Nov. 8, 2022

2. A Resilient Life of Action

2. A Resilient Life of Action

In this episode, I am joined by Tom Hegna is a successful author, speaker, and business owner. He has had many struggles throughout his life, but has always been resilient and kept moving forward. In 2020, when COVID-19 hit, he was prepared because he had already shifted his business to the cloud. He was able to take advantage of the situation and had his best year ever. In this episode, you will learn the following:

  • How to be resilient in the face of change
  • How to take action in the face of adversity
  • How to overcome struggles and achieve success

"The first time it happens, you kind of get your heart broken and then the second time it happens, it kind of scars you a little bit. And by the third and the fourth time that things happen, you're kind of used to it. And it's like that old Japanese proverb, 'Getting knocked down seven times, stand up eight.' And that's the whole deal. You gotta stand up." - Tom Hegna

Episode Timestamps:

[00:00:52] - Introducing today’s guest, Tom Hegna

[00:03:54] - Tom’s start, struggle, current point and where he is headed

[00:05:56] - Tom’s books, Paychecks and Playchecks, Retiring Income Masters, Don’t Worry Retire Happy

[00:07:56] - Tom’s struggles in his life - his experience in the military, 15 years in the insurance industry 

[00:12:26] - People who take action and move forward get rewarded

[00:13:39] - Tom advises people to be more resilient in the face of constant change

[00:15:39] - Consistency and persistency are the biggest things that determine the trajectory of your life

[00:19:20] - Tom advises his listeners to get out of their comfort zone and stretch themselves



[00:00:00] Tom: You know, struggles that I felt were really unfair to me. And I mean, everybody has stuff that happens that's unfair. And I mean, the first time it happens, you kind of get your heart broken and then the second time it happens, it kind of scars you a little bit. And by the third and the fourth time that things happen, you're kind of used to it. And it's like that old Japanese proverb, 'Getting knocked down seven times, stand up eight.' And that's the whole deal. You gotta stand up.

[00:00:36] Joe: Hi, I'm Joe Templin. I'm the author of Everyday Excellence and a Human Swiss Army Knife. This is the Human Kaizen Podcast, a conversation with interesting individuals that embody excellence and can help you be better. My guest today is the amazing Tom Hegna. I have known Tom for multiple years in different capacities, and he is one of these individuals who in every stage of his life, has embodied excellence. And so, I needed to bring him on board here to help share his knowledge and experience for others. Tom, my friend, what are you reading or learning now?

[00:01:21] Tom: Well, what I'm really working on is I'm learning a lot more about funnels and advertising and Facebook advertising and Google ads because as you know, I've shifted most of my business to the cloud. And so instead of spending 200 days a year on the road, speaking in front of people, I'm speaking multiple times every day in the cloud and most of them are recorded, but a lot of them look live. But you've gotta drive people to these webinars and so that's what I'm really spending a lot of time in is learning how to optimize Facebook ads, do AB testing and all this stuff. And I'm not the actual guy that does it, but I'm learning because I'm putting up the capital to get it done so I want to know as much about it as I can.

[00:02:04] Tom: So I'm at a new phase of my life. I'm 75% retired. I'm playing golf four to five days a week. I'm playing pickle ball two days a week. I do a little bit of [tour]. I'd still speak. You know, I was in Omaha yesterday. I was in Austin, Texas last week. I'll be in Pittsburgh in a couple weeks. I'll be in Kauai later this month speaking. So I am doing a little bit, but most of the summer I didn't, I really didn't go anywhere.

[00:02:28] Joe: Yeah, your 75% retired is greater than most people's high energy activity. I mean, because we were actually together in your backyard In Arizona?

[00:02:38] Tom: Yeah.

[00:02:39] Joe: What was it? Two weeks ago? Two weeks ago?

[00:02:40] Tom: Yeah. Those at the NAFA Apex meeting. Yes.

[00:02:43] Joe: And so I actually adopted a saying years ago which COVID has helped bring to the forefront. It's a lot easier and more convenient to move electrons than it is to move molecules. Utilizing Zoom and all of those other things. We can be anywhere, anytime, and as you said, you're probably in three different time zones to that in terms of your work.

[00:03:04] Tom: Yeah, and you know, I spoke yesterday in Omaha, but it took me 36 hours to get there and back home to speak for 70 minutes. You know, it's not really efficient if you think about it. I could have done eight meetings in that time period and still played around the golf and probably played some pickleball.

[00:03:23] Joe: I  spoke in Missouri on Monday and it took me...  I was gone for a total of 60 hours and 30 hours of it was the transit.

[00:03:34] Tom: Yeah. And it's just, it. That's the friction---

[00:03:37] Joe: Doing it this way, much better.

[00:03:38] Tom: Yeah, it is. It is much more efficient.

[00:03:40] Joe: So, let's talk about your journey a little bit because I know your backstory between the military then being with New York Life, then training and speaking, being a TV host and all these other things. But bring our listeners up to speed a little bit on your journey. The start, the struggle, your current point, and you hit on a little bit of where you're going already?

[00:04:04] Tom: Well, I mean, I'll go way back to when I was a kid. I was born and raised in Glenwood, Minnesota. You know, both my parents were teachers in a small town. They didn't make much, I grew up in a lower middle class family. But I knew from an early age I wanted to be. I wanted to make money. I wanted to be successful. I delivered newspapers, I sold seeds door to door, I sold these water Amma buttons. They had a big water Amma festival. I mean, I was always... I worked at the county fair. I sold popcorn and sodas and all that stuff. And so I really made money as a kid.

[00:04:36] Tom: Then I went to college. Oh, and I was not a popular kid in high school so I was not in crowd in high school. But then I went to college. I went to college on an Army ROTC scholarship. I got four majors in three years, but I was a little more popular in college and that was a lot more fun. I wasn't used to that. And then I got commissioned in the military. I spent six years active duty. I was over in Germany, outta Fort Worth, California, down in Fort Huachuca twice. I remained in the Army Reserve. Spent another 16 and a half years Army Reserve, retired as a Lieutenant colonel in 2006.

[00:05:07] Tom: I went to work for MetLife. I spent eight years at MetLife. I was an agent, a manager, a national marketing manager for Variable Life. I then went to New York Life, spent 15 years at New York Life. I then retired as a Senior Executive Officer at New York Life. Start of my own business, I've written five books on retirement, a couple of white papers. I've got audio books. I've got a PBS TV special played in 80 million homes in US and Canada. I've trained over 300,000 financial advisors all over the world and given over 5,000 life seminars in all 50 states. So that's kind of a one over the world on my journey. You know, I've had multiple struggles and we can talk about any of those that you want.

[00:05:46] Joe: Well, first off, do you have a copy of your book that you can hold on up because having read your books, and being the big nerd that I am, anybody who is ever going to retire needs to take a look at these books. And with the economics and the increased longevity, these are critical. So these are some of the best books I actually used to give these to my clients.

[00:06:13] Tom: Yeah, they've been fairly effective. So 'Paychecks and Paychecks,' that was my first book. That's really the math and science behind a 'Successful Retirement.' 'Retirement Income Masters' is really more for advisors and it's got 16 different advisors. Each chapter is their story. What do they do? What do they say? How do they explain these concepts?

[00:06:30] Tom: And then 'Don't Worry, Retire Happy,' that's the PBS TV special. It's a little broader than Paychecks and Paychecks. It covers having a plan, working with a financial professional, maximizing social security benefits, hybrid retirement. Gotta protect yourself against inflation. You gotta have a guaranteed income coming in. You gotta have a plan for long-term care. How to use your home equity wisely. And then how to use life insurance as the most efficient way to pass wealth to children, grandchildren and charities. And that book is really all about

[00:06:58] Joe: And I love that you don't get into belief systems around these things. You actually rely upon the math, the tax law, and the science behind it. And being the geeks that I am, that spoke directly to me.

[00:07:14] Tom: Yeah. I tried to keep my opinions out of it. This is the research of the leading PhDs all over the world.

[00:07:19] Joe: Yeah, and that's what the consumer and the advisors need to hear as opposed to the spin coming from any particular source. This is unbiased and very cross-discipline in a lot of ways.

[00:07:36] Joe: So what's going to really help my listeners out, Tom, here is talk about your struggles a little bit because everybody sees Tom and you have this perfect life and you just won the golf championship at your Country Club. I gotta bring that up again 'cuz I know you're very, very proud of that. So, but talk about some of the struggles along the way that other people might not realize.

[00:08:01] Tom: Well, everybody thinks that for successful people thinks go in a straight line and they really don't. They go up, and then they go down, and they go up, and they can go down further and then they go up and they can go down further. I've had really three major struggles that I felt were really unfair to me. And I mean, everybody has stuff that happens that's unfair.

[00:08:21] Tom: And I mean, the first time it happens, you kind of get your heart broken. And then the second time it happens, it kind of scars you a little bit. And by the third and the fourth time that things happen, you're kind of used to it. And it's like that old Japanese proverb, 'Getting knocked down seven times, stand up eight.' And that's the whole deal. You gotta stand up.

[00:08:37] Tom: And so, I remember when I was in the Army, I was a really...  I'd been getting all the top ratings as a lieutenant and then I became a company commander, which was I got picked as a lieutenant, which is a huge honor. And I was a company commander in a light infantry division. All right. I was like 25 years old, 26 year... probably 24 years old when I got picked to be a captain company commander. And my company did a great job. I mean, I had great lieutenants, I had great sergeants. We by far the best company in the battalion. It wasn't even close. It was just... we were crushing every goal that we were given.

[00:09:13] Tom: Well, then it came time for my rating as a commander, which is a very important role in the Army, and I didn't get that highest rating. I got the second rating and I just couldn't understand it. Didn't make any sense to me. And I took it very personal 'cuz in the Army, you're not making a lot of money, so you only get awards and ratings. That's what you get kind of. And I found out that one of the other company commanders had a DWI and the colonel, the only way, the only chance... and in the military, DWIs, a career terminating offense unless there's some really some stuff behind it.

[00:09:46] Tom: And so the colonel got with the general and they said, "Well, look, if we get that captain the top rating, he might have a chance of staying." And so they gave the top rating to this guy who got a DWI, not to me, the guy that deserved it. And now that I've been a lieutenant colonel too, so now I know there's really difficult decisions. I can see both sides of it.

[00:10:08] Tom: But at the time I was like 24 years old, that was my whole life, that was my career. And all of a sudden, I get a lower rating than what I deserved. And that's why I ended up getting off of active duty and actually going into the insurance industry Now, that might have been a little immature at the time, but I mean, that's where I was at that time and it was very devastating to me. But that was my first struggle.

[00:10:29] Tom: Okay. And then I went over to MetLife. I spent eight years at MetLife, gave him everything I got. Blood, sweat, and tears and everything. And then MetLife was going through a reorganization, they called it MetLife Express. That was when Bob Ben Moche went through there and Joe Jordan really loves Bob Ben Moche. I have a little different view, he's the kind of guy that if there was a sniper in a village, he would've said, "Eliminate the whole village," and you'd say, "Well, there's gonna be a lot of innocent people die. That's collateral damage, you know?" Well, I was part of that collateral damage in that MetLife Express. 

[00:11:00] Tom: And so then I left, I went to work for New York Life and I was at New York Life for 15 years and probably the first 12 or 13 were awesome. I just enjoyed it. I was an annuity wholesaler. I was out in the field. Well, then I kept getting promoted and all of a sudden I'm a senior executive officer, one of the top 50 officers in the company.

[00:11:18] Tom: And Joe, you know me, I'm not a home office guy, okay? I'm a field guy. And you put a field guy in the middle of the home office, and it doesn't always turn out well. You know, I'd say, "No, we gotta be doing this. You shouldn't be doing this. We gotta do this. Here's the things we should be doing." They don't like that. You know, they want you to say, "Hey, you're doing great. We love everything you do." I'm just not that guy. And so I knew they knew that.

[00:11:40] Tom: And so, I retired from New York Life after 15 years and went out on my own. And that was the best decision I ever made. And because I've always been a hard worker. And now, I can get paid for exactly what the work I want to put into the, to the job.

[00:11:57] Joe: And that's basically a theme from your entire life. Going back to when you were a kid, hustling and selling popcorn and all that to the insurance industry, and now, today, it is one of those constants. And hopefully, my listeners pay attention to this and see if they have that thread throughout their own life because as you said, being in the home office, great person, not a great fit.

[00:12:24] Tom: Right. It just wasn't a fit. And they would tell you that, I would tell you that, it wasn't a good fit. I'm a field guy. I'm not a home office guy. And my time there was great. I am zero bad to say about the company. It's a great company. It just wasn't a good fit for me, but this is a much better fit.

[00:12:42] Tom: But here's what I'll tell people. At any one of those really negative times in my life, I could have said, "Oh, the world's unfair. Oh, somebody's out to get me. Screw me." I didn't do that. I kept moving on. And that's what I think the main lesson is action. You know, the universe rewards action. People who take action, people who move forward, get rewarded. And the people who sit back and say, "Woe is me. Oh, the world hates me. Everything's bad." The world does not reward those people. They reward the people who get up the eighth time and keep going, and keep getting punched in the face, but they keep going. And that's be my message is just keep going.

[00:13:20] Tom: Bad things happen to every good person, Joe. I know bad things have happened to you. I know unfair things have happened to you. They happen to everybody. And it seems wrong when it's happening to you, but you gotta understand, that's life.

[00:13:32] Joe: Yeah. You take the punch, you get back up and you keep fighting and it beats me gang counted out in the end. So one of the things, Tom, you've gone through all these different changes. You've been around in the economy, in the industry long enough. You've seen a lot of the things that have occurred as a military man. You're a student of history in a lot of ways, and you've been reading the tea leaves. So what would you tell somebody today to be better prepared and more resilient for the future?

[00:14:09] Tom: Yeah, I mean, you can't be afraid of change. Change is constant. It's gonna keep coming. And I mean, I'm resistant to change in some areas too. Like I don't like when I have to have five different ways to authenticate, to sign into a website or something. I mean, some of this stuff drives me crazy. but you've got to be resilient.

[00:14:28] Tom: And when 2020 hit and COVID hit and everybody had to move to the cloud, I'd been moving to the cloud about a year and a half before that. So once COVID hit, I was already there. And I took advantage of that and I had more resources in the cloud than Fortune 100 companies in the insurance industry. So they were all calling me and I had my best year ever in 2020, believe it or not. And think about that, I'm a platform speaker, all right? I did zero platforms in 2020 and I had my best year ever.

[00:14:58] Tom: So how do you do that? Well, because you're resilient. You move, you change, I got my stuff in the cloud, I got it up, I got it advertising, and it worked. But I tell people, "You're not a tree, all right? If you don't like something's going on or if something's changed, you can get up and you can move and you can do something different." And I certainly had to do different things after COVID and I think most everybody did.

[00:15:18] Tom: But the nice thing about COVID is it really pushed us, it pushed us into the 21st century 'cuz the insurance industries back in the 1880s still basically, but it pushed a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise be. They wouldn't know how to use Zoom, they wouldn't know how to use QR codes or anything. Now we all know how to do all that stuff. And so, I mean, that was a big positive.

[00:15:38] Joe: Awesome. So, what would you suggest? You know, a couple of things here. Little bits of ice, little things for big improvements for individuals who want to change the curve of their---

[00:15:53] Tom: You know, there's a book out there called 'Atomic Habits' and you might want to check that one out. You know, they say you don't get to choose your life, you choose your habits. Your habits, choose your life. See, it's the habits that you do, the little things every day, the number of phone calls you make, and the discipline that you have, that's going to... that's gonna determine the trajectory of your life, whatever your habits are. If you're in the habit of getting up early, you're reading, you're responding to your emails, you could do all those little things you need to do every single day.

[00:16:26] Tom: It's the consistency, it's the habits and the consistency and the persistency. I would say consistency and persistency are two of the biggest things. I do the same things every single day. Every single day. And when I make a presentation, I do it the same way. You know, I'm consistent. When people know I'm speaking, they know what they're getting. I'm not gonna be off doing something crazy. They know what they're getting. I'm consistent, but I'm also persistent. When things don't go my way, I understand they're not always gonna go my way, but I'm gonna keep going. Keep going. Action. The universe rewards action.

[00:16:58] Joe: Awesome. So, one of the things you mentioned was James Clear talks about habit stacking in Atomic Habits. And I've got my habit stack that people have heard me talk about multiple times. Give me a little slice of Tom Hegna's life in the morning. What you do so that you are prepared for that day?

[00:17:19] Tom: Well, of course, number one, I go over my calendar. What's all on my calendar? What presentations do I have to give? Are they ready? So that's all done. I do all my social media posting, respond to any social media comments. I I respond to all my emails. I do this every single morning. And that gets me going. And then I'm planning what am I doing in the future as well? And I meet regularly via Zoom or by phone call with with people who are on my staff on setting up my calendar. What's going on? What's coming forward? But then also, like what themes do we want to have? Like if it's Life Insurance Awareness Month, we want to have a theme of life insurance and our postings. And if it's annuity awareness month, we wanna have a theme or long-term care. And so we try to have a plan.

[00:18:06] Tom: And just so you know, my social media strategy is I post the things that all the agents wish they could post, but for whatever reason, they're either. They didn't know how, or they're compliance or whatever. And then they can like and share my stuff. So that is my whole social media strategy is to prepare social media posts that people can share and like, and things like that.

[00:18:25] Joe: So one of the things that you're doing to reiterate that is you are producing things that others can then continue to use and leveraging through that mechanism to reach many times more than you would directly in and of yourself.

[00:18:40] Tom: Yeah, and when they do these social media things, they say 90% of people on social media are what they call lurkers. They're lurkers. They just watch, they just scroll and they read. 10% of the people actually post stuff or share stuff, and only about 5% of the people actually create content.

[00:18:58] Tom: Well, I try to create content every day. I either create content or I share what I think is awesome content that I've seen. And I say, "Oh, I thought this was awesome. You'll probably think it's awesome too. I'll share that." So I think if people would just post some things and just get outta their comfort zone a little bit, they can be a content creator and not just a content consumer.

[00:19:20] Joe: Now you mentioned getting outside your comfort zone, Tom. You know, I've known you for a while. I have never seen you at outside your comfort zone because you always seem to be the master of yourself in this situation. You always seem comfortable. I've never seen somebody ask you a question that phases you for even a second. So can you talk about that a little bit?

[00:19:46] Tom: Yeah. So, I think, number one, you gotta know your stuff. So if you're gonna be out there, and if you're gonna be a kind of an expert, you better be an expert. You better know your stuff, I think. And I've spent so many years knowing this stuff that there's not much that's gonna throw me off. I do learn new things. I do see new things, but there's not much out there that I haven't seen before. There are some new stuff and I loved when I see new stuff. So if you really know your stuff, you're not gonna get thrown off.

[00:20:14] Tom: But the other thing is, I do stretch myself. Did that presentation 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' That's for generation XYZ and millennials, that has not been my area of expertise. I've really focused on baby boomers, those in or near retirement. That's been what I've spent my time on. But my kids that are generation XYZ and millennials, and so I've helped them, shown them how to become wealthy. And I said, "Why don't I just do this for everybody? Share with everybody?" Because I believe almost every American can become a millionaire if they want to. It's just most people are too busy trying to look like a millionaire instead of trying to become a millionaire. So that's what I spend my time. So I did get a little outta my comfort zone there, but it's been really, really well received and the young people just appreciate so much. So I do step outta my comfort fairly.

[00:21:04] Tom: And for me to play in a club, the club championship from the tips, when I'm playing against 30 and 40 year old guys and I'm playing from 7,100 yards, slope, 140? That's outta my comfort zone. I mean, I don't play that every day, but you know what? I end up doing okay with those guys. In 2020, I won the whole thing, and this last year or this last week, I came in like third, but it ended up being second 'cuz the guy who came in second, they made him first net. So I was second gross. And then I won the senior club championship two weeks ago by 10 strokes. So those put me outta my comfort zone but I'm trying to. That's how you get better. You can't get better if you just always play the red tees or something. You gotta stretch yourself.

[00:21:47] Joe: That's something I wanted my listeners to hear because you are the consummate professional, even though I've never seen you in a tie. And in terms of the consistency and persistency, one of the things that my listeners should know is that Tom's first book was covered in orange, as you saw, and Tom is infamous for only wearing an orange shirt. So, there was a moment of question in my mind as to whether or not he would show up in uniform today. And of course he did because that's what professionals do.

[00:22:25] Tom: And I would've worn a tie if you wanted me to. I have plenty of orange ties and orange dress shirts. But like I said, I drove up here to Page. I'm in Page Arizona right now, sitting outside the Hilton because I'm picking up my boat and so I didn't want to have a certain tie on necessarily for that.

[00:22:40] Joe: But see, listeners, he steps up. He was asked to do this, and he is like, "All right, I'm gonna make it happen and I'm gonna be able to put this on in with the other things that I have going on." Getting the boat, I mean, obviously, that's a little bit of work but there's been some fun times on that boat, taking care of these podcasts, serving others and being able to stack things like this so that you can maximize your day and have some enjoyment, but also some service simultaneously. That is one of the ways to be able to be excellent overall.

[00:23:15] Joe: So, Tom, any last calls to action or offers or words of advice for my listeners.

[00:23:23] Tom: Sure. So if anybody wants any of my books or audio books or anything, if you go to You can use the code 15OFF to get 15% off. I have a free YouTube channel, that's free. There's hundreds of videos there. I have online training and coaching. That's a subscription service but you can find out all more about that,

[00:23:43] Tom: But I would just challenge everybody. You know, even Abraham Lincoln said, "Whatever you're gonna be, be a good one." And that's how you make more money is by being good at what you do. So what I taught my kids, as I said my secret to success is when you get a job, I want you to go in early. Stay late and always do more than what you're paid to do. Because if you do that, guess what? You're gonna become very valuable to that employer. You're gonna get promoted faster. You're gonna get paid more than all the other people who show up late. They try to leave early and do as little as possible for a paycheck. Now, when I was growing up, everybody knew that secret. Nowadays, there aren't that many people that know that secret. And so that would be maybe what I'd leave everybody with.

[00:24:23] Joe: Tom, thank you for that insight. We're gonna have in the show notes, all that information so people can find you, they can follow you, they can hopefully go buy your books because they are really, really helpful. And here we close it on out. Once again, I'm Joe Templin. Be excellent and grow today. And cut. Thanks, Joe. You nailed it. Awesome.

[00:24:49] Tom: All right, Thank you. Very good. All right, thanks Joe.

[00:24:53] Joe: So I know you're busy. I'm gonna jump on off. I'll touch base with you whenever we get a chance.

[00:24:59] Tom: And I'll share it with my audience too so we'll share it around. All right.

[00:25:04] Joe: Sweet.

[00:25:04] Tom: Thanks, Joe.

[00:25:04] Joe: Thank you, my friend.

[00:25:05] Tom: Bye.