As a young boy, I remember a man coming to my home. He was tall, very well-dressed, book-sophisticated and he drove a shiny blue Cadillac. I was curious about him because my parents would always shoo me away from the kitchen saying, “Hey, this is adult talk. Get out of here.” Eventually, I came to know who Mr. Chet Duke was. He was my mom and dad’s life insurance agent.
Being a life insurance beneficiary
My father was diagnosed with colon cancer late in my junior year of high school. Even with the diagnosis, my parents never missed a single one of my wrestling matches. I distinctly remember looking up from the mat one time and seeing my father sitting there pale and sickly, but he was present. My father passed away on August 16, 1993, at 4:55 p.m. That’s a time that sticks in your memory, the moment you lose your father.
Dad’s life insurance kept our family normal. Our bills were paid. There was money in the bank. We still celebrated Christmas, birthdays and Easter. As our family struggled with the grief, the boat that was our life did not capsize. Dad’s life insurance didn’t make Mom a rich woman, but it did provide the financial foundation in those early days and weeks, and even years. Mom kept her job and her benefits, which on their own would not have been enough. The life insurance that Mr. Duke sold my parents gave them financial dignity.
My sister and I were able to continue our college coursework, and 26 years later, when my mom passed away, that wealth transferred to my sister and me. And, by the way, my mom had five policies on her life. My family began to truly understand and appreciate the real value of life insurance — what it does, not what it is. Life insurance saves families and changes lives.
On July 19, 1999, I entered the life insurance business. That’s another date that sticks in my memory.
Finding a mentor
For more than two decades, Mr. Duke was the leading agent in my general office. He was a mentor to many, most of whom I never met. But I do know one of them very well: MDRT Past President Walton W. Rogers, CLU, ChFC, a 49-year MDRT member from Amelia Island, Florida, USA.
Walton went on to become the leader in my general agency, a position he held for many years. I sought Walton out to be my mentor. He was the man whom agents wanted to emulate. I asked him to mentor me through the MDRT Mentoring Program. He agreed.
We met monthly. I joined Walton on countless appointments, and he joined me on many of mine. He emphasized three key items: trustworthiness, openness and honesty. These were qualities I saw in Mr. Duke, and these are qualities that remain the foundation of my practice today. Thank you, Walton.
My life story here is not very significant in this business, but it is significant to me. Never forget that being a life insurance agent is a noble calling. We mentor, we teach and we provide financial dignity. We are the lifeboat when the seas are rough. We save families, and we change lives. That is what we do.
Brett Sause is a 21-year MDRT member, of Easton, Maryland, USA, and a Top of the Table member. This was excerpted from his 2021 Top of the Table Annual Meeting presentation (MDRT member exclusive).
For more about mentoring:
Read “The mentoring advantage” (Available in nine languages)
Watch “Why mentoring is important” (MDRT member exclusive)