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Sustainable Excellence—Terry Tucker

8.15.22 Sustainable Excellence with Terry Tucker  [Recorded 8_2_22]

To hear the episode Sustainable Excellence with Terry Tucker, click here.

[00:00:00] Miriam: All right. I’m so excited for this interview with Terry Tucker. You have done so many interesting things, and I know in my introduction, I’m gonna miss a couple, but you’ve been a SWAT team hostage negotiator. You’ve been an NCAA division, one basketball player. You’re a cancer survivor. You’re an author.

[00:00:24] You’ve got some cool things going on. So I would like you to just fill in some of the blanks of the things I’ve missed and let’s start.

[00:00:34] Intro. Terry Tucker

[00:00:34] Terry: Yeah. You know, when, when I look at my resume, it’s kind of one of those things where I, I look at it and say, see, one of these days, I gotta figure out what I’m gonna do when I grow up, you know, kind of thing, because I have been fortunate enough to be very diverse in the things that I’ve done.

[00:00:47] I, I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. I’m the oldest of three boys. You can’t. Tell this from looking at me or from my voice, but I’m six foot, eight inches tall. And as you mentioned, I was an NCAA division. I college [00:01:00] basketball player at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. My big claim to fame is that I got to play against Michael Jordan, my senior year in college, his freshman year in college.

[00:01:11] So he wasn’t really the Michael Jordan that we know. Right. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. So, you know, I was all set to make my mark on the world with my newly obtained business administration degree when I graduated. And, you know, I look back now and realize, I didn’t know anything about business, just because I had a degree.

I Started at Wendy’s

[00:01:31] Fortunately, I found that first job in the corporate headquarters of Wendy’s international, the hamburger chain in their marketing department. Unfortunately, I lived with my parents for the next three and a half years is to help my mother care for my father and my grandmother who were both dying of different forms of cancer.

[00:01:48] I’m sure we’ll get into kind of, you know, my, my jobs in particular, but I guess I’ll ride round it out with my wife and I have been married for almost 30 years. We have one child, a daughter. She’s a graduate of the United States Air [00:02:00] Force Academy and is an officer in the new branch of the military, the Space Force.

[00:02:06] Miriam: Oh, my word. I don’t even know where to go from there. That is so much and tremendous. We’re on, zoom for this and you can’t really tell, but, I’m five one. So if I were standing next to you, it would look pretty crazy. Oh, my word, you said six’ eight”?’

[00:02:26] Terry: yeah.

[00:02:26] So it it’s funny because my wife’s five, five. She literally has a stool in every room in the house so that she can, you know, climb up and reach things on the top shelf and stuff like that.

I Don’t Fit on Planes

[00:02:36] Miriam: Do you fit on planes?

[00:02:39] I

[00:02:39] Terry: don’t very well anymore. I mean, if I get the, the exit row or the bulkhead, I might but I, since I’ve had my leg amputated, I have not really had the opportunity to fly. It’s definitely not something that is.

[00:02:53] Is comfortable. Let’s put it that way. Yeah. I wouldn’t wanna fly to Australia or something like that. oh my

[00:02:59] Miriam: word. [00:03:00] Every time I’m on a plane and I see someone with some height, I always feel guilty because when I’m sitting down, I’ve got four or five inches between me and the seat ahead of me. And I know you guys just don’t well, you brought up your leg amputation, so that feels like a seamless way to just go into your cancer journey.

[00:03:18] If you would be willing to share whatever feels appropriate or relevant, I would love to just start there and we’ll just see where we go.

[00:03:26] Journey with Cancer

[00:03:26] Terry: Sure. So it it’s, it’s a rather long, I guess, Odyssey, for lack of a better word. It started back in 2012 when I, I, I had, it was a girls high school basketball coach in Texas.

[00:03:38] And I had a callous break open on the bottom of my foot right below my third toe. And initially I didn’t think much of it because as a coach, you’re on your feet a lot, but after a few weeks of it not healing, I went to see a podiatrist, a foot doctor, friend of mine, and he took an x-ray and he said, Terry, I think you have assistant there and I can cut it out.

[00:03:56] And he did. And he showed it to me. It was just a little gelatin sack with some white fat [00:04:00] in it. No dark spots, no blood, nothing that gave either one of us concern. But fortunately, or unfortunately he sent it off to pathology to have it looked at. And then two weeks later I received a call from him. And as I mentioned, he was a friend and the more difficulty he was having explaining to me what was going on, the more frightened I was becoming.

He Laid It Out For Me

[00:04:22] And so finally he just laid it out for me. He said, Terry, I’ve been a doctor for 25 years. I have never seen the form of cancer that you have. You have a rare form of melanoma that appears on the bottom of the feet or the palms of the hands and because your cancer is so incredibly rare, he recommended I go to MD Anderson cancer center.

[00:04:42] In Houston and be treated. And so I did, I, I had the tumor excise on the bottom of my foot. I had all the lymph nodes in my left groin removed. And then when I healed my oncologist, put me on a weekly injection of a drug called interferon to help keep the disease from coming back. Now, [00:05:00] interferon for me was just a horrible, nasty, debilitating drug.

Flu-Like Side Effects

[00:05:04] The side effects were that I had severe flu-like symptoms for two to three days every week after each injection. And I took those weekly injections for almost five years. So imagine having the flu every week for five years. And that wasn’t a cure that was, as my oncologist used to say, we’re trying to kick the, can down the road and buy you more time for additional therapies.

[00:05:28] So after that five year Odyssey through interferon, I ended up in the intensive care unit because of the toxicity of the drug with a fever of 108 degrees, which is usually not compatible with being alive. I was fortunate that I had presented at a level one trauma center and they. Able to stabilize me literally by packing me an ice you know, to, to get me to the ICU.

[00:05:51] So I had to stop taking the interferon and almost immediately after stopping the drug, the cancer came back in the exact same spot on my foot, where they [00:06:00] presented five years earlier. That necessitated the amputation of my left foot in 2018 cancer worked its way up my leg, into my shin in 2019 to more surgeries.

And Then There’s More

[00:06:11] And then in 2020, an undiagnosed tumor in my ankle grew large enough that it fractured my tibia, my shin bone, and my only recourse right in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Was to have my left leg amputated. I also found out I had tumors in my lungs, which I’m currently being treated for. So I know that sounds like a very dark and ugly journey and it certainly has been, but I’ll say this to, to conclude cancer has made me a better person.

[00:06:41] And I also believe that you really don’t know yourself until you’ve been tested by some form of adversity.

The Fearful Spaces

[00:06:47] Miriam: Yeah, well spoken, we could spend weeks talking about what you just said in the last few minutes. That is intense. And as someone who’s had cancer [00:07:00] myself, it was a completely different route.

[00:07:02] But I understand the spaces of fear and of despair, of trying to hold onto your mindset and saying, this isn’t who I am, this isn’t my identity. I’m more than this. And then, you know, being in these hospital spaces in these gowns that make you feel incredibly vulnerable, all of it is just a huge ordeal.

[00:07:25] So. Thank you for being that vulnerable to share that with my audience. Sure. I think the place I wanna take this is that as someone who is a basketball star, as someone who is involved with SWAT teams, those are all incredibly athletic pursuits and you develop an athletic identity around those things.

Working With Your Mindset

[00:07:46] Then you have something like an ongoing illness. Of course the amputations and things like. That has to mess with your mind. And so I’m wanting to know if you will talk about the process you went through [00:08:00] and are probably still going through in terms of how do I view myself? How do I process and remain the man that you know yourself to be despite all these change?

[00:08:13] Terry: Yeah, that that’s a great question. I, I guess, to go back to when I was first diagnosed, I, I believe that I went through all the stages that we associate, you know, with grief. You know, when, when I was told that it’s like, first it was denial. It’s like, well, I, I can’t possibly have cancer. I’ve done everything right in my life.

[00:08:30] You know, I’ve eaten, right. And I’ve exercised. I don’t abuse that I’ve done everything that we know to do. Then, you know, I got mad. It was like, wait a minute. I, you know, I’ve done everything. How can I possibly have cancer? And then, you know, I, I have a pretty strong faith. You know, our daughter was in high school.

Bargaining With God

[00:08:47] When I, when I found out I had cancer, it was, it was sort of bargaining with God. It’s like, look, just let me live long enough so that I can see my daughter graduate from high school. And then you kind of get a little down, you feel, you know, sorry for [00:09:00] yourself. And then at least for me, I got to a point where it was like, You know, this sucks, but I’m gonna have to embrace the suck.

[00:09:09] You know, these are the cards that I’ve been dealt. I don’t like this hand. It, you know, it’s, it’s certainly not a winning hand, but I’m gonna have to play these cards to the best of my ability. And I, and I had a nurse actually rather recently ask me. You know, what was it like to have your foot amputated and to have your leg amputated?


[00:09:28] And I told her it certainly hasn’t been easy. It’s it’s been a little over two years since I’ve had my leg amputated and I’m still learning to walk again. what I told her was cancer can take all my physical faculties. But cancer can’t touch my mind. It can’t touch my heart and it can’t touch my soul.

[00:09:45] And that’s who I am. That’s who you are, Miriam. That’s who your audience is. This is just a, a house or a vessel or whatever you want to call it to house who we really are. So, you know, when people get all excited and, and I’ve certainly seen it [00:10:00] over these 10 years where, you know, you wanna put me on chemotherapy, I’m gonna lose my hair, who cares It’s just hair. That’s not who you are, who you are, is your heart, your mind and your soul. And if you spend more time cultivating those, working on those, you know, improving those that’s who you really are. This is just something to hang out with, who you really are.

Who You Really Are

[00:10:22] Miriam: Oh again, well spoken. Okay. Let’s jump into this who you really are space.

[00:10:29] So one of the things I have on my ten-year goals is to develop the mindset of an athlete. I am the biggest slug you have ever met on the face of the planet. I mean, I’m always trying to eat more healthy and to exercise and I live on a little farm, so I do a lot of exercise like that, but it’s, it’s what I would call.

[00:10:50] Like intuitive movement, you know, these animals need to be fed. So you’re carrying this here and there. And it’s a form of working out with weights, but it is not what actual [00:11:00] athletes do. And I gave myself 10 years cuz I thought, well, this is a big project to shift my mindset that much. But something that I have always admired about athletes is this sense of discipline and this ability to say the goal that I want.

Sub Skills

[00:11:17] Down the road, whatever that is to be a good soccer player or a, you know, a basketball player or an Archer or swimmer or whatever. There are so many tiny sub skills that have to be developed that require this belief. That even though what I’m doing right now, doesn’t make any sense, or I have to do a hundred thousand iterations of this free throw.

[00:11:43] I’m gonna believe that in the end, it’s gonna matter. That’s kind of what I think of the mindset of an athlete is. And now you’re gonna correct me and tell me actually, what the mindset of an athlete.

[00:11:54] Mindset of an Athlete

[00:11:54] Terry: I, I, I guess, let me tell you a story that I think will illustrate exactly what this [00:12:00] is and, and I’m really gonna date myself now by telling you this story.

[00:12:03] So back in 1976, I was six years old. There was an or 16 years old, sorry. Well, I wish I was six years old, 16 years old. There was an Olympic swimmer, us Olympic swimmer by the name of Shirley Babashoff . And she had one of the greatest. Very simple, but one of the greatest quotes I ever heard, and this is what she said, winners, think about what they want to happen.

[00:12:26] Losers think about what they don’t want to happen. So I, I think, you know, she was able to say, you know, winners can override their, their negative minds, their negative brains and focus on what they want to occur. Whereas losers, they can’t, they can’t do that. You know, they focus on what they don’t want to happen.


[00:12:45] Oh, I hope this person doesn’t out swim or I hope, no, you gotta focus on yourself and you have to. You know, it’s those ugly days when you’re in, you know, at least from a basketball player, you know, the thousands of shots you put up every day in the [00:13:00] summer that, you know, we always used to say, when I, when I coach basketball, great players are made in the off season, great teams are made during the season.

[00:13:09] So if you wanna get good, you can’t wait till the season to have that occur. And, and so there was a basketball coach when I was growing up at Indiana university by the name of Bobby Knight. And one of the guys I played with in high school went to play for him.  Under Knight he won a national championship and then went on to the pros and won a couple NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons.


[00:13:32] But Knight had a saying that went like this mental is to physical as four is to one. So here’s this great coach teaching elite athletes to use their bodies to be great players on the court. But what he was really saying with that saying, or that quote, is that your mind or your mindset is four times more important than anything your physical body’s going to do?

[00:13:58] Miriam: Yeah. I believe [00:14:00] that.

[00:14:00] Every year I choose a word or I would invite God to give me a word of what that year is to be about.

[00:14:07] And this year my word is mindset.

[00:14:09] So I, I love that you’re bringing up these ideas.

[00:14:12] I think it’s everything because where your mindset goes, then your actions follow and your actions really determine the life that you have.

[00:14:20] .

Hostage Negotiation

[00:14:20] Miriam: I’m assuming the basketball player season happened before the hostage negotiator season in your life. I assume that every leap into a new career is informed by the career previous. And so you’re building upon things. Talk to me about the mindsets in your life, what you were taught as a kid and how it played out on the court and then where it went with this hostage negotiation stuff.

[00:14:48] Family Support


[00:14:48] Terry: Yeah. I, I was very lucky. You know, I don’t, my story is not, I came from a broken home and my dad beat me and all that stuff. I, I had my brothers and I had great parents, you [00:15:00] know, and it, it was, it was, I think my mom and dad that the sort. Made us understand the importance of family, the importance of what a family was because you know, it’s me and my two brothers, I have no sisters. Both my brothers and, and I were, we were all athletes. We all competed at a very high level. We all competed in college. One brother went on to the professional ranks in basketball.

[00:15:23] And so, you know, my parents did what I call divide and conquer parenting. So it’d be like, all right, Terry’s got a game over here. Dad’s going to that. Larry’s got a practice over here. So mom’s going to. And we were always going a million miles an hour, but what, what they taught us was, you know, family was about loving each other, caring about each other, supporting each other.

He Was Sick And Dying


[00:15:45] And I remember when, when my, my dad was, was sick and dying of cancer after I graduated from college, I mentioned I spent three and a half years at home. My youngest brother was in high school at the time.  I remember one night I said to my dad, look, I’m, I’m gonna skip my brother’s basketball game [00:16:00] and I’m gonna go work out.

[00:16:01] And my dad’s like, no, you’re not. I’m like, wait a minute. I I’m a man. I have my own job. What, what, what do you mean? No, you’re not. He said, you don’t understand.

[00:16:09] He’s like, you know what? Your brother needs you there, your, your brother needs your support. He’s going through me dying of cancer. He needs you at the game.

[00:16:17] And my dad was absolutely right. I was just trying to, you know, puff out my chest and say, you know, look at me, I’m a man, I’m gonna do my own thing, but that’s not what our parents taught us.

Be There


[00:16:27] Our, our parents taught us to be there.

[00:16:29] So, so that, you know, I learned all that very early on. And so, you know, we cared about each other. We supported each other. And if you look at my, and, and you’ll sort of understand the backstory here, if you look at my resume, my first two jobs were in business, I mentioned, you know, I started out at Wendy’s and then I spent several years as a hospital administrator.

[00:16:49] And then I made the pivot to law enforcement.

Law Enforcement


[00:16:52] And if you understand the backstory, my grandfather was a Chicago police officer. From 1924 to 1954. So it [00:17:00] was in Chicago during prohibition when alcohol was outlawed in the United States, during the great depression, the late twenties into the thirties. When the gangs, you know, Al Capone and those guys were shooting up the town and he was actually shot in the line of duty with his own gun.

[00:17:14] It was not a serious injury. He was shot in the ankle, but my dad always remembered the stories. My grandmother told of that. Knock on the door of, you know, Mrs. Tucker, grab your son. My dad was an infant at the time. Come with us, your husband’s been shot.

[00:17:27] So when I expressed an interest in going into law enforcement, my dad was, oh, absolutely not.

[00:17:31] You’re gonna go to college. You’re gonna major in business. You’re gonna get out, get a great job. Get married, have 2.4 kids and live happily ever after.

My Passion

[00:17:38] But that’s what my dad wanted me to do. That wasn’t my passion. That wasn’t the road I felt I had to travel.

[00:17:45] So I, you know, I, I had a choice I could say, sorry, dad, I’m gonna go blaze my own trail and go into law enforcement or out of love and respect for you, and the fact that you’re dying, I will do what you want me to do and go into business.

[00:17:58] So I sort of [00:18:00] joke I did what every good son did. I waited till my father passed away. And then I followed my own dreams.

[00:18:05] So the first two jobs, because that’s what my dad wanted me to do. And then after he passed away, I was like, look, I’m not getting any younger. I was a 37 year old rookie police officer.

37 Year Old Rookie

[00:18:16] You know, when I, when I started. That was the bad news. The good news was I had some life experience. You know, I had been in business. I had worked with different people on, in, on different projects and things like that. So I brought something to the table as a police officer and, and sometimes people will reach out to me now and say, you know, I’m interested in law enforcement.

[00:18:36] , and they reach out like, what do you suggest? I always tell them put down your devices and go out on the street and talk to the homeless guy and then go up to the penthouse and talk to that guy. Because if you can talk to people, you’ll be successful in law enforcement.

[00:18:51] If you can’t, you’re gonna be very frustrated along that line.


[00:18:55] When an opening came up on the SWAT team for a negotiator, [00:19:00] you know, as you said, I’ve, I was a division one basketball player. I’d always wanted to be the best in my life and SWAT is the best in law enforcement. They get the best training, the best people, the best equipment.

[00:19:13] And so when there was an opening, it was like, absolutely I’m gonna put in for that. But I was older, you know, I was probably in my. Early forties. So I had to do all the physical fitness. I had to do all the shooting. I had to talk to the psychologist, take all the exams, go through all the interviews, and then finally got chosen to be on it and then realized, I don’t know a thing about hostage negotiating, and it had to learn all that

[00:19:36] Miriam: It would’ve been very interesting to see a movie with like the highlight reel of those years, you know, and to just see the bits and pieces as the person you were continued to evolve and your thinking evolved and your mindset evolved.

[00:19:50] What would you share with our audience about.

Share What You Know

[00:19:54] Negotiation that you know, I’m sure there are certain things that apply [00:20:00] specifically to hostage negotiation that might be of interest, but there are other things that would just apply to negotiation- you know, between your spouses or work or I just would like to hear kind of what you feel are the low hanging fruits of the negotiation training.

[00:20:16] Effective Negotiation

[00:20:16] Terry: Sure. So a couple things, if, if you, if you sort of step back and don’t look at it as, you know, a, a police interaction, but look at it as an interaction amongst two people. And if you think, and what I always used to say is the, is the overarching thing of this entire negotiation. Is trust,

[00:20:37] and, and one of the reasons negotiating was so emotionally and, and physically exhausting was you had to get down in the mud. You had to get down in the weeds with these people.

[00:20:49] There was a movie back in the nineties that Samuel L.

[00:20:52] Jackson star in called the negotiator. So any of your, your audience that saw that movie, people always ask me, is that the way it was? And Samuel L. Jackson was [00:21:00] like, the Superman of negotiations was like, no, that’s absolutely not the way it really works. The way it works is we have a primary negotiator.

It’s a Team Effort

[00:21:07] Somebody that’s actually doing the talking and then we have another negotiator sitting right next to them, listening to everything that’s going. And then we have a group of negotiators who do what I used to call working the crowd. So they’re out there trying to glean intelligence or information. Why are we here?

[00:21:24] What happened? So as the primary, you may get a note from your secondary that says, don’t talk about his mother, because the people in the crowd learned that you were there because he had a big fight with his mother and he grabbed a gun and he barricaded himself in the house. Okay. So we’ll stay away from his mother.

[00:21:40] Now that was great if you had that information, but there was a lot of times where we would just so show up and it was like, I, I have no idea why we’re here. So we need to build that trust. And there were many times where we’d be over here for like two hours talking about something. When the real problem was over here.

Developing Trust

[00:21:58] And we hadn’t even gotten to that because we [00:22:00] were trying to develop trust. One of the ways we did that we developed trust is we never lied to people. So people would, you know, say to us, look, I’ll put the gun down and I’ll come out, but you gotta promise me. I’m not gonna go to jail. And we would have to say, well, I’m sorry, when you come out, you are gonna go to jail.

[00:22:16] Then we try to deflect the conversation into something more positive. So developing trust was one thing. The second thing was the importance of listening and, you know, we always used to get credit for, well, good job. You talk that person out. What we really did is listened that person out. You know, we let them burn off a lot of their emotional energy to the point where, you know, okay, Now there’s silence.


[00:22:42] We don’t like silence as human beings, but we had to be very good with silence of using it to our advantage of not saying anything, not wanting. And, and you probably thought, how did you ever do that, Terry? Cuz you can’t shut up. But you know, it, it it’s really one of those things where we got good at that, where we would just not say [00:23:00] anything and then the other person would, oh gee, this is uncomfortable.

[00:23:03] So they’d start talking again again, burning off more information, but it was listening to understand. Versus listening to respond. Yeah.

[00:23:12] And even today, you know, I mean, we’re screaming at each other today and if I’m screaming at you, Miriam, and you’re screaming at me, I, we don’t understand each other. But if you say something, whether I agree with it or not, and I wanna understand, okay, Miriam, you said that where are you coming from, help me understand that.

[00:23:29] Now we’re communicating as, as human beings. And that’s what we tried to do as, as negotiators.

[00:23:35] Message from LeaveBetter

[00:23:35] [00:24:00]

[00:24:14] Terry: Oh,

[00:24:14] Miriam: Very, very interesting. I wanna pull on the listening thread and ask you you know, whether you are a spouse or you are a boss, an employer, a neighbor, there are many, many situations where somebody is going to have to listen to somebody else and listening to listen and understand is significantly different than listening to respond.

[00:24:40] And we have within us. Oh yeah. But I wanna say I wanna, you know, there’s that space in every human being that wants to be heard and sometimes they don’t even let people finish their sentences before they interrupt.

[00:24:55] What kind of input or advice would you give to help someone listen, [00:25:00] to understand?

[00:25:02] Listen to Understand

[00:25:02] Terry: I always one of the things we used to do and, and what I try to do now is, you know, you say something to me, say it, you know, as a hostage shaker or somebody, just a barricaded subject, you say something to me now, all I’m going to do is parrot that back to you, but I’m gonna attach an emotion to it.

[00:25:22] And, you know, let let’s say somebody and, and, and that’s where there was kind of the nuance you had to. To develop trust. You had to attach the right emotion. So if somebody’s yelling and screaming and, you know, waving their hands and, and they are irate and you say you attach the emotion. You seem a little upset.

[00:25:42] You’ve totally missed the mark there. And that person’s then gonna get mad at just like, what do you mean? I’m a little upset, of course I’m, I’m fury, you know, you have to get to where they are. And again, that’s why I go back to, that’s why it’s so exhausting because you know, you you’re down in the weeds with them.


[00:25:57] You’re, you know, you’re trying to empathize. You’re trying [00:26:00] to, you know, to make all that work and stuff like that. That’s just incredibly hard and incredibly. Exhausting in, in a lot of ways. So, you know, trying to, trying to make people understand. And, and, and I, I think you gotta be careful because, you know, sometimes what you say when you’re negotiating with somebody can sound accusatory, you know, like, oh, are you accusing me of something?

[00:26:24] So I always like to try, when I get to that point, use, use two words. We always talk about, you know, when, why, what, how and all that kind of stuff use these two words use, what and how, you know, if somebody says something to you, you know, it’s like, I want to get out of here. Well, how do you want to do that?

[00:26:45] Now? You know, that puts, that puts the ball back in their court and it makes them start to think about how they’re gonna come out or, you know, you may, they may not even say that, but you may say, how do you see yourself coming [00:27:00] out now they’re helping you get them out where they’re like, wait a minute. I got hostages.

The Hostages Help You Get Them Out

[00:27:05] You know, I’ve no, they don’t even realize that they’re now helping you get themselves out. Cuz now they’ll start thinking about.

[00:27:11] Well, this is the way I see it going super. That’s exactly what I wanted from you. I wanted you to start thinking about how you’re going to come out. So use the words, what and how with people and that way it doesn’t sound so accusatory and it puts the ball kind of back in their court and gets them to the point where they’re helping you solve the problem.

[00:27:32] Miriam: Hmm. I like that

How Negotiation is Like Coaching

[00:27:33] I assume at some level negotiating is similar to coaching or therapy. None of these are the same, but they have overlaps where you’re creating this space and this container where the person can be safe long enough to hear their own thoughts.

[00:27:51] And when they hear their own thoughts, they start saying things like

[00:27:55] “I don’t, I “don’t wanna die.”

[00:27:56] Or in a therapeutic space, “I don’t, I don’t wanna lay in bed all [00:28:00] day.”

[00:28:00] “I wanna do something different” or “I don’t wanna wreck my marriage.”

[00:28:04]Or “I wanna do X or I don’t wanna stay in this job forever.”

[00:28:09] “I would like to pursue something else”

[00:28:12] And it, it takes a space of being able to have enough presence that you can hold and expand and allow the person to almost hear themselves think. Usually solutions lie within the person, if you can help them get quiet enough to access them.

[00:28:31] Terry: Right. And, and that’s why, you know, getting them involved in solving their own problems is so much better.

[00:28:37] I’m getting you to help me get you out or the hostage out or whatever. But you’re now involved in this. Now we’re together in this.

Personal Truths

[00:28:45] Miriam: I love it. Now I’m gonna take a little bit of a tangent change the topic here.

[00:28:49] I mean that one again, we could talk for quite a while on. Yeah, but you had mentioned four truths that help others lead uncommon and extraordinary life. [00:29:00] And you’re you have a book, sustainable excellence. I’m assuming that these four truths and the book have some overlap. I would love for you to talk about your four truths.

[00:29:10] The Four Truths

[00:29:10] Terry: Sure. So the, the four truths are things that I have learned over these last 10 years. Some of them a little bit longer than that. They’re what I call sort of the bedrock of my soul. They’re just a good place to build a, a quality life off of.

[00:29:26] And I have ’em right here on my desk. They’re they’re one sentence each I have ’em on a post-it note. So I see them multiple times during the day, and they constantly get reinforced in my brain.

[00:29:35] The first one is:

[00:29:36] You need to control your mind or your mind is going to control you.

[00:29:41] The second one is:

[00:29:42] embrace the pain and the difficulty that we all experience in life and use that pain and difficulty to make you a stronger and more resolute individual.

[00:29:53] Now The third one is more of like what I like to call a, a legacy truth. And it’s this:

[00:29:58] What you leave [00:30:00] behind is what you weave in the hearts of other people.

[00:30:04] And then the fourth one is:

[00:30:06] As long as you don’t quit, you can never be defeated.

They Work For Me

[00:30:09] So I use those truths. They work for me. I, I mean, I always tell people if they work for you, then my all means take them and incorporate them in your life. If maybe one or two resonate with. Take those and maybe develop your own truths around them. I, I don’t purport to have all the answers, but these for me have worked.

[00:30:27] And like I said, I’m offering to you and your listeners. If they work for you, then by all means, please take them.

[00:30:33] Miriam: Oh, they are amazing. Give me a story that your number one truth a story that illustrates it or utilizes it.

[00:30:42] Terry: Yeah. I I’ll go back to my high school days cuz the number one is really kind of the one that controlling your mind that I learned early in my life.

[00:30:49] I, I had three knee surgeries in high school and I remember when I went back playing basketball, after those knee surgeries, my brain was putting all kinds of negative thoughts [00:31:00] into my mind. You know, things like. Hey, you’re probably a step slower since these operations and coaches, aren’t gonna be interested in reaching out to you about playing for their college or university.

[00:31:08] And I remember thinking, wait a minute, I’m still playing at an elite level and coaches are still reaching out about the possibility of, of going to school on a scholarship. I realized early on that I had to change the narrative. I had to change the negative and put something positive into that, into that space.

[00:31:27] Now the Cleveland clinic, estimate that we have 60 to 70,000 thoughts that pass through our minds every single day, most of which we don’t even pay attention to. But if you think about it, your mind can only hold one thought at a time. Why would you wanna make that a negative thought?

[00:31:46] And, you know, I, I think back to when I was in college, you know, when people would go out, you know, drinking or partying the night before a test and then they’d, you know, come into the test and they’d be hung over and, you know, not feeling good. And so, and what, what did they [00:32:00] always say? Oh, man. I’m gonna blow this test, you know, I’m not gonna do well on this.

[00:32:05] Nobody ever said, yeah, I, I went out drinking last night, but you know what? I paid attention in class during all the lectures I’m gonna do great on that test. Nobody says that everybody goes to the negative. Everybody goes to, yeah, I’m totally gonna blow it. Why would you do that to yourself? Especially when you know, you’re hungover and you know, you’re kind of behind the eight ball anyway.

Find Something Positive

[00:32:23] It’s like, why would you say something negative? Find something positive. And so people ask me, how do. How do you go from being a glass half empty person to being a glass half full person? And what I always tell ’em is it it’s not gonna happen overnight. You’re just not gonna go to bed one night and say, tomorrow, I’m going to be positive and everything’s gonna be great.

[00:32:44] We’re human beings. We’re going to have negative things, negative thoughts that go into our break. Doesn’t make you a bad person. It, it, it’s just the way we are. So don’t beat yourself up when those negative thoughts. Just realize when they happen. Okay. There’s a negative thought, what are [00:33:00] you gonna change it to?

[00:33:00] What positive thing are you going to change it to? And if you do that over time and I, I Miriam you probably know this more than I, I don’t know what the timeframe is, but over time, your brain will start to expect that the positive, then it’s like, no, wait a minute. That’s negative. No, we’re gonna change that immediately to something that’s better for me.

Visualize The Win

[00:33:20] That’s something that’s good for me. And I, I remember back when I was. In high school, there was a coach. I don’t know if this story ever happened, but it certainly sounds interesting. He wanted to improve the free throw shooting percentage of his team. So he split his team in half and after practice every day he had one group shoot, 50 extra free throws.

[00:33:42] He had the other group that would sit on the sidelines, sit on the bench, close their eyes and see themselves shooting those free throws. At the end of the season, he looked at the free throw shooting percentage of that, of the two groups. And he found that the group that never shot a free throw, but always [00:34:00] saw it in their mind, had a better shooting percentage than the group that physically shot more free throws.

[00:34:06] And he, you know, he thought about it for a while and he’s like, well, that’s gotta be because those players. Never missed in their mind. You know, they saw themselves, I made it, I made it, I made it. I, I made it every single time. And Miriam, again, you probably know more about this than I do, but the part of your brain that, that creates the synapse is that creates the, the connections when you’re shooting free throws is the same part of your brain.

Your Brain Is Going To Make Those Connections

[00:34:33] That lights. When you’re thinking about shooting those free throws. So I always tell people, be careful what’s in your mind because we all become what we think. If you think about something long enough, eventually your brain’s gonna make those connections. And that’s the way things are gonna be.

[00:34:52] Miriam: Yeah. If my kids are listening to this podcast, they’re gonna say, mom, did you, did you prep him to say that?

[00:34:59] Did you, [00:35:00] did you pay him to say that stuff? Cuz I say this sort of stuff all the time and I, I think something I would add to that. I mean, without me just going, yeah. Yeah. Mm-hmm I’m with you. Yeah. You’re preaching to the choir here. So many times people think that those negative thoughts are THEM- instead of separating out- it is a thought.

Stand Outside Of Yourself

[00:35:23] One of the things that I like about mindfulness exercises, meditation exercises is that they teach you how to stand outside of yourself. Just enough that you can start seeing those thoughts go by. Oh, that’s a negative thought about me. Oh, that. Positive thought about them, or that’s a thought about lunch, or that’s a thought about, you know, my taxes, whatever.

[00:35:43] And you start seeing that these thoughts are going on almost a freeway in your brain.

[00:35:48] I saw this was in some catalog, like signals and it was a drinking glass. You know, the glass is half full, the glass half empty. And they said, the important thing is that the glass can be refilled.

[00:35:59] And it’s like, [00:36:00] well, yeah, You know, you might be a glass-is-half-empty kind of person, but you don’t have to stay that way.

[00:36:07]  You get the opportunity to make the choice about what you’re filling your glass with.

[00:36:13]  Nobody who has done any of this kind of work would say that it’s easy. It actually takes work to not stay on automatic and to be able to sort of look at your thoughts and go, okay, well, what am I actually thinking?


[00:36:27] And then there’s another step of saying, do I wanna continue to think that? Then another step of what do I wanna think instead? And those can happen in milliseconds.  Then while your brain is learning this trick of trying to think something new, it tries to grab the old thought back over and over

[00:36:45] however many times you’ve thought it before.

[00:36:48] I don’t know that this is scientifically exactly how it works, but I was listening to something this morning where they were talking about how every time you participate in a different kind of [00:37:00] thinking you’re laying down another layer on your myelin, sheath and helping that neuron connectivity happen quicker.

[00:37:06] And it was stated by a scientist, but I don’t have the research to back that up. So I’ll just, I’ll just put it down as anecdotal.

[00:37:14] But I think that so many times people say, well, I tried it, it didn’t work. And they just go back to their old ways and it’s like, How many years of how many days of how many moments did you have those negative thoughts?

It’s Going To Take Longer

[00:37:27] It’s going to take a lot longer to shift into that other space, but my goodness is it worth it

[00:37:33] because those people who visualize the free throws, you know, look at how it impacted their, the performance for lack of a better word.

[00:37:42] And isn’t that what we all want to perform at our higher selves or our better selves.

[00:37:51] Yeah. Okay. So give me give me a story from number three, understanding what you leave behind is what you weave into the hearts of other [00:38:00] people. I, I love the, even the poeticness of that statement. Yeah.

[00:38:04] Terry: I, I, I mean, like I said, that’s a, that’s a legacy truth. I think it’s important regardless of what stage of life we’re in to sort of look at the end game, you know, what are people gonna say about you at your funeral?

What Are They Going To Say At Your Funeral?

[00:38:17] What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? You know, I, I have friends that still read the obituary page in the newspaper or online for two reasons. One to keep themselves humble and two to remind themselves that someday somebody’s gonna be reading their obituary. I remember when I had my leg amputated and I found out I had these tumors in my lungs.

[00:38:39] I, I went with my wife to the, to the mortuary and to the church and to the cemetery and I planned my funeral

[00:38:46] I got some brush back from people who were like planning your funeral.

[00:38:49] That’s kind of defeatist don’t you think? And you know, I had to remind these people that the last time I checked, we’re all going to die. Don’t think anybody’s working on a cure for life right now. [00:39:00] Every one of us is going to. But not every one of us is really going to live.

[00:39:06] And I heard a native American Blackfoot proverb years ago that absolutely love.

The Proverb

[00:39:10] And it goes like this:

[00:39:12] When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way so that when you die, The world cries and you rejoice.

[00:39:24] That’s what I want. That’s what I’m looking for. You know, don’t get me wrong. I’m not looking to has of my demise in any way, shape or form, but death isn’t nearly as scary for me because I believed, I found my purpose on this earth and I lived that purpose.

[00:39:38] Yeah.

[00:39:40] Miriam: Yeah. I felt like when you finished that there needed to be a mic drop or something.

[00:39:46] That that’s quite a Proverb and quite something to think about.

[00:39:50] Hmm. My goodness. This is really fun. I’m having a great time with this interview. Very fun. Good. Tell me about your book.

[00:39:59] Sustainable Excellence


[00:39:59] Terry: Yeah, [00:40:00] sustainable excellence was a book that was really born out of two conversations.

[00:40:04] One was with the former basketball player that I had coached to move to Colorado with her fiance’ and my wife and I had had dinner with the two of them one night. And I remember after dinner saying to her, you know, I’m really excited that you’re living close and I can watch you find and live your purpose.

Live Your Purpose

[00:40:21] And she got real quiet for a while. And then she looked at me and she’s like, well, coach, what do you think my purpose is. I said, I have no idea where your purpose is, but that’s what your life should be about. Finding the reason you were put on the face of this earth and then living that reason. So that was one conversation.

[00:40:36] And then I had a young man reach out to me on social media. He was in college and getting ready to graduate. And he said, what do you think are the things I need to learn to not just be successful in my job or in business, but to be successful in life?

[00:40:50] I didn’t want to give them the, you know, get up early work hard, help others kinda stuff.

[00:40:54] Not that those aren’t important. They are incredibly important, but I wanted to see if maybe I could go deeper with him.

Ten Ideas

[00:40:59] [00:41:00] So I spent some time, I took some notes. I, you know, I had these 10 thoughts, these 10 ideas, these 10 principles. And so I sent them to him. Then I kind of stepped back and I was like, well, I got a life story that fits underneath that principle, or I know somebody whose life emulates that principle.

[00:41:16] So literally during the three month period after I had my leg amputated and before I started chemotherapy for the tumors in my lungs, While I was healing. I sat down at the computer every day and I built stories. And they’re real stories about real people underneath each of the principles. That’s how Sustainable Excellence: the 10 principles leading to leading your uncommon and extraordinary life came about.

[00:41:40] Miriam: , I assume it’s on Amazon

[00:41:42] Terry: Pretty much anywhere you can get a book online, you can get Sustainable Excellence.

[00:41:45] Miriam: Very good. Have you always been a high motivational type person?

[00:41:53] Terry: Yeah,

There’s No “S” On My Chest

[00:41:57] I mean, I have, and, but I guess what I [00:42:00] want people to understand is that, you know, I mean, you’re looking at me right now. There’s no S on my chest. I don’t wear a Cape. I have down days. There are days where I cry. I have days where I feel sorry for myself. And when I do, I remember a couple stories and, and I’ll tell ’em to you real quick.

[00:42:16] The first one was about a professor back in the 1950s at Johns Hopkins University, who did a very simple experiment- he took rats and he put ’em in a tank of water that were over their head and he wanted to see how long the average rat could tread water.

[00:42:30] The average rat tried to water for about 15 minutes. And just as those rats were getting ready to sink and to drown, he reached in, grabbed them, pulled them out, dried ’em off, let ’em rest for a while. And then it took the exact same rats and put ’em back in the exact same tank of water. The second time around those rats treaded water on average.

Hope Matters

[00:42:51] For 60 hours. So think about that the first time, 15 minutes, I’m just not gonna fail. You know, I started a business, my business, but I’m gonna die. I’m gonna drown [00:43:00] in this tank of water the second time, around 60 hours, which said to me, two things, number one, the importance of hope in our lives. We have to believe that maybe not this week, maybe not next month, maybe not even next year, sometime down the road, our life is going to get better.

[00:43:15] And the second thing that it, it taught me was. We can handle our physical bodies can handle so much more than we ever thought they could. Now don’t get me wrong. I think everybody has a breaking point, but that breaking point is so much farther down the road than we ever thought it would be.

[00:43:33] My wife works with a young man who.

40% vs 60%

[00:43:35] Was a former Navy seal, some of the toughest men in the world and the seals have what they call their 40% rule, which basically says if, if you’re done, if you’re at the end of your rope, if you can’t go on, you’re only at 40% of your maximum. And you still have another 60% left and reserved to give to yourself.

[00:43:54] So whenever I get into those dark places and believe me, I do. But when you get into those dark places, [00:44:00] realize you have so much more left to give to yourself.

[00:44:05] Miriam: Wow. One of the things that I think is I interesting about this particular podcast is I haven’t asked you any of the questions I normally ask people and I’m trying to decide if I want to or not, because I just like where we’ve gone.

[00:44:20] And I feel like that to me, seems like an appropriate place to, to call it a good. Cause people need hope, and you have so much more in you than you think.

[00:44:31] Before we got on and started recording. We were talking about the various charities that I like to support. And you chose a donation to Mercy Ships.

Mercy Ships

[00:44:40] So we will be doing that in your honor. And Mercy Ships helps people who need surgeries off the coast of Africa. They’re in Senegal this year, taking care of myofacial surgeries and corrective surgeries- so legs. As someone who formerly could, you know, walk under your own power , I think that [00:45:00] has a meaningful space to you.

[00:45:02] Terry: It does you for doing that

[00:45:04] Miriam: oh yeah. What a delight. Can I have you come back again? Sure. I would. I’d love to do another interview. That’d be great. It’s a date then. Thanks again.

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Music by Tom Sherlock.

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