“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau
Let’s paraphrase the quote from the great Thoreau and state the obvious, the most successful among us live life to the beat of a different drum.
Or maybe they simply play one, like Brandon Knickerbocker.
“My father bought me a drum set when I was five years old,” says Brandon. “And he told me, “Well, it’d be something cool for you to do.” My parents started me with drum lessons right away. I don’t know, I just always thought it was pretty cool. It was a cool hobby and it definitely kind of widened my brain to just become more musically inclined. I think I read a paper once somewhere and it said that students who play an instrument, or enrolled in some sort of music program also do better in school, because music, reading the music, that sheet paper is also like learning another language. So it helps your mind and your brain to communicate easier, especially if you’re learning an instrument or another language. That’s kind of what started me on that path.”
Walking a different path, living life to the beat of a different drum, eventually brought Brandon to the doors of USHEALTH Advisors. USHA is a place where anyone who is eager to listen to the music of their heart, work hard and serve others can create a career and a life filled with freedom and choices.
From the moment he got his health and life license, Brandon banged the drum hard at USHA in the Nasvhville office. Brandon issued nearly $700,000 in business in his first 13 weeks with the company, then went above and beyond that mark in his second 13 weeks, issuing more than $900,000. That’s $1.6 million in insurance policies in only half-a-year. Since that time in 2020, Brandon has issued $7.5 million in insurance sales, one application at a time, placing him among the elite at USHEALTH Advisors.
Of course it was all an overnight success, right? As we all know, that’s a myth. Though it’s easy for people to believe there are tricks and not-so-subtle secrets involved when anyone makes a big splash.
“I’m sure everyone hated me,” says Brandon. “In fact, a lot of people did hate me. I knew it because they were like, who is this guy coming in here, when everyone else is at maybe at 35,000 average AV each week, and I come in and write 30K, then 60K, then 80K, then 90K and so on. Everyone starts looking at you funny and asking, “What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing? Are you cheating? You’re cheating. You must be cheating. You’re getting these special leads, you’re writing fake business.” That’s what everyone thought and they hated me.”
“There were all these rumors about me – that I lived in the Silicon Valley, (Brandon grew up in California), and my parents are rich, and then I’m spending $10,000 a week on leads, though I wasn’t making a lot of money yet, or I wrote policies on my dad’s business, all these different things and crazy stories. People would record me on my pitch and try to get me in trouble and different things. So it was really weird. There was just a lot of attention, I didn’t really care because I was hitting all my milestones, and then I started making a good living.”
But let’s go back to the beginning here, before we talk about what made Brandon successful, it pays to pay attention to how he got here, which wasn’t by chance, but instead by taking a huge chance and never looking back.
“I’d say my biggest accomplishment in my short time of being here at USHA is just taking that leap of faith,” says Brandon, “moving my whole world and leaving everything that I’ve known and grown up with and been with for 22 years, just kind of leaving all of it with only $1,200 in my bank account and just knowing that this is it and I can do it. The leap of faith just really was quite something… I just dropped everything and people. I was living in California, where I grew up and when I told my parents what I was going to do they said, “We’re going to cut you off. We’re not giving you any more money.” I said, “Whatever. I’m doing it.” Then my leader, my field training agent at the time was like, “There’s going to be weeks where you’re blank and when you don’t do too well.” I just said, “No, there isn’t. I’m never going to blank.”
“Then I kind of really just put everything into it. I knew that I had the belief in myself and kind of it was almost like my magnum opus and all my life experiences, everything I’ve ever learned, I saw that I could just really paint this picture and be the artist of the sale, I guess. Absolutely my biggest accomplishment would be having such a belief in myself to go into an industry that I know nothing about coming just from food sales or being a musician.”
It’s been said music is life and before coming to USHEALTH Advisors music was Brandon’s life – he was part of a group, a band he and some friends created almost a decade prior.
“I knew this kid from fourth grade and he played guitar. I think he came over to jam once, and then in seventh grade, they said, “Hey, we know you play drums.” Everyone plays guitar and bass or maybe sings, but not a whole lot of drummers out there. We’re starting a band. What would you think about playing drums for us?” So I said, “Okay, yeah, let’s do it.”
“I think by 16 years old, we had our first album and it was pretty cool because we didn’t realize how much money we’d had to spend in the studio. We had some amateur home recordings, but we went to a real studio. We spent like $4,000, $5,000. Of course back then that was a lot of money to us. We released it and it did pretty well, and we had some fans and we played all the local bars in Costa Mesa, Newport, Garden Grove, Anaheim, and eventually we made our way to Los Angeles.”
“Then as we got out of high school, the tours kept getting longer with more legs. We flew to Connecticut, and Rhode Island and played Brooklyn, Bushwick, Manhattan, everywhere, all the way down to Florida. We got to visit and play so many places and all these experiences in my late teens and early 20s.”
“So the experience definitely got me more on the independent track, a kind of I’m thinking for myself mindset. But then while we were on tour this one girl gave me a book and it was a Buddhist book, Siddhartha, by Herman Jesse. I was never quite a reader, but she gave it to me and I read it and it said you have to think for yourself and thoughts are things. I was like, “You’re so right.” “I’ve been in this band since I was in seventh grade, and I’ve never really been able to think for myself because we kind of had to dress a certain way, act a certain way, be politically correct, all these different things that I couldn’t be myself.”
One idea can change a life and you never know when or where you might learn or discover the opportunity to change, but the book inspired Brandon to go deep in thought about the journey of his life thus far and what he wanted.
“I didn’t realize that until I read that book,” says Brandon. “And I thought to myself, “You know what, I found more reasons than one, wanting to get wealthy. The band wasn’t it.” So I finally decided I was leaving the band. I need to start my life.” So I did. Then that’s kind of what set me on this journey of I guess just being self-employed and thinking for myself and just doing it my way, not somebody else’s way or not the paved way.”
“I didn’t know what I was going to do next. So I started training for a marathon and I was running 10, 11, and 12 miles every other day, waking up at 5 AM with my weight vest and going on 15 mile hikes. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I’d always put on an audiobook or podcast, things like that. Probably all these things helped and inspired me. I guess I never thought about it this way, that’s why I do interviews and speak about it because you don’t reflect like you do when you’re saying it out loud. So yeah, I guess I was looking for some sort of purpose. I said, “Well, I might as well just get really fit and train my body so I could train my mind.”
Putting his mind to the test, thinking bigger and outside the box was something Brandon’s parents, especially his father, found tough to wrap his head around.
“My dad just wanted me to do the safe route,” says Brandon. “He was thinking that I’d done a million different things. I applied to Cal State Fullerton right before I left and I got denied. They denied me and I figured, “Well, I don’t want to go through another six months of community college before reapplying.” So that’s maybe something else I was running from. I just wanted to start my life. I just wanted to do something before it was too late. I guess I probably just wanted to get out of the house too. I didn’t want to run another X amount of miles in six months and do all these different things. Being in that bubble of Newport Beach, Orange County was definitely a little stagnant. I think maybe the longer I stayed there, the less likely I would be to leave.”
Sometimes getting outside the bubble is the answer to a bigger, better existence and Brandon was ready to not only leave the bubble but to extend his life thousands of miles away, all because he heard there might be a better way.
As it turns out the older brother of one of Brandon’s best friends had joined USHEALTH Advisors – and soon enough Brandon’s buddy was on board with USHA as well. Brandon heard about their success and decided to take the leap of faith and make the move from Orange County, California to Nashville, Tennessee. The kid who loved music was leaving the band behind, to go solo and try to conduct his symphony of success in Music City.
“It was just an opportunity to move across the U.S., says Brandon, “to be with one of my best friends and I just saw the opportunity and took it just because the 1099 aspect of everything really spoke to me. You are in control of your destiny, how much you’re getting paid, and what you do daily, not being another statistic in the nine-to-five salary-based corporate world. I like that. I like that the harder you work, the more you’re rewarded, with really no ceiling.”
While there was no ceiling, Brandon, like so many who seem to make it at USHA, didn’t have much of a base to begin with either – which brings us back to how others perceived Brandon’s early success, it wasn’t luck, it came down to three words – Brandon was hungry.
“So I came here with $1,200 and I was living on my friend’s couch,” says Brandon. “I was sleeping on his couch, on an inflatable mattress. It was very uncomfortable and I absolutely hated it. I took my insurance test in California, health and life, and failed both of them, but I was already moving out to Nashville, so it was too late to change my mind.”
“I came out to the Nashville office anyway and worked as an appointment setter. I screened three sales in my first week being a screener, not licensed, just setting the appointment. Then the second week I screened another two sales, but they wanted to get me going. So that second week I studied for my licensing tests, passed both of them, and then I was off and running. By Friday of my third week when I got my license, I was out of money, the $1,200 I came with was gone, but I had three credit cards that I made sure to pay off before I moved here.”
So I had three credit cards, and in my first week, I maxed out one. It was like $2,500 on a health insurance lead source. Other people at the time, they were investing maybe $200 to $500 a week into their business. But I decided to max out at $2,500. I was like, “Let’s do it. More leads, more sales, more people to talk to. I’m going to overwhelm myself because I know that’s what I need to do to exponentially increase and just blast off.” I think I know what I’m doing well enough. I’m one of those people that when I hear it once, or read it once, or do it once, or see it done once, I’ve pretty much got it down.”
So for the skeptics who thought Brandon had some secret sauce to his super-fast start, it was nothing more than a choice, it always comes down to a choice to a decision, to taking action. For Brandon it was the choice to go all in, with his wallet and his focus, choosing to believe it before he could even see it. And he did one more thing… Brandon listened, intently, investing in knowledge and copying the best of the best.
“My leaders said that I was the biggest bugger,” says Brandon. “I would go up to them every ten seconds and ask them a new question. But once I asked the question, I didn’t have to ask it again. I kind of just built off it. So I was able to blast off because I’d already asked all the questions. I knew before I got my first insurance application what to say and what to do because I’d hear people pitching and I’d done the practice pitch before actually talking to clients. I knew that whatever a client asked me, whatever they asked me, I had an answer to it. I had a rebuttal.”
Through pure tenacity and hard work Brandon has built himself into one of the top producers at USHA and now serves others as well as a Field Training Agent. So what’s Brandon’s advice for those just starting out in this field?
“I’d just say the first couple things you do is just know the product and be confident in it and ask yourself all the questions that a buyer does. If you were buying the product, what would you want to know about it? If you were buying something, what questions would you ask? I did that. I kind of just really internally reflect on the delivery of the presentation and how it sounds. You have to know who you’re speaking with and know your audience. One thing I pride myself on is I feel like I can put myself in other people’s shoes and maybe that’s what makes me such a good salesman because I can kind of shift my perspective and shift my perception on certain things.”
“That’s number one and the most important, but then to get to the next level, it’s to overwhelm yourself. You can’t do well here if you can’t ever push yourself if you don’t overwhelm yourself. I don’t even have an assistant, a lot of the other top producers do, but I feel like I can still work harder. I’m not at the point where I want an assistant yet, because frankly, if I got an assistant, I think I’d get lazy and complacent. After all, that’s what keeps me on top of everything. Because I always know that I can do better, I know that I can be better.”
There’s a philosophy of life that says to be the best and to leave your legacy you must do all that you can with all you have been given. For Brandon, it’s that philosophy and a little bit more.
“You have to do the most,” he says. “Always do the most.”
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.