In this life we all look for the light – for guidance – maybe not the road to take, but at least the proper way to follow the path.
When we’re young we watch those who are older to see how they manage life. While we may not always listen to what they say, we watch what they do and we make mental notes. Those notes become part of the story we write for our own lives.
After all, everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (125): Carbon Copy
“My dad is a very special guy to me. He gave me the greatest gifts, his love, his time, his work ethic. To this day I call my dad the smartest man I ever knew. He is a hero to me.” – Bill Shelton
It’s a word not to be used lightly, instead reserved for the few with whom you give one of your greatest gifts – your respect. For Bill Shelton, it was his father, Wayne. Waybe was a World War II veteran, a man who fought for our country, that deed in and of itself makes him a hero. But for his son Bill and his brothers it went much deeper… because Wayne was their dad.
“My dad worked hard on the oil rigs for JM Huber”, says Bill. “He worked in the oil fields as a roughneck, he did multiple jobs on the rig, whatever needed to be done. We moved around a lot, almost a nomadic kind of lifestyle because my dad would be sent from drilling site to drilling site, never spending too much time in any one area and so we lived in mobile homes, I remember many mobile homes.”
By the mid 1960’s the JM Huber company decided it was getting out of the drilling business. Bill remembers, “my dad was offered a job working in a carbon black plant. The company gave him five minutes to make a decision to go, or not.” Wayne Shelton decided he would do it. So the Shelton’s and two other “nomadic” families they traveled with during their drilling days, the Brewers and the Fullers, moved and settled into a tiny Texas town of Borger. Bill was only 8-years-old.
“The one thing it did was give us a sense of stability”, says Bill. “It had been a really very unstable kind of lifestyle. All the parents did the best they could, and I don’t think any of the kids in the families, myself and my brothers included, realized how poor we really were, but we had each other. One family looked out for the other, it was nice. I also remember though we had very little, if someone else needed something, my dad was always there to offer it.”
The JM Huber company had some company-owned homes on the site where the Shelton family was living, “shacks” as Bill refers to them and eventually Wayne Shelton saved enough money working in the carbon black plant to put some money down, get financing through the local banks and buy one of these houses.
“It was a very, very small home”, Bill says. “But it was home, it was what we had. Over time my dad built it into a large and very nice home, probably three times the size of where it started. He did the work on his own, it’s the kind of guy my dad was.”
Bill lived with two other brothers in the home and being the middle child, he says it taught him to be the negotiator. “My older brother Guy is 18-months older than I am, my younger brother Randy is 22-months younger. They wouldn’t have survived without me”, laughs Bill. “I was the glue that kept us together, I was the one who negotiated the peace. I used that skill outside the home as well, in school, in sports, in almost all of life there are very few people I can’t get along with.”
He also learned some great negotiation skills from someone else, his hero. Bill says, “when I was seven or eight my youngest brother got tonsillitis and needed surgery to remove them, my dad worked out some deal where we all ended up getting our tonsils out! When my oldest brother needed a car my dad struck a deal to get a 1963 Buick and he went to work negotiating with us. He told my older brother Guy this was the only car he was buying and that unless Guy got a job and saved up enough to buy his own car in 18 months, he would be sharing it with me. You can bet Guy got a job and bought his own car and so did I so I wouldn’t have to share it with Randy.”
Bill’s entrance into the world of work eventually led him into media and a career which would propel him into the next chapter of his life. “To pay my way through community college I found a job in radio”, says Bill. “I worked my way up, doing every job one could do, (much like his roughneck father), all the way up to becoming a part owner of KBBB-AM and KDXR-FM in Borger, Texas. It meant something to me. I worked every shift and every format in radio.
Bill’s radio career eventually brought him to Weatherford, Oklahoma where he met Teresa, the woman he would marry. Teresa had a 5-year-old son, Brandon, and initially Teresa’s mother was against the couple connecting through wedlock, since her mom believed Teresa was doing it simply to bring a father figure into her young son’s life. But the negotiator went to work. “I spent a lot of time winning her over”, laughs Bill. “And eventually I became her favorite son-in-law.”
Bill and Teresa do not have other children, but Bill says that was a sign. “Brandon needed my time and attention”, he says. “And I really needed to focus on being the best dad I could for him.” Much like Bill’s father had done for him for so many years.
Change came quickly for the young family. On Bill’s first day back at the radio station following his honeymoon he was called in to find out from the new ownership he no longer had a job as program director. Decisions had to be made, but echoing the words of a man Bill would later meet named Ron Jensen: change is inevitable, growth is optional.
Bill decided to go back to school to get an architectural degree, but needed to pay the bills for his family. Despite being vastly over-qualified he negotiated his way into a job at a telemarketing center across the street from his school. He says management spent an hour trying to talk him out of the job. But much like his dad, he persevered by explaining his situation in black-and-white. “I explained to them I’m going to school across the street. I go in the morning, I will come here at noon to work in the afternoon, then I can get on the road to a radio station in Chickasha, Oklahoma and work the overnight shift for them.” Plain and simple.
That became Bill’s life for the next year. He got up at 6am, made the 45-minute drive to school to work on his degree, he walked across the street to work at the telemarketing center until 6pm, then made the hour drive to the radio station to work/broadcast until midnight… and make the hour drive back home. Just like his dad had done for his own family, Bill did what he had to do to make a living.
Bill’s work at the telemarketing center impressed them enough that he was offered a national training position in Dallas, Texas. Much like had happened to his father back in the days with JM Huber, Bill was given five minutes to make a decision to relocate from Oklahoma to Texas. Instead Bill used his negotiating skills to ask for more time and took the opportunity to talk it over with Teresa that night. She gave the OK and the family made the move.
Bill couldn’t know it at the time, but life and some higher power has a way of leading you down a certain road, and Bill had learned the proper way to follow the path. That “way” would lead him to meet the next hero in his life, a man named Troy McQuagge.
Bill remembers it well: “I started working with Troy the day after Thanksgiving in 1999. I sort of talked my way, (negotiated), into getting the position with him. Troy was looking for someone to help him with something big, unlocking internet lead generation for insurance agents and he wanted someone with a skill set to do that. I knew nothing about it, except I could log onto AOL and get my e-mail, etc. But I knew enough to talk my way through this and I convinced him I was the guy. I immediately went out and bought every book I could think of, including Internet for Dummies, which became my bible working with Troy.”
“Except Troy busted me on it one or two months into the job and I just knew I was going to be fired. I was in the office late at night and had the book open on my desk. I didn’t realize anyone else was there and suddenly Troy pokes his head in. He looks at me, looks at the book, gives me a wink, and says goodnight. It that moment I knew I had a friend for life… and in that moment he knew he had been sold!”
But as with so much in life, the dedication and devotion to the idea, the hard work and the friendship between Troy and Bill paid off, the internet lead strategy development eventually brought in as many as 300,000 insurance leads for agents in a single year and 17,000 recruits to the insurance agency through internet campaigns. The strategies are now used all across the insurance space – including the one Troy now presides over and where Bill works as Vice-President of Marketing – USHEATLH Advisors. The company is winning numerous awards in the insurance space and it’s a testament to the two men who have now worked together and been friends and “family” for more than a quarter-century.
Bill says Troy lives the message of HOPE, Helping Other People Everyday. “Troy is honestly the real deal”, says Bill. “The Troy you experience when you visit with him, or experience at one of our events is the Troy I get to experience on a regular basis. He’s a great teacher and the patience he has and the insight he offers is unparalleled. There’s nothing I can think of in my life which is comparable to it. It’s just an amazing journey.”
Yet while Bill says he has two heroes in his life, he forgets one thing, which is so eloquently explained by author Jen Sincero: “What you focus on you create more of in your life. If you’re consciously or unconsciously focused on certain beliefs about who you are, or who you want to be or who you do not want to be, you will attract people who mirror those traits right back at you.”
That mirror is the hero. Consciously or unconsciously in his own way and through his own path in life, Bill Shelton has become a carbon copy of the two men he most admires, his father and Troy. It’s evidenced in the way he describes how he wants to be remembered: “I was genuine, I was kind and I was helpful. If there is a message for anyone I think that’s it. We are on this earth to do as much good as we can do in the time we are given here.”
And it’s not only giving, it’s the confidence to receive Bill learned from his dad and it’s sound advice Bill has for anyone trying to make it in life: “Never back down from a challenge. If someone asks if you can do something tell them you can, until you prove yourself wrong. I never looked at anything and said ‘I can’t do that. I looked at it and said I can… and for the most part I’ve been right.'”
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
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