David Contorno is the founder and CEO at E Powered Benefits, a benefit consulting agency that works with employers that truly care about their employees. He is a nationally recognized author and thought leader with more than 21 years in employee benefits. Contorno has received several awards and recognition including One of America’s Most Innovative Benefits Leaders deemed by Forbes.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up mostly in Westchester County, NY, in an upper-middle-class family. However, my parents divorced when I was 12, and this propelled me to independence, as I got my first job at that age telemarketing whole life insurance for agents at a Prudential Office. I was immediately successful and it was a springboard for person-to-person sales that I still use today.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

Real wealth is not driven by the size of your bank account. Actual wealth is far more impacted by how much you spend and less by how much you make.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

That people stay with my competition based on relationships, not results.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

About 15 years ago, during a real downturn in my personal and professional life, I spent a period of time using drugs and alcohol very irresponsibly. It was a very dark time. SO much so that I didn’t drink for over 13 years. The struggles to deal with life, to stop drinking, to socialize and interact without alcohol, and then making the calculated decision to responsibly reintroduce alcohol…

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Failure.

What is your morning routine?

I generally do not set an alarm. I wake between 4 and 6. I spend the first 30 to 60 mins interacting with my partner. We might make breakfast for the other or just a cup of coffee and we just connect as a way to start the day. Then I meditate for 5 mins and write down the 5 things I am most thankful for today. Then I do at least 10 minutes of physical activity. Could be some push-ups or a full workout.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Honesty.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Make your bed! I know it sounds crazy, but it sets the stage for an efficient, organized, and comprehensive day!

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

Start with Why by Simon Sinek
The 7 habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
America’s Bitter Pill by Steven Brill
The Price We Pay by Marty Makary

The Simon Sinek book, and related TED talk, totally put into focus my motivation in my career that I was never able to codify previously. People don’t buy from me because of what I do, or how I do it, they buy from me because the WHY behind what I do aligns with their why. Even if they don’t realize it.

The Covey book helped me understand that I have the power to choose how to react to situations and people and that small habits and successes lay the groundwork for big habits and successes.

The final two are particular to healthcare (my industry) and provided eye-opening details into how our healthcare systems work (more like malfunctions) and were instrumental in my creation of the tools and strategies that counteract those negative incentives.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“People don’t change until the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change” – unknown
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it” – Upton Sinclair
“If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” – Henry Ford
“Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been” – Wayne Gretzky’s Father