We’re all born into perfection and the challenge we face is to battle back from simply being average. If you refuse to succumb to society’s view of who you should be and what you should do – then you’ve got a shot at legendary – of showing the world what you are made of.
Build a business that does the same, one that offers tremendous value and the lives of others will be forever changed. Maybe they’ll even tell a story about you.
Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is Storytelling for Business.
Storytelling for Business: Freedom
The sweet taste of freedom. It’s something we all take for granted, but not Landis Barrow.
For a quarter of his life on this planet, Landis was told when to wake up, when to go to sleep, when to eat, when he could go outside, what he could do, and where he could do it. And these weren’t the rules from his mom leaning into Landis as he lived his teen years in Tulia, Texas – no this was something else, this was tougher, this was real and this was hard-core.
This… was prison.
It’s not the way most stories about insurance agents and leaders usually begin, but once you understand the beginning, you’ll realize the ending is about as close to nirvana as you can get, at least for Landis. And his comeback and success at USHEALTH Advisors are a testament to Landis’ resolve and the platform the company provides for anyone, no matter where you come from, to flourish.
“The biggest challenge that I have faced, is because I was incarcerated for a crime I didn’t commit, and I did 11 years in prison,” explains Landis. “It all started back in 1998, in the panhandle where I’m from, a town called Tulia. I have an identical twin brother as well, his name is Mandis. We were both living in this town of about 5,000 people. Was I a saint when I was growing up? You’re talking about 17, or 18 years old. No, I wasn’t. There are some things in life that I’m not proud of and some things in life that I made changes because of my past, but understand we grew up very rough. We didn’t have anyone, no role models, my brother and I were raised by a single mom. There wasn’t much money to be had – so I piddled around with drugs and other stuff in my youth.”
“Well, one day a pregnant woman came up to me and tried to get drugs and that changed my entire mentality. At that point, I looked at this lady, ‘Why are you taking drugs when you’re pregnant?” She walked away. I wouldn’t give her anything. I followed her down an alley and she ended up getting served by another drug dealer. It bothered me for life. And so at that point, I said, you know what? This is not right for me. We made a transition and I moved to Amarillo.”
But so often, the consequences of our actions can come back to haunt us. Although Landis had moved on, his past was about to catch up with him and it would take him years to prove his innocence and his worth.
“A year and a half later, they were doing an investigation in my hometown,” says Landis. “46 people were arrested in this drug sting. And of the 46 arrested, 44 of them knew each other. Now mind you, we’re not talking about a big city, we’re talking about a small community. And so then we had a racist cop, who it was later discovered, planted a lot of drugs on a lot of people, of the 46 people arrested, only two were not black.”
An investigation into the case by the NAACP, the ACLU, and a team of high-profile lawyers led to uncovering much of the wrong-doing by the town sheriff and others. Then Texas Governor Rick Perry got involved as well, demanding the release of all the prisoners. Most were eventually given their freedom. But not Landis, the authorities said there were other reasons to keep him behind bars.
But Landis decided he was taking matters into his own hands. He wanted to prove he also belonged on the outside, rather than simply accepting his fate and living out a major part of his life, 20 years, behind bars.
“Instead of being released in just under four years, like everyone else, I served 11 years before they exonerated me,” says Landis. “I studied the law, six hours a day. I did this for the next seven years and I ended up doing all my own legal research, all of my briefs, and everything else. I got my case back into the criminal courts. The criminal courts were not happy. They sent my appeal back to my trial judge and basically gave them an ultimatum to fix it or else. And so mind you, I’ve done all this extra time, but I went back to the court. I stayed in the county jail for another year waiting on my court hearing.”
“The day of my hearing they had all the publicity, all the news media, and the district attorney was waiting to re-prosecute me. It was real quiet in that courtroom. The judge just told me, “Mr. Barrow, stand up.” “I stood up. And then he pointed at me and made a statement. He said, ‘Mr. Barrow, I apologize for everything that happened to you guys (Landis and his brother).” Mind you, this is the same judge that gave me the 20-year sentence in the first place. And after he apologized, he looked at the district attorney. He said, “Well, I have a statement that I’m going to make to the court.” He said, “I hereby demand no more prosecutorial charges against Landis Barrow. We dismiss all charges.” “I walked out of the courtroom that day. And this is how I was able to eventually get my insurance license. My record is clean.”
Your struggle is your gift that the world will fall in love with. For Landis, his battle back to freedom is one that has made him stronger and his character-building attracted love into his life. Landis met Rachel Seideman in 2014. The two were wed in June of last year and now are a family, including Rachel’s daughter Samara… making Landis a proud stepfather as well. “My greatest accomplishment is probably me getting married to Rachel,” says Landis, “because that’s something I never thought would’ve happened coming from my background.”
His journey post-prison eventually brought Landis to the doorstep of USHEALTH Advisors, where he was recruited by Jim Schmitt and then worked to become a licensed agent. Rachel joined the company about four years ago, and the two have branded themselves as the Health Insurance Duo. But success at USHA has not come without challenges, especially for Landis.
Though exonerated of all charges, people’s perceptions are sometimes skewed by social media and the opinions of society, instead of grounded in the truth.
“Our first four years or so in this company, that was a big, big pitfall for us,” says Landis. “Because a lot of people, as you know, go to research your name on Google. Then all they see is that I was in prison… but people don’t care about what happened or the end result. They don’t want details on what happened. In fact, Rachel and I were on a call one day at the office. I was actually on a call for one of my agents. I was talking to a guy, who unbeknownst to me at the time was a police officer, and he loved the product. We went through everything and right at the end, he said, “Man, I’m going to look you up.”
“He looked me up online and when the information popped up the first words he said – I never will forget – and excuse my language, but he said, ‘man, you got f****d.” And I said, ‘Pardon me?’ “He said, “Man, you really got screwed over dude.” He said, “my brother was in a similar situation as you. I apologize. I know it’s pretty tough, but I can’t do business with you.” “Mind you that this is coming from an individual that loved everything we said about the product. He loved my persona. He loved everything about us until he went on Google and looked that information up about me being incarcerated.”
The best who truly live life at a deep and meaningful level, are the ones who face their challenges head-on. Despite the misperceptions and the challenges of his past lingering into the present, Landis has persevered – a human demonstration of strength and will. To date, Landis has produced more than $4-and-half million dollars in personal business at USHA and as a Field Training Agent, has led his team to just over $9-million in production.
But even his entrance into being recruited to the company has its own storyline for Landis. One that is rich with the power of belief.
“After getting out of prison, I had decided to go to college to get a business administration degree,” says Landis.
“Jim Schmidt at the time was the person that recruited me at a career fair. So Jim comes to me and he’s got one of those long legal pads. And he said, ‘I love this company so much, you should join us.” He said, “What I want you to do, I want you to find anything that you can about this company, negative, good, whatever. And if I cannot refute it, don’t take the job. But if I can turn around and show you how great this company is, why I believe in it so much, why you’re going to have an awesome career here then we’ve got a deal? This is how we do it. I’m going to prove it to you.”
“So he asked me, “How much time do you need to do this research?” “I’ll have it in 24 hours, I said.” So he asked me to give him a call the next day and sure enough, I did. I did exactly what he said. I found all the good reviews and the bad ones. I know how people write reviews. And I know what’s legit, and who are former agents, and all that. So at that point, when I contacted Jim again, I was basically in awe. I was like how can a company do this with insurance, I’ve never seen anything like it. And that was inspiring enough, I was excited. I mean, Jim lit a fire under me. And he’s a good friend now, I love him to death. I thought it was an awesome opportunity and so we just took advantage of it.”
An opportunity is just that – what happens with that opportunity is what you make of it – and many times you must think outside the box to make the most of it. Landis and Rachel were no different, as they faced another climb up the mountain of success.
“So a lot of people in this industry have a circle of influence, which is what we pride ourselves on helping agents get off the ground here,” says Landis. When I started, I didn’t have one. Rachel and I ended up living in the Dallas-Ft Worth area, but her dad is five hours away from us in Amarillo, the same place I was living when all hell broke loose. When I started at USHA in 2014, it was face-to-face sales, so we would drive to Amarillo on the weekend, back and forth. And that’s how we did it, knocking on doors in a wealthy community in that town. And that’s how we started soliciting business. I went to a town that crucified me on every level you could think of. And that’s the town where I went to start my insurance business. Because that town knew me, I was in their homes, we had been state athletes. My brother and I set a lot of records there. So I was trying to use that good part as an avenue to get in front of people. 99-percent of the time, it didn’t work. They let me in, but they still didn’t do business with me because of what happened to me.”
Landis says he refused to give up, despite nearly being let go from the company twice because of a lack of production.
Nathan Scott was my Field Training Agent at the time and he saw how tired I was every Monday. He told me, “this is not going to work for you, man.” “I said, “No, I’m going to do it.” So I would get a paper application. We would get on the road. I would get everything filled out on that paper application, and come back. “Here’s an app, here’s an app,” I’d say. And we’re making paychecks $1,000 here, $1,000 there. Just enough to tide us over. We weren’t making great money, but then after year three, Nathan took me as his plus-one on the USHA Council of Excellence trip to Cabo in Mexico.”
“That was life-changing,” says Landis. “I saw these people with these bonus checks were $900,000, one million dollars. And I’m looking at my leader, Derrick Berry, and Jim Schmitt who were at my table, and I’m in awe again. I was like a baby in the room, just absorbing all this information. I wanted to touch these people. I wanted to be around these types of people. And that’s exactly what we did. I migrated to a different type of mindset and I was all in, failure was not an option anymore. We were going to go ahead and grow.”
Now it’s Landis who works as an FTA and helps train new agents, as well as personally produce, while Rachel helps build The Health Insurance Duo’s reputation online and in person.
“My day looks a little bit different than Landis’s,” says Rachel. “I do a lot of networking. I’m heavily involved in my chamber and that’s where we get a lot of business. We get a lot of referrals. I’ve built a lot of trust and built a lot of relationships with people. I probably go to, depending on the week, 5-to-10 meetings a week.” Rachel is so good at spreading the message and serving others she was recently awarded Volunteer of the Year by the Northeast Tarrant Chamber of Commerce.
It’s a lot of work for the Health Insurance Duo, but by doing it together the couple has now built a robust business, battling back against the adversity and finding a way to keep moving forward.
“Everyone is going to face adversity,” says Landis. “It doesn’t matter what path of life we are on or the experiences in our past. Who we are, is who we are. Never let anyone else dictate how successful you’re going to be. People can help or they can hurt. One thing is for sure no one is going to dictate how successful I am in this company but for me. Because you have to hold yourself up to a certain standard. Either you’re going to make it, fake it until you make it, or you’re just not going to make it at all. I’m one of the people who’s not going to fake anything because I am going to make it.”
Landis has made it, from almost seemingly insurmountable odds to the doors of USHEALTH Advisors. He has fought for and gained the one thing he always desired the most, the one thing he’ll never take for granted… freedom.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
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