In life, as in business, your word is your bond. Say what you mean, then act upon it, show up, do it with great integrity, character, and commitment. Live truly through these timeless traits and see your business and your life flourish. In other words, build a great business and build a great life.
That journey becomes your story. Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is Storytelling for Business.
Storytelling for Business: Superman
Everyone’s life is a movie. You write the words, you do your best to live the vision, and you are no doubt the director and producer. It can be a blockbuster or a flop, the choice is up to you. For Michael Gibson, the movie of his life is an intriguing drama, at times an edge-of-your-seat thriller, a horror show, a comedy and everything else in between. Michael wouldn’t have it any other way… after all, watching movies is one of his all-time favorite pastimes.
“I love movies,” says Michael. “I watch one to two movies a day and have seven-thousand in my collection.” One of his favorites is Superman, in fact, any of the Superman movies, it’s also Michael’s persona… and with good reason, he’s overcome a great deal and is now giving a great deal more to fulfill his mission in business and in life. Sometimes business can lead you to a better life and sometimes it’s the other way around, a life circumstance can lead you to a better business.
Michael serves as a Field Sales Leader for USHEALTH Advisors, offering affordable health coverage to the self-employed, individuals and families – and while it’s been a good ride – the road to getting here and the inspiration to change lives, came by way of a life-changing experience. It was the day Michael made a turn and in an instant, his world was turned upside down. In that moment Michael nearly died, but his purpose was born.
It was a seemingly beautiful Saturday in McKinney, Texas, until the semi-truck driver rammed into Michael’s Ford pick-up. Waiting to make a left at the green light, Michael was a sitting duck when the semi-driver, racing to beat the red, swerved around the vehicle in front of him and barreled into the passenger side of Michael’s truck, spinning him around, as he then crashed into another vehicle now stopped at the red light. It was a massive collision, effectively turning that intersection into a bloodbath. By the time the smoke cleared, eight vehicles were involved in the pile-up, and several lives were lost. Michael managed to survive… but barely. The powerful crash would change the course of Michael’s life.
“I had an out of body experience,” says Michael. “I watched the whole thing happen in slow-motion. The bright light, floating above watching everything. Then I shook my head and I was back in the cab of my little Ford Ranger truck. I was conscious, but my body was in shock. I remember the paramedic giving me a lollipop, what I later found out was morphine to stem the pain from all of my injuries. I had trouble breathing, I had a punctured lung, bruised organs, broken ribs, broken leg, broken arm, busted face and neck. Everything changed that day.”
Six days later, in ICU, Michael finally opened his eyes. “I woke up and my mom was there, my father, and my godmother,” says Michael. “Somebody told me there had been an accident…and I wasn’t OK. I looked down to see five rods sticking out of my leg, apparently a temporary fix before multiple surgeries. A piece of my heel was eventually surgically sewn into the back of my knee. I would need to re-grow two-inches of bone in my left leg. I was told I’d likely never walk again. I ended up with 22 pieces of metal in my body.”
Michael was a man now made up of flesh and steel. On that day, Superman was born.
In each one of our lives there are lessons learned and we are told so much happens for a reason. Despite feeling like a superhero by overcoming the tragedy which had befallen him, Michael says he also knows God was teaching him a lesson, albeit in a cruel and painful way.
“I had been impatient much of my life,” says Michael. “At that time in my life, I was impatient with people and waiting for things to come to me. I was not tolerant of others. I had graduated early and was now in college. I felt like if I’m here, why can’t you be? What are you waiting for? If I’m willing to be here, where are you?”
It wasn’t until a bible study class, just weeks before the accident that Michael had an epiphany. “When I was going through bible study at church, I read a passage that said, patience brings wisdom. It hit me hard. I always wanted the next thing. I finally said I can’t do this anymore. I asked God to give me the patience to do this, to change… and two weeks later I got crushed by a semi-truck. It forced me to slow down, big time. I was so independent. I always wanted to do it my way. Then I got hit with a reality check. You have no choice but to rely on others, do it the way they want you to, sit there and take it. I realized I can’t be the energizer bunny, if you can’t slow down and appreciate people, you are missing life.”
Despite his new perspective on life, Michael was also missing something else… something critical to his recovery. He had NO health insurance. Today that lack of coverage and his experience drives his purpose – back then it nearly drove him out of his mind… for without insurance, once he was stable and able to be released from the hospital, there was no way to pay for his therapy and rehabilitation. “I had to do the rehab on my own,” he says.
Michael’s parents had not been able to afford health insurance and now that he was 18 and an adult, in the state of Texas at least, he was ineligible for Medicaid. Superman was about to be put to the test of his life. Upon his release from the hospital, Michael was given pain meds by the doctors and told to take them, maybe for the rest of his life. But Superman had other plans. With no money to buy medications, and with no desire to become dependent on pain meds anyway, Michael decided to go it on his own, no drugs and no help with his rehab. The first step though was to go home.
“I moved back in with my parents,” says Michael. Back home, he took to the task of marking off the studs in the walls in his bedroom. The reason? So when he punched his fist through the drywall because of the intense pain he was dealing with, he wouldn’t break his hand. “Once I got out of the hospital, I went cold turkey off the meds and just dealt with the pain,” says Michael. “I wanted to rehabilitate, not medicate. My drywall had more holes in it than swiss cheese.”
Though incredibly painful the road to recovery, albeit never pain-free, even today, has been filled with blessings as well. It always is. Life, pain, grief, even happiness is never linear. It ebbs and flows, with peaks and valleys.
Once he could move about even a little, Michael wanted to find a way back to the land of the living. After being coerced by a friend, Michael ended up working at an after-school program with the YMCA. “It’s where I met my wife Lindsey. She was my boss for three months, now she’s my boss for life,” he laughs.
While Michael was courting Lindsey, (she didn’t like him at first he says), he was also dealing with losing nearly everything. With medical bills mounting, especially the ones from his long hospital stay, void of any health insurance, coupled with his inability to find secure work – left him virtually homeless – sometimes living out of his car. Once Lindsey and Michael left their jobs at the Y, Michael continued his college courses in business management and worked two to three jobs. At the time, Lindsey didn’t know the depths of Michael’s debt or hardship, but she did know she didn’t want to deepen their relationship unless he found a dependable job.
“Lindsey eventually said, ‘I love you, but you have much too much potential, go out and get a career’,” says Michael. “It took a long time for me to reveal my hardship to Lindsey, but I actually fixed it before I had to tell her. At that point in time, I put my resume on career builder and found a listing that said: Determine your own worth. Help others. Make your own hours. Make money. I went to the interview in a t-shirt and jeans because it was all I could afford, I had nothing else to wear, everyone else was in a suit. My leader at the time said I don’t know if this is right for you, but I’m gonna give you a chance.”
That “chance” worked out. In 2010, Michael was the first founding agent at USHEALTH Advisors… and his success in his profession has proven he can live up to his Superman persona, producing more than $7 million in insurance premiums in just eight years. Michael knows his super success is directly tied to his determination, faith, dogged perseverance and two critical components of his mindset. “It’s always purpose before paychecks,” says Michael. “And I realized early on that this is not just about health insurance, it’s not the product, this is a people business. Show compassion and care for others. They don’t care as much about what you are showing, they care that you are listening, then helping and they appreciate it. My purpose supersedes my passion. I want to make sure other people are not in the same position I was in, with no health insurance.”
Of course, Michael shares his story with his clients. It’s a powerful story about being prepared for the worst, even though “the worst” led him to the career of his dreams. His position with USHEALTH Advisors has actually provided Michael and his wife the opportunity to virtually create new lives. A tough road to pregnancy, the couple spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments and eventually were blessed with twins, now 5-year-olds, Cody and Kynzley. “Without me working at USHA I never could have earned the money to pay for those very expensive treatments. We wouldn’t have had the money to make that happen,” says Michael.
He also has some advice for others looking at this opportunity and trying to make a successful run. “Work. Just develop the energy and drive to do it,” says Michael. “Do it and do it and do it and it will work out. Put blinders on and one day when you look up and look around, your life will be a success. I had blind faith, I was working on pure trust, I’m just gonna do this, I said. I called hundreds of people a day, every day. I was the first one in the office, and the last one out. I learned to be successful. Work ethic will supersede everything here.”
Michael continues, “at the end of the day, we are beyond blessed. If everything hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have met my wife or be able to take care of others. My brothers and sister now work with me in the business. As a leader, I work just as much, even harder than before, because it’s not about me, it’s about them, my agents. How much can I bless them and help them to realize their potential, what they can achieve here? Income is the outcome, not the objective, make it about the people and you get paid more. People should and will be your true passion for this. The business is not a means to an end, but it’s about changing someone else’s end.
I want to be a symbol of hope. It started with the accident, but now it’s the symbol of my character. It’s why I do it. Do the right thing. It doesn’t matter if someone is watching, be that symbol of hope. When I leave this earth, I want to be remembered for how I helped people, the lives I changed, what my life was about.”
It literally is my slogan and my persona, I go by the name… Superman.”
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.