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Five mega-mind tools for insurance professionals

12 June 2024 Gareth Stokes

There are five tools you can use to master your mind and maximise your career in insurance. In a presentation that began with a somewhat odd reference to man, horse, pig and mind, Temwa Nyirenda, winner of this year’s The Insurance Apprentice (TIA 2024) competition and a reinsurance broker at Sanlam Broker Solutions, offered some valuable tips for creating impact regardless of your industry or role.

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If the measured, thoughtful talk is indicative of the calibre of individual who wins the coveted TIA title, then you are going to want to rush out and put your name down for the 2025 showcase. Alas, if you are 36 or older, you will have to participate from the comfort of your lounge chair, and settle instead for reading the accompanying synopsis for your personal enlightenment. Nyirenda introduced his topic with a quote from American writer and poet, Archibald MacLeish that reads: “The only thing about a man that is a man, is his mind. Everything else you can find in a pig or a horse”. 

“As professionals in the insurance industry, our minds are our biggest asset,” Nyirenda said. His hope was that the five ‘tools’ shared during his presentation would help the insurance professionals in attendance to navigate their work environments, and progress in both their careers and personal lives. Before tucking into the main course, the presenter offered an aperitif to get the tastebuds flowing. He encouraged the audience to practice awareness and to be deliberate about using the soon-to-be-introduced tool set. Without further ado, let us dive into today’s five mega-mind tools narrative. 

One: The power of perception

The good news, dear reader, is that the speaker expertly ducked the well-worn glass half full versus glass half empty explainer for this heading. Instead, he kicked off his first mega-mind tool commentary with a version of a quote from American entrepreneur and author, Jim Rohn, who said: A pessimist doesn’t see the sunset outside, he sees the dirt on the window. PS, Google spits out similar quotes under various great names, so pick one that works for you. “Perception is a superpower,” enthused Nyirenda, before splitting the topic into two threads including how you perceive the world, and how the world perceives you. 

“The way we perceive the world ultimately determines how we interact with it; we may not be able to change the world, but we can change the way we perceive it,” he said. Referring back to his first job as a tied life and investment adviser at Old Mutual, Nyirenda observed that only eight of 30 advisers saw fit to add short-term insurance to their portfolios when presented with the opportunity. Eight perceived it as an opportunity, and 22 felt they were better off elsewhere. After a year of training, only one of the eight still perceived the potential in staying the short-term route. “Having that different view became the catalyst for my career,” he said. 

Two: Avoid the echo chamber of doom

Your writer loved the quote used to introduce the second mega-mind tool, namely “surround yourself with nine fools, and you will soon become the tenth”. Put another way, if you align yourself with people who think in a certain way, you will soon find yourself thinking similarly. “An echo chamber is an environment where a person only encounters information or opinions that reflect and reinforce their own; they become closed off to differing views,” Nyirenda explained. It turns out there are a lot of echo chambers out there, especially in the corporate world. Just ask any yes-person you know to confirm… 

The challenge under this sub-heading is to find ways to think outside the box, or chamber if you prefer. Some of the techniques you can use to escape an echo chamber include being open to new ideas; surrounding yourself with people who challenge your thinking; and engaging in healthy debates with your peers. “By having healthy debates with your peers and deliberately playing devil’s advocate against your own points you can strengthen your reasoning and understanding, or highlight something that you might have missed,” Nyirenda said. He added that the TIA 2024 reality television series benefitted from the diverse views exhibited by the top 10 competitors. 

Three: The poison of perfection

Many FAnews readers will have suffered the ‘poison of perfection’ blight. One of its side effects manifests as imposter syndrome, where despite giving your best effort, you feel you are still not good enough. On the flip side, there is the danger of believing oneself to be perfect, which implies a lack of recognition for the need for continual improvement. “If you believe yourself to be perfect it means you are accepting that you have no more room for improvement; and that is not a space you want to be in,” Nyirenda said. If your colleagues are bored with their job, or brag of having perfected all of their processes, you can be sure the poison of perfection has taken hold. 

The cure, it seems, is to be deliberate about introducing excitement into your job; to explore new ways of doing tasks; and to seek out continuous professional development opportunities. The top contestant in TIA 2024 offered up a repetitive internal task of making sense of unstructured big data as an example of this mega-mind tool in action. If you simply accept the internal process for tackling this data exercise as being the only, optimal way of doing so, then you will never apply your mind to the problem, and never come up with a better solution. In this context, insurer innovation becomes constrained due to an incorrect perfection perception. 

Four: Guard your mind

Quoting from a couple of diverse religions, the presenter offered up “What you think, you become” and “As man thinks, so is he” to introduce the fourth mega-mind tool. His argument was that your mind should be guarded against misinformation and negativity, or as the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan would say: “Trust, but verify”. The audience was reminded of the importance of information in the insurance and reinsurance disciplines, and the need to be cautious about accepting falsehoods as truths. Most in the virtual ‘room’ would have grinned widely at the fake news ‘beer a day being good for the heart’ headline used to illustrate this point. 

“There are industries built on misinformation [and] there are industries built on misinforming you and seeking ways to profit from that; it is your responsibility to question whatever information you receive,” Nyirenda said. He asked those present to be deliberate about the information they took on board because this information would shape the way they perceived the world. “Being deliberate about the information that you let in helps you shape your intelligence; you get to choose what you want to process in your mental factory,” he said. 

Five: Rest, rest, rest

“Rest helps us rejuvenate our mental capacity. And it helps us re-energise our system so that we can go back into the working world and hit the four preceding points right on the nail, with efficiency,” Nyirenda concluded. And on that note, your writer rests this narrative, with thanks to the 2024 TIA champion for an enlightening show. 

Writer’s thoughts:

Each of us will wrestle with one or more of the constructs introduced in today’s newsletter. Which of the five tools resonates most with you, and can you see ways to incorporate same into your advice practice? Please comment below, interact with us on X at @fanews_online or email us your thoughts editor@fanews.co.za.

Comments

Added by Gareth Stokes, 12 Jun 2024
Your kind words are appreciated, @Michael. Kudos to Mr. Nyirenda for his upbeat assessment of the professional advice / insurance landscape.
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Added by Michael, 12 Jun 2024
Thanks Gareth, what a wonderfully refreshing article, the simple but powerful truths that we are all guilty of neglecting.
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