No one gets there alone.
If you want to accomplish something grand, you’ll need others along the way. No one gets to the top of the mountain without others holding the rope and no one gets up from the bottom without someone lifting you and showing you the way.
We’re all in this human experience together and if you simply stop and listen, even those who manage to soar like eagles will tell you it’s the safety of the nest and the gift to show others the path, that give life its greatest meaning.
Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (112): Other People
It was like any other normal weekend afternoon in a Florida college town. Out with a bunch of friends, a lot of friends, because Garrett Laughlin always has friends around. His zest for life and his magnetic personality means others want to be around him. Nothing quite like a crowd, a group of others sharing that feeling of invincibility that comes with living life in your late teens and early 20’s. Life is sunshine and possibilities, until you take that careless leap… and suddenly feel all alone.
From the time he was little, Garrett loved people. “I’m just a people person”, he says. “I love being around other people, I love seeing others succeed, I see the good in other people and I love hearing other people’s stories.”
Garrett’s story starts in Pittsburgh and it’s where his heart still goes, especially when it comes to sports. Although his family moved Garrett and his three siblings to Florida when he was only 4-years-old, it’s the black-and-gold that own his soul. “The Pittsburgh Steelers are my favorite hobby”, says Garrett. I’m the biggest die-hard fan you’ve ever seen.”
I love playing sports. I’ve always played sports, basketball was my main sport, but I also played football, though I wasn’t gifted with the physical skills to be football player”, jokes Garrett, “especially in high-school, I was about 5’6”, and 110-pounds… soaking wet.
Garrett loved sports so much, there was even a time he wanted to be a sports agent, the Jerry Maguire of the sports universe. But that dream changed when Garrett realized it required too much of the one thing he didn’t like to do – read. Not that he couldn’t, he just didn’t like the slow, laid-back process of study – but he did love the concept, after all a sports agent has one goal – to help others succeed, to help them get what they want. That feeling is not taught in any book, it comes from inside. Help give others a shot, be a fast-paced, energetic, tough-nosed competitor and show others the way. For these character traits, Garrett was all-in. Still is.
It’s all about people and about being part of a larger crowd. Garrett says his life changed when he changed schools. He was attending a small private school where he was being forced to wear a uniform, carry his books in his hands, lug around a big, heavy laptop – it wasn’t his scene. “I was so much more of a free-spirit”, says Garrett. So when his parents enrolled him in Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Garrett knew he was where he wanted to be. He was unafraid. He went from about a hundred or so kids in his private middle school and dove into a sea of nearly 1500-students, without missing a beat. Garrett says: “I fit in right away. I wasn’t scared, it felt like home. It made me realized how I was never into that private middle school I attended. Plus I did the math, if there were 14-hundred students in my high school now, I bet at least 700 of them were girls!!”
Sometimes the universe conspires on your behalf as well, the name for the sports teams for Stoneham Douglas High School is The Eagles. An Eagle has the ability to soar above all, to soar to fantastic heights, it defines personal power and the route to the destiny of your choosing. It became a precursor of things to come.
For Garrett, life was filling in the blanks for him. He made great friends in high-school, other people who are still part of his “crew” to this day. And high-school flowed seamlessly into college… and more fun which perfectly fit Garrett’s outgoing personality.
Perfectly… until the day he took a leap of faith. Suddenly the wide smile, the fun and the frolicking took a back seat to survival.
Every 24 hours the world turns over on someone who used to be on top of it.
There are not a ton of big hills in Tallahassee Florida, but on this afternoon Garrett and his friends found one and as Garrett describes, he was simply running down that hill late on a weekend afternoon, in his sandals, when he jumped toward the side of the downward slope… and into darkness. “The doctors told me I hit a sewer-drain, a drop-off and the impact of my leg hitting that hole was like me riding a motorcycle flying at 60-mph and crashing into a pole, with my leg sticking out in front of me.”
Garrett shattered his right leg. Half-way through his junior year in college, still in his early 20’s, his feeling of invincibility vanished. Weeks in the hospital, a blood clot and the very real possibility he could lose the bottom half of his leg. Reality set in: “Sometimes it takes something like this”, says Garrett. “It made me take life more seriously. It was a turning point for me, making me realize how fragile life is.”
The doctors managed to help Garrett to heal and the dark reality of losing part of his leg never came to light. A few months in a wheelchair and physical therapy helped him get things right. He stopped playing video games all the time and started hitting the gym… an exercise regime he continues to this day, at the ripe old age of 30. 🙂
Garrett says his family was there for him as well, his parents, his brother Mike, his sisters, Ashley and Kiley. And of course his friends… the crew he has always known and who have always been close, because Garrett loves other people.
There was also the support of the extended family from this health insurance business his Dad Mike had run for decades. Garrett says his Dad has always been his mentor and he had helped his Dad in the business in different ways since the time he was little. When Garrett suffered his injury, the health insurance and supplements did what they were supposed to do, turning $140,000 in bills into only a little more than $6,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for his family. The trauma led Garrett to want to work hard in the insurance business and make his own income. “Making my own income is important”, says Garrett. “When you spend your own money, it’s sweeter than spending Dad’s.”
No longer with a broken wing, this eagle was ready to fly. Garrett has been with his Dad, his brother and sisters in the business for years now, he joined what became USHEALTH Advisors in 2009. This past year he set his sights on being the number one writing agent in the company – and with hard work, his newly found disciplines and the help and camaraderie of other friends he brought into the business, he soared – reaching his goal to be the best of the best. Garrett also realized that being at the top brings with it even greater responsibility to help others along the way.
“My number one thing is touching as many people as I can”, says Garrett. “As great as it was to cross the stage as the #1 Personal Producer for USHA, it was more gratifying to see my friend David Zalka, cross that stage as well. The guy was a server at Coal Fire Pizza, now he is changing other people’s lives with insurance. I get emotional with this kind of stuff.”
Garrett continues: “There’s more to life at 30, then 20. When you first start you are just trying to prove yourself. But then I started thinking why can’t I bring my friends along? Why can’t I help a team of 100 people? I’ve got a legacy to fulfill with this Laughlin name and I plan on doing it.”
Garrett’s plan now includes some of his best friends in life who have joined him in the business, with more to come. Now Garrett is really having fun. “I don’t take life too seriously”, Garrett says. “I have a lot of fun, I’m not a dramatic person… smile, sell insurance, drink beer, talk to people. My favorite thing to do is be social, be out and about, communicate with other people, learn about other people, spend time with my girlfriend Sam.”
“I love to travel, my friends make fun of all my stay-cations, not going far from home to enjoy Florida, enjoy life, but also to go places like Vegas, and of course Pittsburgh to see the Steelers.”
At age 30, it’s not always easy to see exactly where you want to go in life. If you live to be 100 what will the next two-thirds look like? But Garrett says he knows who he is and how he wants to be remembered: “I’m whole-heartedly a hard worker. I’m honest, you know where you stand with me, I’m intense at work and play, but I’m loving and a lot of fun. I think it shows.”
“I want to be remembered as someone who was always having a good time. I touched a lot of people’s lives and made a difference in this world. I was always smiling. I was loyal, always there for someone… making life better for other people.”
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
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