If life’s got you backed up, find a way to move forward. As long as you’re breathing then life and some higher power is not done with you yet, which means you’ve got work to finish. You’ve got a job to do. That work is to give it all you’ve got. Everything you have and no matter what has come before, don’t look back, push forward.
Keep on living. Living is giving. For what you do for yourself you take with you when you die, but what you do for others, you leave behind.
What you leave behind becomes your story. Everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (134): No Matter What
If you’re a giver, it might because you know the pain of life when things are taken away. You won’t meet more of a giving person than Taraina Mccants, for Taraina knows what it’s like to lose. Over and over again.
Taraina was only five when her dad left. A self-described “daddy’s girl”, losing the first man she ever loved was a crushing blow.
“I really, really loved him. I was so confused when he left,” says Taraina. “I actually went to visit him in Jamaica, but the trip didn’t last long.” It turns out Taraina’s dad was involved in some shady dealings, and the law was bearing down on him. An arrest warrant meant he couldn’t return to visit to see Taraina and her sister Teaira in St. Croix, (Virgin Islands), where they lived with their mom. Taraina says her mom, probably trying to protect her daughters, kept her dad at a distance, a distance so far, Taraina believed he was dead.
“I kept asking, ‘where’s dad, where’s dad’, I kept asking for him,” says Taraina. “My mom said he must have died since we haven’t heard from him. Truth is he was still writing to us, but my mom either threw away the letters, or held onto them in secret. For a long time I had no idea.”
Life should have been beautiful, living in the paradise of the Virgin Islands. But for Taraina, still living the heartbreak of losing the man she loved, when her mom met someone else, life was anything but beautiful.
“When my dad left my mom immediately started dating my stepfather”, Taraina says. “My mom liked the new normal and the family she now had with me, my sister and my stepfather, but I wasn’t having it at all. I wouldn’t talk to him or look at him. I burned an Easter T-shirt he bought me. My mom took her anger and resentment out on me for challenging her happy family. It wasn’t a good scene.”
By the age of 12, Taraina was out. She moved to the states to live with her grandfather, until one day her dad called. He had come to the mainland as well, unable to return to Jamaica. For part of her teenage years she lived with her real father, but trouble followed.
Dropping out of school in the 9th grade, Taraina went to work for a telemarketing company that sold chimney sweeps. A chain-smoking office with ashtrays everywhere and dozens of desks backed up wall-to-wall, Taraina says she made cold-calls from pages literally torn out of the local phonebook. The company quickly got in hot water and the job didn’t last long. Because of a series of events and red-tape which made it impossible for her to return to school, Taraina instead hooked up with a man nearly twice her age. A man she says was a “con-artist” who convinced her to participate in his scheme – landing her in trouble with the law. Real trouble that eventually had her stepfather rescuing her and bringing her back to St. Croix. But the life lesson changed her.
Sometimes in the darkest of hours, a light, however dim, can be a magnet of redemption and faith. Unbeknownst to Tariana at the time, her life experience would create a path, the first steps on the road to prosperity and rebirth.
During her dark time Taraina had actually managed to earn her high-school diploma, and with that degree complete and back in the prosperous economic environment of her mom and stepfather’s home in St. Croix, Taraina was able to attend college, first in the Virgin Islands. She attended nursing school, but Taraina says the clinical part of nursing school was fine. But once she hit the practical part and realized as she says, “saliva and other bodily fluids made her nauseous”, she quickly realized a career in the medical field was not going to be her calling.
Instead Taraina headed back to the states for a time to work as an EMT and go to college to earn a degree in political science and philosophy, graduating at the top of her class. Always a fighter, a survivor and now a college-graduate, Taraina was laying the foundation to give back like never before. But first, a return to paradise.
During her college years Taraina had married, (a short-lived relationship), and given birth to a son, Marcus. Taraina says her stepdad, a very successful chiropractor, adored Marcus and did what he could to keep Taraina and her son living in the islands, getting her a position managing a golf-course he owned. She worked there for a while, but soon realized she wanted more. “I told my stepfather this is great, but my dream in life is not to run a golf course”, Taraina says. “I’ve always been good at whatever I do. I’m very confident and I get along with people. But I wanted more and I wanted to move back to the states… and somewhere hot. I did my research and decided on Pompey, Florida. I wanted to be by the water and so at the height of the housing market in 2004 I made the move, then went out looking for a job and looking for a job… and looking for a job.”
One of the job interviews was for a managing position at the Crowne Plaza in Melbourne. The position would have paid her $60,000-a-year and she thought she qualified. But with no hotel management experience, she lost out on the opportunity and says in a word she was, “devastated”, yet the hotel would play a into a memorable moment in her life in the years to come.
Running out of money and patience, Taraina ended up taking a job running a 7-11, for $40,000-a-year. “I was demoralized”, she says. “People treated you like crap, like the scum-of-the-earth”. It was another life lesson Taraina took with her and wouldn’t let happen to anyone who would shortly come into her life, because don’t forget, living is giving. Learn and share.
Looking for a way out and a better life Taraina found an opportunity with United Group Agency, learning to sell health insurance. In the process she realized that if she simply helped other people everyday, she would earn a nice living. But when the company was bought out by a private-equity firm and the ownership group started down a different path, Taraina jumped ship, as did many of the leaders of that company. Taraina was ready to forge a new path and get back to the basics of helping and serving those that needed it, clients and just as importantly, the agents.
With the lessons of hardship, a world of experience in all types of jobs in the workforce and a degree in philosophy in her back pocket, Taraina convinced the ownership of the new insurance agency to give her a role as a Division leader and help build the fledgling new opportunity from the ground-up.
She also needed to make money… and quick. She convinced her sister Teaira, who also had worked at the old company, to come with her, (giving up sizeable bonuses and renewals). The two hooked up with their friend Mara Brockman and together the three women went to work, making phone calls. Taraina says in the early days the three of them would sit in her living room, which was now in her home in Orlando…and dial. None of the ladies could leave until they each set twelve appointments, (four appointments for each), then it was off to the mall – to shop. Work hard, play hard.
Doing early recruiting for the company out of an office she rented from a travel agency for $400-a-month, Taraina went about the business of building and give “second-chances” to those who needed a job and more importantly an opportunity to live their dreams, as she has done. She now works out of an executive suite in Atlanta for USHEALTH Advisors, as the most successful Regional Manager in the country.
She’s even gone back to the hotel. Remember that Crowne Plaza in Melbourne?
Taraina says recently, as she sat in an ocean-front suite at this same hotel, picked out for her personally by the company’s CEO Troy McQuagge, she had a conversation with her husband Keith. Keith and Taraina married in 2012, and she says he’s the one who helped calm down her lifestyle, made her realize what’s important and to focus. As they sat and talked Taraina recounted to Keith the story of how she applied for a job at this same hotel more than a decade ago. The job she didn’t get. But Taraina now realizes that loss led to a gain, for if she had won the position she might not be where she is now, earning well beyond what the hotel would have paid her, getting to live life on her terms and sharing what she has learned.
What she has learned, what we all should realize, is that life is tough. But with perseverance, patience and occasional penitence – after all we all make mistakes – than much is possible, sometimes anything is possible.
“My family life wasn’t always the greatest”, says Taraina. “And people often ask me why I don’t have many friends outside of work. I say I don’t need anything. Everything I need I get from the people who work here. I love helping and surrounding myself with other successful people who have the same mission and goals.”
“I’m a little cooky. I’m a strong believer in self-manifestation and I actually have sessions with my team where we read self-help books. I tell them to read a book and go out and talk to people and create effective communication, help people feel good about themselves. Good leaders want their followers to think greatly of them, but great leaders make you feel good about you. The things we think about and we surround ourselves with and we do for others is what you receive back, what make you attractive and complement your life. The better we get at being good people the better we get at being good leaders. The company helped me realize that. The company changed my life. Troy is a huge mentor in my life and how I treat people, how to lead and to care about people, which brings out the best in all of us. Be the best person you can be.”
No matter what.
Until next time thanks for taking the time,