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That Country & Western song was made famous by the late Tennessee Ernie Ford. Well almost – his version was “16 Tons” instead of “16 Years”!

16 Years – that is a really long time. I remember when my son turned 16 and learned to drive. My daughter will soon be “Sweet 16” and will want to drive too, I’m sure.

Who doesn’t have concern about “debt”? Of course, most people think about debt in terms of how much they owe someone else – as in a certain dollar amount owed on a mortgage, a car note, or perhaps a credit card balance.

Another way to look at a debt is to consider what someone or something has done for you. Maybe it has been a huge favor or even an important introduction. Maybe someone has forgiven a financial or time debt or made things better by smoothing out a problem or helping finesse a delicate situation.

Last week, I was on a Delta Airlines flight back to Memphis from Washington D.C., after attending my final Board of Directors meeting at the LIFE Foundation. The two-hour flight home left me staring out the window as we took off and reflecting on our great industry. Some of the readers of this blog may recall that I served as LIFE’s volunteer Board Chairman in 2010. My first exposure to the LIFE Foundation was through my involvement in NAILBA (National Association of Independent Life Brokerage Agencies) in 2003. My early service to NAILBA as a committee chair and board member began in 1995.

1995 to 2011 – that is 16 years!

16 years of traveling back and forth to D.C. 16 years of committee meetings, board meetings, executive committee meetings, speeches, interviews, lobbying and being mentored, as well as doing some mentoring myself.

16 years to help engrave in my mind one thing: How “in debt” I remain to this great business we call the LIFE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.

Who else can make so much out of so little? A piece of paper, some ink, a promise to pay, and like magic: dollars are created out of nothing more than a small premium! What other industry helps bring clarity and calm into the chaotic time of death and loss? Who else helps families and businesses feel secure in the knowledge that a guarantee to pay will prevent loved ones from insecurity and undue financial risk?

Although I’m coming up on my 30-year anniversary of entering this great business, these past 16 years of leadership and volunteerism have helped me appreciate that the more I know about what we do, the more in debt I become to a career that helps so many with so much! It has been a great ride. Now I need to figure out my next place to “plug in”!!