I owe to my Angel Mother

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” – Abraham Lincoln

The odds are calculated at 67-million-to-one. Those are the odds of hitting two hole-in-ones in the same round on a golf course. But Travis Yoder did it.  April 11th 2010, a day Travis will never forget during a golf tournament near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The same course that hosts PGA tour events. Even across the border, it still counts.

Yet Travis is no stranger to beating the odds, he learned from the best…his mom.

“If you ask me who was my biggest inspiration in life, it’s easy, it’s my mom,” says Travis.  “She taught me my work ethic, she taught me strength and sacrifice, she taught me love.” An only child, Travis’ parents divorced when he was only ten. “It’s all good, I love them both,” says Travis. “I’m not a product of that divorce. Besides the fact that my dad wasn’t always there because I lived with my mom, my mom was always there. Always. I basically grew up on a baseball diamond.  My mom sacrificed a lot to make sure I made every practice, every game. The whole time, as a single mom, she worked her career as well.”

“My mom started on the bottom floor of the property appraiser’s office in Tampa, Florida, where I grew up. She started off carrying typewriters to the office and by the time she retired, she was director, with a big, beautiful office on the 15th floor. 40-plus years of hard work. So many people give up nowadays, you talk to them and they are on their 15th job, but my mom never threw in the towel. She earned promotion after promotion and worked her way up. She never gave up. She was a role model there. More people should go into their work with the same intensity and drive. But the majority don’t do that. The hardest job was for my mom was to raise me and work at the same time. My baseball practices and games were endless.  But she taught me – don’t let any excuse get in the way of where you want to be.”

Lesson learned. For Travis life has been about sacrifices and movement to make things work. Lots of movement. “Two steps back to be five-steps forward,” is what Travis lives and now teaches. His mom taught him the power and progress which comes from hard work. Maybe that’s the reason Travis and his wife lived in 5 different states over a 12-year-period, as Travis built, recruited and trained insurance agents before finally settling down in Irving, Texas.

Fortunately for Travis, he married Michelle, someone as strong as the woman who raised him. Michelle was no stranger to travel, being a military brat, the daughter of an Army drill sergeant, she had spent a good portion of her life in Germany, then Hawaii. She also knew the power of sacrifice, her dad having served in Vietnam and then her memories of seeing him deployed for Desert Storm.

“A ton of moves did put a strain on my marriage at times,” says Travis. “But Michelle has been my biggest supporter, biggest fan, best friend…not everyone can say that. From day one she’s been supportive, been there to let me live my dream.  Every time we talked about the next step, the next rung on the ladder in life, she’s been supportive. She was working as a loan processor at a credit union and she eventually left, just quit, to come work with me. I told her I can’t pay you any money, but I think what you can deliver will make us more money in the long run. She became my office manager and was damn good at it.”

Two steps back, five steps forward.

For Travis, two great women in his life already, but one more was to appear. It didn’t come easy. When Travis and Michelle finally settled into Texas, it was time to talk about expanding the family. They tried to make it happen for three years with no success, eventually each of them went to get tested. “I finally went to get checked out,” says Travis. “The doc says ‘your swimmers are like Michael Phelps, you’re just fine.’ I’m feeling pretty good about myself, but then it starts to set in that something might be wrong with Michelle. But she goes to get tested too and the doc tells her she’s perfect. He says you are overthinking this, just do it, keep trying.”

For Travis there was no giving up, after all, he’s a life-long fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in fact one of their biggest fans. “From the time I was a little kid my dad had front row tickets on the 5o-yard line. I experienced years of traumatic Bucs games. Ten consecutive years of double-digit losing seasons. You’re only a true Bucs fan if they cut you and you bleed creamsicle orange,” jokes Travis.

Between the Bucs and his Mom, Travis knew you never give up. In 2010, it finally happened. “I know exactly the day we got pregnant,” says Travis. “It was the day I hit those two hole-in-ones on the golf course in Mexico. We celebrated that night, if you know what I mean. Michelle swears she got pregnant a week later, but I’m sticking to my story exactly!”

Whenever it happened, the blessing, their daughter Presley, arrived in December 2010. Travis says some people asked him, you’re the big athlete, where’s the boy? “I told them, dude, the best thing that I ever did was have a girl,” says Travis. “It’s one thing to love your mom, a different kind of love for your wife, but the revelation of the world is when you have a daughter. It’s a different realm. It’s hard to describe to someone until you have a child.”

My name is Presley.
I am beautiful.
I am smart.
I am a good listener.
I am a good golfer.
I am going to have an amazing day.
I am going to have an AMAZING day.
I am going to have an AMAZING DAY!!

For a few years now, this is the ritual for Travis and Presley. Her dad says the line, she repeats it, and together the two stay in positive step and mindset. And just like her dad, Presley is becoming quite the golfer.

It’s the same mindset Travis tries to instill in those he inspires and leads as Executive Vice-President of sales for USHEALTH Advisors. Travis travels frequently, but his family understands the sacrifice. Even on the road he makes sure to have his positive pow-wow with Presley, saying their lines and pumping each other up. Travis also knows he gets to spend time with his other family, the leaders and field force of the company. “It’s pretty impressive to see people change their lives,” says Travis. “There are no guarantees, but every day I see people go out and make the sacrifice. The growth model is unbelievable.”

   

Travis also credits Troy McQuagge, the CEO, for making the last seven years of his life so remarkable, as boss and friend. “The dude is definitely my mentor,” says Travis. “Not everyone gets to work with a boss who is so giving and selfless. His heart is enormous. But he also knows how to push my buttons and drive me. I’m thankful for his mission of HOPE.”

In fact, a few years ago, Travis was at a meeting at Troy’s home when Travis’s phone rang several times. It was his mom calling from Florida. She had some news, her husband, his step-dad, had suffered a heart attack. It wasn’t even a second thought, even though hundreds of miles away, Travis knew he needed to get to the airport, get on a plane and get to his mother. No time to pack, no bags, just a phone call to his wife and he hopped on the first flight he could find. Travis had to get home immediately. He had to be the there for his mom, no tears for him, not just yet.

“My mom was crying hard, I was her rock,” says Travis. “I didn’t cry, even though I had known John for most of my life. I had to be strong. Even writing the eulogy I didn’t cry. It wasn’t until the day of the funeral. My entire family is there and in walks Troy, Randi Stokes, Brian Clark and Dean Whaley. They had all made the trip from Texas. That’s when I broke down. My co-workers, my friends, had made the sacrifice to travel to be there. That was the day I realized when actions speak so loud you can’t hear even drown out what someone is saying.

It’s all about action. Travis says, “I try to be the best dad on the planet, the best husband on the planet, the best co-worker on the planet, the best friend. I’m nowhere near to my goal, but at least I make the attempt. I want to get better every day. I don’t want people to be at my funeral and not know what to say. I just want people to realize you don’t know when your last day is, so you gotta live every day to the fullest. I feel like my story is still just starting. I have a grandmother who just passed away at age 105. I’ve got a long way to go.”

And then there’s mom, who has taught Travis nearly every great lesson of his life. “I have an unbelievably remarkable mother,” says Travis. “I look back on my life and I know I’ve got the best mom on the planet. I have no shame in saying. I’m a mamma’s boy.”

Until next time thanks for taking the time,

Mark Brodinsky