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Terrance McMahon: “Love your fate”

I developed my own algorithm for transformation and Re-Creation. The first step required me to make some decisions about my old life. Decisions, keep in mind, is a misunderstood word. People think decisions add to the context of one’s life, but the word itself means to cut away. The etymology of “de” stems from the […]

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I developed my own algorithm for transformation and Re-Creation. The first step required me to make some decisions about my old life. Decisions, keep in mind, is a misunderstood word. People think decisions add to the context of one’s life, but the word itself means to cut away. The etymology of “de” stems from the phrase “away from.” While “cision” means “to cut”. Stephen Covey said that to change the fruit you need to change the roots. So that is precisely what I did. I cut out toxic things, people, and habits from my life. I went from TMac, the overweight party guy (a combo of the Wolf of Wall Street and Tommy Boy) to Terrance McMahon.


As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Terrance McMahon.

Terrance McMahon is the retired CEO of MassMutual Northern New England. In 2016, McMahon was the recipient of a life-saving liver transplant. He has since re-created himself as a best-selling author, TEDx speaker and social media influencer.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

It was 1991. I had a baby on the way — that in and of itself was daunting, now add to that the fact that I was pretty much stuck and had to leave school. So, on top of impending fatherhood, I also had no degree of which to speak. And if you recall in 1991, we witnessed something of a financial crisis. As an about-to-be dad, I had to figure out some means of sustaining a family. Door to door insurance sales life, here I come.

Fortunately, I had a knack for the gig and managed to build a successful and sustainable business in the financial services industry. Over the course of the next 25 years in fact, I figured out the systems and algorithms necessary for creating an extremely lucrative company with over 600 agents and brokers, 50k plus clients, all the while managing over a billion dollars. I’d made it as far as I was concerned: I was a CEO raking in seven figures.

Here’s the thing…yes, I may have been killing it, but I was also killing myself in the process. From day one, I found ways to self-medicate away the panic and stress — largely by way of alcohol. Granted, I was a functioning alcoholic, but an alcoholic, nevertheless. I blew up to 350 pounds. Finally, on May 26, 2016, I went to the ER. I simply was not feeling well at all and thought I should get checked out. I was having heart palpitations, and thought it was related to my heart in some capacity. It turns out my liver was in the process of shutting down — quickly. They told me I had, at most, six months left to live if I was unable to get a transplant. No longer the rock star CEO, I was now a sad alcoholic on a transplant list awaiting a miracle, as I needed a liver right away to save my life.

It was indeed an 11th hour transplant that saved me. The donor was high risk, as he’d been a prisoner and IV drug user. But, having no choice — of course, I gratefully accepted the liver. It was a miracle in every sense. And because of this second chance at life, I knew that I did not want to simply rehabilitate myself (as is the common mantra of the addiction industry), rather I sought true Re-Creation. So that is exactly what I did. I retired from the financial field, authored several books, and ultimately became a social media influencer encouraging people on similar paths.

Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.

Just to “qualify” for a liver transplant, I had to go to rehab because, of course the medical team saw me as an alcoholic, and why would they waste a valuable donor’s liver on an alcoholic? I was thus sent to rehab even though I was told that I had, at most, maybe two more months to live. The Mayo Clinic informed me that I was likely inoperable — my sodium levels were far too low for a surgery of this nature.

I remember my kids were visiting me in the hospital. As I looked up at them, I could not shake the feeling that this might be the last time I saw them. My brother also came; as I wanted to review my financial plan with him, in the very likely event of my passing. We were discussing how my assets would be distributed. I allocated money to various members of my family and organizations and then…I just felt completely empty inside. Sure, I would be able to provide for those I loved, but what had my life truly amounted to? They would remember me as this sad guy who drank himself to death.

When everyone left my room, and it was just me and my mom, she noted that my breath started to smell like “death” — this ammonia laden smell…it was time. And then, out of the blue, came that 11th hour miracle, a phone call that would lead to the chain of events that would ultimately save my life.

What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?

My sons loomed largely in the forefront of my mind. I did not want them to see me as broken or pathetic. I wanted them to see a man who was knocked down in potentially one of the worst ways possible, but somehow got back up. The Japanese have a mending process call kintsugi, where they put broken pottery back together with gold lacquer. It is not really restored, as the cracks are not hidden; rather, it is transformed so that these fractures and scars become the art. And the repaired piece is even more valuable than the original. That was the mindset I held onto throughout my ordeal.

Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?

Plain and simple, I had to go underground to Re-Create myself. In order to heal, I disappeared from those I had known, from everyone really. I once read that the bamboo tree grows underground for 5 years, showing no signs of anything, and then suddenly it shoots up 3 feet a day, to 80 feet within 6 weeks. I wanted to be like that bamboo tree — just show up one day and bring with me something new and better into the world.

So, I moved. I stopped binging on booze and binged on books instead. I changed my diet and unhealthy habits, as well as my social circles. I sold my remaining assets, and I took some real time to work on me. I gave myself a reputation that I wanted to live up to.

Based on your experience, can you share a 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I developed my own algorithm for transformation and Re-Creation. The first step required me to make some decisions about my old life. Decisions, keep in mind, is a misunderstood word. People think decisions add to the context of one’s life, but the word itself means to cut away. The etymology of “de” stems from the phrase “away from.” While “cision” means “to cut”. Stephen Covey said that to change the fruit you need to change the roots. So that is precisely what I did. I cut out toxic things, people, and habits from my life. I went from TMac, the overweight party guy (a combo of the Wolf of Wall Street and Tommy Boy) to Terrance McMahon.

So, step one is to cut away from the old you.

Step two is to install a new heroic identity: Your superhero self (which represents the basis of my book). Give yourself a reputation that you want to live up to. People kept telling me I was an addict with a disease with no cure…ever. But I refused to be a victim, as I wanted to be a superhero, one who had actual purpose and made a difference in the world.

The last step is to take small steps. I have always been fascinated by the domino effect. This is when tiny little dominos have stored energy called amplified force. When pushed forward, this small little domino has enough “action potential” to knock over another domino and this can continue ad infinitum. I also learned that the 2” domino has additional action potential to knock over a 3” domino: 150%. So, when you think about this in the context of your life, you really do have the capacity to line up bigger dominos every day and knock them down every day. I started with small, but meaningful steps, if you will, those which I could easily knock over. At first it was just drinking more water and taking short walks, and that eventually turned into longer and faster walks and bike rides and that evolved into yoga, meditation and other modalities. The key is to be strategic and chip away at the things you can handle as you work to take on more and more.

People usually don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan. I certainly didn’t start with a very good plan; as it wasn’t until May 26, 2016 that I even realized I needed a better plan and here I was an actual financial planner.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I get this question a lot, and it’s a very difficult one for me to answer because so many different events and experiences conspired together for me to become who I am today. My faith in Almighty God, for one, has been a huge boon for me in terms of this journey. The medical, spiritual, the logistical, all lined up, miraculously so, enabling me to survive and still be here today, to inspire others.

I also have been immensely motivated by someone who is no longer alive: that 28-year old donor whose liver I received. He too had been labeled an addict and was therefore “high risk.” I was told four dozen people passed on that liver, allowing it to ultimately come to my body where we co-exist today. I am a transplant survivor, and in some regard, I do have guilt that someone else had to die in order for me to be alive. And so, I want to do what I can to honor the memory of this beautiful person I have never met and thank his family for their sacrifices as well.

One further thought I had on this was that while I was fortunate enough to get the donor organ, someone else was not, meaning, someone else passed away while waiting for a liver that never came. So, there are in fact three people in this equation. Honestly, nothing else inspires, motivates, and helps me in working toward my own Re-Creation more than this understanding.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am releasing an app later this year called Re-Create. It is a collection of ideas and algorithms that I learned and curated over the past 3 years representing a roadmap that anyone can use toward their own Re-Creation and personal transformation. The centerpiece of the app is what I am calling the Daily Domino — a daily message and video prompting users to take a forward-moving action every day in an effort to bring something new into their work and the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

While I am not directly in the addiction space, I do firmly believe in the concept of Re-Creation. I would love to encourage people to disconnect from the scourge of addiction as they take those necessary small steps that will help them move far beyond just the concept of recovery. I understand that the 12 Steps have helped people stop drinking, but it is only the beginning part of a far more comprehensive and exciting journey. I want people to strive to become their superhero self, to give themselves the reputation that they are inspired to live up to.

Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?

If you find yourself currently drowning in trauma, drama, pain, sadness, you are at a good point, because this is the ultimate catalyst for making a comeback — in a big way. I look at it this way…when someone is at their bottom, any progress forward is that much more notable and measurable. Secondly, remember God has given us everything we need within us to transform into our own superhero self. This is the moment to embrace who you are and the tools that you already have inside of you. The Greeks have a term, amori fati. It means “love your fate.” You don’t need to trade anything about yourself, you need to love all aspects of that self and leverage them to an incredible advantage. You can do it!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: terrancemcmahonbrands

Instagram: terrance.mcmahon

Tik Tok: @terrancemcmahon

YouTube: terrance mcmahon

Podcast: Terrance McMahon Show

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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