SHORTCUTS – 15 minutes with former NFL player, Anthony Trucks
July 27, 2021. Series 4. Episode 29
For our second Shortcuts episode, we are joined this week by former NFL athlete, Anthony Trucks. Anthony had an incredibly difficult start in life, given up by his mother at the age of three, he was placed into the US foster care system, where he was physically and mentally abused, tortured and starved. At the age of six he was finally placed into a loving family home and at 14 was adopted.
Despite the stability, Anthony went dramatically off the rails as a teenager before football rescued him. He went on to play for three NFL teams but, after a career ending injury in 2008 and the death of his Mum he found himself battling severe depression.
In this episode Anthony talks fluently and powerfully about how he took control of his life again – by coming to terms with his past, his failures and by focussing on compassion. He’s now a highly successful motivational speaker and creator of The Shift Method of personal development.
Anthony’s Crisis Cures:
1 – Reframing failure. We make it way worse than it actually is. If you can reframe the failure and find the lesson, you find a way to do better next time. It gives you hope to not have to face the same crisis again in the future.
2 – Organisation. The reason a lot of us stay in crisis is we don’t know how to get out of it. We don’t want to take the wrong path, so we take no path. I bring everything down to earth and once I can see it, I can chart a path.
3 – Action. Action ends suffering. We sit with emotional feelings with no action to change them. Feelings are born of actions and if you’ve taken an action that’s made you feel this way, the only cure is to take an action in opposition. That moment you don’t want to move, is the moment you must move and do something.
After a truly appalling start in life, Anthony had the instinct to see the most likely outcome for himself and made the decision to not become as he says – ‘just another statistic’.
A run in with the police shortly after high school confirmed to him that this was not how he wanted his life to be and American football became his saviour.
But then that career came to a premature end (he says NFL too often stands for Not For Long) it’s clear that his life unravelled – his identity immediately removed. As Anthony says, the impact that NFL carries in the US is so overwhelming, that it left him feeling like no-one without it.
Despite the pitfalls Anthony has encountered in both his professional and personal life, he has an ability to see where he wants to be and then set to work with a clear ‘game plan’. His is a methodical, practical approach to self improvement.
The thing that stuck out for me most in this episode, is Anthony’s approach to fatherhood. Abandoned by his parents – Anthony’s life was set instantly on the wrong path. When he had his first child as a teenager you might expect the same pattern to emerge. But, despite the other dramas in his life, Anthony has remained determined to give his children what he didn’t have. He broke the chain.
Anthony is a powerfully evolved guy and his ability to see the ups and downs of his life as crisis lessons to learn from is inspiring. My thanks to him for joining us on Crisis Shortcuts.
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Host – Andy Coulson
Producer – Louise Difford
00:00:00.00 Intro music
00:00:19.06 Andy Coulson:
Crisis Shortcuts is brought to you by Myndstream, music designed to help you, your loved ones and even your pets feel calmer. Check out Myndstream, that’s mind with a Y on all the usual streaming platforms. Welcome to Crisis Shortcuts with me, Andy Coulson. Occasional bonus episodes to sit neatly alongside the main podcast, Crisis What Crisis? Much like those longer conversations, in Shortcuts you’ll hear from brilliant people who, in their own words, tell us about their crises, how they got through them and what they’ve learned.
00:00:47.24 Andy Coulson:
Although these episodes are brief believe me the insights are just as big. So if you’re short on time but looking for inspiration or guidance, Shortcuts will offer a quick fix of useful lessons from those who’ve been there and lived to tell the tale. And don’t forget you can still join me for our longer conversations on Crisis What Crisis? where we talk in greater depth and share those powerful coping strategies that will hopefully help you guide through the pitfalls in life. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Our handle is @crisishwhatcrisispodcast and if you like what you hear please do head over to Apple and leave us a rating and a review. It really helps make sure these stories get to the widest possible audience. I hope you enjoy this Crisis Shortcut.
00:01:31.08 Anthony Trucks:
I’m Anthony Trucks and I’m a former NFL athlete, American Ninja Warrior on NBC. I’m also a speaker, author, coach and the founder of the Shift Method where we help people make shift happen in their lives and businesses. So I was born in 1983 in a town called Martinez in the San Francisco Bay Area. And I was born to a single, white mom. And my father who, as I didn’t find out till years later, was an African-American man, he kind of disappeared. He was never around, I think, at any point in time when I was first born. And so growing up I grew up in a weird environment where my mom, she had three more kids after me with another man, within a year. And so there was me and three siblings and we were all within four years of each other. And essentially my childhood was one that was riddled with a whole lot of poverty and a lot of sadness. My mom, in fact, gave all of us away when I was three years old. So my early stages of life was not knowing my father and the only person that I really wanted to love, and which was my mom, essentially decided to give me and the rest of my siblings away to a really heinous foster care system.
00:02:35.12 Anthony Trucks:
So from the age of essentially three when I was given away I bounced around house to house from three to six. And in those houses there were people that weren’t the best people in the world, we’ll call it. And some would kind of do some weird, tortuous things to kids. And it’s still unfortunate that those things go on to an extent to this day. But back then there was no cell phones, there was no social media, there was nobody knowing what was going on. And so what they do is essentially I was what was called a pay check. As long as I didn’t die in the house they got a pay check for me. So they wouldn’t feed me, wouldn’t clothe me and one house forced me to chase chickens to earn meals. One house put me in shopping carts and pushed down hills towards moving traffic. Another home forced me to sit in the curb outside the house and lick the bottom of the neighbourhood kid’s shoes until my tongue had bled one time.
00:03:19.15 Anthony Trucks:
And so just really heinous stuff and at six years old I’d land in the house which is still my home to this day but there’s a weird dynamic being that I was the only black person in this all-white family. Still had, very poverty ridden, they wouldn’t have much of anything growing up. So my years from the age of pretty-much three until fourteen, eleven years in the foster care system, during the pivotal, I guess, moulding times of my humanity, they were just very, very sad and tortuous and difficult years. But they would lend to be a strength later on in my life.
00:03:53.16 Anthony Trucks:
From the age of fourteen, so finally I got adopted at fourteen which is interesting because in order to be adopted I had to actually go into a courtroom and stand in front of my biological mom and tell her I no longer want you to be my mom anymore. And it severed what was called parental rights. And parental rights allowed her to make decisions on my life which she could no longer do. And so I was able to be adopted. And it was the first time that I knew for the first, you know, moment ever that this house I woke up in, I for sure got to go to bed here tonight. And it was a different sense of like, a little bit of stability, a little bit of freedom and it also led to me having the opportunity to go and do something that was, I guess taken advantage of by a lot of people, but for me was amazing, was I got to go hit people and not get in trouble. In America we call this American Football.
00:04:37.05 Anthony Trucks:
So as a kid I got to go out there and for the first time try my hand at something that I yearned, like for a long time, to get to go do. But like many people, when you try something new that you from the outside looked and then see as some amazing thing, you try it and you’re met with the reality of it. You suck at it. And I stepped away from it at the same time my adopted mom had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My older brother in the house of six who was like my rock went off to the military and so I was kind of in that floating stage of life lending my hand towards becoming a statistic. Which essentially, most people don’t know this, in America if you go to any prison in our American country that 75% of the inmates are former foster kids. Half our homeless population has spent time in foster care and less than 1% of us ever graduate from college. So statistically I was headed down a pretty dark path.
00:05:29.09 Anthony Trucks:
There’s this quote that I love and it goes, ‘A smooth sea makes not a skilled sailor’ and so for me I had not had a smooth sea but I’d become a skilled sailor. I was more communicative, I was a little more charismatic because a lot of it’s a survival skill. I could see people differently than they could probably see themselves. I understood what was going on more than most of my peers. I just had a different sense of self and a different sense of the world around me. So even though we had this household where, you know, we had a loving mom and dad we didn’t have the most ability, we didn’t have the most structure. I don’t think there’s any point in time where I can go back where I can remember my mom or dad ever checking my grades.
00:06:08.14 Anthony Trucks:
Like my mom was sick and so my dad was working his butt off to make sure he can take of the family and so he’s gone all day. Mom is sick and she’s not really, she’s bed ridden and so she can’t really get out and go and see what’s going on. I get no brother at home. I’m just, you know, whatever football’s not in, I’m just kind of running around, hanging out with friends. And so I got a little job so I could buy a car and I’m driving around and hanging with my friends. Next thing you know, whenever you have the ability to be around people that just, they fill the gap and make you feel like things are exciting you end up sliding into the excitement. And next thing you know I find myself breaking into cars in the middle of nights and stealing stuff and all that, you know, all the bad stuff. Things were… in hindsight I feel so horrible for the person who had to wake up the next morning and go see their car had been vandalised. You know it’s just, it’s a feeling that to this day like it still carries with me.
00:06:56.12 Anthony Trucks:
But yeah, I ended up one evening the police pull up in front of my house and sure enough I’m held at gun point and pulled over in a car and the car is searched and all that fun stuff. And I remember sitting in the back seat of the police car and there were colleges had been sending me letters. And the police officer grabbed one out of my car and he walks up to the grate and slams it against the grate in front of my face in the passenger side in the back and he says, ‘You can kiss your future goodbye.’ And there was that moment that I was like, ‘ah man, this is not the place I’m supposed to be’. And that was a very pivotal moment for me to get my head back on straight and stay the course in a positive direction.
00:07:33.15 Anthony Trucks:
So around the same overlapping time period I’d met this girl who’d end up being my high school sweetheart. In fact we were the cutest couple in the year book that year. And so she found that my college had the number two school in the nation for what she wanted to do in family and human services. So she decided to come up, her family said, ‘great, go up there, just don’t get pregnant, focus on school’ all that fun stuff. So I want to say it might have been like six to eight months before we were pregnant and next thing we know we have a kid coming. And it’s funny because my freshman year before she even moved up I knew she was the one. Like, I knew I wanted to marry this woman.
00:08:05.21 Anthony Trucks:
And I proposed to her with a little itty-bitty diamond ring that like, I don’t even know if you tell there was a diamond in it, it was so tiny. But she said yes and so we were engaged. And we were going to get married. And you know, we were kids, I think it was kind of like, ‘yeah, we’re going to get married’ but you don’t know for sure. But then we had a kid. And it was this weird thing where the kid wasn’t, it wasn’t this like, ‘oh, we’re stuck’. It was like, I get to now give back to a kid in a way that wasn’t given to me, I get to create this life for another being’ and I get to have this life that I never had, I get to have this parental son, wife situation that I did not grow up with. And two years later, after he was born, we ended up with my senior year of college, we were heading off to the NFL, we ended getting married in Maui, Hawaii and it was beautiful, man. I had this anchoring to a place that I’d never felt before.
00:08:53.06 Anthony Trucks:
It would have been nice to experience it from the position of the kid being the child looking up to mom and dad who had that anchored relationship. But if I couldn’t be in that role and experience it I figured the next best role would be to be the one from the parental side. And so now, it’s interesting, as close as I am to my children, I am incredibly distant from their life experience. I don’t know what it’s like to be them. But I do know what it’s like to have a bonded parental relationship. So I love that I get to provide something for my kids I didn’t have and get to experience it from at least this side.
00:09:28.12 Anthony Trucks:
So what’s interesting is when most guys and girls were going off to college and they’re essentially creating their foundation, they’re just having fun and partying and hanging out, like I was a father. My wife and I, you know, we were kids having a kid. And so we navigated the college experience as, not only were we students, and she was like a 4.2 GPA, she was incredibly smart and did great in school, I was a full-time student as well and an athlete, full-time athlete. And we had a kid. And there are adults who can’t do these things and we somehow managed this whole thing.
00:10:01.11 Anthony Trucks:
But the greatest thing was like it was fun. You know it wasn’t, I think that there’s this draw that people had like, ‘oh baby in college?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, but it was my baby’, like it was my little guy. If I’m up till six in the morning and I’ve got to get up for school at seven, it was my guy. It’s me bouncing him around. There was a different anchored heart there, I just had a different connection.
00:10:21.06 Anthony Trucks:
So after college, you know, not all people have the opportunity but I was blessed to be one of the 0.00001% of college football players who get a chance to play professionally. So I was blessed to play in the NFL. And the NFL or name and it just is NFL stands for Not For Long is kind of like the joke. Because you get in and unfortunately, whether it’s contracts or every year thousands of guys come in or injuries, which was my case, the game ends quick unfortunately. It’s very difficult to get past three years. And I got hurt in my third year. And so the NFL was this time frame, which is odd because for as short as it was it carries so much weight for people and how they see me in America.
00:11:06.09 Anthony Trucks:
Unfortunately when the game ends we don’t know what to do with ourselves because nobody plans for the game to end. And so for me when the game ended I had to navigate like what do I do with my life now? Who is Anthony without this thing? And I don’t care who you are, if you have lived a life where you have given of yourself energy and emotion and just time and effort and heart into something for a long period of time, whether you wake up one day by choice or chance, no matter what it is, if you wake up one day and you’re no longer doing that thing, it’s a big blow.
00:11:35.10 Anthony Trucks:
I neglected my family and neglected my health and my wife, everything. So I find myself at one point in time with a failing business, a failed marriage, failing as a parent. My body was out of shape and I didn’t know what to do. Anything that had made Anthony Anthony was no longer present. Just didn’t feel like me. And there was a point where I was like ‘well, if this is life after the game then I don’t want to live life’ because it was not enjoyable. And thankfully I didn’t take any true actions to leave this world but like, I at one point, highly, highly considered it.
00:12:07.05 Anthony Trucks:
So I think at a given point in time sometimes moments that are not best happen and they give you a wake up call. And so for me it was April 15th 2014 and my adoptive mom, who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis seventeen years earlier she came to the back-end of her years. And it was unfortunate, like, she passed away. And I was in the room holding her hand as she took her final breath. And those moments are very like mortal. You have to actual question and think about life. And I realised at this moment in time I was not living a good life. The woman who had given me all the capabilities of doing something great, that I’d done great things with, I was now squandering the future for whatever reason, it just wasn’t a future that could have been.
00:12:47.12 Anthony Trucks:
And so in her passing I made two promises. Promise one was I’m going to figure out how to get this thing back on track. Because if the trajectory I’m going right now is not any destination that anybody wants to be. So that was the first promise, like mom, I’m going to make sure that your energy and love into me isn’t worthless. Because she’d unconditionally loved me in a way that did not make sense. I was not her blood, I was difficult, I was problematic, I was a bad little kid. I just was and she loved me past all my crazy.
00:13:13.15 Anthony Trucks:
And the second promise was when I get back on track I’m going to do what you did for me for the world somehow. I’m going to find a way to unconditionally love in a world that was not my blood and make something better happen. Two years later and some roundabout way, two and a half years actually, my ex-wife and I, after being divorced for three years, got remarried. We found each other at different stages of progression internally. We both had grown and we like, rekindled something that probably could have always been there but we didn’t have the right foundation to build a long-term marriage when we first got together. We were sixteen, we didn’t have the right things. But now we have them.
00:13:48.24 Anthony Trucks:
And then when I was able to navigate that, like, I got back in shape, I became a present father, I have a great marriage. Now my life if vastly different but some of the things that I’ve learned and navigated they’re very beneficial to different people at different stages. And so that was kind of the transition of me seeking a way to make sure my mom’s name was carried on past me. When you fully understand your enemy you learn to love your enemy. Because I think at a certain point you see the humanity in them. Now, obviously each person is not an actual enemy but there is opposition to the situations. So what I came to find was like there’re a lot of people that just weren’t given the tools, they’re doing the best they can and they’re not doing things to purposely hurt me. In fact, it must be dark to have to carry the weight of your family falling apart or not being a present father or giving your kid away and watch them grow up and do great things in the world. There’s got to be a weight to that.
00:14:37.16 Anthony Trucks:
And so at a certain level as a human I go, man, as opposed to being angry maybe there’s a compassion that should enter in. And so in that compassion I find that like I am relieved of the anger, I’m able to actually forgive. Not to say that they get off the hook, like they still have to live with that, but I don’t have to live with the feeling of that. And so in that space I’ve found that forgiveness is not always this thing where it has to be an emotional retribution but in fact, like most of the time it’s giving out what you wish someone would give you.
00:15:09.10 Anthony Trucks:
I’m 97% of the time I’m in a very good mood. But those 3% days, man, they exist, they have to exist and they have to give balance, I have to recoup. But to be honest, man, whenever have those really tough, heavy days, I do, I’m not just saying it because it sounds all, you know, cliche, but I actually sit back and go, man, I appreciate where I’m at in comparison to where I could be. It’s a genuine sit back and like appreciate the house I woke up, the snacks I get to eat if I’m hungry, you know the food I get to have, the trips I have taken, the family I have. Like, I get to appreciate all. Anything that I am letting take me down is exactly that, I am letting it do it. But if I can anchor to the reason I’m here and what I want to do and I have purpose in my direction of my day, I just have to get back to motion and I find that there’s magic in the motion and I create that joy again.
00:15:59.22 Anthony Trucks:
And what I’ve found is all these experiences have become bricks that I’ve built this cathedral of life into. Like, it’s one of these things where they just are all there. They don’t disappear, I do remember them, I do feel them but the reality is they were just, they were bases of the foundation of what I could build top of. The bricks are just bricks you know. And at the end of the day if you build you find that even if something goes wrong you can also rebuild. And so for me my life has been just a collection of weird, bad days of bad bricks but also amazing ones. And I believe the height that I’ve been able to build this life up to now is only because I’ve made very, very aware like, my heart of those crazy bricks that are down below and built on them.
00:16:42.06 Anthony Trucks:
So my first crisis cure is as I call it reframing failure. And so this means in the middle of crisis we usually feel like we’ve failed or something has failed. And usually we make it way worse than it actually is. It’s the relationship that fails and I feel unloveable and no one’s ever going to love me again. And it’s like, ’no, it’s that version of you wasn’t the best’ there’s different levels, maybe that situation you didn’t show up as the best you. But if you can reframe the failure to find the lesson you find a way to do better next time. And you find hope to actually pursue something greater. So the crisis doesn’t become a statement, it immediately lifts and you feel great. But it does give you hope to not have to face the same crisis in the future.
00:17:19.22 Anthony Trucks:
My second crisis cure is organisation. And while it feels odd that someone would say organisation in crisis, I find that a lot of the time the reason we stay in crisis is because we don’t know how to move out of it. We don’t know which path to go. And I don’t want to take the wrong path, so I take no path. And it becomes a very self-perpetuating cycle of just suck. And so what I do is I sit down and say, okay, I need to organise and see what’s going on. I need to actually have everything that’s up in the air come down to earth so I can see what it is. And once I can see, now I can chart a path.
00:17:53.10 Anthony Trucks:
The third crisis cure for me is action. Action ends suffering. The truth is a lot of us have these emotional feelings that we just sit with for far too long because we take no action to change them. Feelings are born of actions. And if you’ve taken an action that led you to a place of feeling this way the only cure is to actually go and take an action in the opposition to give yourself a different reason to believe or find joy or find hope. And so for a lot of people that moment when do not want to move or do anything is the moment you must move and do something.
00:18:47.05 End of transcription