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The Stroke of a 36-Year-Old Financial Advisor

How stress can kill you (or awareness can make you a million-dollar producer).

Allyson Lewis, 10/27/2011

It was late in the year 2007 when financial advisor and producing manager Michael Sears was taking his elementary-age daughter to school. He had something happening at the office that was causing him more stress than usual, and even his wife had stopped him in the garage before leaving to ask what was bothering him, but he brushed off her inquiry and headed to school.

He usually was one of the first two or three cars in the drop-off line each morning, and this day was no different. He pulled to a stop at the entrance and pushed the button to open the back door of his mini-van (yes, real financial advisors and Dads drive mini-vans) to let his daughter out. As usual, he twisted his body to tell his daughter goodbye and give her a hug as she got out of the van. As he twisted back around to focus on driving away, the stroke began.

Michael had no idea what was happening. He put the car into drive so his daughter would not see what was happening, and with his foot on the brake, he slowly drove his van sideways in the street to block traffic. As he was slowly moving forward, he grabbed his cell phone and speed-dialed his wife, but by the time she answered, his speech was slurring and all she heard was a weak, "love you." She immediately knew something was terribly wrong and drove to the school.

Michael opened the front door of the van to try to call for help, and he blacked out. As grace would have it, a nurse was two cars behind him, and within minutes an ambulance arrived.

At the age of 36, Michael Sears had suffered a significant stroke. He could have died that day, but he didn't.

Stress can kill you--or, learning from it can make you a million-dollar producer.
Michael started as a financial advisor in 1996. He is thoughtful and reserved, but he is obviously very driven to succeed. He describes himself as a perfectionist with a Type A personality. For more than a decade from 1996 to 2007, he had put every ounce of his attention and energy into succeeding in this business. He said, "My success was how I defined myself. I had no balance, but thanks to an amazing wife, we always have had a wonderful family life."

In late 2007, Michael Sears had a massive stroke. In 2008, he had his best year of production ever!

These are the insights he gained from that day:

Allyson Lewis is the author of The Seven Minute Difference. She speaks about improving time-management, increasing productivity, and rediscovering purpose. Find out more about her new online video training program, The 7 Minute Life System, here. She also has a blog and a Twitter account.

The author is not an employee of Morningstar, Inc. The views expressed in this article are the author's. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar.

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