John Tesh shares his 'Gladiator'-inspired mantra, his secret pump-up music and what brings him joy

John Tesh on faith, cancer and the power of the Rocky IV theme. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
John Tesh on faith, cancer and the power of the Rocky IV theme. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

If John Tesh feels like he’s been in our lives forever, it’s because he basically has. The road was recently rocky for the longtime Entertainment Tonight host and musician who learned during the pandemic that his prostate cancer had returned. Once again living cancer-free, Tesh currently hosts a radio show, Intelligence for Your Life, which airs on 350 stations and reaches 14 million people each week.

Last year, Tesh published his memoir, Relentless: Unleashing a Life of Purpose, Grit, and Faith and recently launched a 24/7 live-streaming platform called The Warrior Mindset. There, he takes the teachings he learned over his lifetime and transforms them into motivational (and personalized) life-coaching lessons for his subscribers.

“[From the] feedback from our radio show listeners, it [became] clear that people are trying to improve their lives — they want to find more meaning and purpose,” Tesh says. “We launched The Warrior Mindset to offer live content they can access anytime — as well as personalized coaching based on my journey, the successes and failures in my life and beating cancer three times.”

Yahoo Life caught up Tesh from the Los Angeles home he shares with wife Connie Sellecca and their family to chat about his cancer diagnoses and other low points — as well as his triumphs, including his work as a music composer crediting with creating "the greatest sports theme in television history," "Roundball Rock," for NBC Sports basketball.) Read on for more surprises from the veteran broadcaster.

You’ve been through a lot physically and emotionally with cancer treatment. Do you have any self-care rituals to help you reset?

What helped me was reading the book Man’s Search for Meaning. [Author Viktor] Frankl said suffering is like a gas — it fills the container. It’s been an interesting journey. I had a lot of collateral damage from prostate cancer treatment, including deep depression. [But] I figured it out: I need to exercise different. Certain people really do react positively to serotonin and dopamine caused by exercise. Even when I was in the midst of chemo, Connie [Selleca] would drive me to the beach and I would run in the water.

Besides exercise, what brings you joy?

We believe in the healing word of God. I have a scripture tattooed on my arm. It’s funny, a lot of self-help people — Oprah, Tony Robbins — a lot of what they teach is based out of what comes from the word of God. When I became a cancer patient, I believe God wanted me well and I was able to visualize myself well and that’s when things improved. I pray all day and speak in tongues.

What brings me joy: I have three grandkids under the age of 10 and we play music together (I’m a pianist) and we dance — that’s great for me. And work! I have a busy job — that responsibility of doing that show … when I was going through chemo, I kept doing the radio show.

Having a terrible illness tends to lower the bar on the things that stress a person out. What kinds of things stress you out these days?

Yeah, when the bar lowers. I still sometimes get angry about what’s going on in the world. I went through cancer treatment in 2015 and accepted my diagnosis, and behaved like a cancer patient. I planned for my demise. When it happened again in 2020, there was no time for me to feel sorry for myself. That was the difference. Connie and I were like, “Alright, here we go!” That perspective was the difference.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Understanding that God wants me well — and also that you have to have routine. Once I lost my routine, I was a mess. The path to success is having a great morning routine. I flailed around for a year and a half until I figured out that I needed a morning routine that included exercise. We layered on disciple and today, Connie and I fast for 20 hours a day.

Do you think there are any wellness trends that are overrated?

A lot of people hate YouTube but there are amazing lectures and information on YouTube. If you search for motivational videos, there are kids who find great speeches and put them to music; having inspirational videos in my ears every day really lifts me up. “You need to win your morning!” That kind of stuff — the Rocky IV theme — I love it... Sylvester Stallone is a neighbor, and I ran into him at the coffee shop and I said: “Sly, I listen to the Rocky IV soundtrack every morning,and he said, “Yeah! Me too!” []aughs]

Iconic! Last question, do you have a mantra or a saying you live by?

Pretty much every piece of dialogue from Gladiator is my mantra. It’s a perfect film. There's a line in the beginning when they’re [planning] to attack — “On my command, unleash hell!” — and that’s my mantra [laughs].

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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