24 Questions with Tim McClure

TIM McCLURE has been a senior executive for over 25 years in the professional sports, apparel, and luxury fashion industries.

Over the course of his career, Tim has played a key role in building some of the world’s most renowned brands such as Starter, and Ray Ban, and managed luxury brands such as Burberry, Versace, Prada, Polo, and Ralph Lauren.

Early in 2011, Tim was diagnosed with inoperable Stage 4 cancer.  Over the course of the next 12 months, Tim’s life and the lives of his family and friends would be impacted more than they ever could have imagined.

Tim’s life took a remarkable and unheard of turn for the better.  Words like ‘miracle’, ‘incredible’, and ‘amazing’ have been used by medical professionals to describe where he is at today.

Over the past 5 years, Tim has been an Honorary Chairman for The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, playing a key role in the Scotiabank Road Hockey To Conquer Cancer. He is a recipient of presitgious honours including the BMW Community Hero Award and the Scotiabank Game Changers Award. Recently he has been nominated as a finalist for the 2018 Premier’s Award that recognizes excellence in business.

Tim is a successful executive coach, and leadership and brand consultant.  He is a contributing author to 2 books, and is currently working on his own leadership book that is set to be released in 2019.

Perhaps the biggest impact that Tim is making is in his career as a well respected and sought after keynote speaker.  He speaks to corporations, professional sports teams, and to university, college and high school students about overcoming obstacles, beating the odds, and living life to the fullest.


1. What does thriving mean to you?
Thriving has taken on a much different meaning to me now than it did in the first half of my life.  In the past, thriving meant completing a goal that carried a numerical value attached to it – positive bottom line results, increases in pay, achieving a higher bonus, and gaining more market share.  Drive, drive, drive…and don’t stop until you are done!

It isn’t anything close to that way today!

Now, thriving has little to do with numbers; it is a feeling.  That could be big or small. Often times, it is something that remains out of the spotlight or under the radar – few people may know about, but the impact is much deeper and more special.  Most times, that impact is directed at improving somebody else’s life; in turn, that gives me a feeling of great satisfaction.  That’s when I am thriving the most!

2. What’s the one domino that moves you toward thriving?

Many people steer away from looking back into the past.  It’s different for me.  Having faced death not once, but 3 times in an 18-month period carries with it some heavy emotions, but also some very valuable lessons – lessons that can not be learned through a university course, or by reading a curriculum-based ‘How To’ book.

Reflection grounds me when I start to get too far ahead of myself; in turn, I refuel as I reflect.  Once I ‘get it’ and my head is clear, that domino is the switch that stares at me, and lets me know that I am in a better place. That’s when I flip that switch to ‘GO’…and I am headed back toward thriving again!

I will always be ‘work in progress’, but my vision has never had more clarity.

3. What was or is your favourite way to sabotage yourself?
That’s a simple one! For me, it is falling into a trap of questioning if I am doing enough to make an impact on something or someone.  I never get involved in anything with just one foot in; it is either both feet in or nothing at all – that’s just who I am! The challenge I have struggled with is recognizing when it is hurting me more than helping someone or something else.

I was never the smartest in the room, the fastest on the field, the biggest on the ice, or the most talented one of any group.  I was so driven and committed to never, ever being outworked! The problem was that I couldn’t control it and often I would keep going until I had nothing left in the gas tank.  That is what our coaches taught us, right?

I was addicted in my pursuit of success, not to achieve material things but rather, so I would not embarass myself.

That addiction to my career is a big reason why I got sick.  There were many warning signs – double pneumonia, 2 serious car accidents, a divorce – but I did the only thing that I knew how to do…keep working harder.  I got on the ‘treadmill’, turned up the intensity, and I just kept going…until one day, I could not keep going any longer.

4. What gets you back on track?
Once again, reflection.

In many ways, I am a smart guy.  I can stand up and deliver a detailed business plan to launch a brand, or I can help turn around a company and take it great levels of success.  I have the ability to speak in front of a large audience and impact total strangers with a very powerful message.  The challenge is that I get caught up in things – too much! While they matter to me, what is the cost of their importance? Sometimes I need a reminder of where I once was.

I was blessed with receiving a second chance – that chance that so many people hope and pray for, yet most never get!

A close friend of mine was a very inspirational executive and a servant leader with TELUS. His name was Hugh Johnson.  Hugh had a simple quote that has turned into one of my favourites; it goes like this: “Life is short…don’t dilly dally!” I am having Hugh’s words tattooed on my right shoulder; it will act as a reminder to never, ever go back to where I was.

5. What question should we ask ourselves?
“What are you doing this for?”

‘This’ can mean so many things.  When you wake up every morning, are you excited? Does it fill you with satisfaction? When your head touches the pillow at night, were you fulfilled by what you did that day? If your answer has been ‘no’ too often, when are you going to make a change?

We live in a ‘culture of convenience’.  With the impact of technology, people expect answers immediately; the demand to resolve issues ‘yesterday’ is always there and we are expected to be ‘on’ at all times.  The pace of our personal and professional life has never been faster!

We think too much and we feel too little.

Too many people fall into that trap and become consumed with wanting more – more money, more social media followers, a bigger house, a more prestigious title.  I found out that happiness is NOT about having more…it is about having less and doing more with it! It is about how we spend our time enjoying what we have.

Life is 100% about your time! Define why you are doing what you are doing.  Discover your passion.  Find something that you cannot wait to get out of bed and start doing every morning!

6. What did you learn recently?
Get comfortable in the mess.

Too many people are brought up to fit in to some sort of uniformity.  We are led to believe that everything has to be in order.  I used to think the same thing because it is all that I ever knew.  After I went into remission, it was like I had a clean slate to start all over again. On the surface, that seems like a great thing but I struggled with not having order – a plan, a regimented To Do list that led me somewhere, a goal that was staring me in the face and daring me to achieve it!

Recently I was taught one of the most valuable lessons that I have ever learned.  Michael and Amy Port said, “Get comfortable in the mess!” What? Not a chance, I thought! I had entered the Heroic Public Speaking Graduate Program with an open mind; I’d agreed to embrace everything that they were asking me to do.  The change in my creativity was incredible!

Whether it is in your career, your personal life or in your relationships, find a way to let go of conforming to uniformity.  Throw ‘everything’ up in the air and make something out of where it all lands! You will find that your an unprecedented level of creativity; when you find it, your playfulness, passion, ability to form deeper thoughts, and your drive to develop something awesome will increase ten-fold.  Most important, you will have much more fun when you get comfortable in the mess. It is YOUR mess.  Own it!

7. Divide your age by half , who were you then?
I was intensely focussed and obsessively driven.  More than once, my mentors told me that I possessed a level of vision that they had not ever seen before from somebody of my age.  You would think that was a great thing, right?  As flattering as it was at the time, it was also part of my downfall.

For as much as I possessed focus, drive and vision, I lacked in my ability to demonstrate balance.  That had a significant effect on my marriage and family, and it had a big impact on my health; it almost cost me my life.

8. What was one of your aha/breakthrough moments?
“You have cancer.” Hearing those 3 words felt like I had been run over by a train!  Those words made the world stand still.  Everything changed.

Prior to this, I was a healthy, athletic father of 2 wonderful daughters; I traveled all over the world in my career as a senior executive, and I had more great friends than a guy could ask for.  But, it all came crashing down so suddenly.  On February 4th, 2011. a doctor told me that I had Stage 4 cancer. That was my ‘aha’ moment.

For the first time in my life, the emails in my inbox didn’t matter, the voice messages on my phone carried no meaning, and the bills that sat on my kitchen counter had no urgency.

Now in my corporate speaking engagements, I begin many of my talks by saying, “Getting Stage 4 cancer was one of the best things to ever happen in my life!”  I really believe that. Over the course of the next hour, I bring the audience into my world; when it’s over, they have had an opportunity to understand why I said what I did to open the show.

9. Whats the one resource you would recommend?

Nature is the one thing that does not cost money, and it is something that anyone can do anywhere in the world.  Spend time in nature!

Jim Estill is a very successful executive and the CEO of Danby Appliances; he is also a very active and generous philanthropist.  The first time that I set up a meeting with Jim, his assistant asked me if I was interested spending the time with him on a nature walk.  In that short meeting, I learned more about connecting with people than I had in any other meeting that I had ever been part.

I left that meeting thinking that if someone was as busy as Jim Estill, yet could find time to do this, so could I.  From that day forward, I have followed his lead.

When I was running on that corporate treadmill, seldom did I ever take the time to shut off my phone and just get away from everything.  It can be an hour, half a day or longer; it does not need to be elaborate, nor should it involve any complicated plans.  Just take the time to ‘be’.

10. What is your favourite quote?
“Never talk yourself out of being great!”

11. What is your focus this year?         Over the next year, I will focus on completing my leadership book, taking the next steps in launching a company that my business partner and I have started, and continue to find balance between my growing speaking business and personal life.

12. What is your 3/5 year focus?      Health and family are my #1 priorities! Without those, nothing else matters.

For the rest of my life, I will be mindful of ensuring that my life is balanced.  Taking on more is not the ‘be all, end all’ goal. I try not to look too far ahead because that is what got me into trouble earlier in my career.  The most important day of your life is this one.  Life is good today, and that is all that we really have!

Remember, second chances seldom come around. I was escorted to the brink of death once to see what it looks like; I am going to do everything I can not to go back there again before it is my time.

13. You write a book for your grandkids, what principles do you want to pass on?
It is meaningful to me to be remembered as someone that could be counted on – a person who was authentic, and somebody who always did what he said that he would do.

I wrote and published a quote that went like this: “Integrity…you either have it or you don’t. There is no in-between.” I want to have lived a life that leaves people with the feeling that my integrity was something that I never compromised.

14. Who is one of the people that made an impact on your life?
Bill Christian.

Bill was one of my first bosses; over time, he turned into so much more than that.  For me, he became an important mentor.  He didn’t say a lot but when he did, I listened.  I watched how hard he and his brother, Roger, worked as they built Christian Bros. Hockey Sticks.  As owners, nobody was swooping in to rescue them during tough times.  He was always a hands-on owner, worked long hours, took a ‘roll up the sleeves and get it done’ approach. Through the ups and downs of building the business, Bill handled himself with integrity and class.

Bill’s commitment to the craft, how to treat customers, not being afraid to be innovative and take chances, and never ever compromising on his values – these were all important things that I learned from him as I built my career.

No matter if I had a team of 20 sales representatives working with me, or if I was managing an organization of 400 business professionals, the qualities that I learned from Bill always remained at the forefront of everything that I did.

15. What are you thankful for?
A second chance.

While I have stated this before, it can never be said enough.  Many people hope and pray for a second chance at life; unfortunately most never get that chance. I will never take that for granted.

Going forward, it is not about what I have accomplished in the first half of my life that I want my family and friends to be most proud of me for.  It is what I do with that chance in the second part of my life – how I impact other people, what I do to lead by example, and how I can help others.

16. If someone grew up in a dysfunctional/chaotic home what advice would you give them going forward?
Find a way to separate yourself from the noise around you.  Make it a priority!

A person is not defined by the chaos that they have found themselves in, providing that they are committed to rising above it.  Remember, the world is not made up of victims…there just happens to be a lot of volunteers!

There are plenty of great resources out there; do not be afraid to reach out for help to somebody that you can trust.

Everbody needs that one person in their life that says, “I believe in you.” Find a mentor, or be one to somebody else!  When people are open to asking for or providing authentic mentorship, it can leave a positive impact on both people forever!

17. What is your favourite memory of this year?
Over the past year, I have been blessed by the power of connection.

There is a line in Bruce Springsteen’s song, Dancing In The Dark, that goes like this: “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” I met a man named Gair Maxwell. He was my spark.

Gair has been a very successful professional speaker for many years.  He took me under his wing to help me hone my craft and taken  my career to the next level.  Through Gair, I met two of the most successful speakers in the business; Bob Gray and Scott Stratten are Hall Of Fame speakers who are very successful and travel the world sharing their messages.  As busy and in-demand as these men are, each of them opened their doors to help me any way they could.  That is the purest form of class.

I was invited into an exclusive group run by Scott and Alison Stratten called Speak And Spill.  At one of their events in Toronto, I met Michael and Amy Port; I was invited to attend their Heroic Public Speaking Graduate Program – the most highly regarded professional speaking academy in the world.

Looking back just 1 year ago, I could have never imagined where my career would be headed.  Thanks to the generosity of time and their willingness to believe in me, people like Gair, Bob, Scott, Amy, and Michael have played an important role in changing the game for me.  For that, I will always be thankful!

18. Think 3/5 years from now, what is your hell if you don’t take action or self sabotage?
It won’t happen. Plain and simple, I will never allow that to happen!

While I have always been a stubborn Irish guy, I have learned about balance the hard way! I now have the right people in my corner, and my passion and drive are channelled to where my focus needs to be.

I will state it again: I will NEVER allow this to happen!

19. What do you need to have LESS of in your life?
Social media that involves politics.

Any time that I have stepped away from engagement on any social media that involves politics, I have felt better.  I’ve been more productive, more at peace and I have been able to focus with much more clarity.  I’ve also been a better person for it!

I do not like what is happening in our world; closer to home, I am disappointed in what is happening in our own country.  It sickens me to see how our own people are treated; how veterans and members of our military have been so disrespected, how the number of homeless people we have in our streets, and the number of families and seniors that are struggling. It is inexcusable.

Like everyone else, I only have one vote.  Even more powerful is taking action and directing my frustration toward doing what I can to contribute to things that I believe in.  I have plans.  Stay tuned.

20. What rule should we be breaking?
Rid yourself of political correctness.

It is killing our society, suffocating our growth and discouraging creativity and brilliance! When we get stuck in red tape, and are forced to comply with rules that are over-the-top and laden with hypocrisy, our progress is stalled. Far too often, it comes to a complete stop and we may not even realize it.

Corporations seldom lose the disengaged people; they lose the great members of their team who go elsewhere because they become discouraged and held back from being all that they can be!

Never let political correctness overtake common sense and prevent you from doing what is right…EVER!

21 . What’s the one thing you want to do before you die?

After recovering from being on the edge of death, I had the opportunity to express my feelings to the people that I love. Since then, I have tried to live my life to the fullest; if I want to do something, I find a way to do it. Whenever possible, I do it with someone that I want to share the experience with.

Before being diagnosed with cancer, I was that person that would go to see the band ‘the next time they were in town’.  Too often, I would not take vacations because I didn’t feel that I could afford the time; I was that friend who would always cancel going away on the golf trip with the guys because ‘something came up’.  Not any more.

Now I pay too much to buy those last minute tickets to see a favourite band.  If I want to go to the ‘big game’, I go, and when there is an opportunity to do something that I’ve never done before, I jump at the chance.

I love life. I respect life more than many people do.  Far too many people take this gift of life for granted.  If I have one mission, it is to wake people up and get them to understand how precious life is – not to strike fear into anyone, but to ignite them so they do not waste a single moment.

Never forget to live our mission and still enjoy the small moments too!

22. If i am just starting out to transform my life, what one week practice would you recommend?
It all gets back to spending time in nature.

Disconnect with the outside world, clear your thoughts, reconnect with yourself, think about the bigger picture…or take that time to not think at all!  Book time in your schedule and make it the one thing that you never, ever cancel.

Make the time to get out in nature and embed it as part of your routine.  If you do it, you will wonder why you never incorporated it into your life much sooner.

23. Who would you like to acknowledge by nominating them to be showcased @ THRIVEMASTERS?
I am going to refer back to my answer from an earlier question re: What rule should we be breaking?  I am not going to conform on this one! 🙂

I am going to nominate 2 people that the world needs to know more about! Both of them do an incredible job inspiring our next generation of leaders.

Nancy Spotton is the CEO and Co-Founder of MPWR Performance.  The organization’s motto is ‘Powering the Next Generation of Trailblazers’; in over 30 years as a business professional, nobody that I have ever met does this with more passion, insight, and skill set than Nancy does! She is also a Professor at George Brown College in Toronto.  The impact that she has had on so many young people is immeasurable…and she is just getting started!

You can learn more about Nancy at www.mpwrperformance.ca.

The second person is a brilliant young man named Brian Fanzo.  He is the Founder of iSocialFanz. I met Brian at a speaking event in Toronto this past September.  Since then, I have followed his career and been amazed at how he is igniting audiences with his powerful, practical messages through his keynote talks, podcasts and growing following on social media.

You can learn more about Brian at www.isocialfanz.com

24. How can people connect with you?
Email: tim@timmcclure.ca
Website: www.timmcclure.ca
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-mcclure-27472689
Twitter: TimMcClure23
Instagram: timmcclure23