You’ve undoubtedly have heard the phrase – running hot and cold – meaning you are one thing in one moment and the opposite thing in the next. Well, imagine living your life that way. Dan Ashfield has done just that, in a way few have experienced. From one extreme to the other.
Born in Phoenix, Dan lived the first 13 years of his life in the hot Arizona sun, until his Dad got the call for a job working the oil pipeline… in Alaska. From one extreme to the other, for the next quarter-century, it was life in a place some people dream about, others fear. For Dan, this was his life.
“You see a lot there,” says Dan. “It’s a place people dream about and I was living up there. I loved it. As a kid it was really good, when we had our long months of sun – I could play golf at 1:30 in the morning, or go to a beach party at 2-am, it was a completely different world. I grew up in Prudhoe Bay and people up there just know who you are. It’s a unique place. You shake a hand there to make a deal and everyone knows everyone, everybody takes care of everybody. I did a lot of outdoor stuff and had a friend who owned a plane company, so I got to fly to places you only read about in magazines. The only downside… the nine months of winter.”
Eventually, Dan also got a job as a non-contract worker for the oil fields – flying each week from Prudhoe Bay to Kenai, Alaska, about 12 miles from the Russian border. “I’d stay there a week at a time,” says Dan. “One week on, one week off. For five months out of the year you lived in complete darkness and for five months the sun never goes down. For about four-to-five weeks of the year, the average temperature in Kenai is 35-degrees below zero. Even in Prudhoe Bay, where I lived, the average temperature is 30-to-40 below in the winter; you never shut your truck off. They come and gas it up, check the fluids and do an oil change. You can’t turn it off or it will never start again.”
Eventually, Dan left Alaska to move to Idaho, getting a degree in law enforcement and becoming a police officer in Boise.
While working to keep others in line with the law, Dan met a girl who stole his heart and eventually became his wife, Lisa Clayton. But when the time came to help with the family business in Alaska, Dan headed north once more, this time to Halliburton. “I told my wife it would only be for five years… but I pushed it to fifteen,” says Dan. “Lisa hated the winters.”
After returning to Alaska Dan’s father ended up passing away, so Dan took over the family business which was now a newspaper distributorship. Not long after, Dan’s mom also died, exactly one-year-to-the-day her husband passed. “It was tough,” says Dan. “Losing my mom and my dad so young, I was still in my late 20’s. My dad died from the asbestos he had worked with since he was 14 years of age. We knew it could happen, they told us if it was caught early it could be cured. He was checked every year, but the last time he was checked cancer had already spread to his liver and lungs. My mom and my dad had worked hard, side-by-side, the last 15 years of their lives, they were inseparable.”
While in Alaska Lisa and Dan started a family, bringing two daughters, Dani and Aly, into the world. But life up in The Last Frontier started to take its toll on the kids.
Eventually, Dan met a friend and the two ended up moving back south – Dan back to Arizona and his friend to New Mexico. Together, they bought into a marketing franchise. But in about eight-months time the 45-year-old company went belly up. Dan lost everything.
“I had just moved back home to Phoenix,” says Dan. “Now I needed to start over. They were tough times. We were living with my niece and her two kids, there was not enough money to pay my own rent. It was a horrible part of my life.”
Dan’s friend told him he had learned about a company called UGA, offering health coverage and benefits to the self-employed, so Dan went in for an interview. That was 18 years ago. But it wasn’t easy. “I was not a quick-starter,” says Dan. “It took me about five months to figure out what to do. I used to put over 100,000-miles-a-year on my car. I was averaging about 22 appointments-a-week all over Arizona. There were guys who didn’t want to leave the city to make sales. I would go everywhere.”
Hard work and tenacity pays off, it always does. Even when hard times hit again.
Things ended up changing with UGA, but Dan stayed the course in the industry and ended up back with the same leadership team when it developed USHEALTH Advisors back in 2009. With Troy McQuagge, (now CEO of USHA), leading the charge, a small team of only about 40 agents and leaders got the ball rolling and it was Dan who wrote the first policy for the new company. “I still remember the date,” says Dan. “It was January 23rd, 2009. That policy is still on the books. Our company did about 800-thousand-dollars in business that year.”
This year USHEALTH Advisors is poised to do more than one-billion-dollars in business. Having been there since the beginning, Dan, who is now a Regional Sales Leader with USHA, knows what it takes.
“I want people to have the life I have today,” he says. “I’ve put in nearly 20 years of hard work, so I know it pays off. I see the bright future for myself and this company. I tell everybody, especially the new people, if you just give us five good years and I mean five honest years of hard work, you can set yourself up for life with this company. It’s not easy, but the rewards, are very nice. My reward today is about sharing our mission of HOPE, (Helping Other People Everyday). It’s not about the money I make, but changing someone else’s life. Giving instead of taking. And never forget where you came from.”
Dan remembers where his roots are and said he missed his parents a great deal: “My parents passed and they never got to live out their dreams like I’m doing. They raised five kids, always a double-income family. They never got to have the fun part of it. My dad wanted to have a motorhome and travel and he never got to do it. Now we can do it financially… and he’s not here. My parents never really got to know their grandkids at all. That’s the hardest part. You make it to the point you can do things for others and help them live their dreams and they’re not here to enjoy it.”
Dan’s sense of loss goes to the core of the company’s mission of HOPE and the focus of not only giving back, but paying attention, appreciating and nurturing what you have, while you’ve got it. Never, ever take others for granted and live in gratitude for what you have, seeking balance and focusing on the family.
“One of my greatest accomplishments is celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary this year,” says Dan. In the early years Lisa helped Dan in the business, assisting him in setting appointments. In the mid-2000’s, as an agent and as a sales leader, Lisa helped Dan write more than one-million-dollars in business in back-to-back years. Now it’s become a true family affair. After a few years of working in their chosen fields, but not getting ultimate job satisfaction and pay, Dan’s daughters have also joined USHEALTH Advisors to build a new life for themselves as well.
“Both kids have degrees, but they’ve come over here and they’ve doubled the income they were making in their previous professions,” says Dan. “It’s OK to change. Sometimes it’s not just that you don’t like the job you are doing, sometimes the job doesn’t like you. Then it’s not fun anymore. This career, this culture, is fun.”
Dan again reminds us to focus on what’s inside. “Never forget where you came from,” he says. “When you forget where you came from then you lose the mission of HOPE. Then it was all for nothing. This company is much bigger than a sales organization. The people at USHA are being recognized not only for what we do in sales, but for what we do in our communities. What we are doing for others is a mission shared by 23-hundred agents.”
The purpose is to stay true to that mission. It’s one you learn by giving back, doing the right thing and leading others. In Dan’s case, he’s living the dream and it all has come to fruition by just getting started, by being the first.