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April Is National Financial Literacy Month

Robert Miller

Robert Miller, a retired second-generation financial advisor, has grown up around many prominent New York insurance agents and has served over six thousand clients. A loyal NAIFA member since 1983, he is the past President of NAIFA-New York City. As a graduate of the NAIFA Leadership in Life Institute (LILI), Robert served as the Chair of the NAIFA Governance Committee and was a member of the organization’s Finance Committee. His extensive experience and contributions to the financial advising industry make him a highly respected and accomplished professional.


Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Robert Miller shares the challenges he faced leading NAIFA and how he overcame them 
  • How Robert achieved success as NAIFA’s president
  • Advice for association leaders 
  • Robert explains how he stays inspired and motivated as a leader 
  • How to remain disciplined and committed in personal and professional life
  • Robert talks about his career journey in the financial services industry
  • Tips for career growth and excellence in the financial space
  • The value of listening to others 
  • The hardest life struggles Robert has faced

In this episode…

Leadership is a significant undertaking, especially when you’re responsible for driving the success of an industry organization. Learn what it takes to create meaningful change and drive an industry into the future from a seasoned association leader in the financial industry.

Having disrupted the status quo of a stagnant organization, Robert Miller’s career is characterized by progressive action, tenacity, and influence. If you want to make a lasting difference in your industry, you must challenge the decisions of past leaders and actively listen to members’ ideas and concerns. Robert maintains that discipline and commitment are the keys to accomplishing meaningful endeavors and strengthening your organization. Even when facing opposition and apprehension in your ventures, Robert encourages financial industry leaders to persevere and stand up for their values.

In this episode of Advisor Today, Chris Gandy and Suzanne Carawan sit down with Robert Miller, a retired second-generation financial advisor, to discuss his leadership journey in the financial services industry. Robert shares what he did to thrive as NAIFA’s president, how he stays inspired and motivated as a leader, his career journey in the financial services industry, and the value of listening to others.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, or NAIFA, the #1 association for producers in financial services.

At NAIFA, we enhance professional skills, promote ethical conduct, and advocate for legislative and regulatory environments.

By joining NAIFA, you gain access to a partnership that elevates your performance while providing greater purpose to your professional work. NAIFA members are happier, make more money, and stay in the business longer.

Get in touch with NAIFA and learn more about how to join NAIFA by visiting NAIFA.org.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:02 

Welcome to NAIFA's Advisor Today podcast series, where we focus on how financial advisors work, live and give to their local communities and our greater financial services industry. Now, let's get started with the show.

Chris Gandy 0:20

Hi NAIFA nation this is Advisors Today's podcast with your one of your co-host Christopher Gandy and I'm here with an astute group of individuals. I'm here with our wonderful other co-hosts, Suzanne Carawan. Hi, Suzanne.

Suzanne Carawan 0:35 

Hey, Chris.

Chris Gandy 0:36 

How are you doing? you're looking wonderful on today. It's magnificent Monday. And I'm sure you're magically going to tell us all the wonderful things that NAIFA has to offer today. But right now, who is our sponsor for today's podcast?

Suzanne Carawan 0:51 

Today's sponsor is Life Happens with insure your love, we're still in the ensure your love month, we still have two weeks left. And of course, today is Presidents Day. So we've got a very special guest. Going with that theme. And we've got Robert Miller, who's one of our past National Presidents.

Chris Gandy 1:09 

El-Presidente today. So with no further ado, Suzanne, would you introduce our guest for today?

Suzanne Carawan 1:16 

Yep. So Robert, I never remember what year you were president. But it was before my time at NAIFA. I've just heard that time was it 2016?

Robert Miller 1:27 

It's very easy to remember because I became president at the 10th anniversary of 911.

Suzanne Carawan 1:33 

Oh, so that's very easy to remember. So Robert is originally from New York. And so I'm sure we'll hear about some of his origins. But we're happy to have him. Robert has stayed involved in NAIFA being on the Governance Committee, and we tap him and pull him out of retirement every now and again when we need some wisdom and some counsel and some great insights. So he's our guest of today, Chris.

Chris Gandy 1:58 

Very wonderful, Mr. Robert Miller, welcome to the one and only Advisor Today podcast that can be seen all over the country and heard all over the country, because we are now on numerous sites and also on all the streaming platforms. So welcome.

Robert Miller 2:14 

Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Suzanne, good to be here.

Chris Gandy 2:18 

So it is Presidents Day in the United States, and you happen to be a past president of our wonderful association. So we'll start with the idea of leading an association. Let me ask a question. You had a chance to lead NAIFA during a period of time, what would you say was the most challenging thing for you to do as a leader during your leadership times along the way?

Robert Miller 2:58 

Wow. That is a good question. So I would say the most challenging thing I had to deal with was the fact that during the day that I became President, we actually ran for office. So we had to build up, we had to first run for trustee. And we then had a run for the Executive Committee, and then we ascended to the presidency. So people had a number of years to understand the way I thought. And yet when I became president, I realized that nobody actually believed I would try to do the things that I said I would try to do. And if I had to make a general statement, the thing they found out when I was president at the NAIFA is NAIFA, itself did not want to be great. NAIFA wanted to stay the way it was. And it was very change resistance. And my attitude is if you don't change and adapt to the world around you, you will slowly but ineluctably go into a downward spiral that will lead to non-existence. And so I worked really hard. I had already had my retirement plan in place, the year I became named for President. So I actually spent 24 hours today on NAIFA. I remember one time I spent, it was the middle of the night and I used to spend one all night a week answering questions that were directed to me and one time I answered a question about four in the morning. And then the next day I got back an answer saying I hope the idiot who wrote me the answer to my question at four in the morning is not the same Robert Miller, who's the President today if so, my whole aspiration for NAIFA was different than NAIFA's aspiration for itself. And that was very, very frustrating to deal with. And in fact, many of the past presidents were leading the resistance as to why NAIFA shouldn't change.

Chris Gandy 5:17 

So let's stay in there. Let's stay in that space. So now you're in a, let's call it a challenging space, right to lead, because you're not given all the cards, and all the support. So what advice would you give to someone if they find themselves in a unique situation like that? Because you had to pivot, you had to do something, you couldn't just sit there and do nothing? So what was the mindset? And what were some of the things that you did, to position yourself to have success during your tenure?

Robert Miller 5:53 

The mindset was, I was stupefied. But I realized that I couldn't sit there for the year being shocked. So I did several things. One during our board meetings, I literally did not talk, I would open up the meeting. And I talked about what we wanted to do. And I never said another word for hours, I would just listen and give everybody a chance to talk about what I was proposing to do with NAIFA. And actually, you can confirm this because Tom Cothran, our current president was on that board. And he will tell you that I didn't say a word, all I did was listen. So after listening to everybody, and waking Terry Hadley, up literally at three in the morning, all the time, I came to the conclusion that we had a formal Blue Ribbon Task Force, made up of a variety, representing all aspects of NAIFA. So I put two past presidents as the head of the task force, we select the people who were yes, we selected people who weren't on the board at all. And we selected a few trustees. And the idea of the Blue Ribbon Task Force was to take what I had proposed, and make it more palpable through all this various representation to the NAIFA Federation at large. And we had any number of meetings, and I couldn't get the Blue Ribbon Task Force to come to where I was. So my charge for them was one, you take where I am, turn it up, make it into sausage as possible. So we have something to present to the NAIFA Federation. And once again, I shut my mouth and just let them do their work. Now most people think that all they do is try to strong arm people. But the reality is, in all these meetings, I almost did nothing except lay out a plan and let them and it was difficult at times, because a lot of times they were telling me how far I was trying to go. The Federation can do this couldn't do that. So it took a lot for me to stay quiet. But I did. So when it was all said and done to cut to the chase. We had a proposal, we had a number of proposals that were brought forth by these two past presidents who were the leaders of the committee, and I brought it to the NAIFA board. And we kind of all agreed on going, I let every single person, yea or nay. And the majority was yea most of the people were yeah. But NAIFA's, a political organization. And as some of these people started going out to their own to the locals in the States, they're getting tremendous pushback. The execs were all against it. One of the past presidents I'm not going to say names, but one of the past presidents who was actually brought the compromise proposal idea to the Blue Ribbon Task Force that it accepted went to some of the other past president Scott pushed back and then came out against the proposal that he actually was instrumental in bringing forth they brought it to the American College and at that time, the head of the American College, use their TV network. So one of our esteemed past presidents could get on that TV and destroy the process. So by the time we got to the convention, I had received so many threats that we actually were tweeting about putting metal detectors before people entered. So the actual me meeting took place in Las Vegas. And Tom Curry was the person who was doing the presentations again, I just stood there. And singularly, every single presentation we brought forth, was defeated. So it was a very frustrating period of time. And frankly, Robert Miller got over it in about 24 hours, because I have a lot to do. There's a lot of things pulling at me. And I knew I was pretty much retiring from the industry, they've always promised I am word come back and lobbying. And I've always kept my NAIFA for my IFA PAC, money flowing. And if they asked to do something, I'd done it. But ultimately, I believe that leaders in the past should keep quiet, and let the leaders of the present focus in and while NAIFA over the 12, or 13, or 14 years since I've been President, has made stabs at modernizing, and they have to a degree, they've been able to spread out the workforce and save money, suddenly, everybody doesn't have to be in the DC area. They've never, NAIFA really never recovered from that. And it's going to take a very charismatic dynamic leader to overcome the tears of the organization. And the fact that people start comparing the NAIFA tears to the government. So the whole issue transformed from, you know, I definitely want to nationalize the organization a lot more than it was. And only because of branding and other things, we needed to have everybody on the same page, which we weren't, in those days were about 65,000 members in the states and locals were definitely resistant to change. But I understand that that's still the case.

Chris Gandy 11:59 

So let's talk about the opportunity. Right, but the lights and the love and everything we've got that we built so far. There is a ways to go to get to where we need to be. So what are some of the things that people that are listening to our podcast, if they're leading a local affiliate or even just themselves what are some of the things that they can do today, now, so that they can move the needle like you're saying, for the organization?

Robert Miller 12:45 

Another great question, well, the first thing I used to tell people don't get actively involved in NAIFA unless your business is solid. A CEO of any company will listen to people who produce, then I can't listen to people, you're not going to have their ear, unless you're doing a lot of business that makes them listen to you. So it pains me to even think that we still are dealing with logos and states and all this stuff. But the first thing NAIFA has to do is they have to realize that they're not doing enough, running around the country, talking to companies and telling NAIFA story. But NAIFA also has to figure out what is the NAIFA story to tell these people once you get in the door. And we don't have enough people coming up from below who are successful enough to make a dent on the national scene. So I would encourage you to go back to your initial question is NAIFA has to do a better job of encouraging its members to be great producers. No matter what they're doing, whether they're asset managers, whether they're insurance people, whether the P and C people who also come into the insurance world, the life insurance world, they have to be successful producers first. And let me tell you something, it trans, it crosses lines. So if you're a successful producer, means you're a go-getter. I mean, I know when I came into the business, I second generation, my father told me, Robert, you're great at studying and getting A's and getting high SATs scores, but you don't know anything about the world. You live in an ivory tower. And if you want to do this, you'll go ahead and do it but don't come to me. So, so thanks a lot, dad. And it was difficult, and I struggled like everybody else. I was the worst producer in my freshman class, but it killed me to be so bad at something. And I am propelled to succeed and no matter what I do, and within seven years, I sold the largest insurance case, nationally that AIG ever had. Granted, I was kind of a New York Life person, but they didn't have the products that I really needed to do what I needed to do. So get people successful on the local level, then they will be motivated enough. And they're the kind of people are going to seek out representatives, build relationships, when a relationship business. Why can't NAIFA formulation suits with the right people, as an organization tries me absolutely out of my mind. Crazy.

Suzanne Carawan 15:50 

It takes courage. It takes courage, right? It takes courage and getting out of your comfort zone to do that.

Robert Miller 15:56 

How are you going to be successful? Unless you look, I eventually ended up with 1000 clients, and I was calling people from the white pages when I started. I mean, you have to just be a, it's more than courage, you have to look yourself in the mirror, and understand what you can do well, and when you can't do well, I was very much an introvert, I knew I couldn't be an introvert and survive, I went out and took an acting class. So I could learn how to get out of my own skin, and be myself in front of people. And for me, that meant taking all this knowledge and all these books that I've read, and somehow being able to translate all that knowledge into being able to speak eloquently about what I was doing. And it wouldn't always be about insurance. It could be, you know, philosophically about life. It could be I used to come up with all sorts of crazy things in my interviews, but it was me it was uniquely me. Most people are not going to quote Leo Strauss in an interview, most people are not going to talk about when they were reading, Martin Heidegger and what they know about existentialism. But somehow that came naturally to me. And that was the way I did it. Let's say anybody should do it that way. But that was what was natural for me. So you have to find your natural comfort zone, you have to be comfortable with yourself, you have to realize it's a business of projection. Geez, I used to get 100 rejections a week. Now it does become easier. Because when you start developing a clientele and you do a job for them, but NAIFA's, the organization has to rise up like that.

Chris Gandy 17:43 

So, I'm going to dig into that a little bit. Right. So successful producers. Right. Okay, well, so, let's talk about that. So there's the form 400, there is a bunch of different, there's MDRT, there's a series of different what I would call winning all-star type of games, right? Where producers come together for the purpose of growing, learning new techniques, and then going out and just being absolute superstars in their business. When you think about the leaders within as a successful producer yourself, right, because I know, you see, I've done my due diligence to Robert Miller, you've written some business. See, I don't have the numbers, but you give me long enough, I'm gonna get the numbers, right. I'm gonna get to know. I won't know exactly...

Robert Miller 18:46 

Not going to get the numbers. I mean, I could shock you.

Chris Gandy 18:51 

I'll tell you what my coach told me he told me said one day he said, at the end of the day, Chris, you may go on and score 50. But you're only as good as your last game. Right? And so that means that at the end of the day, you kept working, you kept doing the deal. You wrote a case like that. Let's say you wrote that case. What made you and propelled you to keep going after the case was written? Because I know a lot of people listen to us with 150 million. I'm done. Why did you keep going and what motivated you to keep going on? I think people need to hear things like that.

Robert Miller 19:27 

To me, I worked really hard for about a year on their case at a higher, an actuary company. There are a lot of things that went into that. And it wasn't even my idea. I took it from a study group I had in New York City, and I ran with it. But the next day, I woke up and I felt like I had nothing. Yet I was always motivated by looking forward so none of that mattered once was done, it was a canceled check. I put it away, didn't change my life, I still lived in a very humble apartment. And I just went to work the next day and kept doing what I was doing the day before that ended. It was great. But this is where my father also played a role in this. Because he was against the case, from day one, he thought I'd be wasting my time and ended up with nothing. So when it was over, he said, get your ass back to work, you know, do what you should be doing that leads you to the case. So it's good to have that World War Two, part right behind you too. And it's interesting, I didn't participate in any of it. Because we weren't really emerged group at that point, I got hammered in my seventh year in the business. Set a whole lot of runway ahead of me to keep going. So, it was very easy. Yeah, it was actually easier than you think. By that time, I was trained to grind and push ahead. And so the next day was just like, any other day, I went out, I made calls, I made appointments. And I started talking about the things I was talking about the day before and the day before that, and I lost my share of big ones. They blown up in my face, too. I think not to start counting your money before it comes.

Chris Gandy 21:37 

Even after you get it, you can't count it. Right, because you got to look forward to the next opportunity.

Robert Miller 21:47 

But you also can lose it in divorce, I've been married for a long time, but that divorce was very costly.

Chris Gandy 21:49 

So anyway, so there are challenges along the way that could change, but you kept going. You mentioned the fact that...

Robert Miller 22:00 

Okay wait, Chris, stop right there. Okay. You win, let's say, you on the core of Michael Jordan, right? Yep. And Michael Jordan has a great game. I mean, you want to use the Madison Square Garden, you still love narrating my team, the Knicks? What did he do the next day you went to practice horse, not to say any of us are like Michael Jordan. But if you want to be great at something, you just wake up and you keep doing what you're doing. Which led you to be great in the first place. So that's what you do. It's easy, it really is.

Chris Gandy 22:40 

So, but there's dedication, I've actually gone around to some of the NAIFA's chapters, some of the larger ones. And I participate in the cohorts and I did a call on the difference between a commitment and an interest. And most people are very interested in success versus committed to it. And there's a big difference, right. And you're committed to very few things, or making commitments, versus these lobbying interest. And so part of this is the idea that you were committed not only to NAIFA, but you were committed to excellence in your endeavor. And that's what led the combination of those things. Not only were led you to it might not lead you to the case, but it led you to the opportunity of being more likely to find a case like that, because of the discipline, because of all the no's you got because of all the all those things. It's like me playing basketball. You know, it's like me playing basketball, I actually scored on Michael Jordan before, but at the end of the day, it's like, hey, we got to practice, we got to go back down to the other end of the floor like you forget it that quick, they say the greatest. The greatest shooters in the NBA have a short memory. Why? Because you're gonna miss more than you make. And so part of that is the discipline. So if I'm trying to change my behavior, I'm out there in NAIFA land I'm trying to change my behavior. I said, I want to be more like Robert Miller, Chris Gandy, and I want to be like those guys. And I want to become more disciplined with my behavior. What are some of the things that you would advise people to do that can help them just think more linear, or more narrow-focused on accomplishing a task and be more disciplined?

Robert Miller 24:32 

It's a great question. And I love the way you worded it. So I think it's a whole life commitment. So what I mean by that is I was disciplined in every aspect of my life. So I ran 85 miles a week for 25 straight years, never missed. That kept me very grounded and disciplined. Everything I did had a purpose. I always considered NAIFA a job. It was not where I was going to make my best friends. I happen to make friends. But that was not my goal being involved with NAIFA. My goal was to make the organization strong enough to represent our industry so we can be a strong industry, in the way we help the American people. So I think you have to be disciplined in all aspects of your life, you can't be undisciplined in your everyday life, and also to become disciplined in your office, at least I couldn't. So for me, it was everything. So for instance, I decided I was going to eat red meat 30 years ago, because it affected my running and ever ate red meat, again, is discipline, I decided in the 80s, I would stop drinking, because I didn't like being around people who are acting silly and goofy. So I stopped drinking. I mean, I was a college student, I enjoyed myself. So I stopped. It's an every aspect of your life, at least for me, it was. So if I said I was going to do something, I did it, because that's just the way led my life and all aspects.

Chris Gandy 26:25 

So what I'm hearing is, you have to be committed to self-first, before you can project it outwardly, you weren't committed to the things that made you. And you were committed to those in a way that you did not compromise things. And that then allowed for you to trust that, my coach used to say trust the process. Trust the process, right, the idea Suzanne has a son that plays scholarship sports, I played college sports and professional sports, you've done a lot of things and, and so that discipline of this necessary the work ethic, this necessary in the commitment, the combination of those things is, you don't learn those in a book. If you don't learn commitment in a book, you may read about it. But you have to go out, you have to execute on it. So let's change gears. So your journey started at I know you mentioned you were at New York Life as a producer, did you share with us your journey in the financial service industry? So did you start as an agent in New York Life, where were you a broker or?

Robert Miller 27:45 

To put it into context, I had grown up around very famous New York Life Insurance agents. So Ben Feldman, and Stan List past January, their names aren't as big as they once were. But certainly Ben Feldman was a giant in the industry. And the day that I signed my contract, it was a strange coincidence, but they're all there was Stan lived in New York and Ben Feldman having to be in town and my father arranged the lunch for me, but Ben Feldman and Stan List, the pretty much today I signed my contract. And Ben Silver, who was very well known in New York Life, not as widely well known as the other two. And they told me that in order to be successful, I had to change my entire essence, I had to get out of the ivory tower, I couldn't just be reading philosophy books. And I heard them but I didn't take it seriously. And then they told me that I had to give back to the industry have I ever made it? I think they had their doubts as to whether I was going to make it or not. So I signed my contract with New York Life in I think it was basically March 1 1983 or 82. I don't remember which year it was 82, actually, and I was put in the bullpen with everybody else. I was very scared to pull any of my friends. Because at that point in time, I was still new at it, but as embarrassed. I'd gotten very sick. And I spent two years recovering that led to me changing my life and trying to sad if I hadn't gotten sick, I never would have tried in the first place. So there I was calling the white pages for one year. And it obviously didn't work very well. And the manager come into my office and said, you know Robert, you might be smart, but you don't have a clue of how to sell insurance. And he goes, you know how to do this, you know how to do that. Remember, in those days, we didn't take your telling you about algorithms to get underwriting, we were carrying around rate books about this thick. And in front of a client, you literally had to sit there and figure out mathematically well, anyway, before every interview, I went out on it, there weren't many. But anytime I did go out, I was sick. I literally had to go to the bathroom and get sick before I met the prospect. And generally it didn't work out too well. So I think my first year, I did under 12,000 in commissions, which might have set a new record for awfulness. And my whole class did much better than me. By the third year, none of them were in the business. And I was starting to move upward. And I have to say two things changed me. One, our manager decided that I should take an LUTC class, I became an LUTCF, I came into the industries with a lot of graduate degrees. So I knew a lot. But I didn't really, I did graduate school of pretty elite university. And I just didn't think the American College had anything for me to offer. So the LUTC class was very interesting, because that year the person teaching it became the leading agent for their company. And so he was taking us on that journey for us. And he put me in touch with two people who basically probably saved my career, Harry and Roger Phillips, I have no idea. They're probably, I don't know if any of them are with us. But they were really big producers in the day, they were associated with financial and all these other things that I was just starting to learn about. I never personally joined them financial, but I certainly knew a lot of them financial people. And the Phil's brothers, they taught me how to be aspirational in the way I wanted to be. I knew very quickly, I can never be an insurance person like my father. I didn't have the temperament the personality, could not do it. I wasn't going to write 10 cases a week. And right 370 cases a year just wasn't in my DNA. So I realized through LUTC, I had to find another way to do it, if I was going to succeed. And this guy really helped me discover the other me. And so when I started putting that together, and God bless the Phil's brothers, I could call them any time and they would help me. I was always curious about how did they get to these companies? What kind of magic were they using? Why are these people selling these huge things. And in the company I was with, they wanted me to sell $100,000 whole-life policies. So I no interest in that. But the idea of being able to go into these companies, and come up with ideas that were both challenging. And so they challenged me both intellectually, and physically. So I tried to put it together. So that's why I was able to combine all this graduate schoolwork, that it did all the insights I gained, and into all sorts of things. To say that to the companies I represented, so the Philips brothers and LUTCF changed my mentality. It took about three years to do it. What happened in the third year is I started getting confident in who I was, what I was doing. And when I got confident in that it allowed me to remember I said a graduate school in New York City that produced a lot of people that went to the elite law firms that accounting firms, Wall Street, all of that. So I started calling him up. And instead of prospecting for business, I would say, look, I have some great ideas that I think would be interesting to some of your clients in your law firm. And eventually they will became clients. But that's not what I was doing at first. I wanted to meet the companies they were doing outside legal work with. If there was an accounting company, I wanted to meet the people they were doing the books with. And if it was a Wall Street person, I wanted to know where their weakness in their benefit package was. And I did all of that stuff before I turned it all back on them and went boom, boom, now I need you guys to become clients. And here's why. They asked by that time, I was getting pretty confident. I said, at least to the people I knew in the friends of mine, I said, okay, you guys need to start taking this seriously. And I started telling them what they had to do, because no matter how smart they were, none of them had a clue about insurance. So, I was testifying on gram leach Bliley. I testified in front of the Senate Banking Committee. So I started to really understand all the ins and outs of all these rules and regulations. And one of the things I started really using as I got more active and NAIFA. And I don't understand why people don't do this more. But when you're presenting either to a client or a business or a corporation, and understand, you have to understand what differentiates you from the person before you and after you. So it's going to be several things, it's going to be your knowledge, it's going to be the way you carry yourself, and how confident you are that you are the person to help this company. And I use my NAIFA, I would say, I am also active in NAIFA, which is our industry organization. So if you need something done on Capitol Hill, I'm your person, I have a million I know 100, senators and congress people from testifying. So for instance, when New York Life came to me, because they became a big client of mine more than anything else, they became a big holy client of mine. But when you applied came to me and said, they sat me down, we need the New York caucus to support this thing we're doing. I got the New York caucus together, from the Congress, to get them to listen, I didn't promise side, they would support New York Life. I got him in the door to listen. So when I got a bunch of people from every major Wall Street company together, they wanted to hear a chairman of the board speak. So I said, well, you remember when I did this for you, and how that worked out and you guys are open to enter, be able to do things you could have done before that I need you to come down tonight and talk about why New York Life is not a mutual holding company, why isn't becoming a mutual holding company and staying a mutual company. Because the Wall Street people were interested, when you got back into that time, you know, that was a big, big issue. And after that speech, I think I must have made $5 million dollars. And I have to tell you, before I came down to Florida for a few months to our house down here. I had lunch with that guy. And we're laughing about all that stuff. Because he said I know I made all this money, but you never took me out to lunch, then it's about a thank to, but he remembered, he remembered the seminar. And he remembered me going back after him and said how much money, how many commissions he led me to, tell you, but it all came from connections and putting it all together. So that was my way of entering this business that was able to put it on my playing field that combined my talents with what I could get done

Suzanne Carawan 38:31 

Yeah very hard.

Robert Miller 38:33 

Answering your questions on, you have to edit all this to make it simple.

Suzanne Carawan 38:39 

But you but you gamified it in your in your own head, right? You made it into something that therefore you weren't ashamed of you could put it up to another level and escalate it up intellectually. So it was challenging to use, you're actually into it. But what you didn't say which I always often wonder why more people don't do this, you put it into a business consultative approach. I mean, you're using business consulting, to come in and solve business problems. You're not coming in with a product, right? You're looking at it holistically every...

Robert Miller 39:09 

Never talk product, right? Never. Even with individuals, I always talked about problems, always looking for them to tell me, I always found out where the weak spot was, and then how I can help their weak spot. You have to be able to listen to what they say. And then you have to be able to ask probing questions, and I never would script myself because I always needed that ability to just be able to go wherever I needed to go. And I had the confidence that I could do that. So you know, it was a three to four-year growing process. But once I grew it was like a rocket ship forward. I was able to get all that together. I had the confidence to be able to sit in that C suite and go toe to toe with these people. And, frankly, that's what NAIFA has to do.

Chris Gandy 40:08 

When you look at, that's a heck of a run. You did it differently. But I just keep going back to this thing I keep hearing you say is that you were committed to excellence.

Robert Miller 40:30 

I had to be excellent, I couldn't accept it. I think was a step beyond even commitment. If I looked at myself in the mirror, and I was thin success, I'd be miserable. It was an innate drive, that's, I'm sure you can understand, because you've been around so many successful brilliant athletes. But there was a drive that, okay, this was my career. It just, I had to be what I had to be. I don't know if that was to describe it. It's one of those things that you either I think either you have or you don't have. But I didn't have it at the beginning, but avoided I had it. And I wanted to be the best. And I wanted to do it in a very low-key way. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to be front and center. I'm not going to knock any other industry organizations. But it wasn't my thing to sit there and talk about how great I am. I didn't necessarily feel like telling my story. All I wanted to do was tell the NAIFA story, so that we could be supported in Congress. So it wasn't only that I was driven to do this the first time actually really ever talking about this publicly. Or even mentioned in that case. I mean, one time I said, are you meeting those AIG lawyers came up to me because you're not getting any paid anymore on that case? Well, we certainly are. So I'm still making money off. But I mean, it was a necessity, I mean, it was like breathing, I had to do it. And my father, I don't think you recognize the Frankenstein monster I turned into. The funny thing is, is when I became named for president, Suzanne, I think, but they used to have this, the other 3000 people at his meetings, and they do a thing about your life. And they will come to your house, and they videotape you. So my father and me, I didn't realize this was happening at the tank. Because I was being interviewed in my office, Mr. House in New Canaan, he's being interviewed in the living room. And as it turns out, we told the same story about the day he came into my office, just to see if I wanted to have dinner with him. And I was sitting there with my hand, getting my head in my hands and said, what's wrong? I'm not talking about it, you tell your father, I don't want to talk about it. So I said, no, we're not talking about it. None of your business. My problem? Stay away from it. Is okay. He goes, does it have something to do, could sit and listen to because have something to do with anything that happened today? All right. I did somebody really was nasty on the phone to me. I didn't like it. He goes, man, you're a coward. He wasn't even empathetic. He goes, you stayed in a bubble your whole life. And you were always good at what you did. But you never went outside that bubble. Now you're out in the world. It gets tough. You're sitting there with your hand, holding your head up. And he does. I'm ashamed over my son, and he stormed out there. And so, I said that sob. And I said, I'll show him. And I literally stayed until I made two appointments. I made $150,000 term sale. I didn't get the other one. So I took the application. And we were in different places. I went over to his office, I took the application, and I threw it in his face. It's absolutely the way it happened. I said don't ever call me a coward again. I'm going to show you what I can do in this goddamn business. But we essentially told the same story of little, in each of our own ways, but I don't know where that thing is. I don't have it. But if you ever go back Suzanne and listen to that. One thing is to what they do when you become president. You'll hear the same story both told from different perspectives.

Chris Gandy 44:59 

What's interesting is the fact and I just want to highlight this is that you've said it a couple of times, and I've actually listened to is that you actually listened to not only yourself, but you listen to people, so then you could solve the issue or the issues that they were having. When you were president, you listen, if you notice that you said that I don't know if you realize you said that. You said, I didn't really talk at the meetings. I listened, and I and you continue to listen. So one of the things that I'm hearing consistently, is, we do a lot of this a lot of times and less of the action behind that. And we need to listen first. And we need to have actions this swiftly follow after that. It sounds like that's been a continuous kind of modus operandi for you, as you've kind of had gone through your journey.

Robert Miller 45:57 

Yeah, well, I think that if you don't listen, I mean, look, people love to talk about themselves. So if you're in an interview, you're talking about yourself, you're not going to make a sale. I mean, yes, one question shut up. And even if there's silence, the old well, ship, you don't you don't talk. Every time you have some question. You shut up in here, what they have to say, you don't interrupt them until they're done. They don't get halfway through what they're saying, oh, oh, yeah, yeah, I know, shut up. Wait till they're done talking. And then you answer them back. You'll get a lot further in life when you do that.

Chris Gandy 46:43 

That's a good, good, good, good, good kind of, I would say, principle that people can learn from. I think if you're telling you're not selling, right, and at the end of the day, Seek first to understand and to be understood. Right. And so part of that is using compass that you obviously have had success in your career. You've had success at NAIFA, question I have for you is what's been your hardest challenge your hardest struggle? What has been your hardest story? It might have been your relationship with your dad, it might have been, it doesn't matter what it is what has been the hardest struggle or challenge for Robert Miller that you really just, Chris, I struggle with that.

Robert Miller 47:35 

It's not just one there's multiple.

Chris Gandy 47:39 

Just give me one. Other than that winning to witness continuously getting beat by the bull. I mean, I understand like the next. We'll talk about that anyway, but it's a fight.

Robert Miller 47:50 

That's a horrible struggle. Hey, Chris. I've lived 50 years waiting for another championship. I don't have 50 more years left. The hardest struggle really was that, for me, the hardest struggle was understanding my father in life. I was very close to my father. But the hardest thing was to understand him. We were very different. He's very good, glorious people loving person. When I grew up during the 60s, I was angry, protesting everything is wrong with the world kind of a person. So obviously, we clashed. He loved me, but we clashed. I wasn't sure I loved him at the time. We were in each other's throats many times. So as we started, when I came into the profession, it was very difficult because there was a part of me even I know, it was in my best interest. I was angry at them, that it made me go off on my own, when it could have been a little easier, but I will say this. If he didn't do that, I never would have survived and made it in the business. So, that came from learning. So I would say when I got divorced, and I really had to examine how I got to this point in my life. Why was I getting divorced? And why wasn't my relationship with my father closer than it is? So I went into therapy to understand these things about myself. What is it about me? What is it about other people? I'm not embarrassed to say it? And it changed my life. In terms of one, my relationship with my father for the last umpteen years. I know 30 years of his life was unbelievable. It was great. And even to the point where I became much more accepting of him. So when I was doing my past president speech at NAIFA in my immediate past president speech, I wrote an incredibly angry speech, just knocking the industry. And you could look back on some of the interviews I gave about the industry in NAIFA for and how it doesn't want to be the best that it can be. I mean, I really, really went after it. So my speech was angry. And my father said to me, Robert, do not give that speech. I said, well, the hell dad, I'm given that speech, I'm the one who suffered through the death threats. I'm the one who got all the stuff thrown at me, giving a speech, god dammit. And so it was about 10 minutes per prize going on. And at the last second, I tell the teleprompters, don't put that speech. And I couldn't get my father's voice out of my head. And don't put that speech in a teleprompter, it's going to confuse me. But I'm going to go up there and give a different speech. What do you mean, you're going up there to give a different speech, don't worry, I can do it. I've been giving speeches all over the country. I know what I'm doing. But I have to say, when I gave the speech my father would have wanted me to give. So overcoming that relationship was the greatest challenge I had in my life. And the greatest pleasure, I have my wife. And out of that therapy session, I also ended up meeting my wife, the best woman I've ever met in my life. And you know how I met her is that with, we went to the same college, and I sat with the alumni Director of giving. And we're just to lunch. And when you're in our business, you can prospect for anything. And it is a very translatable tools that I use all the time. So, for instance, I'm in charge now of rebuilding the IA department at Emerson College, which is where I'm on the executive committee of the board of trustees. But I can prospect still I haven't lost that edge. So, we're at lunch, and he goes, how's it going as dating life as I'm kind of with this woman, but it's not going anywhere? Anyway, long story short, he mentioned the name of this person. And so I think she's single. I said, well, do you know anybody who's single, I could call and he mentioned this woman. And I said, okay, well, we see why you see as she wants to go out if she's single if she's seeing anybody, but for some reason, in a twist affairs, went back to my son called the new cane and information in those days, and sure enough number was listed and called her up. She had no idea who the hell I was. So I sent them a friend of so and so, she'd call me back. We talked, I said, you probably want to know why I want to speak to you, want to ask after dinner. That was it 25 years ago, so simple twist of fate. So overcoming that...

Suzanne Carawan 53:39 

Always to be asking for those referrals.

Robert Miller 53:42 

And overcoming that challenge of building my relationship, my dad was led to me meeting my wife, the same thing led to both instances. I think, if it's not my greatest challenge is the challenge I'm most proud of overcoming was just priceless for the last 30 years of our lives in his life.

Suzanne Carawan 54:11 

I know one thing that Robert has said to me before that's always stuck with me, Robert, is he said that the success you feel this marriage is that both of you came into the marriage is fully formed people. And I've never forgotten that you need to be those fully formed people, and accepting of who you are and who she is. And that's been one of your secrets of success.

Robert Miller 54:31 

I was being introduced to all of these very pretty young women and I'm a looker, that a personality for sure. But I wanted to find someone who had been through the wringer knew what divorce was like, knew what racing kids. I wanted somebody who lived. I didn't want to be telling them well, the Vietnam War was this. I wasn't there to educate. I was here to find a partner that I found one.

Chris Gandy 55:00 

Awesome. All right, Suzanne, we are. Robert, I love to keep talking to you. I'm sure NAIFA nation wants to, I'm sure they might have seen you around those who don't know, Robert Miller, he is usually one of the, I'll just say he's dress for success. He's his swag is usually on point. So if you see him he's the guy that that comes in and he may not have a suit on but he has on some subs, you could tell that he's got on some gear and five is definitely unapologetic. So with that being said, Suzanne, do you have anything before we take Robert Miller to lightning round? Time for the lightning round? All right. Robert Miller if we had sound effects, we don't have a budget for sound effects. But if we had we hear like lightning directly, we don't have a budget for sound effects. But that's okay. So with that being said, this is a lightning round. It's not a hot seat. It's just simply I'm asking you questions, whatever comes top of mind, that's how you answer and it's not as deep thoughtful. Just literally exactly what it is. If you watched any of the other podcasts, it's literally hit it and let's go right. Okay. So I'm going to ask you questions, and we'll start off things that you really know about, right. And so I noticed that in your picture. If everyone's looking, I noticed that those are either chess boards or checkerboards behind you. Which one is that? And do you play chess or checkers?

Robert Miller 56:40 

I was a pretty serious chess player at one time.

Chris Gandy 56:47 

Are you good?

Robert Miller 56:50 

I was you. Okay. I was, I spent quite a few years really studying it. I was pretty good. But I don't play it anymore. But office is designed with all sorts of game things and anti-glow. A few pieces of artwork. picture of me on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. pictures of my wife.

Chris Gandy 57:14 

So things are great.

Robert Miller 57:16 

I love being in it.

Chris Gandy 57:20 

Awesome. Mr. Robert Miller where are you located at today?

Robert Miller 57:25 

I'm located at the Windsor club in Vero Beach, Florida.

Chris Gandy 57:28 

Is in Florida. Okay, got it. See how easy those questions are? You kind of know them. You don't have to think about them. Okay, here we go. So, Robert Miller from New York, Chicago pizza or New York pizza.

Robert Miller 57:42 

Oh, come on New York pizza. It's not even a glitch. Do you even doubt that answer? Time. Juliana's. Oh, man, don't even.

Chris Gandy 57:54 

I got to ask the question. All right. The Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets?

Robert Miller 58:00 

Oh, the Knicks Brooklyn net? Is there a team in Brooklyn?

Chris Gandy 58:06 

All right, the Mets or the Yankees and why?

Robert Miller 58:13 

1959 my father took me for my first New York Yankee game. I saw Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford and the bright lights. I couldn't believe they could light up a field at night. I learned all the lore and the history. I'm still a partial. I'm a season ticket holder for the New York Yankees. Also Chris, if you're in town, and want to sit four rows behind the dugout, I'm your man call me up.

Chris Gandy 58:40 

I will take you up on that one. Just so you know. Suzanne, don't go when I'm going. I'm going to the Yankees, I heard the new stadium is absolutely I have a couple of baseball players that are in MLB. They're like that stadiums. Unbelievable. All right next to the last two questions. Advice your dad gave you that now resonates with you. The best advice that you remember.

Robert Miller 59:11 

Never stopped trying.

Chris Gandy 59:13 

Never stop trying. Wonderful. Last question. NAIFA Nation is listening. What are your parting words for NAIFA nation that you would say that everyone in NAIFA needs to hear. 

Robert Miller 59:27 

Working for NAIFA was something that made me very proud. And I got a lot of things done at NAIFA. I testified a lot but I will say this the proudest moment I've ever had in NAIFA was talking in eulogizing my friend Terry Hadley. I consider that my crowning NAIFA achievement. With all the other things I did being able to introduce my friend Terry to other people., that's my proudest moment to NAIFA nation.

Chris Gandy 1:00:02 

Awesome. Awesome. Suzanne. Robert Miller any parting words? If not, we're gonna go back to Suzanne and then I'm gonna close this podcast.

Robert Miller 1:00:16 

No question Susanna. I mean, come on.

Suzanne Carawan 1:00:19 

No, I thought it was your parting words, do you have any parting words there, Robert? I would say, Robert, what's your favorite quote? What's your favorite quote?

Robert Miller 1:00:26 

My favorite quote?

Suzanne Carawan 1:00:28 

Yeah, quote.

Chris Gandy 1:00:29 

It's funny. Suzanne,

Robert Miller 1:00:31 

Let us go then you and I while the evening spread across the sky. Say one more time. Let us go then you and I while the evening is spread across the sky. It's from the last song of Jaffa Prufrock by TS Eliot. And it actually is sitting behind my desk. I have it everywhere I go. So that poem sat in my office. That poem sits in my office here. So that's it.

Chris Gandy 1:01:03 

Awesome. All right. Suzanne, do you have any parting words for NAIFA's? nation before we close?

Suzanne Carawan 1:01:11 

Thank you, Robert. As always, always a pleasure. Always enjoy picking your brain. Thank you for all your support of NAIFA.

Chris Gandy 1:01:19 

Mr. Robert Miller, rewind this, take some notes. I took some notes on our guests, Robert Miller, our past president, thank you so much. So this is a message from NAIFA nation. Thank you so much for your service. Thank you so much for your dedication and thank you so much for being a leader. You've paved the way for many people to come behind you and pick up the pace for you can pick up the pieces and really to run beyond where you place them at. So thank you so much for your commitment. And those you're listening out there in NAIFA nation, thank you for your commitment and continuing to listen to the number one podcast that NAIFA Advisors Today, where we uplift, promote, and we support the careers of those of you out there and for the betterment of the good as Robert says we're better stronger together than we are apart. So we'll see you next week on Advisor Today podcasts. Thanks, everyone. Thanks, Robert. Thanks, Suzanne. We'll see you soon.

Robert Miller 1:02:17 

Thanks. Bye.

Outro 1:02:21 

Thanks for joining us for NAIFA Advisor Today podcast series. Make sure to subscribe to get future episodes. And if you're interested in coming on the show, let us know.



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