Scientists are currently tracking the sixth mass extinction inthe past 500 million years, writes Elizabeth Kolbert in herPulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Sixth Extinction.” The latest ispredicted to be the worst since the dinosaurs were eradicated by anasteroid. “The one feature these disparate events have in common is… rate of change,” Kolbert writes. “When the world changes fasterthan species can adapt, many fall out.”

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According to current estimates, close to half of all livingspecies could be gone by the end of this century. Bats, frogs,rhinos, coral, apes—the list goes on. Although it's an incrediblycompelling read, I would recommend accompanying it with a stiffdrink. But it got me thinking about some grim statistics that havebeen circulating lately about another extinction—that of thebroker.

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Remember the survey a few years back that found 45 percent ofbrokers were considering giving up? More than half expressed a lackof confidence in the future of the industry. Another foundtwo-thirds of brokers had seen peers leave in the last year, andthat those who remain are worried about everything from health carereform to simply remaining relevant. Did I cheer you up yet?

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No? Well, I recently spoke with industry veteran andnewly-crowned NAHU president, Don Goldmann, and he assured me thatthe latest round of industry-based pessimism is nothing new (forthe complete interview, turn to page 40).

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“Every time there has been a major and significant upheaval inour industry there have been brokers who've gotten so gloomy,” hesaid. “I know people who sold their agencies. One sold a largeportion of his to me for significantly less than a dollar for adollar because he was certain that Bill and Hillary were going toput him out of business.”

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Through the years, he's heard countless predictions about theend of the broker. “Well,” he told me with a chuckle, “when youthink you're going to fail, it's one of the few times where I canguarantee you're right.”

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When I asked him why he's so optimistic, he gave plenty ofreasons, including technological advances, shifting salesstrategies and exciting new products. But he became most adamantwhen talking about those who make up the industry.

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“They're the most generous people I've ever met. Generous withtheir time; with other competitors; with their money. And you justcan't have that many positive people with that much positive energyfail. It's not gonna happen. Change? Yes? Failure? No.”

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Brokers are repeatedly forced to adjust to a seeminglyimpossible rate of change. As we're finding out, this is a recipefor disaster in the natural world. But as both Don Goldmann andElizabeth Kolbert would probably tell you, if there's one thingthat sets humans apart, it's how quickly we can adapt.

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.