When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Terry Fator became a household name in 2007 when he won Season 2 of “America’s Got Talent.” After 25 years of honing his skills at county fairs and venues across the country, the Dallas-bred entertainer’s big “AGT” win at age 42 catapulted him into the upper echelon of entertainers, landing him at No. 2 on Forbes’ list of the top-earning comics behind Jerry Seinfeld in 2013.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Terry Fator: I grab a cup of coffee and go sit out on my back patio. I hope I’ve remembered my pajamas. But pajamas or not, it’s a great time for me to pray and read my Bible. It helps me to remember the important things about family and faith and friends that truly matter before I start my busy life.
TG: What gives you energy?
TF: Exercise. I love to watch other people exercise. Truth is I’m a napper. I love to take short siestas in the late afternoon. I can take a 10 minute nap and be ready for anything.
TG: What’s a daily habit or practice that helps you thrive?
TF: Making my bed. Once I start by doing a simple thing like that it gets me prepared to do things I may want to put off and I’m ready to work. I know what you’re thinking, there’s a unicorn, a man who makes the bed all by himself.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. As a Christian, it really helped me to understand my failures as a person and rely on God to make me whole.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
TF: I think what happens in the bedroom between a man and his phone is private. Which is why I turn my phone on “Do Not Disturb” when I sleep.
I definitely rely on my phone a lot to keep in touch with my writers and my work team, but I also use it to find funny memes to send to friends. I love the fact that I can use my phone to write material and work on scripts. It really has made my job much more convenient, but I also know that I need sleep so it goes off until I wake up and start my next day’s workload. And the phone needs sleep, too. It can get really grouchy.
TG: How do you deal with email?
TF: The people I work with always tell me that I answer emails quicker than anyone else they know. I am constantly checking it and responding, mainly because if I don’t it will never get answered. I have learned that I am the type of person who is a procrastinator so I handle things like email immediately so I avoid getting behind.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
TF: It was the early 1990s. My band was playing 4- to 6-hour a night gigs at bars until 3 to 4 A.M. and it was killing me physically. That’s bad when you’re a success, really bad when your band is not making progress. There came a point when I almost said “that’s it, I’m done, I’m giving up entertaining forever.” And then one night I saw a movie called The Jolson Story and saw how much he loved performing. It made me realize that I was lucky to be able to do what I love so I started to appreciate my life…and that got me over my burnout.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
TF: The last time I felt like I failed was answering your last question but I overcame it by going to this question. Like everyone in show business (and in life) I can’t even count the times I have failed. And when that happens, the thing that keeps me going is knowing that even if something isn’t working out, I can still be appreciative of the blessings I have. I focus on the positive and it always helps me to stop thinking about what I don’t have but what I do. Then I try, try again.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
“Fairy Tales do not tell children that dragons exist. They already know dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” G.K Chesterton.
TG: How would you define success in life?
Success to me is remaining true to your north star…and my north star is this: believing that as long as I leave the world a better place than it was when I came into it, and leaving people happier for having allowed me to be part of their lives, if I can do that, that means I’ve been successful in life.
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you:
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.
How I pray people think of me one day is summed up in the lyrics of the song “For Good from Wicked.”