Be a Buffalo – Dixie Layton

In the animal kingdom, there’s the story of the cow and the buffalo and how they react to a storm. Both animals know a storm is coming, but they handle it much differently. When storms come, they almost always brew from the west and roll out toward the east. A cow can sense the storm is coming and will try to run east, away from the storm, but the storm catches up with them and keeps them there longer, extending the amount of pain, time and frustration they experience.

Buffalo, on the other hand, see the storm coming, and they too run… directly at the storm. They run straight through it, minimizing the amount of pain, time and frustration they experience.

Charging at the storm, and not running from it, is the shortest path to get through it. That story applies to our lives as well.

So, meet Dixie Layton, a true buffalo it there ever was one. Though the path to get there wasn’t easy.

Then again, is it ever?

Dixie serves as a Satellite Division Sales Leader for USHEALTH Advisors and is closing in on the $5 million milestone as a personal producer for the company, meaning Dixie has helped a lot of people get to a better place with health insurance. She’s helped agents to change their lives. Dixie says it’s all been such a blessing for her. But before she could find USHA, Dixie had to find herself. She had been running from the storm for so long, she knew finally, just like the buffalo, she’d have to have the courage to run directly into it and stop the pain.

It’s a pain that too many women know all too well, and hopefully Dixie’s story can serve as a guide for others to take action in their own lives. It’s so important it’s worth sharing right up front.

As Dixie will tell you herself, for more than two decades her life was a rollercoaster ride, a ride she couldn’t get off and it started while she was still very young.

“I’m honestly lucky that I’m sitting in front of you today because of how bad it was at times,” says Dixie.

“I met the man who would become my husband when I was only 13-years-old. You’ve got this rebellious teenager that doesn’t want to listen to her mom, just going to do my thing, regardless. I was that person. It ended up got married the day before my 19th birthday. Then I had my first child in March before my 20th birthday. I have four children and I have stepchildren as well. I married young and knew that I should never have been in that situation. It was not a good place for me from day one. The only good things that came out of it were my children.”

“It was a life lesson. I hear women say, in fact many people say all the time, well, why didn’t you get away? Why didn’t you walk out of it? It’s not as easy as that. When I hear someone say that, not that it makes me angry, but it’s disrespectful for someone to say it because if you don’t know that story and you don’t know how much danger you’re in in order to get away, you should never say that to someone. I was young, but I was there until I was 36 years old.”

“I was unable to work because if I would get a job then he would take every penny that I made and use it to go out and do his thing, whether it be the drugs or the alcohol. Then he wouldn’t come home. I worked sometimes, but I lost jobs because of all of the craziness and coming into a place of business and then getting fired no matter what. I’m lucky that I’m here and I know this. Knowing of other women in the situation that I was in, it makes it very clear to me now that I’m very lucky that I’m here.”

For Dixie, it all finally came to a head when her youngest was about 4-years-old and she said she just couldn’t take it anymore. Dixie says 20+ years of abuse was enough and she knew she needed to take action.

“I walked out the door, I called the police and I let them pick up my husband and I didn’t look back. That was my first step in doing this,” says Dixie. “It definitely has made me the human that I am. I’m very grateful for it. People laugh at me when I say this. I am very grateful for those experiences because they created this woman, the woman that was in that life and in those experiences would not be sitting here today. I would not have had the courage to have done it. I lived in survival mode for so many years. It just became a fog of just trying to get through each day, each moment and trying to raise my children the best that I could.  Every woman needs to realize that there is hope. There is a way that you can always change your life and just stay positive about it. Because if you had told me years ago that I would be sitting where I am today, I would’ve told you that you were the craziest human in the world. The woman sitting here today is one of the strongest women in the world due to my past.”

Dixie will tell you herself she understands it’s not easy for any woman to break free so she has some advice for others in a similar situation.

“Reach out. Reach out to the right people,” says Dixie. “Family’s not always going to be the ones that are going to be able to help you because you’re putting them in danger as well. Reach out to the people who are professionals and can help you with it. Call me. I’m that human that will help no matter what. I know there are a lot more people than we realize. We become good actors. When you’re in those situations, you become a really good actor or actress – and that plays a part in my life now – as I can be real and I am the most real human you will ever meet. Anyone can tell you I speak my mind, but back then I did not do that. I had to cover for so much.”

“I think that’s what makes me speak my mind today. Sometimes my Regional Leader Kevin Farrell tells me I have sharp elbows, so I have to dull them down a little bit. I also think that it makes me a good leader because I’m understanding and I want the best and I want growth for everyone because I see all kinds of people that come to my office. The broken, they’re broken, and I’m a fixer, so I have to fix that broken. That’s what makes me do what I do every single day when I get up. Because no one in my inner circle is ever going to be that broken if I can help fix them.”

The strongest among us are not strong simply by faith, faith will only get you so far, true strength and resiliency comes by fight, weathering the storms as only buffalo can, charging head on into it, even if the storm threatens to break you.

“Once I left I started bartending and serving,” says Dixie. “I was a bartender and server for several years and I made really good money at bartending. I was good at it. I’m a people person. I didn’t realize I was a people person when I was living that other life.

“I had no clue that I was a people person because of living in that survival mode and living in that house and just trying to get my children enough food to feed them. I’ve counted change from under my seat cushions to be able to feed my children on many occasions. I have gone to food banks. I learned how to coupon really, really well where I could feed my kids. Those were the struggles that made me strong. Those are the things that gave me the ability to continue on and go to work every day and bring in money and pay my bills and get to where I needed to be.”

Where Dixie needed to be was front and center taking care of her children, but just as she started to turn the corner and gain control, another challenge arose. It’s been studied and documented that past traumas can surface later in our bodies and suffering years of abuse and pain, this time for Dixie it was a health issue that threatened her life.

“Finally, I start to get on my feet only to find out I’ve been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The doctors tell me, “you’ve got to have it removed, but it’s the most curable cancer there is. If we get it out, we’re good.” “Okay so I go in the very next week and they removed my thyroid. Well, they hit my vocal cords and damaged my parathyroid at the same time. I could barely speak for about three months.”

“I could whisper, but I couldn’t talk. My voice was damaged. They told me don’t strain it. Well, I’ve got a four-year-old. How do you not talk having a four-year-old and you’re a single mom? He learned a lot of sign language and a lot of looks. He learned to read me by my looks. While I had my thyroid out and was in the hospital, they did a PET scan and found spots on my cervix and had to do a hysterectomy. I had two major surgeries within a week of each other. I had to have radiation iodine where no one can be around you. Trying to find someone that I trusted to watch my child because I didn’t trust anybody at that point was tough.”

“I went through all of that, got back on my feet again and started bartending. I worked at the same restaurant for many, many years bartending. But eventually I decided that no, this is not what I want. We’d close at 2 AM, I’d be cleaning until 4 AM. I’d go home, get in bed and then get up at 6:30 to get my child ready for school. I thought to myself, I’m killing myself. What’s the alternative?

Dixie says she started looking around and got called in for an interview at USHEALTH Advisors in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“I walk in and I’m like, what is this?”, says Dixie. “It was a group interview. I’m like, “I don’t even know what I’m even interviewing for, but I went in anyway. I liked what I heard, but I did not have the money to get licensed.”

“Instead my satellite leader at the time offered me the opportunity to become his recruiting coordinator and office manager. I did that for a year and a half. A lot of people don’t know that about me at this company. I always tell my agents this because they say to me, “Well, Dixie, you took off from day one. How did you do this?” “I tell them I have a different story than you. I knew product and I knew what was going on because I lived in the middle of it. I recruited for it. We have different stories. It’s going to take you a little longer than it did for me.”

Dixie says it was while she was working in her USHA office that she saw a lot of the agents having great success, earning a great living and enjoying their experience, so she wanted to be part of the fun. During that time, Dixie also got remarried to, as she describes him, “a wonderful human”, named Tony.

But one day she went home and dropped a major surprise on this wonderful human.

“I came home and I said, “I’m going to need you to quit your job.” He looked at me really funny. “What do you mean quit my job?” “I need you to come in and be the recruiting coordinator,” I said, “because I’m going to become an agent. I think that you would be really good at doing my job. That way, we would be in the same place and building a  business together.” My husband thought I was crazy, but he came in, I trained him in the office and with recruiting and I went to get licensed, but I wasn’t very good at the test and I failed.

I tried again. I passed health, but I failed life. In North Carolina, it’s two different tests. I  took the life portion seven times. I wasn’t giving up, because I am relentless, that is the one thing about me. You’ll never keep me down. I kept going back, kept going back and finally passed. And since I started at USHEALTH Advisors I’ve never blanked for a single week in this company and I just passed my five year anniversary. I’ve written business every single week. That is a thing that is motivating to know that, I’m going to continue to help someone every single week. It’s that one thing, that one thing in my career that will forever stand out to me.”

Career success is one thing, but the deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated, especially by those who are closest to us. We all want to know that we matter, and for her entire life, Dixie had been waiting to feel this sense of value from a very special person.

“It’s just a couple of words,” says Dixie. “And it came from one of the most important people in my life, probably outside of my husband and my children… my mother. My mother looked at me… and told me she was proud of me. Because I came from a small town where they judged me on my ex-husband, and they judged me on my last name and no one had ever told me they were proud of me for anything. For my mother to tell me that she was proud of me was one of the finest moments in my life. At that point, I knew that I had made it, that I wasn’t that little small-town girl that everybody knew as trash because of her circumstances. Now, I have devoted my life to this company and my team.”

Not that long ago, Dixie proved her devotion to USHEALTH Advisors. In August of 2022, she was asked to make the move from North Carolina as a Field Sales Leader and become a Satellite Division Sales Leader in Fort Worth, Texas. It was far from an easy decision, Dixie’s adult children live in North Carolina, as do all of her grandchildren. This was an especially tough call, a pseudo storm of emotion and sacrifice. But with all she’s been through Dixie was built for this. She said she was also sad because she knew she’d be leaving a treasured member of her work family, her Division Sales Leader, Tony Penny, who Dixie says is another “great human” and someone she knew she’d miss very much.

(Dixie’s family – children and grandchildren – Jake, Summer, Austin, Houston, Jada, Jackson. Grandchildren: Kohen, Talon, Baylor, Willow, Gunner, Nova, Freyja.)

But knowing what USHA means to her, she eventually decided to make the change, starting a new life, and just this past week, opening up a brand new, and even bigger office in Forth Worth. While she might be one of the “Cowtown Closers”, there’s no doubt Dixie is a buffalo if there ever was one.

Dixie has been recognized not just for her career success at USHEALTH Advisors, but even mores so her attitude of gratitude, the fact that Dixie cares. She makes other people feel they matter.

“They are a huge part of my family. When I’m doing recruiting now, I tell everyone, if we decide this is the right opportunity, you and I both do know that you became a part of my family. You’re not only an agent here, I’ve let you into my family. I believe this because if I went out on my floor right now, there is not one human on that floor that would not tell you that they love me. That matters to me. Knowing them, knowing their lives, knowing their children’s names, knowing who they are, what they do. That’s what makes this possible for me every single day, is to see them change and know that they do need me and they are grateful for me because that’s not something that I’ve had in my life.”

When the storms come in life, as they will, time after time, and some darker than others, we can all heed a lesson from Dixie, like the buffalo, don’t turn and run, but go right into it, for on the other side lies the brightest, most beautiful light and life you’ve ever seen.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Your Storyteller,
Mark Brodinsky

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