January 3, 2011

NEVER say Never - DON'T give up!

The email arrived shortly after 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve 2010: “Your license issued by the California Department of Insurance's (CDI) Producer Licensing Bureau is now ready for you to print or download to your computer.” Sitting alone in my bedroom that evening, I sat there and gazed at those words in stunned silence. After over FIVE months of nearly non-stop work at getting licensed, the moment had arrived. And then I got up, went outside where I lived, looked up into the dark Christmas Eve sky, and thanked God once more for the blessing He had bestowed upon me. It had been only 5 nights earlier when my daughter had arrived from Virginia for a 12 day stay with us for Christmas and I thought He had given enough to me then. NOW I had TWO gifts for Christmas! Check that, THREE, counting the woman I Love!

Most of you who read my blog know one of my favorite sayings and beliefs is “Never say Never.” If there was ever a moment when that belief held true, it was now. To give you a perspective of how that works, at least from my point of view, I’ll recount a series of events that started shortly after I graduated from the University of California San Diego’s Accelerated Paralegal program in late June, 2010.

By early July, it had become apparent the job market for paralegals in San Diego County was tougher than I imagined and frankly, tougher than what I was led to believe by those who represented the program at UCSD. Although I was confident and had a strong resume, I was also realistic, given my age and certain “background” issues. I had to keep my options open and continue with another phrase and belief, always thinking “outside the box.” Then, in late July, after several interviews with the same insurance firm, I was offered a position as an independent “contractor.” In other words, a salesman. The last thing I ever imagined myself doing, or so I thought. Trouble was, it WAS an intriguing position; I’d done my research on the company, the product, the people, and the commission structure and was sold on the concept. I accepted.

So began a series of events that still astounds me. First, I had to complete 52 hours of on-line course training to even qualify to sit for the State exam. But that was just the first of many more obstacles and roadblocks to my goal. Shortly after I was hired, the company I signed on with indicated I had to obtain what is called a “Section 1033 waiver” (waiver) from the State in order to even take the exam. They were concerned that, with my legal issues stemming from my DUI arrests in Kansas nearly 3 years prior, it would prevent the State from allowing me to even obtain a license. What the company failed to realize and what the State eventually did too, was that the waiver only applied to violations of law dealing with fiduciary matters and what I was guilty of 3 years earlier had nothing to do with that. By mid-August, I had completed the on-line courses and was still waiting to hear from the State on the waiver. By then, I was getting agitated about the whole thing but I wasn’t about to give up. So, I grabbed the bull by the horns, spent several hours on the phone with the State, and finally got the attention of a gentleman with the CDI’s legal department. After explaining at some length via email that my prior acts had nothing to do with violating public trust as it pertains to fiduciary matters, he said I didn’t need it to begin with! So, onward and upward, right? Wrong.

After notifying the insurance company who had hired me of this event, they quickly scheduled me for the State exam on September 15th. Of course, I passed. Then, I began a two week training program with them on September 17th. They also told me that, because of my legal problems in Kansas 3 years prior, I had to send the CDI all of my background paperwork along with my license application for approval. I was told this whole process would take up to 30 days and to expect my license my mid-October. By the time I finished the training program in late September however, my gut was telling me something was wrong so I called the CDI inquiring about my license status. I was told they had received my application and background paperwork but had forwarded it to their legal Licensing Background Bureau “for further review.” That’s when I put a halt to going out in the field with my assigned supervisor for the insurance company as part of my training. As I told her, if the CDI was going to piss backwards on my application, I didn’t want to waste any of her time nor mine. And then I got a letter on October 7th, a letter that said it would take up to 30 days for the secondary review and further, not to call or inquire about my application status, since they wouldn’t return my calls anyway. So….I waited. And waited.

Finally, on November 12th came a letter from the CDI. I opened it and the word DENIED jumped out and waylaid me in the chin. I’ve said many times that our level of serenity as human beings is inversely proportional to our level of expectations, and though I had TRIED to keep my expectations low, this was a MAJOR blow to me psychologically. I couldn’t believe it. Not only had I been completely forthright with the facts, I had even sent a letter explaining my actions and ALL the steps I had taken over the previous 2 years to prove I was worthy of holding a license. I'd served my time, completed out-patient counseling in record fashion, was released from probation requirements nearly a year early, and most importantly, hadn't had ONE drop of alcohol in my body for well over two years! At that point, I think most people in my position might have given up, thrown in the towel, and tried another career option. In fact, MOST people with a “non-person felony” on their record wouldn’t have tried to get a license in the first place! I’m definitely NOT “most” people. I play to win and absolutely HATE losing, especially if I sense even the remotest of CHANCES.

What next then? Why, do the only thing I could! Started working the phones, researching the CDI department’s rules on-line, and found out there was an appeals process. After talking with a nice lady with the Licensing Background Bureau and receiving her instructions on the appeals process, I laid out my strategy. First, I had to get letters of recommendation from as many people as I could to go along with my own letter of appeal to send to the CDI’’s Assistant Chief Counsel. Plus, I figured these letters would have to come from people with some clout so I chose the Chairman of the Board of the bank where I worked for over 20 years, an attorney friend of mine in California I knew since high school (who is also coincidentally, one of my biggest Facebook “Gusto” fans!), and two other individuals from Kansas who dealt with me directly while I was still in the “system”, as it were, two men who could vouch for my character and integrity while completing all the legal requirements imposed upon me by the State of Kansas in 2008. Finally then, on November 26th, I sent my letter (a convincing one, or so I thought!) along with the recommendation letters. My spirits were high and I was more confident than ever. I was told it would take up to two weeks to get their response. Try a week.

On December 6th, another letter. “The department has received your appeal and sees no legal basis for granting a reconsideration of our previous order. Therefore, the order stands and your application is DENIED.” So, I’m thinking at this point I’m screwed, right? WRONG again! At the bottom of the letter is the name and direct phone number of the aide to the CDI’s Assistant Chief Counsel who signed the letter. So, on December 9th, I call this gentleman and we have a lengthy discussion, one in which I remained diplomatic but also remained steadfast in my belief that their decision was “unjust.” I remember him saying I was basically out of options and wished me luck in the future. Still, I didn’t give up. Shortly before ending the call, I asked him one last time to please forward my concerns to his superiors, namely the head of their legal division. After I got off the phone, my girlfriend who was present at the time and who was privy to the conversation, said simply, “I don’t understand why you’re not a millionaire. You’re so PERSUASIVE.”

I went home that evening, and ACCEPTED it in my mind. I was done fighting. I’d done EVERYTHING in my power and I’d lost. Then, a miracle happened. I came home a week later on December 16th and found a certified letter from the CDI. In it, these words stood out: “The department has reviewed your letter of reconsideration and appeal and hereby revokes our previous order of denial. You are therefore issued an insurance license by the State of California effective December 14th.” Speechless yet again. Do miracles happen? Do you believe in the power of prayer? The power of God? The power of what is humanly possible if you only believe in yourself? To not give up and to NEVER SAY NEVER?

On December 22nd, the gentleman with whom I spoke with on the 9th, the same gentleman who had sent me the letter denying my appeal, the same gentleman who took my concerns to his boss, called me and said this: “You got an early Christmas gift. Congratulations. I took your concerns to the head of our legal division, he reviewed everything you sent one more time, and changed his mind.”

Tomorrow I start my new job. Officially. After over 5 months of not giving up, never saying never, I WIN and baby, it feels GOOD!!



Anonymous said...

I am not only proud of you, but deeply moved by the fact that the guy you spoke with took it upon himself to get your case re-reviewed! Wow!

Congratulations and best wishes for a fantastic 2011!

Bond 007 said...

Thank you my good friend! ;)

Sandy said...

It goes to show that perseverance does pay off. Great story, wonderful lesson.
Thank you, Sandy