Before you read one more word I should warn you about whom you are reading.  I am a self-proclaimed failure. I know, I knowThere is no failure only feedback.” 

Well, it doesn’t feel that way when it happens to us, it feels like failure. I have failed at everything I ever put my mind to achieving.

On the upside, of all the things I could confess, and there are many, being a failure is what I am most proud of.  tom-terwilliger-fitness-accomplishments

The failures

At 18, I set out to become a “full-patch 1% outlaw biker” (I’ll keep the club name anonymous). I got dangerously close, but didn’t make it.

At 27, I set out to become the No. 1 body builder in the world — Mr. Olympia (that’s the very top of the professional bodybuilding food chain). I never made it past the top 10 in the world.

At 30, I set out to create a massively successful athletic club chain. I never made it past three locations. 

At 37, I set out to become Denver’s No. 1 radio talk show host — in all categories. I never made it past No. 1 in the health and fitness category.

At 47, I set out to create a series of No. 1 bestselling self-help books. Two books was as far as I got.    

My most passionate objective for the past 25 years has been to be an amazing husband to my extraordinary wife. I haven’t even gotten close to this one. 

As I look back on these “failures” I can clearly see that there are two choices:

  1. Recognize that I have consistently set the bar too high and begin lowering my expectations.
  2. Set the bar much higher next time.

If you’d failed as many times as I have, and perhaps you have, what would you choose?

Harmful labels

As a child, growing up as an identical twin on the south shore of Long Island, I was taught early on to lower my expectations.  In the 4th grade we all have struggles; mine were dyslexia and hyperactivity. As a result, I was placed in the special education class alongside some severely learning-disabled children.

I quickly took on two labels that would shape my expectations for the next decade and beyond.

  1. Stupid: You may know the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  It would be nice if that were true — but it’s not. You and I recognize that words do have the power to heal but they can most certainly hurt, and hurt deeply. In fact, they can scar. I was called stupid so many times by so many people that I began to believe it.
  2. Bully killer: Being part of an outcast tribe (like special ed.) gave me a very unique perspective. At first, I watched my fellow class mates be relentlessly bullied before actually experiencing bullying myself. Unfortunately for those bullies, my twin brother and I had studied martial arts from the time we were very young. It served me well in when it came to defending myself and my innocent and often helpless classmates. It also earned me the nickname “bully killer.” Although earning it cost me countless hours in the principal’s office, I wore the label proudly.

Manifestation – the dark side

The power to manifest isn’t always a positive one. Manifesting from those dark places inside us can have unintended, if not predictable, consequences.

Before I understood this ability we have to consciously direct our minds, I believed my destiny was unalterably determined by my past. I was an outcast early on, so I must have been destined to be an “outcast” later in life as well. That belief along with that other disempowering “I’m stupid” belief became an overpowering magnetic pull towards a very dark path.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that drugs, alcohol, and reckless living are all part of the outlaw biker lifestyle. That was the lifestyle I was drawn to and embraced for over five years.

Discovery and breakthrough

Sometimes, when we’re in a bad place, finding the power to change requires going right to the edge, looking over the precipice in terror than running like hell or even jumping. Run or jump, radical change always demands a leap of faith. I was fortunate to have survived the leap and landed on my feet.

I failed to become the outlaw biker I strived to be, but what I discovered along the way was much more rewarding. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I discovered that I had the power to overcome my circumstances, create my own reality, and alter my destiny.

I learned that I wasn’t trapped by my beliefs, and that I had the ability to change them.

All I had to do was tap the heels of my engineer boots together three times and say, “There’s no one like me — There’s no one like me — There’s no one like me.”

Within five years, I failed again and became Mr. America.  


Tom Terwilliger is equal parts athlete, entrepreneur and motivator. Five years after pulling himself from the world of drug and alcohol abusing outlaw bikers, Tom’s never-give-up attitude, determination and willingness to sweat earned him a national bodybuilding champion title (Mr. America) and a successful 16-year career as a Fox Sports Net TV show host.

He has since written two #1 bestselling books: 7 Rules of Achievement, and Why S.M.A.R.T. Goals May Be Dumb. Tom has taught thousands of individuals and organizations the empowering Leadership, Body Rapport and life success tools, rules and strategies needed to take massive leaps forward in their lives, business’s and careers. Learn more at