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Life Lessons From Cancer; Principles to Live More Purposefully: 18

In this episode I talk to Terry Tucker about his various careers that ultimately prepared him for the biggest battle of his life, cancer. While dealing with his diagnosis and life after amputation, he came to a realization that there were several lessons he wanted to share about finding your life's purpose. He believes everyone is born to lead an uncommon and extraordinary life and that has nothing to do with where you work, how much money you make, or where you live. Living with purpose can take some investigation, but it's definitely worth it.

One of the great lessons is finding a way to live your life's purpose even if it has nothing to do with your day job. This concept is something often forgotten, but no doubt one of the things you can implement to make your life more purpose driven and joyful. I loved this talk with Terry and I hope you to to!

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Sustainable Excellence Book

Episode Transcript

Cheryl McColgan: Everyone, welcome back to Heal Nourish Grow podcast. Today, I have a guest that I'm really excited to share with you, we've actually been planning this for a couple of months, and we're finally recording today and is Terry Tucker. So welcome, Terry. And if you could just tell the folks a little bit about your backgrounds though, before we go into what we're actually gonna talk about, they have some idea of where you're coming from, basically.

Terry Tucker: Sure, thanks for having me on, Cheryl. I'm really looking forward to talking with you. I'll try to give you the Reader's Digest version of my background, you can't tell this for my voice or from looking at me, but I'm 6 foot 8 inches tall and played college basketball at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. After growing up in Chicago, I'm actually the oldest of three boys, I have a brother who's 67, who was a picture for the University of Notre name baseball team, I have another brother who's six, put six… It was drugs about the Cleveland Cavaliers in the national passport on, and then my dad was… I put five, so I kind of joke that if you stat behind our family growing up in church, there wasn't a prayer chance you were gonna see anything that was going on whatsoever, but our 58-inch mother was really the boss, it didn't matter how big, tall strong we were whatever. Mom says That's the way I went. After I graduated from college and moved home to find a job, I'm really gonna date myself now, but this was long before the Internet was available, and I was all set to make my mark on the world with my newly at Business Administration degree.

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Living with Purpose

Terry Tucker: And I look back now and realize what a knucklehead was if they can't do anything about business just because I had a degree, fortunately, I found that first job in the corporate headquarters of Wendy's International, the hamburger chain. Unfortunately, I ended up living with my parents for the next three and a half years, is that my mom cared for my father and my grandmother who are both dying in different forms of cancer, in terms of my professional career, as I mentioned, started out of Wendy's… Then became a hospital administrator, and then did a major pivot in my life and became a police officer, and I worked undercover narcotics, there was a team hostage negotiator, I had my own school security consulting business, was a girls high school basketball coach. Became a motivational speaker last year, became an author, but for the last, I guess, 10 years now, I've been battling this rare form of cancer, and then finally… My wife and I have been married for 28 years. We have one child, a daughter, there's a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and is an officer in the new branch of the military, the space force.

Cheryl McColgan: Wow, that is some exciting things there, and even if you had never done anything else, what a diverse and interesting background, and that's actually one of the reasons I was very excited to talk to you because we really have a surprising amount in common… First of all, I live in Cincinnati. I think you already knew that, so you know my area event and you know Ohio secondly, another thing I'm very passionate about is really focusing on nutrition and practices to try to activate autophagy for disease prevention, 'cause there is a lot of cancer in my family, and you just mentioned not only yourself that your parents had some cancer as well, but you've still been able to accomplish all of these wonderful things, and I think that that's kind of what you put into your book, your background as a college athlete, as a SWAT team member, you're dealing with some very diverse situations there, an adverse situation, so can you start to describe a little bit, obviously the things that you learned or amazing, and I'm so glad that people can pick up this book and you've distilled it down and to believe, I think 10 points for one of the books and then also kind of…

Cheryl McColgan: For truth, that you've learned. So maybe you can just go into some of the background on how you came to all of that. Yeah, it is.

Thinking Purpose Was in the Job

Terry Tucker: If you look at my resume, I sort of all over the place. I kind of joked that when he says, they gotta figure out what I'm gonna do when I grow up, but I always wanted to be in law enforcement. And if you look at my first two jobs, they're not their business, and that's because my grandfather… My dad's dad was a Chicago police officer from 1924 to 1954. So I was in Chicago during Prohibition, when alcohol was outlawed during The Great Depression in the 20s and 30s, and when the gangs, Al Capone and all those folks were shooting up the town, and he was actually shot in the line of duty with his own gun, it was not a serious injury, a shot in the ankle, but my dad always remember their stories my grandmother told of Mrs. Tucker, the knock on the door, Sagar son come with us. Or husband's been shot. So when I expressed interest in sort of following my dreams, my dad was like, Oh no, no, no, no, you're gonna go in college, you're gonna major a business, you're gonna get out, you're gonna get a great job, get married at 24 kids and live half the way up rebut, that's what my dad wanted me to do, and so I had a choice, as I mentioned, when I graduated from college, he was sick, he was dying of cancer, so I could blaze my own trail and say, sorry, Dan, I'm gonna do this, or I could out of love and respect for you.

Terry Tucker: Do what you wanted me to do. And that's what I did. I started my first two jobs in business, and I sort of joke, I did what every good sun did, write to my dad passed away and then I followed my own dreams, and that's really… Everything I've learned has kind of been a culmination of these different things that have occurred in my life, the milestones, whatever you wanna call, we all have them in our life, and I've just been lucky enough to tuck them away. One of the things I learned was, my dad was diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer, and pretty much in the 1980s, they didn't know how to treat a man with breast cancer, so I pretty much sent him home to die, but he lived another three and a half years, and I believe he did, because he had a purpose, he went to work up to two weeks before he died, and his passion was real estate, and so I kind of tucked that away and I'm like, Oh, it's interesting, I don't think if he would have been somebody that would just laying in bed and kind of let the disease progressed, he would have lived that one…

Terry Tucker: No, he was able to get up and say, Okay, this is… I still have a value in life, I still have a purpose of why… Whatever you wanna call it. And he would go to work every day, and I think that helped him live, and so I think we all have to have that, whether we're sick and dining or we're at some stage and are like, We have to find our why, we have to find our reason for being here, we're not all born with the same gifts and talents, but we all have the ability to become the best person that we're capable of becoming.

Cheryl McColgan: And you talked about finding your way, which is something I like to talk about a lot as well. Can you talk a little bit about… And this comes from a personal experience in my own, because I had a cancer scare myself, it wasn't cancer thankfully, but with all the incidents of my family, it would not have been surprising, so I was kind of prepared for the worst, but it did definitely create a big mind shift in me at the time, so can you talk a little bit about when you were first diagnosed and some of them… Obviously, there's a lot of feelings and things behind that, but how did that affect your why and then how did you move forward from there?

Living With Purpose after Cancer Diagnosis

Terry Tucker: Yeah, that's a great question. When I was diagnosed, I was a girls high school basketball coach in Texas, and I had a callis break open and the bottom of my right below my third toe, and I didn't think much of it initially, I was a coach, I was on my feet a lot but after a couple of weeks of it not healing, I went to see a podiatrist, a foot doctor friend of mine, and he took an X-ray and the Terry… I think you have a system there and I can cut it out, and he did and he shorted, so it was just a little Goleta sack was to what? Fat in it. But he sent it off to pathology anyway, and then two weeks later, I get this come from Him, and as I said, he was a friend and the more difficulty he was telling me what was going on, the more frightened I was becoming an Olin… That he just laid it out for him. He said, Terry, have been a doctor for 25 years, I have never come across this form of cancer, you have a rare form of melanoma that appeared on…

Terry Tucker: That appears on the bottom of the feet. Or the palms of the hands. And I recommend you go to MD. Anderson Cancer Center. And you gonna be treated. And I was just like everybody else, and going about my life, I had a family, I was coaching basketball, I had a consulting business, and yet I get hit right between the eyes with this, Wait a minute, your life is gonna do a complete 180 and you're going in an entirely different direction, but I went through all the emotions that we talk about when we think about grief, is like I was in denial, No, I'd done everything right in my life… How can I possibly have cancer? Now I was mad, I bargained with God, I did all these things, and then I just got to a point where I was like, these are the cards that I've been done, I don't like these cards, but I have to play them and I have to pay them to the best of my ability. And so that's what I did, and I've been asked several times, who do you blame because you got cancer greatest in society for not taking our responsibility for own success and happy, 'cause we gotta blame somebody with our boss, our status in life, our parents, whoever it is, who do you blame? I'm like, I don't blame anybody.

Terry Tucker: And people have said, you know, You must play in God.

Cheryl McColgan: Don't think God got up into Tuesday morning, checked us to do a list and said, Terry, take answer.

Terry Tucker: I don't think that happened. And so I started worrying about why and started focusing on, well, with whatever time I've got left, what can I do to make a difference in the world? What can I do to put goodness, to put happiness, to put peace but love back into the world. And as I said, you know, my purpose at one time I felt was to be a police officer and I pursued that purpose, but now I just think my purpose, like I said, with whatever time I have left on the SORT, is to put as much goodness as much positivity back into this world. So I think our purposes can change as we go through life, and I guess the other thing I wanna say about that is a lot of times we think of our purpose as being our job, our job has to be our purpose or… Or what… It doesn't… You can have a job over here that you do to pay the bills, but your purpose is to write or to be an activist or a pain or whatever you feel in your heart that your purpose is supposed to be so don't feel that Well, if your job is in your purpose.

Terry Tucker: Doesn't necessarily have to be that.

Cheryl McColgan: Yeah, I think that's such a great reminder to people, 'cause I think people often get caught up in that and not to offend any of my younger listeners here, but I think that that is a thing that you really hold in your mind when you're a younger person, and you're first starting to make your way in life that your job has to be the thing that makes a difference, and as you get a little older and wiser and have some scars like we have, then you've become to realize, well, maybe just putting your energy out in the world on a daily basis, that is totally something separate from your job is another way that you can affect positivity and create healing and spread a larger message than just what you do to make money every day. So thanks for bringing that point to greater light, and I would assume that that as part of that journey for you, one of the ways to reach more people and to share your message is number one, coming on some shows or speaking on stage. You said you're a motivational speaker, but then you also have the book part, so how did you start to decide to write…

Cheryl McColgan: Did you ever do that before, and then what was the progression until you distilled these teachings down into one single cohesive book. How did that all happen?

Living With Purpose: What Are You Meant For?

Terry Tucker: Yeah, I've always, I, I sort of excelled, I guess. If I ever did excel as a student, my mother would probably tell you that I didn't, but Math, Science, love science, not very good at math, but I enjoy reading and writing, and so I've always been drawn to that, and I've never really written a book before, and so I really… The book was born out of two conversations I had, one was with a former basketball player that I had coached and she had moved to the area where my wife and I live now with her fiance, and we had had done with her one night, and I remember looking at her and said, Hey, you know, I'm really excited that you're living close and I can watch you find and live your purpose. And she got real quiet with me for a while, and then he kinda looked at me and she was like, Well, coach, what do you think my purpose is? So I have no idea of what 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.

Terry Tucker: So that was one conversation, and then I had a young man reach out to me on social media and ask me what I thought were the most important things he should learn to not just be successful in his job or a business, but to be successful in life. And I didn't wanna give them to get up early, work hard, help others. Not that those aren't important. They are, they're very important, but I wanted to see if I could go deeper with him, so I thought about it for a while, and I wrote notes, and eventually I had these 10 thoughts, these 10 ideas, these 10 principles, and so I sent them to him and then I kinda stepped back and I was like, Well, you know, I've got a life story that fits underneath this principle, or I know somebody who's like emulates that principle. So literally, I had my leg amputated in April of 2020, and I started chemotherapy for the tumors in my lungs in June of 2020, and during that approximately three month period where I was healing, I sat down at the computer every day and built stories underneath each of the principles…

Terry Tucker: And That's how Sustainable Excellence came to be.

Cheryl McColgan: I love that, and I want to… Without not giving too much of it away, 'cause obviously people should go read the book if they want the details of these thoughts, but can you maybe hit on just maybe two or three of… Not what you think are the most important, but just kind of whatever comes to your heart first, and share just a little bit of the story or the maybe life incident that led to that revelation. Yeah.

Terry Tucker: It's always fun for me as an author, I've never birth the child, and I'm probably glad I didn't do that, but this is as close as I've ever come to having something that I've created, and it's fun for me when people read the book, and there's always one principle, and again, the principles are not in any particular order, number one, is it any more important than number five or anything like that, but there's always one principle that resonates with the reader, and so for me, that principal and even as the author, one resonated with me, and it's this is that most people think with their fears and their insecurities instead of using their minds, and I know I've done… I've probably done it hundreds of times in my life where I wanted to do something, but I'm a little scared about that, What if I fail or What are people gonna say about me if I'm not successful with this? So that's always one that really kinda… I think it's important, at least to me, and I'll give you another one. It's about failing and nobody starts out to fail, nobody goes into to anything to say, you know him.

Terry Tucker: I know I'm gonna mess this up, but I thought back to college, when I knew guys the night before a big test would go out and party, and then they would come into the test and… What are you always here? And I know this was… You're not unique to me, but people would be like, Man, I'm really tired and really depressed, I'm really down, I'm really drunk, whatever it was, I'm gonna blow this test, I'm not gonna do good. Why would you say that to yourself? You know, Why wouldn't you at least give yourself the benefit of it out and be like, You know, I paid attention during class and I know this stuff pretty well, I'm gonna do great on this, but… We always seem to go to the negative. And one of the chapters is about failing and failing often, especially when you're young, and you know that our brains are hard-wired to avoid pain and discomfort and to seek pleasure, so to the brain, the status quo is good. The way things are right now. They're fine leaving alone. Don't mess with it. The problem with that is the only way we're gonna grow, the only way we're gonna get better is to step outside that comfort zone, and I always recommend to people…

Terry Tucker: And I try to do this every day of my life. Just do one thing every day that makes you uncomfortable, that makes you nervous, that's potentially embarrassing for you, it doesn't have… Me know the other day, I hate going to the dentist, but they picked up the phone, I'm like, Yo know what, I'm gonna make an appointment. It's time for my six-month appointment to go to the dentist, and for me, that was uncomfortable, like I said, they don't have to be huge things, but if you do those things every day, you do that one thing every day that makes you a lot nervous, makes you a little uncomfortable. That scares you a little bit. When the big things in life happen and they happen to all of us, we lose somebody that's close to us, we lose our job or living out of our car, whatever that ends up being, you'll be much more resilient and be able to handle those big things when they come down the pipe. If you do one thing every day that makes you a little bit uncomfortable, and so I recommend that to people, and then I think the last chapter is about love, and I know I've had a lot of macro kind of jobs in my life and been an athlete and stuff like that, you guys don't talk about love, but love is…

Terry Tucker: I remember when I was a little kid, I was very much an admirer of a man, but now John Wood, who was a basketball coach at UCLA back in the 70s, and as it's hugely successful coach. And I remember listening to an interview with one day and I'm so sad, it was kind of a Dem seat, I didn't know if I was taking notes. The reporter asked him what he thought the most important thing in any occupation to any job in life was, and I'm ready for some X as a nose that I'm gonna be able to use on the basketball court. He simply said, love, love is the most important word in any language, love is the most important thing that we can do in any language, in anything that we do, and as I said, we're not all born with the same gifts and talents, but we can all be the best person that we're capable of becoming, and it all comes down… I've always believed this, we're all here for a reason, and that reason is to serve, whether you believe in God, to serve your God, whether you believe you to help other people to make their lives better, so take that love using in service to whatever gifts you have, and I think you're gonna have a really great life.

Living With Purpose Outside of Your Work

Cheryl McColgan: I think nobody even heard the other eight tips that you give in the book or a tenant, I think those are two really, really important ones, and certainly over the years, I have a lot of background with psychology and with yoga and with Buddhism and those kinds of things are well woven into that and just things like… For me, for example, putting out this podcast or putting out the education and videos and things that I do on social media, there is nothing scarier in my head, I've been doing that, and yet for me, what makes it worthwhile is when I do occasionally get feedback from somebody that say, Hey, that really helped me, and I was… Even if it's just one person that I feel that I have done my purpose on Earth, and so thank you for sharing those lessons 'cause I do think that they are very scary for people and sometimes hard to put into practice, but the more that you do it, the more potential rewards that you get out of that and the more people that you potentially help, so… Those are really excellent. Just to shift gears a little bit, since this podcast is primarily about health practices and nutrition and things like that, I am sure over the years in dealing with both your dad's cancer and learning about this on your own, are there maybe some practices or things that you have added into your life that have, if not affected necessarily the disease process, but have affected maybe the way that you approach it mentally and the way that you feel on a day-to-day basis, just anything that you may be added over time.

Terry Tucker: Yeah, my brothers and I always talk about, if we knew now back when we were athletes and things like that, what we know now, how much better our training would have been, how much better our nutrition would have been, and things like that, and it's like, Gosh, I wish they… Witty are where you are. And I remember when… One of the diagnostic tools that used to be used on me before I developed the tumors in my lungs was what was called the PET scan, and basically when a pescara is, they inject radioactive sugar into your body with the thought that tumor cells have a higher metabolism than the rest of yourselves, and they'll pick it up at a higher rate, and then they glow on the machine… Well, I'm not the brightest bar in the woods, but I kind of figured, Well, if sugar is being picked up by cancer self, Maybe I shouldn't eat a lot of sugar, and I know everything we have that we consume pretty much I sugar into… And I get that, but I really do try to stay away from the things that I don't eat. Dessert, sir, that's not true.

Terry Tucker: I eat sugar for Owen. I try to stay away from the bread, the carbs, the things that have sugar in them and eat more, I have a morning smoothie that has all kinds of organic fruits and vegetables and things like that, and it makes me feel better. I don't know if it's doing anything from a disease point of view, but I figure out at least I can do what I know to make me as healthy as I can be, to go through these very difficult treatments and things like that, so… Yeah, I used to exercise like crazy since I've lost my leg, it's a little bit more difficult, but if you walk out of my office, or for me, I'm in a wheelchair, so when I roll out of my office, I passed by the steps and I challenge myself every time I leave my office or I go into my office to do 10 push-ups, now they're kind of modified push-ups on the steps because I only have one leg, but just do that and then move on and little things like that. I have a friend that is a former Navy SEAL who used to work with my wife, or I actually does work with my wife now, but with former military, and he used to set a time where it is test that periodically.

Terry Tucker: Okay, when the timer goes, Alright, we're gonna do 10 squats, or We're gonna do 10 push-ups, whatever it is, and it's just a small… Those making those small differences, and we tend to want to… It's the old job hotel at one bite at a time, you have to break things down into manageable parts, and again, this is something else that I talk about is that you know, we wanna get better, we wanna lose weight. Oh, okay, well, what if you, instead of saying, I gotta lose 40 pounds, what if you just want 1% every day? Or what if you just got 1% better every day at whatever it is, at the end of a month, you're 30% better than when you start, so instead of trying to eat the elephant all at once, break it down to something that's manageable that you can digest, for lack of a better word, and you can handle… And that way you'll get to your goal, but you're not gonna obsess about it and drive yourself crazy.

Cheryl McColgan: It's such a wonderful piece of practical advice too, 'cause as you know from what I said about the podcast, obviously a lot of people that listen to this are trying to learn new health practices are working on losing later, working on being healthier, particularly this time of the year, we're recording in January of 2022, and so it's a month where people tend to be very focused on goals, and I think that that's such amazing advice. Just breaking it down into small steps, working on being 1% better every day. Wonderful advice for people. Before we move along into anything else, I just wanna put this in here so that I absolutely don't forget, I usually don't, but just in case, where can people find more about you more about your work, any website, social media that you're active on, and where they can buy the book. So.

Terry Tucker: The easiest way to get in touch with me or to get to my social media site is I have a blog called motivational check, and every day I put up a thought for the day, along with a question that kinda makes you think about it a little bit maybe how you can apply it to your life. Mondays, I put up a Monday morning motivational message, which is usually a video or a story that may be a little bit longer, but I understand people's time is at a premium, so always say If you need a quick hint of inspiration or motivation, go to motivational check dot com, you can leave me a message there, you can get access to my social media sites, you can get access to my book, which pretty much is available anywhere, you can get a book online, so it's available through Amazon, arsinoe dot com, Apple iBooks, anywhere you can get a book online. You can get sustainable excellence.

Cheryl McColgan: Fantastic, and I didn't… I don't know why I didn't know this, but I didn't know about the website, so that's gonna be added to my new little warning list to your sometimes to go to and get some good motivation to start the day. Anything that we haven't covered yet so far that you think is important for people to take away from this interview, any other words of tension or advice or just life hacks, whatever other wonderful knowledge and insight you have for us… I'd love for you to share that with some final thoughts… Sure, so I'll leave you with.

Terry Tucker: I guess, his final story. I've always been a big fan of westerns growing up, my mom and dad used to let me stay up and watch wildest a Gunsmoke and Bonanza and things like that. 1993, the movie tombstone came out, the very popular movie, start Volker, many, the name of John Doc Holiday and Kurt Russell as a man by the name of Why at her now do holiday and in or two living breathing human beings walked on the face severe… They're not just made up characters for the movie, and Doc was called dock because he was a dentist by trade, but pretty much do holiday was a gunslinger in a card sharp and why it had been a law man his entire life, and these two men from entirely opposite backgrounds formed this very close French, and at the end of the movie, there's a scene where Doc is dying at a hospital in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which is about three hours from my house, the real do holiday died in that hospital, and he's beringia spring cemetery. And why at this point in his life is destitute, He has no money, has no job, he has no prospects for a job, survey day comes to play cards with dock and the two men past the time that way, and then to see…

Terry Tucker: They're talking about what they want out of life. And Doc says, You know, I was in love with my cousin when I was younger, but she joined a convent over the affair, but she's all that I ever want, and he looks at why it… And he says, How about you? What, what do you want? What kind of nonchalantly says, I just wanna lead a normal life, and to flip it, if it says there's no normal, there's just life and get on with living yours… Sure what you and I both know people that are kind of sitting out there that are kinda holding back like when this happens, autonomy, when that happens, are the successful… When this happens, it a significant life, I guess what I'm saying, you don't wait, don't wait for life to come to you, get out there, find the reason you're put on the face of this earth and live that reason, because if you do, I'm gonna promise you two things at the end of your life, one, you're gonna be a whole lot happier, and two, you're gonna have a whole lot more peace in your heart…

Cheryl McColgan: I love it, Terry, and I appreciate you so much, and I appreciate the work that you're doing, because I think that your message is could not be better timing in this world that we're living in these days, especially because you never know what's gonna be around the next corner. So thank you again for joining us and I look forward to reading more and seeing more of your work.

Terry Tucker: Thank you, Cheryl. Thanks for having me on.