Man In The Mirror – Mark Brodinsky

There comes a time to share your own journey. So I’ll keep this intro brief.

Everyone has a story, including me. 🙂

I am Mark Brodinsky – it’s my story – and this is Storytelling for Business.

If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a changeI’m starting with the man in the mirror.” – Michael Jackson

It was not that long ago I heard a great line from one of the people I’ve featured on this storytelling blog. That line is, the only constant is change.

Well, ain’t that the truth. I’ve told nearly 140 stories, which are currently featured on the USHA Careers website under the Culture button, (https://www.ushacareers.com/blog/), as well as my worldwide blog, (https://markbrodinsky.com/storytelling/).

Today, the change is that instead of sharing someone else’s story, I’m sharing mine. I’m humbled, excited, and a bit scared. Those are all really the same emotions that most of my storytelling subjects experience before they speak to me.

I’m no different than you. We’re all human. So take a seat and buckle up, this could be a wild ride.

First, how about a short preview of what’s to come? I’ll play a word game with you then fill in the details later. Words like: stutter, 180-degree turn, commitment, freedom, residual income, television, separation, divorce, daughters, stroke, death, author, storyteller, personal development, mastermind, new wife, success, failure and oh yea, You Matter.

Hmmm… this ought to be interesting. And I’m writing this in real-time, meaning I promised myself I’d let my thoughts flow and not think too much about what I wanted to say, but speak from the heart. That’s how I write most of the stories for the company… from the lips of my storytelling subject, to my ears, to my mind, to my heart, before my fingers run across the keyboard, and then there it is… art. Or at least I hope it’s accepted as such by you, the reader.

Let’s get the basics out of the way, my name is Mark Brodinsky. I come from a warm and welcoming place where I lived for about only nine months… my mother’s womb.;) Actually, I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up with my mom, my dad, my sister, and later with a dog named Archie. Those are the basics, the black and white of all of this. But the good lord knows we all live our lives in color… the shades in between the black and white of any human existence.

So let me fill in a few more blanks, then we’ll take a look at some of the colors.

First of all, I came to this wonderful opportunity at USHEALTH Advisors in 2015, after talking with my Regional Leader, Stephen Koncurat, (an outstanding human being I’ve known for 20+ years now), and also being truly honored to have the chance to talk to our CEO Troy McQuagge, prior to making the leap of faith. I knew Steve and Troy from a former, similar version of this company, where I had served as an agent and leader for nearly ten years. Then I took a break and moved into another area of insurance, life insurance, only to return “home”, to where Troy, Bill Shelton, Dean Whaley, Randi McQuagge, the late Karla McCombs and others had taken up residence.

I’m now a $5 million + individual producer here at USHA, after writing about $8 million in policies at the former company and a ton of life insurance in a four-year gap between the former entity and this one, as I journeyed back here… to where I always belonged, at USHEALTH Advisors.

Alright, there are your numbers, so let’s fill in the colors.

Now, I bet you didn’t know, because most don’t, that I can barely say the word, “deductible.” I have a speech impediment, one I didn’t realize I had until sitting in Mrs. Cherry’s class in the 4th grade. When she asked a question about the document signed in 1776 to declare our independence, I knew the answer, so I raised my hand. Then I froze. I felt my tongue and throat seize up and at that moment I knew if I started to say the words Declaration of Independence, it was going to come out, D-D-D-D-Declaration. I may have had this issue before, but I was 10 years old by then and because I still remember the moment so vividly, I believe it was the first time it happened. To this day, I don’t know why that seemed to be the genesis of it all.

That stutter, though no one rarely heard me do it, affected my life for the next decade and then some. The words I would shy away from, the choices I made in school, the friends I hung out with, the girls I never spoke to, the theater plays I never took part in. Even, at the age of 22, when I became a local TV producer at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, I still suffered. I really wanted to be a reporter, but was too afraid to try, for fear of the words or names I would have no choice to say with letters like S, and B, and D, which I believed would have me seizing up in front of a live audience, before I could get them out of my mouth. Though I eventually realized my dream of being on TV, it took several years of working there and working on myself before building up enough courage to take the leap into being a feature reporter, because then the words I would use were my own, not locations or names of people I knew I would have to say and couldn’t alter by using different words.

I tell you this story for a reason… our struggles are our gifts the world will fall in love with. My stutter helped shape me, it happened for a reason, and so like many of you, I had a challenge to overcome when I started in the insurance business. We all have challenges. Everyone you will ever meet in your entire life is going through something, that was just one of my somethings.

Once I got into this business, there it was, one of the key words you have to say over and over to be able to have an intelligent conversation about health coverage… deductible. You’re kidding me, right? But if you want something bad enough, you find a way. Especially when you burn the boats and have no plan B.

And I wanted this… bad.

It was when my oldest daughter Sophie was only one-year-old, that I made the move from TV to health insurance. The TV biz was eating up all of my time. As children are for most parents, Sophie was my driving force, I was hell-bent on not missing her growing up. I passed my insurance exam, gave two weeks notice, became self-employed and dove into this business. It was tough. From TV to health insurance? My former co-workers thought I was nuts, and the underlying sentiment when they said that to me, without them using the words, was that I would fail. Back then the business we do now was all face-to-face, no virtual meetings. It’s probably why, on the top of the box where I stored much health insurance pitch books for my in-person presentations, I wrote myself a message which read, “Failure is not an option”. Every time I opened my trunk to get my supplies I had to reach that message.

Every single time.

It kept me going. Through all the hang-ups, the ghosted appointments, the applications that got declined, the colds I got where I could barely speak above a whisper, the car accidents I was in, the self-doubt, the weeks with no income… it kept me going.

Failure is not an option.

Though I quickly learned, as so many of you have here at USHA, that failing is a good thing because it’s necessary to get better, try, fail, try, fail, try, fail… and embrace the suck until that suck becomes success. Just don’t give in to failure.

So I taught myself to pause a beat before I was to say the word “deductible” and get it out smoothly, (most of the time), without stuttering in front of my clients. I built a mental muscle with that practice and with many others, so my speech got better and better. If you want it bad enough, you find a way. I read books on positive thinking, I listened to audio, I watched videos, I steeled myself to pound my way through every obstacle and set back and soon enough I was the # 1 agent in my Division. I won trips, I won prizes, I was awarded bonuses and I had the freedom to be at every event my daughter Sophie, and then my daughter Emily, took part in.

I knew what I wanted. I had a vision. I re-engineered my brain. I opened my heart to help clients. I helped, I served, I had unwavering support from Stephen and my other leader at the time, Brian Zimmerman… and I won.

TV was in the rearview mirror. And I took with me the pride of a job well done there, and the Emmy Award I had won just a few years earlier, and put that in a nice spot on my shelf, right next to my first health insurance agent of the year award for my division.

It still brings tears to my eyes today to think back on those early days in insurance. Whether virtual or in-person our greatest enemy is not the marketplace, a prospective client, the economy, or the government. It doesn’t matter what happens in the White House, it matters what happens in your house. Our greatest enemy is the brain matter between our own ears and the inability to tap into the depths of our hearts.

That was then, going back to 2001 – 2011, a long run… but this is now.

And now was my return to Troy and company in 2015.

Having worked on myself for years by this time, starting a blog, writing a few books, selling a ton of insurance, and joining a Mastermind group, which literally changed the trajectory of my life (highly recommend you take part in one), I was ready to come home to USHA and do it again. I did just that, launching another very successful run here again with Stephen Koncurat, now as my Regional Leader and my Division Leader, Jamie Blumberg. I even started this blog you are now reading in March of 2016 as part of my mission, this higher-purpose I realized, which is to positively impact the lives of a Billion people, through insurance, through storytelling, through writing, through speaking and more.

But just like you reading this, I know life is not a straight line, it zigs, it zags and occasionally it gets turned upside down, as we hang on for dear life, hoping not to slip into the abyss.

For me, this moment came in September of 2016. My marriage of 18 years ended. I accept my part in all of it unwinding. Every relationship, from business to personal, demands attention, nurturing, and open and honest communication. Everything affects everything.

So it ended and I was devastated.

Let me say this, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing many people here since 2016 when these stories began. And I understand now, from my own experience, and even more so from so many of yours, that you always have a choice, a choice to turn devastation into education. It just doesn’t happen overnight.

I’ll share some lessons here because I learned them the hard way. And it’s sharing our scars that can help others to learn, perhaps to mend from our traumas, encourage, or at the very least create another perspective on others’ lives.

My lesson to you is don’t give in and don’t give up. I nearly did, professionally and personally. I was a Field Sales Leader at the time of my separation and after being here at USHA for only 16 months, I stepped back to be an agent.

Mistake.

I wanted to be there for my daughters, to focus on their intense pain in all of this. But continuing to lead and to serve the agents on my team would have also helped distract me, more so empower me, and still so early in the game here at USHEALTH, and still living on advances, not hurt my income as well. I spent way too much time in personal solitude, feeling sorry for myself, reflecting on everything in my life, and playing the guilt card way too hard.

Mistake.

Not a smart move because as much as you want to cower in the corner, we all are part of a social tribe and we need one another. We also need to forgive ourselves and forgive others. Don’t do trauma and heartache alone. Keep moving, always keep moving. The core of emotion is motion.

And motion creates momentum.

I still focused on my daughters, I learned to lean heavily on my mastermind group and a few close friends, (special shout-outs to Rob Commodari, Mark Pallack, Pete Kohlasch, Ann H and Julie B), and got myself back on track.

I got a more intense workout routine, increased my reading, my watching and sharing of inspirational videos, I created a Meetup called, Change Your Mind Change Your Life, I kept writing these stories, published my second book, The Sunday Series, and oh yeah, sold a lot more health insurance, and by the start of 2018, I was back in leadership, eventually making my way to a promotion as a Satellite Division Sales Leader.

I learned, as so many of you have here at USHA, that the thrill and joy of helping lead others and seeing them succeed and thrive, makes you better and fuels your own resilience. It’s a great ride, another good run, dare I say a great run, extremely productive.

During this time I even uncovered another way to inspire others through a story I heard, about a You Matter card. I created my own cards and started handing them out. I was soon experiencing and learning day by day that the deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated. My You Matter movement began.

But then, another September to remember. On Labor Day, 2021, my dad called me in tears. My mom had apparently suffered a stroke and the ambulance was on the way. If I told you know that my mom had passed on, it might make sense, since it’s not uncommon following a sudden health collapse like that one. Fortunately it was a mini-stroke and she survived.

What I didn’t see coming was with my mom still recovering in a rehab facility, my dad had started to decline, rapidly, and only 40 days after my mom’s stroke, my dad died.

It was crazy how things progressed, how fast it all happened. But things that have never happened before, happen all the time.

History never repeats itself, but man always does. Not this time. I wasn’t about to step back from my journey with USHA. This time I was ready. I had built myself up to handle those 40 days and way beyond. I was built for this struggle. I didn’t bail on my business or my team and I kept going. And it is one of the greatest gifts in the world to work for a company like USHEALTH Advisors, to be self-employed, to have built residual income and more, to cushion myself and my family against the unexpected but eventual setbacks in life.

Things don’t happen to you they happen for you and it’s never a matter of if, but when.

My point in sharing all this is exactly that. You are in the right place, at the right time, with the right company, and as Troy would let us know, the best company in America, bar none. The success I’ve experienced at USHA, through the many agents and clients I serve, the income I’ve made, and the people who have become friends and family, are life-changing and life-affirming.

And let’s not forget the freedom to be there for those I love the most. Remember my initial reason for becoming self-employed? I helped create life, (Sophie), and I was not going to miss that life growing up. I have two daughters now, Sophie and Emily, whom I adore. And because of my opportunity here at USHEALTH, and even before that at the former company, the power to make my own schedule, to be my own boss, to help and serve amazing clients, to control my time, and to realize significant income, even while I sleep – these things made it possible for me to be there for my girls – and those moments are priceless.

I never miss or have missed a thing. The soccer games, the piano recitals, the holidays, the family gatherings, the vacations, the graduations. And the other standouts, like watching Sophie’s soul-fulfilling singing performances and musicals in high school, or coaching Emily’s softball team from the time she was four years old, to then watching her pitch Varsity softball as a freshman. Because of this opportunity at USHA, and despite the setbacks, my daughters have thrived. It’s a gift and because of the ability to earn a great income here, first Sophie, and now Emily in a month, graduate college without a dime of debt or student loans. That’s a big win. As well as the fact that their mom and I have a very good relationship. And we dog share, so I still get to spend every other week with my boy, Ollie. 🙂

The joy just keeps on coming… and wait, there’s more.

To top it all off, with my career success and my continual and never-ending quest to make myself better, I attracted an amazing and beautiful new woman into my life. Stephanie Hamburg and I were married, (first at the courthouse and then eloped to Jamaica), in late summer last year. I learned over the past decade that if you want to find the right person, become the person you want to attract first. What a Godsend she has been in my life. She’s one of the main reasons I’ve moved back from Virginia to my hometown of Baltimore, to fully engage in the next chapter of my life.

I know this story wasn’t about all the phone calls I have made, the leads I contacted, the referrals and introductions I have received to build my business. Instead I wanted to let you know who I am, where I came from and what I’ve come back from, to prove a point about what it takes to make a two-decade-plus run in this business, but more importantly, just the other-worldly opportunity that Troy and company have built here. Troy helped save the former company before I even started there. He stepped out of retirement, to kick-start and shepherd this one. He’s a visionary and is doing exactly what he is meant to do, to change lives for the better. His air is rare, you just don’t see leadership and caring like this in the marketplace today. I know he’s reading this because he reads all the stories, and yes Troy I’m singing your praises, and with good reason, because none of this would exist without you lighting a match to this flame. And Troy knows and lives that deep principle of human nature, that others matter and he wants to make sure you know it too by using his gifts to change the lives of others.

Thank you my friend.

So, let’s wrap this extra-long tale with this final thought. If I interviewed you for this blog, then you know I always ask you to narrow all we talk about down to one thing. What’s the one thing you want to share? To make sure others know about you? That maybe you want to be remembered for?

So I will challenge myself to do the same and take a good, hard look at the man in the mirror.

The one thing my friends, through all the challenges, setbacks, traumas, happiness, joy and all that I’ve been able to experience with my time in these health insurance businesses, ESPECIALLY today at USHA, which still continues to be a focus in my life, is that there is no place I’ve ever been that makes you feel so special, so appreciated, so valued and so loved. My $5 Million Milestone celebration was just that, a day where I felt so good because everyone made me feel that way.

Here at USHEALTH Advisors I know that I Matter. And because of that, I want to pay it forward every day of my life and let you know something I feel from the deepest place in my heart.

You Matter too.

With love and tremendous gratitude… until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Your Storyteller,

Mark Brodinsky

Recent Posts

Commitment – Saifallah Hayek
  The only limit to your impact is imagination and commitment. – Tony Robbins Saifallah Hayek can narrow it down to...
Read More about Commitment – Saifallah Hayek
Know Your Purpose – Francesca Zanelli
Know Your Purpose “Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction and events without reason.” – Rick Warren,...
Read More about Know Your Purpose – Francesca Zanelli
What Others Don’t Want To Do – Karl Curran
What Others Don’t Want To Do “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”...
Read More about What Others Don’t Want To Do – Karl Curran