Gary Cooper: An Interview About The Success Paradox

By Amit Chowdhry ● Nov 16, 2023

Gary C. Cooper is the Forbes Books author of The Success Paradox: How to Surrender and Win in Business and Life. And Cooper is also the executive chairman of Palmetto Infusion Services, a company valued at over $400 million that provides home healthcare, medical equipment, nursing, hospice, and ambulatory infusion clinics to thousands of patients across the Carolinas. Plus, he also is the founder, president, and CEO of The Carolus Group, a healthcare consulting firm that serves the next generation of entrepreneurs. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Cooper after reading his book.

Pulse 2.0: Question about chapter 2 – Being authentic – When you are a workaholic, it can be challenging to hit the pause button when you are in doubt. Do you have any examples of how you still use this method in your life today?

Gary Cooper: Hitting the pause button – For some, this may come naturally. It doesn’t for me. I have had to learn this skill. Think about how professional athletes have to control their breathing in very stressful situations. If a golfer cannot control his breathing and nerves, he can miss the shot that wins him the Masters. Or the lady who does the same could blow the serve that wins herself the U.S. Open in tennis. Couldn’t the same be said of us in business?  

I was about to invest and begin operating a chain of franchises that I had never operated before. I pressed pause. I began to investigate my true motives behind it.

I asked myself, Why do you want to be in this business? Is this going to improve your life or the life of the ones that you love? Or are there other motivations? What I determined was that I was trying to play God in my children’s lives. Let me correct that: I began asking folks who I really trusted to give me advice. I honestly didn’t trust myself enough. To use the analogy from above, don’t professional athletes have coaches? Of course they do! So I have folks that I call on when I don’t trust myself. I don’t have folks that will co-sign my own BS! I have folks that will call me out!

A very dear friend said, “Quit trying to play God with your kids and let them grow up and become who they want to be rather than what you want them to be!” Ouch!

By pressing pause, I was able to “let go and let God” be in charge of not only my life but my kids’ lives. It is hard for parents to not want to make the road smoother for their kids, right? However, isn’t life about learning how to handle the bumps in the road? Isn’t the journey part of life, not just the destination? I would be denying them the satisfaction of struggling, creating, building, falling down and getting back up, in essence… life.

Pulse 2.0: Question about chapter 3 – Doing good – Are there certain practices you use for determining whether you have been empathetic recently?

Gary Cooper: Doing good – I have a nightly inventory before I go to bed. I cannot take any credit for this as I borrowed this from someone. I ask God to forgive me if I have been resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid today. I ask him to help me not keep any secrets because secrets lead to no good.

I also cannot live without fear if I do not apologize quickly. Otherwise, I end up avoiding folks, so I write down a list of folks that I need to promptly apologize to. Unfortunately, that list is longer than I like sometimes. I can be much more useful when I don’t have worry and remorse to deal with in my daily life. As I do this daily, I cannot only be empathetic, I can be present during the day with anyone and everyone.

Pulse 2.0: chapter 4 – Doing well – Prioritizing people/social profit before financial profit is a noteworthy philosophy. Do you have any recent stories from your career about how you applied this philosophy?

Gary Cooper: Doing well – One of the greatest days of my career is when David and I got to play undercover boss. We did our PE deal where all the owners got the proceeds from the partial sale of our business. However, there were many folks who helped us build the company who were not “owners.” We brought 10-plus folks in the room and gave them six-figure checks. They were crying, we were crying, and we said, “and that’s not all.”  They were like, “Why are you doing this?” We said, “You helped build this company, too, so we are hiring you a coach. We are going to triple the size of the company and we hope that you are here again when we can do this again!” Sharing the profits is one of the greatest joys in my life.

Pulse 2.0: Question about chapter 13 – Surrender and win (The power of feeling section). I love this quote from the chapter: “Vision, mission, values … every single team member knew (and knows now) that success to us means more than financial profit. We are motivated to help more patients in better ways and reduce suffering.” Do you have any additional examples of this at any of the companies you have worked for?

Gary Cooper: chapter 13 – We also have a patient advocate at Palmetto. We want to be more than just a place where folks get their drugs. Have you ever noticed how Chick-fil-A has flowers on the tables or greeters at the door? They don’t have to do that. They are a fast-food business. Well, we have a social worker that helps folks if they have depression, can’t get a ride, have their lights cut off, or have any other mental, physical, or social need that has nothing to do with their “medical” condition. We don’t “have” to do that. We certainly are not paid to do that. We just think that it makes sense to do that!

Of course, this was aimed at the patient. What we didn’t realize is how much this would mean to our caring staff. Now they have a hotline that they can call and fix something for their patient. If their patients’ lights are turned off because their patient has MS and they lost their job, their nurse can be part of the solution. If they don’t have funding, they can call our hotline and get help. If they need nutritional support, suicide prevention, and the list keeps on going, our staff can help. Imagine how helpless they felt before and now how proud they can feel when they go home. We didn’t have to do this, but now they get to do this!

We have many more examples of the ways we give back. One of the greatest is how we go out of our way to accept every referral that comes to us no matter what drug, what insurance, or no payment. This makes our caregivers very, very proud to work with us. I learned this from my father and have been doing this ever since in home healthcare, hospice, medical equipment, pharmacy, and now infusion. It is a rare thing to see in any business today, especially in a high-cost environment like healthcare.

Pulse 2.0: In your words, could you tell me more about your background?  

Gary Cooper: Personal background – I am a simple man who has been lucky enough to live in the low country of South Carolina and raise four beautiful children, married to the same woman, Kelly, for 27 years, and build multiple healthcare businesses that have matured enough to the point they were sold to private equity or publicly-traded companies. I never left home except to attend college or graduate school, and I am surrounded by all of my siblings and my wife’s siblings, and all of their kids. I’m certain that faith has played a major role in my life, even when I didn’t know it was. I’m learning that the older I get, the less I know, but I am excited to learn more every day. The world is such an exciting place, and I feel that I am just getting started.

Pulse 2.0: How did the idea for publishing this book come together?

Gary Cooper: Idea for a book – The idea was born through a great deal of pain.   lost a great deal of myself and my personal power and didn’t even realize it in my pursuit of “success.” The foundation for my early success was a great head start from my father and “self-sufficiency.” I wanted what I wanted, was willing to work for it, and went for it. I caught it! Yet it came at a cost. It nearly cost me everything.

I was learning a new way to live after back surgery, three hip replacements, stopping drinking, and putting my life, marriage, and familial relationships back together. Then another huge painful thing happened. Our best friend’s son committed suicide!  

This was a shock. It was a wake-up call! I thought to myself, How many other folks out there have lost their power and don’t know it yet?

Social media and drug dealers are the only two businesses that call their customers “users.” Read that again! We are freely giving our power away!

My goal for the book was to help others get their power back!  We cannot wait on the government, the social media companies, or look for someone to blame.

If we say to ourselves, “What role do I play in this?” we can fix the issue. The fact is, we play a role in it. We freely give our attention, our information, our joy, and our lives away.  That is OK if it is giving us something valuable back. Right? I enjoy giving my time away to my X, Y, and Z because it brings me back something valuable in return. However, if I give my most valuable asset away for free and I get depression, anxiety, and want to commit suicide, then I play a role in that.

We feel that our book, talks, and planned workshops can give folks a new perspective on how they can get a new “toolbox” on how to rebuild their lives.

Pulse 2.0: What has been your favorite memory of putting the book together?  

Gary Cooper: Favorite memory – There are a couple. I think the biggest hurdle for me was having something so personal out there and my family being OK with it. I tell people that I feel like I am walking around with my zipper down. So, one of the biggest milestones for me is getting a big thumbs-up from my wife and kids. The second milestone was getting Melissa Buffington’s thumb-up. She is the mother of Jack. She said, “Thank you for putting Jack in such a positive light.”I don’t know if she will ever know how much that meant to me!  Finally, I got a text message from a woman dying of pancreatic cancer. She said that this book “changed her life.”Another lady came up to me crying after a talk and said that she could now “go to heaven.” I found out that her grandson had overdosed.

I guess what I am saying is that I hope that I have helped destigmatize addiction, even if just a little bit. I am certain that we all have a “story” and those stories can be turned into something very positive. My story turned into a great family and business story.  Someone else’s may turn into a great community project story.  One thing is for sure, all positive stories start with people helping people and that is what I am most proud of by making this book. It took a lot of us helping each other to get to a point to make the book and to ultimately create a book.

The book industry is competitive. We need that one big break! If I were doing this for me, I may have quit. However, I am not doing this for me. I am doing it for your nephew, your brother, your dad, and anyone who has suffered from addiction. Addiction is not just the guy coming to bum money from you at the gas station. It is the guy beside you in the cubicle, the person beside you on the airplane, as well as the person in jail. 

It is not all drugs, either. I believe there are folks escaping in different ways that are much less harmful or hideous. For example, workaholics and exercise nuts are admired in our society, but have we really looked deeply enough into why they do what they do? I, for one, can tell you that those two were my first two obsessions. How about eating, gambling, and, heaven forbid, Amazon? How many FedEx trucks show up at our houses every day?  I know we get our fair share! 

My point is we all want something to make us feel good temporarily. However, there is something much more lasting and renewable. That is what our book offers. The trouble is that it isn’t instantaneous. We have to have patience. It is faith, trusting in God (whatever that is to you) to join in our endeavors rather than being “self-sufficient,” learning to say no or press pause, learning to listen, learning to rest, and how to prioritize what is important for yourself rather than what the “world” prioritizes for you. The real key is learning to get your own power back rather than giving it away for free to others who are seeking it for their own financial gain. It isn’t their fault if you fall for it.

Pulse 2.0: What are the main takeaways that you want readers to understand from the book?  

Gary Cooper: We live in a world where it is confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. We haven’t lost our power. We have given it away. I lost mine, I chased the American dream, and I actually caught it. I had the wife, the kids, the house on the hill, cars, boats, beach house, money, and had it all. Yet, I compared myself to others. I could blame it on TV ads, social media, or anyone else, but that is too easy. I examined myself and sought spiritual, mental, and physical help after a major depression, back surgery, and three hip replacements and alcoholism.

I found that I had two major problems. One, I was the problem. I had given my power away. I gave it away by comparing myself to others. Two, I was trying to do it all alone. I was not relying on anything spiritual.

You can take your power back! You don’t have to be “religious” to be spiritual. You can be both. I am.

You can also have both success and a relaxed life. I do. We just have to learn how to say no, and compare ourselves to ourselves and not what others say we should be or have in order to be “successful.” We can be completely comfortable in our own skins no matter how much our neighbors have. In fact, the more comfortable you are with what you have, you actually begin to attract more into your lives. 

Life is actually a paradox.  The more you do the opposite, the more it begins to make sense, which is where faith comes in. For example, it is counterintuitive to be quiet to be heard in a meeting.  However, if you are quiet long enough in meetings, people begin to really respect you.  You become the person with the most information because you haven’t been running your mouth. By not running your mouth, you can actually hear what others are saying.  Therefore, you, by default, become the most informed. In the end, you become one of the wisest folks in the room.

Let’s use being generous as an example. In the past, you were the person who always took credit for a job, but now you become the person who gives others credit. In the past, no one would give you credit because you took it anyway. Lately, you stayed late to make copies, and pulled a late shift to finish a project, but in the meeting, you gave the credit to a peer. At first, the peer gets a promotion. Well, who do you think the peer is going to look after? If you do that long enough, folks are going to remember those things. 

Here is the key, you are not doing it to be “paid back.” You do it because you expect nothing in return. Otherwise, that is just business. But a genuine gift to folks is something that is never forgotten. It attracts folks to you.

Here is the point: By being generous, folks are generous to you. By being selfish, you are cutting yourself out from any potential luck in the future. The same goes for being quiet, being early for meetings versus late, resting to be productive vs. always burning the candle at both ends, and the list goes on and on. Do the opposite of what seems logical long enough, and you will get a more balanced life and take your power back.

Pulse 2.0: Any other topics you would like to discuss?

Gary Cooper: Other subjects – I hope we can get a book out for 15-25-year-olds. Do you remember riding in your parents’ or grandparents’ car with no seat belts? Maybe they even smoked cigarettes with the windows rolled up. That is how I think of social media.

It took 40 years for the phone to be widely adopted—the same for cars. Facebook and smartphones were adopted almost overnight. We didn’t know the unintentional consequences, almost like we didn’t know how cigarettes cause cancer until folks started dying of lung cancer and all sorts of other diseases.

Now we do! I am giving all the proceeds of this book to hire a celebrity and pay all the publishing costs to write a book for kids. The message is, “You are perfect the way God made you! So before you go on social media, put on your seat belt or roll down your window to let the second-hand smoke out, let’s help save a kid’s life together and get some stars to back this movement!”

Want To Buy A Copy Of Gary’s Book? You can find it here

Disclosure: Pulse 2.0 may receive a commission for purchases made through this article.

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