The Burn with Ben Newman: Episode 12 with Chris Koon

Chris Koon Northwestern Mutual Financial Advisor

Chris Koon opens up on his struggles to build a successful career.

About Chris Koon

For the past 25 years, Chris Koon has served thousands of people by helping them protect and provide for the people they love and care about the most.

His holistic planning is designed to meet your immediate needs and help you make the best decisions for your future by utilizing world-class insurance services and internationally recognized investment products.

You can expect a jargon-free, stress-free experience with Chris.

Full Interview with Chris Koon and Ben Newman

Newman:  Welcome back to The BURN.  Now, I know that you guys know that I get excited to have these interviews and to bring you guys the drive that people have inside of them, but today is a very special episode.  So, I’m going to go a little bit longer on my introduction, and then I’m going to turn it loose to probably the man with the highest energy level of anybody I’ve ever met in my life, which is saying a lot, because I bounce off the walls with my energy.

This guy right here, Chris Koon, is one of the main reasons why I am now doing the work that I do today.  So, you didn’t know I was going to do this, and I’m going to get him emotional over here, but it’s with a deep level of gratitude.  I came into the insurance business.  People don’t realize I was a financial advisor for over 10 years and performed at a very high level and, as a result of him mentoring me in the business early on, had the opportunity to go and speak, and then he took me under his wing, because he’s an unbelievable communicator and speaker, as you’re going to find out, and he took me on the road with him and we started to speak together, and he really opened up these doors to me understanding what lied inside of me in terms of the ability to speak and communicate.

So, I’m forever grateful to what he did to help teach me the insurance business, but to also teach me that we have to do what we want to do in our lives and to really dig down deep and to go write your story, and part of my story was sharing my story.  So many of you know that my story, my BURN, is my mom, so I absolutely have to introduce you with this story.  I know he’s going to be dying with this.

So, I’m sitting in training class, it’s 2004, and this guy comes in here.  “Look at this smile and all this energy.”  He comes in here bouncing off the damn walls.  He’s all jacked up with energy, and he gets done.  Now, we had a training class of three people, so imagine this guy bouncing off the walls as if he’s talking to 10,000 people, which he’s done in the past, and there’s three of us.  I get done, and he’s like, “Hey, man, come to my office.  Come to my office.”  So, I walk down to this guy’s office, and he’s like, “Hey, man, can I give you some feedback?” and I’m like, “Yeah.  Feedback about what?”  We had kind of connected a little bit, we had started to build a relationship, and he’s like, “Dude, you wear this pinky ring, and you got diamonds in the pinky ring.  Man, what is the deal with the pinky ring?  I’m trying to help you here.  You gotta lose the pinky ring.”  And I looked at you, I’m like, “Hey, man, do me a favor.  Sit down in your chair and let me tell you what this pinky ring is.”  I shared with you that the pinky ring was my mom’s ring, and that was my connection.

But when I think back on that, what amazes me about you is your courage, and what I want you to do today is just open up as much as you’re willing to, to share your BURN, to share your heart, to share your courage, because here’s the reality.  We look back on it now and we laugh, and you felt terrible, like, “Oh, my God, his mom died, and this is the ring,” but it took courage to do that.  That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about you, and now that we don’t get to spend as much time together as we’d like to, it’s like we just reunite, the energy just is right back to where we left off.  I can’t thank you enough.  But I admire your courage, because whether it’s the courage to go and speak to share your story; whether it’s the courage to go and mentor the young guys like me, which you weren’t even making any overrides or referrals, you did it out of relationship, and you don’t see many people do that.

So, thank you for your courage.  Most people would never have said anything about the ring.  Most people would have never challenged anybody.  So, really what I want to know from you — and I’ve never asked you anything like this before — where does that come from?  When you think of growing up, your BURN, your beautiful family — and by the way, talk about success, because I know he’s not going to mention this, and we don’t talk a lot about success, but I have to mention this.  He’s one of the top financial advisers in the world.  So, when you think about the insurance business, I know there’s many people that are advisors across the world who tune in to The BURN every week, he’s sold over 10 million dollars of life insurance premiums.  So, I know you’re very humble about the success that you’ve had, but it’s pretty remarkable.  There’s probably half a percent of people in the world that have ever written that much life insurance, and that takes courage, too.  So, where does this BURN come from?

Koon:Thanks.  Yeah, first off, I want to thank you for getting together, because it’s so exciting to see what you’ve become.  Really, when you think back from the pinky ring, and you’d got into financial services and you were always so true to your mom, I think when you get up every day, you’re serving your mom at some level.  It really just resonates through you always, and that’s never stopped BURNing.

And then, the impact that you wanted to go serve many people.  I’ll never forget, with us, we’d go speak on the road, and we were a good tandem, too.  I think we were charging very nominal fees in the beginning, and we were bringing the heat.

Newman:They didn’t know what they were getting.

Koon: And you’d always go first.  I always wanted you to go first, and I’d come back in like Eminem and close that sucker up.  I got a funny story on that, too, but to see you, and then you got in the book business.  I’ll never forget, that was like the Beatles before they broke up, and you’re like, “Dude, I’m writing this book.”  I’m like, “I’m not in the book business,” which I should’ve gotten in the book business, by looking at your lifestyle now.  Every time I turn around, you’re flying somewhere else.  You’re on the sideline at some little team.  It’s been really great to see that level of success, and you’re a great dad and a great husband, and you got beautiful kids, too, and your impact in the community has really been fun to watch, and far, too.  But the thing that I always enjoy, too, is I reach out to you, and it’s not 30 seconds and you’re back there, so I appreciate that.

I think for me, The BURN came from — I’m dyslexic, and I struggled in school.  I did a couple years of kindergarten.  Society was not really uplifting me and making me feel good.  I ran, as you know, as a kid, and I just realized that I was really good at that, and what it was like to be the best at something, and, too, that life’s not a dress rehearsal.  We talk about that, and just the idea that somebody would label me and put me in the corner and tell me what I could become and what I could achieve just really irritated me and pissed me off, frankly.

So, I have this BURN to want to go out and just be the best version of myself, but at the same time to have impact and connect with other people, because I truly believe, to do it all by yourself and to have some huge ego is not the win.  The win is really when you sit down with old friends like we are today, and we connect, and we feel the energy, and we’re really proud of each other, and we really celebrate the success together.  When you work with teams or you work with young individuals that come from bad backgrounds, and they develop themselves, and to think I had a small part in paving the way with that, and that’s why I love to share my story, and I’m always very open.

In fact, some people say, “Well, why would you share so much about that?”, and I think it’s just because it connects our hearts, that if I’m open and vulnerable, then it allows other people to.  But I realize, too, I turn 50 in March, believe it or not —

Newman: I can’t even believe that.

Koon: I can’t either, man.  I’m not 50, man.  I work out like a madman, and I don’t feel 50 whatsoever, but I do feel at this stage — not that I’m in the third and fourth quarter, but this life really moves so quickly, and we’re not here for that long.  If you really even think about it, even if you’ve got 100 years, that’s not that much, and so I really appreciate each 24 hours that I have and just don’t want to leave any regret.

You know how Kawali (ph) used to talk about regret, and it weighs heavy on us, and I just don’t want to have that regret, and I want to go out in this world, because I feel there’s so many people that have given up on their dreams, or they’re like zombies walking in the world, and they’re not alive and passionate and enjoying life.  That’s the thing that you and I do.  We’re in the fast lane, and we’re driving and experiencing it, and I just get amped up for that, and it excites me.

Newman: Every time I hear your story and I think about your passion, it always gets me going.  It really is amazing, what you’ve accomplished.  Let me timeline a couple of things, and then a question.

So, we’ve known each other 15 years now, which is crazy.  You’re 50 — that’s over a third of your life.  It seems like yesterday that you were taking me, building a brand-new home for your family, and how excited you were to be able to do that for your family.

Koon: You had Thanksgiving with us.

Newman: Yeah, it was like 15 years ago.  You know what I mean?  And probably 10 years before that, you started in this business, right?  So, that’s over half your life dedicated to serving other people.

Now, before you came into this business, I always love when you talk about the story of pop starting your car, and I think a lot of people watching right now, they’re in that moment when they’re like, “I’m in this chapter of my story.  I can’t see myself getting out of where I am right now.”  For you to have done the things that you’ve done, how did you do it?  You’re pop starting your car, you’re in this business that is one of the toughest businesses in the world.  Ten million dollars of insurance?  I mean, to think of the tens of thousands of people that you’ve impacted, it’s wild.  You’re pop starting your car.  What got you to go?  What got you to even just pick up the phone?  I think some people, they don’t even want to take action.

Koon: Yeah.  Well, the phone’s the cash register.  That’s where it all begins.  But I think for me where it came is I was fortunate enough, my grandfather had been really successful, and my grandmother, so I went away to boarding school in Connecticut.  We didn’t have a ton of money ourselves, but I got to see what was out there and available.  You know in my story that at 21, the demons of my life from drinking and alcohol consumption and some other choices, I was headed down the wrong side of the road, and I was down in Jacksonville, Florida working on that golf course, if you remember, and I was really lost.

I came back to St. Louis, I got rooted, I got involved in another program that really saved my life, and then a guy hired me for a thousand dollars a month selling steel, if you remember, because I’d dropped out of college.  So, when I went to work there, I had to pop start my car and everything, but it was like a door opened, and God kept opening these doors for me, and as I got my life together, and then I got this burning desire inside me that, you know what, I’m young, I’m healthy now, I’ve got a better vision for myself.  And then I met Kawali and just people doing well, success.  I always wanted to be successful.  I was looking for what was going to be the vehicle to allow me to tap into that resource and to go for it.

So when I came in, when Kawali recruited me, I thought you had to be a college graduate to even do that, and then it took me three times to pass that dumb test.  Just the adversity of that shit was much harder on me than actually calling people, because, again, the purpose of my BURN was that I wanted to help them, because my dad didn’t do well financially, had some bad choices, so I was motivated to make a change.  I really believed in John.  I think when the student’s ready, teachers appear, so he was a wonderful teacher for me at that stage in my life, because whatever he told me to do, I was all in, and really kind of like the Vikings.

But at the end of the day, when I made a decision to get into financial services, it wasn’t like I had one foot in today and one in tomorrow.  I was all in.  I burned the ships and whatever they said to do.  We always want to do a little bit more.  We drive around in your Audi TT, and the vitamins and all that, but my point is that whatever you told me to do, I was 100 percent in, and as I did it and I had success, and I had other people supporting me, I got to see that I was able to do this at a high level.

And then, like anything, I got to a certain level, and then I kind of plateaued for a few years and just felt like, “Well, I should be happy where I am,” and coming from where I came from, it was a bad story, and then you’ve got to kind of reinvent yourself again and realize that it’s unlimited possibilities and opportunity out there.

That’s what motivates me with you.  When you think of what you built, people would say, “Aw, Newman, he’s crazy,” whatever, in doing all this.  Your craziness is working out pretty well.  On the sidelines of Alabama, for God’s sake.  Geez.

Newman: Well, final question to leave everybody with, because you and I could sit here for hours.

Koon: We could go for hours.  We could get on the road.

Newman: So, if you were going to speak to somebody watching right now, and they’re pop starting their car, and they’ve drifted in and out of people coming in their life that wanted to help, so they’re there, they’re in their car, they’re pop starting it, going, “This is it for me.  There’s nothing in front,” what would you say to that person about the importance of The BURN and believing in yourself?

Koon: I would say to that person emphatically that the person that cares about you the most is yourself.  From the day the Goggins book, Can’t Hurt Me, when he talks about the accountability mirror, and when you look in that mirror, that person looking at you back is a wonderful person.  They’ve got all the potential of anybody else out there.  What they need to do is start to believe in themselves.

And then, I would read as many books as possible, or listen to as many podcasts as possible.  I would stick with the winners.  I would get an exercise program that motivates you and gets you started in the right place.  I would just basically reframe all your thinking and believe in yourself, and then create that dream boy — remember we were just talking about, like, “Where are you going, and why are you going there?”

And then lastly, I think, is that at the end of the day in this life, when we end, you’re going to look back.  I felt when I called people, we gave all our power to these people.  So many people want to be liked or be appreciated, but at the end of the day, those people are going places, and they really don’t care where you go, yet you do care, and this life is out there for whatever you want, and whatever success means for you, it’s important, but it’s out there for the taking.  At the end of the day, I don’t want to live in the cemetery and say, “There lived John Doe, ten percent used up.”  “There lived So-and-So, twenty percent used up.”  I want to be there, Ben.  And Ben Newman and Chris Koon, “There lies Chris and Ben, 100 percent used up, running on fumes, going for it no matter what, never giving up that personal growth,” and just have friends that believe in you, and prayer.

Lastly, I would say that for me personally, my relationship with God is something that’s really important to me.  I don’t push it on other people, but I believe that He doesn’t design junk.  He created me for a reason.  When I look at my life and the successes that I’ve had, had I written a letter to myself at 21 when I got clean, and I look where I am at 50, I would’ve sold myself so short.

So, just never, ever give up, and each day is your day, and that’s all we have is this moment right now, as much as we think this is everything we have, and just stay in the middle of the boat each day, and when the bad thoughts and all that nonsense comes in, this is enemy territory, the brain, and just stick with the winners, and you’ll be amazed before you’re halfway through where you’re going to head.

Newman: Well, I can’t thank you enough for doing this.  Just a final thought from me to everybody watching, for me, when I came into the business, it taught me, “Just go be yourself in life.”  It’s been one of the best lessons I ever learned, just go be yourself.  There’s a benefit, that pilot light, that BURN, yours never turns off.  Seeing you with your family, seeing you with clients, seeing you on a stage impacting others, it’s a great example.  I hope everybody can feel this energy through the camera.  That’s what it looks like to have a BURN and to have a pilot light that just will not go off.  So, thank you so much, brother.

Koon: Aw, thanks, man.  Love you, brother.

Newman: Always great to see you.  Love you, too, bro.

Koon: Absolutely, man.


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