. Risking punishment, one day he got up the courage to drink from the forbidden fountain. "It tasted like water. I was so disappointed...The only thing different is it was separate."

It occurred to him that success is the same way, he explained. "You always think it is reserved for someone better, someone more talented." He asked the audience to consider where they might be separating themselves from success. "What's your white water? What's calling you to change things?" he asked.

Explaining how he overcame his early disadvantages and achieved success, Mr. Hicks says his most important belief was and remains, "Quitting is not an option." In fact, he was fired in his first week with Prudential because he didn't have a car and because the manager didn't believe that he could succeed. "But I refused to quit. I told the manager that I would work for free."

Sometimes, when no one else believes in you, you have to encourage yourself, he said. "Whatever you want to achieve, your purpose must be greater than your pain."

Visualizing yourself as a success is key to this self encouragement, he explained. "You have to see yourself successful, stay focused, understand that you're making a difference."

Because he had no car in those early weeks of his career, he found his potential clients where he could: riding on the bus. "I used the bus as a captive audience." Everyday, he would give his sales pitch to his fellow bus riders. Fifteen weeks later he'd earned enough commissions to buy himself a car and a phone. Then he got himself a phone book. "Look at all these prospects!" he'd tell himself. "I was dialling for dollars!" He was named Prudential's rookie-of-the-year.

"Turning back is not an option," he told the crowd. Keep your goal in mind and keep moving towards it no matter the obstacle, he advised. Just as a pilot will continue on his course although he may encounter turbulence, a financial advisor should also keep going despite rejection, despite discouragement, he said. Although he may have felt like quitting many times in his 40 years in the business, "I've never exercised the option."

His persistence paid off the year that he set a goal to be the number one salesperson in his company. He had 12 days left to go in the year and was ranked 138th. He asked the manager for 60 applications. His wife said, "No, give him 90." Eleven days, 22 states, 90 applications and over $700,000 in premiums later, he was in the number one spot. Hoping to get to number one would not have been enough, he explained. "Hope is not a strategic plan...It took more than hope. It took action."

When life insurance advisors truly understand the significance of the work that they do, they will understand that quitting is not an option, he believes. He told the audience if he had quit in the beginning, he would have never had the experience of selling life insurance to his brother who was the father of two young children when he was killed at age 33. Because Mr. Hicks had sold him insurance, his brother's family was able to stay in their home and the children had the benefit of educations.

In another anecdote, he recalled how a woman who lived in a notorious part of Chicago kept calling insurers to buy life insurance for her husband, but no agents would go to see her because of the neighbourhood. So, Mr. Hicks went. Two months later her husband was killed in a mugging. "Had I not been willing to go see the lady, she would not have been able to move out of that neighbourhood and educate her two beautiful daughters."

His never quit philosophy of life also served him well in romance, he added. The very first day he met Carol, the woman who would become his wife, he proposed to her. She refused his proposal, so he kept asking everyday. After 85 proposals, she finally accepted. They were married a few days later and are still married 45 years later.

Mr. Hicks added that his mother gave him advice that he has followed all his life and that has helped him greatly throughout his career. She told him "let your light shine." He shared the same advice with audience members. "Keep the light on inside of you, stay inspired, know that what you do makes a difference."