Visalia Author and Consultant, Troy Korsgaden
A Key to Success
By Jordan Venema
Troy Korsgaden isn’t shy about his success. He even made it half the title of his latest book: “Success and Sanity.” But the opening sentence almost sounds like an apology, or at least an admission that whatever success he’s found has also exceeded his expectations.
“I’ve lived a dream. By every measure of success, I’ve enjoyed more prosperity than any kid from a little California town ever should have expected,” writes Korsgaden. He knows this, and he’s grateful.
While he may have been surprised by the degrees of his success, Korsgaden is very sure how he got there. “I owe my insurance agency’s success to my sister Sharon (Jansma), and I owe my Crawdaddy’s success to my brother Keith,” but even before his siblings, Korsgaden quickly gives credit where it’s due: “My mom is the greatest human being on earth,” he declares.
Korsgaden was only 5 years old when his father died, and “my mom raised five kids, taught us good work ethics. She’s 84 years old and still works 40 hours a week.” In short, says Korsgaden, “she was a great moral compass.”
Korsgaden and sister Sharon began Korsgaden/Jansma Insurance Agency in 1983 and “out of 14,000 agencies,” says Korsgaden, “my sister and I were in the top 100 agencies, 21 years in a row, here in little Visalia.”
Their agency had grown so quickly that within the decade, Korsgaden began a consulting firm, Korsgaden International. He literally wrote the book – four of them, in fact – on how to build a successful insurance agency.
Soon Korsgaden was touring the country as a consultant and coach. He has shaken hands with presidents, consulted for tech companies and professional athletes, and once presented on stage between Dr. Ben Carson and Bill O’Reilly. His job was to motivate others, “but I would be a liar to say I was always happy, always motivated,” admits Korsgaden. “I still went back to my room and I was alone.”
According to business standards, Korsgaden was doing everything right. “But in my personal life, I was pretty shallow. I was running so fast that I was running on empty, and I left a wave of destruction behind me. All of my relationships were starting to fall apart.
“I was heading directly into a nervous breakdown,” Korsgaden continues. “The success couldn’t mask the chaos.”
In the midst of his life’s first emotional winter, Korsgaden found himself without answers, and at the suggestion of a friend, he put his questions to paper. “I could either hire a psychiatrist for $450 an hour or I could write this book.”
Ironically, in the business where Korsgaden had all the answers, he needed a year to write his first book. Now that he was faced only with questions, he wrote “Success and Sanity” in just two months.
The process of writing the book was Korsgaden’s way of slowing down. “I stopped for the time and thought, why have I worked and what is my purpose in life?”
For the first time, Korsgaden faced his own weaknesses – alcoholism, anger and sometimes too strong an opinion – and through admitting them, “I unmasked myself in this book.”
“That’s what the book is about,” clarifies Korsgaden. “Hey, I haven’t found all the answers, but now I can recognize the signs.” The process alone, of recognizing those signs, has not only helped Korsgaden slow down and appreciate the relationships around him, but also to empathize with people in ways he couldn’t before.
He admits that people would come to him with their struggles, with their depression, “and in the back of my mind I would look down on them,” he admits. “But now I can relate, and I will still have another winter in my life.”
So by writing “Success and Sanity” did Korsgaden find the answers to his questions? “Well, I’m still a work in progress, and I’m still flawed. I just now can verbalize it and deal with it.”
In that sense, “Success and Sanity” is something of confession, as well as reconciliation with himself. It might be that realizing he didn’t have the answers was the solution Korsgaden was looking for. It has certainly helped him to focus on the things that translate to real success, like relationships. So yes, it appears success and sanity can pair together after all – at least that is what Korsgaden is still exploring, and hoping others who read his book will also come to find for themselves.