Back to School! …Learning the three “R’s”…of insurance?

Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic…have been a fundamental part of education in our country since the beginning. Well, at least here in the South…

What about the three “R’s” of a good insurance agent. Most insurance agents are people persons. They enjoy meeting and helping people. Your insurance agent is no different than your doctor, your pastor, or your financial advisor. These important leaders in your life are selected by you to help you because ,simply, you like them.

So what are the three “R’s” of a good insurance agent?  Let’s look at these and then measure your agent up against what I share.

  1. Relationship

    1. Do you know your insurance agent well?
    2. Do they know your name and face?
    3. Many folks do not know their agent’s name.  Do you know their name!?
    4. Can you call or text them at any time?
    5. Do they call you or send you a card on your birthday?
  2. Response

    1. How long does it take for your agent to respond to a voice mail or message you left for them?
    2. Do they make you feel like you are bothering them or are they always pleasant to talk to when you call.
  3. Resources

    1. Do they hire good customer service reps to help you when the agent cannot?
    2. Do they have many companies in which to shop from to find you the best fit for you insurance needs…or do they just have one?


If your agent lines up with all of these qualities, you have a good insurance agent…keep him or her.  If not, find someone who does.  It’s that simple.

The link to my video on this subject is here.  Check it out!

Happy Birthday to the UNITED STATES of America!

The United States of America is 241 years old this year! Wow! We have been a nation a long time! But the truth is that when compared to nations like Greece, China, Portugal, and Iran we as a nation are very young. Nations do rise and some fall. I got to thinking, why have nations like Greece and China been around so long…what keeps them united all these centuries? If you look at the history of China, you will find they have experienced many dynasties during their centuries of existence as a country but only became the Republic of China in 1912. Still they have remained united these many centuries. They like us have had problems with civil war and divisions since their existence but have remained united.

The Divided States of America?

In the United States’ short existence, we have had divisions and civil war and have remained united as well. I have heard many folks say we as a nation are destined to fall as the division becomes sharper and violent. Do you think that is where we are now?


Our nation is divided by beliefs and different thinking but, in my opinion, we are still united with a common thread of values. Values that the United States of America were founded on regardless of what you think now. Values based on the Judea-Christian faith originating from the Bible. That is a historical fact. We are a nation of laws…we know what is right and what is wrong. Laws based on our value system that is in turn based on the Bible.
I know we are divided when it comes to beliefs but I believe we all value freedom! The freedom that came from the blood sacrificed on the battle fields.

I sure do value this freedom just as the “Free Thinker” or the Jew or the Atheist or the Buddist or the Muslim…and so on. We all should value the freedom we have to practice our faith freely. As a Christian, it is my job to go to these religions and share what Christ did for them and how He loves them. It’s not the government’s job but mine as commanded by Jesus Christ. We may disagree on many beliefs and thoughts but one thing is common…our value of freedom!  Freedom of religion, speech, and assembly are worth a lot to me as a Christian.  If you are not a Christian I know you value those freedoms as well.

The NHL, fighting, and United States?

This past hockey season, the Nashville Predators’ run to the finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs was exciting!  I became a fan even though I never have liked hockey.  I have never grasped the rules of the game and the fact that in the NHL players are allowed to fight during the game.  During one of the broadcasts of the playoffs I heard a commentator state the reason he loves the game so much is that that can fight each other and then, when the game is over and in the books, they shake hands and congratulate each other.  It does look good for the players to do that after the game (even if their heart is not in it).

So I guess we as a nation are liken to a hockey game!  We can’t stand each others’ guts and fight a lot but when it is all said and done (usually during a crisis)  we can come together and unite with a common goal.  If only our elected legislators could grasp this concept!  Just saying…

Anyway, believe what you may about America and the division we have…I am so thankful I live in the United States of America!  Happy birthday and may she have many more!

God bless America!

Enjoy the Good Life! Get Out There!

Do you enjoy your life?

How sad to go through life and not enjoy the short time we have on this earth! I have been teaching a Sunday School men’s class on preparing for our family if and when we die. I have learned a lot during my research. But I was reminded again during my research that life is very fragile and short…especially when compared to eternity!

That’s why I asked at the beginning of this blog if you enjoy life. It seems the closer we get to each other in the world through technology the more unhappy we are as a human race! I know many people are dealt some terrible circumstances and are challenged each day to just survive or to live a purposeful life. I have been inspired by many of those people who are experiencing cancer, or some physical difficulty or even a mental or social challenge. These people have overcome their circumstances and chose to rise above and to make the most of their life everyday! They have chosen not to be unhappy, but enjoy life. The Bible is (I believe) the authority on life. In Philippians 4:11, Paul wrote, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” The Greek root used for “content” means “to be possessed of unfailing strength.”  In every change Robin and I have experienced in our life together we have learned the truth of this verse!

I have chosen as my 2017 personal theme “To make the most of every day”. It comes from a sermon series our pastor brought to our church in 2016 “On purpose I chose to…” He spent a few Wednesday nights on “to make the most of every day.

Enjoy this Summer with your family!

Stress stifles the fun out of life. Is your job stressful…(check out a my blog one year ago…is your family life stressful?…many times I remember my mother telling me that it seemed to her that daddy would always be happier while he and her were camping on vacation. I remember some of those times and certainly saw that happiness. Vacations are good. Getting away for a time of refreshment is good. Daddy was a dairy farmer…wouldn’t you call that a stressful occupation? He would get stressed…some times it was me that would bring it on him…but the farm was always a stressful place when weather was rough, or prices were down. So he and mama enjoyed going camping in their rv…just getting away.

So get away this summer and enjoy life…grand kids!…your spouse…your family…yourself! Refresh yourself, turn off the tablet, phone, and computer and enjoy God’s creation and time with the family.

Surveys show that most young adults believe that obtaining wealth and fame are keys to a happy life. But a long-running study out of Harvard suggests that one of the most important predictors of whether you age well and live a long and happy life is not the amount of money you amass or notoriety you receive. A much more important barometer of long-term health and well-being is the strength of your relationships with family, friends and spouses.



So, “Get out there and enjoy life!”

What if you died today? Do you have a will prepared?

What if you died today?  Do you have a will ready to execute your estate?  You, regardless of the size of your estate, should have a will prepared. This helps your family deal with all items in which you leave them at your death.  I know some of you do not like to think about death or even write down on paper things dealing with your death.  But listen, we live in a world with the “I deserve it” attitude running rampant throughout our nation.  Having a will to systematically spell out for your family and loved ones your wishes is so important!

       I am not a lawyer but I know the importance of having a will prepared and completing an estate plan of some kind before you are gone.  By the way, if you think that because you are in your twenties and death is a long time from now, just remember that you could be a part of the 6.4% of men who will die in accidents this year.  Maybe you will be in the 23.4% of men who will died of cancer this year.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow!

Remembering the Day Our Family Changed Forever

The Friday morning of August 11, 2002, was very normal on our dairy farm in Middle Tennessee except for the fact that I had left the barn early to go to the house to get ready to leave for a Farm Bureau meeting in Columbia, Tennessee.  It was silage harvesting time and my dad and I had been helping my brother, Johnny, harvest his silage.  As I got out of the shower my mama called me and said dad had come in from feeding and was not feeling well.  I rushed over to find my dad in the floor not able to move or speak.  He had suffered a brain aneurysm.  He died the next day after we took him off life support.  We were devastated!  Any sudden unexpected death is devastating, but even then, with the help from God of course, and good planning, it can be a less stressful time.

Planning for Family’s sake

Six years earlier my mom and dad met with a Farm Bureau representative to help begin a process of evaluating the farm estate.  The conclusion was if something happened to one of them the other would be liable to pay estate taxes.  The limit then was only $600,000.  With the recommendations and the help of a lawyer the farm was divided into two farms.  One was placed in Mama’s name and the other in my dad’s.  Whoever died first, their farm would be placed into a family trust thus escaping the tax burden at that time.  This decision proved to be very wise!

I have shared before in this blog how his life insurance policy help pay off his debt.  Preparation is so key.

My wife and I are in the process of updating our will and final plans.  Please take time today or sometime soon to complete your final wishes and plans that your family may not be burdened with unwanted stress.  Losing you is enough!  I know you love your family so do it for their sake.

My Heart…

My dad didn’t tell me that he loved me many times at all during his life but he sure did tell me in his death!  So, allow me to end this post with this thought.  And you may think it’s out there after what I have written already but here it is:

I have become to realize it’s not the physical things you leave for your children and grandchildren that’s the most important. Do I ever get the pictures, videos, albums, and documents out of my grandparents and parents to watch or read or reminisce? The long answer is “No”.  The most important things are the memories and the legacy those people left on me, my mind, and my heart!  

Just a thought from my heart.

Why I Follow the 12 Week Year Plan for Setting Goals

The 12 Week Year plan could be your new path to setting and reaching your goals!  The first month of 2017 has come and gone already!  February is here…so where are you?  Where are you on your 2017 goals and resolutions you made?  Well, if two of you are reading this article, stats say that one of you has already failed and given up on your resolutions for 2017!

The 12 Week Year

A new tool I came across at the beginning of 2017 as I was researching for something else has revolutionized my planning and goal setting.  I may be jumping the gun a little since I have just began this new process in my life, but I am so excited about it because I have really lived the premise of this method for years in my insurance career.  I am excited about sharing this with my wife.  She has some goals for 2017 as well.  I wanted to get a feel of the program first before I approached her about it.  I need her for the successful implementation of this tool.  Accountability is big on my list this year! What is this tool that I have discovered?  Well, it’s so simple but yet it could be life changing.  It is called The 12 Week Year.  Now let me just be honest with you.  Some people love tools like The 12 Week Year, and then there are some who don’t need it, don’t want it, and wouldn’t use it.

My past experiences…

Case in point:  When I began my insurance career as a captive agent with one of the top companies in our state, I learned very quickly that it was important to win the contests the company would conduct throughout the year.  Simply sell enough life insurance and you would be a winner!  I also learned quickly that selling a good product through a good company simply is a numbers game.  I began to develop a spreadsheet to calculate these numbers.  Each day I knew how many people I needed to ask, how many appointments I needed to make, and how many quotes I needed to give to reach my goal of winning the contest.  The numbers were there, everyday, and all I had to do was to reach that goal that day.  I knew when I asked someone about life insurance, or made an appointment, or quoted someone exactly how much money I made.  Making the appointment brought me in the most money because chances were good if I got to speak to someone face to face in my office or at their dinner table that we would close the sale.  So numbers were and are important to me and that spreadsheet was somewhat a little motivator to me.  Now,  I failed to win some of the smaller contests but I knew why…I failed to ask or quote enough folks.  Simple.  I shared this tool with one of my fellow agents who was always in the top ten and his response was, “I just can’t keep up with all those numbers”…”I just sell!”  He is a great closer and I’m not.  I needed numbers to reach my goals while he simply needed people in front of him.

The now…

This process has become much more important for me as an independent insurance agent.  My income totally depends on my output!  Those spreadsheets would give me a number at the end of each week.  If that number was 100 or greater, it was a productive week.  Simple.  It was kind of a “feel good” thing with me if I saw 100 or more there.  And that in turn would motivate me forward to the next week.  What I found was that breaking my big goals into smaller steps was a key.  (Wow!  That’s a powerful statement!   Yeah, I know many of you have known this for years to be true)  So what has this have to do with this new tool, The 12 Week Year, I have begun to implement in my life?  Too long to explain here so follow the link above and look to see if you might could use this tool also to reach more of your goals…give it a try.  The best thing about this plan is that you can begin anytime!

Tools to help manage your 168 hours

It may sound crazy, but I developed an interest for time management and what tools to use to make the most of my time way back in elementary school!  I drew a four frame cartoon that showed what my routine was every weekday.  I remember having a lot of fun doing this exercise!  I can still see those drawings in my mind today!  Ever since then I have had a time management mindset.  Have I always been efficient?  No, but I have continued to read and educate myself on how to use my time efficiently and then insert those practices in my daily life.  I have a friend who has told me that he gets up each morning and then decides what is important to do that day.  “No planning, no prioritizing, and no pain” ,this person says to me.

Time management is not a good description for managing your time.  You cannot manage time like money.  You can give every dollar a name just as you block time out for appointments and such, but you cannot save time for another day like you can money or other resources.  The following is a list of tools I use as my task managers that really help me to make the most of every day:

 Google Calendar

I am an android user so I have chosen Google calendar as my calendar of choice.  I really had a hard time a few years ago trying to decide which calendar format would be best for me.  Outlook was my first choice since my office computers were linked to Outlook in our customer service system.  Then I started syncing both google and outlook calendars, but that got to be very cumbersome at times.  Time blocking is the way to go.  I really feel it helps me to focus on what I should be doing depending on where I may be at a certain time during that day.  Now unexpected things happen…emergencies and such, but learn how to deal with them and go on!  Here is a link to a video of a young man who does a good job explaining this tool:



I absolutely love Evernote!  I use it as both a task manager and reference tool.  I store all important documents and such in my evernote library.  At first Evernote did not really click for me, but during the last 5 years I have realized what a great tool it is to have at my side.  The app allows me to collect everything of importance.  One can easily organize your life areas of focus with Evernote.  I used it especially in my Christian life.  It is a powerful prayer organizer for me!  I hope to have a demo on YouTube soon covering how I use Evernote to keep my prayers organized.  Check out Evernote if you have never heard of it before at the link below:


Todoist is my newest tool to implement into my life.  It is the best task manager I have used!  I use this as a reminder to do small daily tasks as well as my major projects.   I used Evernote as a task manager but when I tried Todoist I was blown away at how well it performs to help me get things done each day!  Check it out here (this guy has a large series on Todoist that helps you with anything concerning the tool):

By the way the IFTTT app (if this then that) uses great technology to sync and tie all of your tools together.  Check it out on the web.

The Getting Things Done system created by David Allen has proven to be the best system to follow to get tasks done each day.  The tools above can be used to help you follow the GTD system more efficiently daily!  It has really changed the way I do things!

In conclusion, these tools and systems help to remind me of what I should be doing based on where I am and even at what time of day it may be.  Am I following them religiously…well…I’ll just say this:  “I’ve come a long way baby!”  There are a few days, but failing to carry out my planned tasks is not failure…failing to plan is planning to fail!  Do I feel good by completing every task some days?  Sure!  Do I feel bad for not completing all tasks…no!  It depends on the importance of the task and where I was that day.  In context maybe the time wasn’t right…just postpone until tomorrow at end of day and make it priority one then.

Remember you only have 168 hours?  Make the most of them by using the right tools!


There are 168 hours in one week.  It does not matter where you are in your life right now…in school as a student, young adult starting a new career, a spouse with a family, a single parent or grandparent raising the grandchildren, empty nested, or retired and in your twilight years; what are you doing with the 168 hours you all have in a single week?  Are you just spending the time you have or investing the time?


Harvey MacKay said,  “Time is free, but it is priceless.                                                                                             You can’t own it, but you can use it.                                                                                   You can’t keep it but you can spend it.                                                                               Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”

So how do you determine what should have your attention each day? What about each week?  The answer should be simple…by what is most important to you at this time, this week, this day, where ever you may be.  Deciding on the most important tasks of the week during a weekly review and then scheduling those tasks during the week to be completed at the most opportune time is time management at its best!

The answer to an “overloaded life” is not trying harder, but to comprehend the work we have to do with wisdom and perspective.  When we have the capacity to live, give, and serve according to our priorities we experience great satisfaction with each day.


It does not matter where you are in your life right now…in school as a student, young adult starting a new career, a spouse with a family, a single parent or grandparent raising the grandchildren, empty nested, retired and in your twilight years…what are you doing with the 168 hours we all have in a week.  Are you just spending time or are you investing time?


Here are my numbers for my idea week:

  1. Sleep                        53 hrs
  2. Vocation                  46
  3. Car                              1
  4. Family time            11.5
  5. Church Activities   11
  6. Chores                        7.5
  7. Leisure                       7
  8. Eating                       10
  9. Personal Spiritual time   3.5
  10. Shower & hygiene   3.5
  11. Exercise                     3
  12. Plan                            4
  13. Study                          7
  14. Total                         168.0


We all have been given one life and the good Lord above has filled it with resources—time, health, finances, relationships, influence, and more. How you steward these resources will determine whether or not you are successful.  In other words, don’t say, “I don’t have time!”  Yes you do!  We all do!  It’s simple…just ask yourself what are your priorities?  And how you invest time shows those priorities whether you like it or not!

T   I   M   E

  1. The Bible says,  “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”.  Psalm 90:12


Treasure every moment that you have!

                                                          Yesterday is history.                                                                                                             Tomorrow is a mystery.                                                                                                                   Today is a gift….                                                                       That’s why it’s called the “present!”

A.W. Tozer wrote:
“Time is a resource that is nonrenewable and nontransferable. You cannot store it, slow it up, hold it up, divide it up or give it up. You can’t hoard it up or save it for a rainy day–when it’s lost it’s unrecoverable. When you kill time, remember that it has no resurrection.”

  1. The Bible says:  “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil”. Ephesians 5:16


It’s very simple—where you invest your 168 hrs is totally up to you!

The average person will spend about 56 of those hours sleeping, about 24 of those hours in eating and personal hygiene, and about 50 of those hours working or traveling to work. That means there are only about 35 hours a week of “discretionary” time left over. That’s about 5 hours per day. Where are you investing those hours?  I have read one study that tells the average American watches TV for that amount of time each day!!

  1. The Bible says:  “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time”  Colossians 4:5


Now look, we cannot manage our time but we use this concept to help us “redeem” the time!

We must manage us!!  Walk in wisdom! We can’t save time or even waste it but we will use those 168 hours somehow!  Focus on opportunities to invest in people and things that really matter in your life.

  1. The Bible says:  “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Revelation 1:3


DON’T SPEND 168 HOURS WORKING!  YOU WILL DIE A PREMATURE DEATH IF YOU DO! Enjoy your week by investing some of the 168 in activities you enjoy doing!  This kind of investment pays great dividends!  Life is short, so include in your 168 hours some joy-fill hours.


So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.      Psalm 90:12

In my next post I will share with you my tools that I use to manage my 168.


What are you planning to do tomorrow?


Robin and I love planning our camping trips.  A couple of weeks ago we traveled north a few miles with our camper to enjoy the extended Labor Day weekend and to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary!  It was a wonderful trip with no cell service and a nice camping site at Barren River Lake State Park.

You know how vacation trips usually end up with you forgetting something?  Well, it happens to the best of us, but not to us if Robin can help it!  I am so blessed to have a wife who knows how to plan.  Ever since that first camping trip many years ago, she has created and used a checklist.  Before we  leave the house she will make me sit down and ask me if I have loaded each item on her checklist.  It is very thorough and you might think we were getting ready to fly a 747 passenger jet!  When we sit down there is no joking around…she is serious about getting this checklist “checked off!”  I’m glad she does this for it keeps away many a headache!  Oh, and you should see her holiday meal list, and Christmas gift list, and grocery list, and , well, you get the picture.  She loves to plan and does it well.

A few months ago I posted about my father’s love for his calling in life.  My father was a planner.  He purchased a life insurance policy in the 1970’s after he had purchased an adjoining farm.  When he passed away in 2002 he still owed on a loan that began with that purchase.  The balance was paid off from the life insurance benefit!  He was 71 years old when he died.  That sure was a blessing to my mother!  In the 1980’s, he and mama each purchased a Long Term Care insurance policy.  He never used his as he died suddenly in 2002, but mama is now using the full benefit from that policy and her farm is safe from having to be sold to fund her care at the nursing home!  We three boys would be in trouble now if it wasn’t for our father’s planning many years ago.  Daddy and Mama would always put some cash back in case of an emergency.  They had to used it many times when I was still in the home.  His planning taught me a lot and I have tried to be faithful to implement this concept into my life.

I love to plan, but acting on that plan is when I get the real benefit from the work I do in planning.  Planning for today, tomorrow, next week, next year, retirement, …and yes, death is important.  Even the Bible states that King David planned before his death that his kingdom would remain.

I would like to encourage you to do the same.  September is Life Insurance Awareness Month and I am here to help you plan for the unexpected.  Just as my wife does and my father did, acting on your planning (not just thinking about planning but actually implementing your plans) will give you much peace of mind.

So, what are you planning to do tomorrow?

What is the difference between blanket and scheduled coverage for my farm equipment?

I know most of you will not read beyond the picture in this post, but I got to thinking the other day as I drove through our Robertson County farmland areas how great an investment farmers have in their equipment.  I saw combines combining wheat, no-till planters planting soybeans and milo, tractors pulling

Farm equipment is a great investment
Farm equipment is a great investment

round balers baling some late hay, and large bush hogs being used to clip pastures.  Our county is blessed to have many acres of agricultural land that good farmers managed well.


These farmers have a lot invested in this equipment and it just makes good sense that it is protected properly in case of damage incurred from fire, collison, wind, etc.  Properly insured is the key phrase here.  Case in point is the following true story:  (names are not the true names)

But a Sad Story:

Clyde ran a very successful hay business that marketed hay throughout the state and region.  He became very busy as his farming business grew.  He and his insurance agent, Steve, got together at his farm shop to write his farm policy.  With three hay fields maturing fast and a disc mower that needed repaired, Clyde was pressed for time  Therefore instead of scheduling the equipment Clyde wanted insured on the farm policy (this would have taken some time) he decided to instead give his agent a dollar amount for a blanket coverage to save time.  Fast forward a few years and a lot of growth in Clyde’s farm business which included corn by now when he experienced his first claim.  One of his new tractors caught fire and became a total loss of $50,000.  As procedure on a claim with any farm policy with blanket equipment coverage the insurance company’s claims adjuster asked for a complete list of Clyde’s equipment and total value of each item.  Long story short, Clyde’s complete list totaled over $500,000 but the blanket coverage on his policy was for $200,000.  Clyde had underestimated the total value of his equipment while his policy was never update.

Therefore keeping with the insurance contract, the company could only pay Clyde 40% of the value of the tractor, i.e. $20,000!

Now we can point fingers at the company, the agent, and Clyde himself as to who is to blame.  The company simply said they had been receiving premium all these years to protect only $200,000 worth of farm equipment.  The agent said that Clyde was confident that day that the value he gave was sufficient.  Finally, Clyde stated that the agent should have updated that value at least yearly with him. In the end, Clyde transferred his farm policy to another company.

What is my best option?

In conclusion, if you have a small farm with just a few pieces of nice equipment maybe scheduling your items one by one would be the safest way to go.  On the other hand, if you have many high dollar worth pieces of equipment on your large farm maybe a blanket amount would be good.

This amount should be a true total of the value of all the items you own.  

Update it regularly, i.e every time you purchase a new piece would be a good rule to follow.  An annual review of every piece of equipment insured should be routine for you and your agent.  Don’t live Clyde’s story!

Making a career a joy and not a job

Sunday was Father’s Day 2016.  I was blessed to have my children and grandchildren visiting for the weekend.  I also spent time reflecting on the life of my own father who passed away in 2002.

W. C Sparkman was a very hard working man who loved his family and desired to provide the best he could for them. He worked to put all three of us boys through college. We always had enough. He also desired to lead his family to do right in all we pursued and to give our best. When I would hurriedly half do a job just to finish it quickly he would always say, “What if everyone did that?” He was a man of integrity and godly principles. These principles were passed on to us children and grandchildren. He was self employed as a dairy farmer all of his life. Why?…because he loved what he did…the farm life brought him joy! He told me many times how after a hard day’s work he felt a great sense of accomplishment and worth which in turn would create strength to make it through the tough times and lean times. It was a joy for him to get up early and work hard all day to produce milk products for folks he didn’t even know!

My father

So I will make this post short by concluding with a question. Is your insurance agent a joy to work with or do you dread when he or she calls you? Not all insurance agents are created equal. In other words, insurance gets a bad wrap many times. As I stated in my second post this year I find this profession to be a noble one.  What I do brings me joy…and not only to me but I desire to help those I serve experience the same emotion.
Joy is the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.
My career is not a JOB, it is a JOY!

I enjoy helping people protect what is important to them; from their family to their business, to their autos and home or farm. When we know we have done our best, we bring joy to all we touch! …and that’s the way it should be!

Thanks Daddy!