It’s a desire to win, pure and simple. What has made Jay Still so successful is his desire to be the best at everything he does – from a game of checkers, to the gridiron, to a business leader, to the bigger game of life. It’s his ability to play the game at the highest level.
“My nickname on my high school football team was Cujo,” laughs Jay. “My teammates said I was the nicest guy off the field, but on the field I was an assassin. I loved to hit people. One of my favorite articles written about me, was after we played a team from Saint Pius High School in Atlanta. In the article the coach of the St. Pius team said, ‘their strong safety Jay Still hit so hard it ought to be illegal.‘ I kept that article in my locker forever.”
Excelling on the football field and on the baseball field as a high school pitcher, Jay could dish it out. But if you can dish it out, you better be able to take it. Nothing hits harder than life.
Growing up the son of a traveling salesman, Jay learned early in life to make it on his own. It would serve him well in the years to come, especially when faced with the challenges of building a business.
“My parents grew up middle class, but my dad was never around,” says Jay. “He traveled most of the time. He was gone 25- out-of-30 days of the month. I saw him on weekends and vacations. It affected me and I resented him, or the situation at least, when I was younger, because he wasn’t around. But once I got around age 18-or-19, I understood more about the responsibilities of life and that this was my dad’s job. He was told to work hard and provide for his family. And he did.”
Jay’s mom served as a school teacher for years and was left to care for Jay and his sister most of the time. But for a young boy struggling to make his way in the world, Jay says it was also his grandmother who stepped in and stepped up.
“The greatest influence in my life is my grandmother,” Jay says. “She took me to my practices and my sporting events, and there were a lot of them. She filled the role as my mom and my dad when they couldn’t be there. She was always there. She’s one of my favorite people in life.”
But even his grandmother couldn’t be there to save Jay from one of his greatest challenges. In life there are temptations, desires and when you have the attitude to go-all-in, you take that with you wherever you go. How you do one thing, is how you do everything.
For Jay, it was party all the time.
“My biggest challenge in life was in my early 20’s and 30’s with alcohol and pain killers. “In my mid-20’s it was drinking and drugs,” says Jay. “I could spend an entire weekend at the club. There was a place called Club Anytime in Atlanta, I could literally spend 12-14 hours there. I was living for the now, not caring about the future. A few years later it was pain killers. I had a couple of procedures, a hernia surgery, then a dental procedure and was dealing with knee pain I had developed from my years playing football. So my doctor was prescribing the pain medicine to help me deal with it. When he stopped, I went to the black market to get them.”
Even as he enjoyed the “good life” partying it up, somehow Jay managed to work and create a successful business. Starting in the insurance industry in 1994, at the ripe old age of 23, Jay quickly became a rising star. It was mindset, his competitive spirit and the desire to win, which helped him to somehow manage his addiction and still perform at a high level, as well as his life-long, innate desire to give back. While alcohol and pain killers were there in the background, in the foreground, Jay was building his team, serving his clients and his agents, literally creating better lives for other people. On the front stage he was winning, but behind the curtain he was losing.
In Jay’s life, all he wanted to do was win. Win at everything.
So one day Jay says he finally made a decision to make all of life better for himself. He decided enough was enough. To truly live the life he desired to teach, Jay decided it was time to go cold turkey.
“I made a decision that what I was doing was not the right fit for me,” says Jay. “I’m the type of person who can make a decision in my mind and just do it. I’m lucky like that. I know many people might need months and months of treatment to beat their addiction and it works for them. I probably needed that too, but I simply made a decision and never did it again. I can do that. I’m fortunate like that. I still remember in high school when I was smoking. A girl told me she wouldn’t date me because I was a smoker. Right then and there I wadded up my pack of cigarettes and threw them away. I never did end up dating the girl…but I didn’t want to lose another one either. I have the ability to use my mind and make it happen.”
Jay continues: “Pain killers are as much a mental addiction as a physical one. Even if I was having major withdrawals I knew I could overcome it in my mind. I told myself it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be good. I had a good life already and the only thing that was holding me back from a truly great life was the drinking and the drugs. I can still have a drink now and be OK. But I was lucky, there were no DUI’s or DWI’s, I didn’t get in any trouble. I was really lucky. But I knew I needed to make a decision because I was not living my life as the person I wanted to be. I look back on it now and even talking about it, I realize it’s one of my greatest accomplishments. It’s shaped my life to be a better person, totally. It’s one of the greatest decisions of my life.”
Greatness is a decision. Failure is a decision. Winning or losing, these are decisions. None of these can exist in life without a green light, given by you. The reality is everyone deals with hardship. The differentiator is that some people let it consume them, while others decide the unfortunate events, either self-made or from outside circumstances, will be nothing more than speed bumps on their way to greatness.
Jay’s decision, his faith, his desire to win, and to do it by helping other people every day, no matter what, have opened the doors to incredible success. Jay serves as a Regional Sales Leader for USHEALTH Advsiors and is one of the top builders in the country. Even when he was struggling with addiction years ago, he could still focus on hard work. Now, being clean, his success is amplified at an even greater level. Jay says it’s also very much based in his faith.
“I’m a very religious person,” says Jay. “I believe in hope and doing the right things for people. I grew up a Southern Baptist. My mom instilled in me that you don’t want to go to hell, so you better do the right things. I keep cash in my car for the times when I see someone by the side of the road. I want to help, to give, give, give. A lot of people say it’s my heart and my passion. I love the insurance industry. At USHEALTH I believe we provide a noble product that helps people. There is no better feeling than helping people. If you make money doing it that way then you have more to give. I make a solemn promise to the Lord every day that the more money he provides, the more I will give. The money allows me to give to my family, my charities, and my church. Make more, give more.”
Jay says it’s the lesson of giving that he sees manifested in the agents he brings into the business and a deep sense of satisfaction seeing them do well. “My favorite thing in the world is seeing other people succeed. When I see somebody in this business, someone we’ve brought in, who is down on their luck and suddenly able to get a new car, or send their kids to college, I love it. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to get people to where they want to be.”
Jay is right where he wants to be as well. He’s living in the midst of what he describes as his greatest accomplishment, his family. Seven years ago (this month) he met a woman, Teaira DeCantis, at a Builders Meeting for USHEALTH Advisors. “We fell in love immediately,” remembers Jay. “We started talking on the phone every day. I was living North Carolina, she was in Florida. I kept going to see her, she kept coming to see me. She eventually drove up to North Carolina and never went back home. I had asked our CEO Troy McQuagge for the opportunity to handle a bigger market for the insurance company. He came back to me immediately and offered Dallas, Texas. Together, that’s where we ended up.”
The Still family now lives and works in Dallas. Jay has three children from his first marriage, and he and Teaira have given life to two more. Jay says he wants his children to live by a great example. “I absolutely know I have a heart for giving. I have a heart that no matter what sins I commit, the Lord is going to let me into heaven because every day I wake up wanting to help others. I want to help as many people as I can before I leave. I have a really strong desire to raise my children to not just be good, not just nice people, but to be incredible citizens and helpful people. My kids volunteer, they give back. It comes from us, Teaira and I. Teaira is the first person to want to help, especially anyone who is down on their luck. If anybody’s hurting, if anyone is out there who needs help, we do what we can do. I want my children to carry on this legacy of helping others in need.”
Jay says his favorite philosophy in life is simple: “If I help enough people get where they want to be, then I get to be where I want to be. It’s why I’ve had success. I care about others before I care about myself. I want to be remembered as someone who gave everything to help others.”
And someone who gave everything… to win.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.