"When faced with evidence which contradicts our beliefs, our minds work to eliminate the psychological discomfort." – Tom Asacker, The Business of Belief

I am a huge believer in the power of our minds. We can talk ourselves into or out of anything we want based on where we allow our minds to go. The less attention we pay to our thoughts and beliefs, the easier it is to default to those status quo, mediocre thoughts. In the words of the Avett Brothers, we have to intentionally "decide what to be and go be it."

When I got this little book by Tom Asacker, The Business of Belief, I was immediately drawn in by the many compelling ideas, and in particular a handful of things jumped out at me to tell the story of what we see going on in independent insurance agencies right now. We're an industry in transition, and when faced with something as huge and daunting as transforming an entire industry, it takes some really bold thinking and some really bold moves to make significant changes. And bold thinking and actions can only happen when we challenge what we currently believe and actually create a new set of beliefs.

The choice is yours

Tom points out that choice can be liberating. And for those who thrive on change and creating disruptive or elevating scenarios, this is a great thing, and indeed, liberating. However, for those who spend their entire careers trying to find ways to eliminate and mitigate risk, it's just counterintuitive. This is an industry that likes to be comfortable and make tweaks and minor adjustments, not game-changing moves.

Tom then goes on to point out that the other side of choice is that it's also confining. When you make a choice, you eliminate other possibilities and restrict yourself:

  • This can be frightening if you're looking to make a change: "But what if it doesn't work?"
  • Or it can be comforting if you're looking to remain the same: "By staying the same, I can just ignore all that "noise" going on out there."

The skinny on beliefs

This whole idea of choice, be it liberating or restricting, can be dizzying and our minds need a way to effectively deal with all the possibilities and uncertainties. So what do we do? We look for evidence to support our beliefs: "...we'll invent our own "proof". Or we close our minds to conflicting points of view. We almost always find a way to create a story that reinforces what we want to believe."

This allows us to falsely live in that comfortable place where we can continue with just tweaking and making minor adjustment here and there. However, when we continue with the same set of beliefs indefinitely, we lull ourselves into unconscious behaviors. He paints a vivid picture for the reader to see what unconscious beliefs and behaviors actually look like:

"Our beliefs become fossilized and seduce us to continue "our ways." Our existing knowledge and situation dulls our senses to the reality of the changing world. Our minds become protected by layers of fat we call experience."

He goes on to describe how learning to break this fossilized belief structure will allow your "mind to come alive and it will melt the self-imposed fat of prejudice and routine."

He writes with such great visuals that you can't help but see the immediate need to question your current beliefs. Who wants beliefs so ridged as fossils and encased in a layer of fat?!

You say stable, I say obsolete

And in making the case that allowing these beliefs, which have a stronghold on your life, to continue as is, he helps us see the reality of what it's actually doing to our lives. How these beliefs, in fact, are not creating the solid and stable foundation we become lulled into believing:

"Without intervention, without progressive change, without revolution, everything in our work and our lives gets worse. Our bodies degrade, our relationships fizzle, our jobs disappear, and our ideas become obsolete."

The bottom line is this: we're either participating in creating that progressive change, or we're falling behind, breaking down, and becoming irrelevant. In order to be the participant in creating that progressive change, we have to become comfortable that our beliefs of yesterday may not, or maybe should not, be our beliefs of today.

What do you believe?

As you think about your own beliefs, here are a couple of thoughts worthy of some comparing and contrasting. How might these beliefs either be liberating or paralyzing for you? For your agency? For your competitors?

Commonly held belief in the industry – Independent agencies have been successful because of the products they sell. New revenue is found in new insurance products. Without insurance products, there is no business.
A new belief to consider instead – Independent agencies have been successful because of the value they bring to clients: it's in the process used to uncover client needs, finding the right solution (e.g., insurance products), and implementing it with sound advice. Insurance products are one way to bring value to a business. Many other ways of delivering value can be created using this process.

Your future is not limited to your history. Decide what you want to be and go be it.