Sometimes it’s what we think we want, before we truly think, before we take the time to contemplate the deep meaning of our desires.
Fame, fortune and fun. It’s all enticing, it’s also fleeting, unless the foundation is solid the surface will slip away baring an unfulfilled soul. Then it’s time to find the strength and the fortitude which will be your real story.
Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (117): A Driving Faith
There are two things Steven Plank can tell you that saved him, his wife and the open road.
But it’s been a long road getting here.
Steven says his story is from rags to riches, from rags…to redemption and it all began with an addiction, not his, but the man who ran his family – his father.
“Growing up we were poor as dirt”, says Steven. “Dad was an alcoholic. We were evicted from house to house, he was a hardcore functioning alcoholic, sometimes functioning during his work hours, it wasn’t easy for him to keep a job. He was a wild man, wilder than most, it was definitely an interesting childhood. I had normal friends, but I spent a lot of time at their houses. It wouldn’t be abnormal for me to spend entire summers at my friends houses and come home to get my clothes sometimes. My mother thought I would get a better perspective on life in other people’s homes.”
For all the ups-and-downs at his own home, Steven found some stability and discipline in life by playing sports. He was a four-sport athlete, captain of his high school football and wrestling teams. “A lot of influences in my wife were my coaches”, says Steven. “I had no father figure. I relied on the coaches, they heavily influenced how I grew up. They were huge in my upbringing.”
They say many times in life you go looking for what you don’t have, what your heart needs, what your soul desires to help you feel complete. For Steven, despite an offer to go to Oklahoma State with a wrestling scholarship, he found something which would provide him even more discipline – the military.
“It was right around the time of the Iran hostage situation in the early 80’s. I joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. I spent four years in the Marines, got out for six months, then joined the Army. I thrived in that atmosphere.”
Steven also met his wife Carol. While on a short leave in 1983 Steve says his buddy set him up on a blind date and the couple got engaged three days later, on New Year’s Eve, before Steve had to go back to his unit. A month-and-a-half later the two were married. “Everyone says it wouldn’t last”, says Steven. “What can I say, when you know, you know.” It was one of the decisions which would forever change his life.
For all the chaos of childhood, it was the stability and structure of military life which helped set Steven straight and taught him the focus and discipline to work hard and to prosper. But the transition from the military to mainstream life was not an easy one.
“I got out of the military because of a hardship discharge, because my wife’s dad passed away. I struggled for many years because of the return to a life with less structure. I tried menial jobs, but then went into business with my wife, and my dad… we got a restaurant in Sydney, Nebraska, population 2,500. With the first restaurant I worked 20-hours-a-day, seven days a week for 365 days that first year. We had four kids and we had to feed them.”
In the early 90’s the family moved to Texas and bought three more restaurants, but ended up having to sell them, in part Steven says because of the demons of the past continuing to surface, namely his father’s drinking. “My dad was still drinking”, Steven says. “He was messing around on my mom and they got divorced, it got ugly. I didn’t see my dad for a few years.”
After the restaurant business, Steven got a job in construction, went to night school, earned a degree in business development, (all the while playing dad to his four daughters), and started to think big. He told friends and family he would find a job where he could make $250,000 a year. “A lot of people laughed at me”, says Steven.
But after getting a health and life license in 2003, he found a job in insurance and proved the doubters wrong. Steven says he made a lot of money, more than he ever imagined, but there was just one problem, just like the addiction his father had failed to kick, Steven had developed his own… money. “I had no idea how to live with that kind of money”, says Steven. “I made stupid decisions, let other people influence me who should not have influenced me. They told me I should always act like I was the richest guy in the room. I built a 5-thousand-square foot house in Texas, with an $80,000 home theater and drove a Mercedes and a Ford Expedition. Achieving that kind of success can hurt people who are not prepared for it.”
The family was also not prepared for the downturn, what Steven describes as a “death spiral”. When the company and the insurance industry took a hit in the late 2000’s, the fortune came crumbling down. The home was foreclosed, the cars were repossessed, the credit cards were maxed. Steven says three-of-his-four daughters had moved out before the family lost everything, but they felt the pain nonetheless watching their parents suffer. By 2009, Steve, Carol and one of their daughters were living in a rental house in a shady neighborhood. “I was embarrassed and emasculated”, says Steven. At nearly rock bottom, he found a job making $27,000 a year, driving a truck.
Those 18-wheels and the open road saved his life.
“It was the most beneficial time of my life. Two weeks at a time I would be out on the road by myself, just me and my CD’s. I would listen to sermons and prayer and worship music and at night I would grab my Bible and read in bed. Driving the truck, I needed that alone time with myself and no distractions. It will drive you closer to God when you have no one else to talk to. Never before did I have that much solitude. It was the best year-and-a-half of my life. We could pay the rent and the groceries and we were as happy as we’d ever been in our lives.”
A stint selling cars, and then a failed attempt trying to help his buddy start a hot sauce business, led Steven to make a decision to go back into the insurance business. He decided to go back to where he made a good living, but had made bad choices in how he lived. It wasn’t the money, as much as the hands that held it that were the problem. Instead of a focus outward, it had been inward, but Steven’s time in the big rig and his renewed faith had re-focused his heart.
Just a few days from being homeless, Steven got appointed with USHEALTH Advisors and got to work, albeit without a car. He didn’t own one and had to borrow cars to get to appointments, but he made it happen. His work ethic and military discipline intact, he is now back on track, but with a new track to run on. “The first time around it was all about me and how much money I could make and all I could accumulate. This time around all that stuff means nothing to me at all. My heart and my focus is the same as our CEO Troy McQuagge, to help people. This time I have a new idea of HOPE and what HOPE really means – Helping Other People Everyday.”
Steven continues: “The leadership I have now are in line with what Troy represents, they talk the talk and walk the walk. I’m mature enough now and my Division Manager Jim Shaunfield and I are cut from the same cloth. We are both in leadership positions and when an agent is failing we accept a personal responsibility to help them. When the focus is on other people you don’t care about the Rolex and the Mercedes. Let me help so many people that one day I can afford those things – that’s a new paradigm right there. As money comes in now it’s being handled in a “godly way”, and not blowing it as fast as it comes in.”
It’s that focus on others – a foundation in faith and the love of his life which now make Steven feel “rich” every day. “Carol and I have been married now for 32 years”, says Steven. “She is the driving force with everything I do. She is a good woman. I love her to death. She is the biggest part of my life besides my faith. Carol and I are joined at the hip and have been since I left the military in 1987. We have and do work side-by-side and we’ve been through a lot of stuff. Having her stand beside me in everything that I do means everything in the world to me.”
And Steven’s world has expanded with his four daughters, creating families of their own and blessing Steven and Carol with 13 grandchildren. It’s all about lessons learned in the face of adversity and creating an enduring faith that drives him.
“I learned to be humble”, says Steven. “Some think that’s bad. But the Bible says if you humble yourself He will exalt you, but if you exalt yourself He will humble you. Through the downward spiral I was humbled and now humbled He has exalted me. No matter how good or bad it is, if you stay grounded in your faith it will be OK. When I got back into my faith and my time in the truck with the Lord, it didn’t matter how bad the storm was outside, there was a sense of peace we had moving forward. Even today, during a bad week or whatever happens, there is still a sense of peace that we have in all we do and that’s a pretty good feeling.”
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
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USHEALTH Advisors: (http://www.prweb.com/releases/markbrodinsky/072015/prweb12862708.htm)