Today we’d like to introduce you to Mandy Machowicz.
Mandy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in Pearland, Texas then moved to Los Angeles for two years after I was married and returned to Pearland in 2007 to have my first daughter and raise my children near my Mom & Dad. I experienced a very blessed upbringing with two amazing parents and two brothers. My Dad was an Electrical Contractor and both parents owned and operated Vinco Electric and my brothers and I worked there off and on as well. When I graduated from college in 2002 (the first in the family) I became an event planner for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau planning events for their 1,000+ Membership base. It was there I was introduced to the Super Bowl Host Committee Staff and was invited to work with them when Super Bowl came to Houston in 2004. This is when Richard Machowicz “Mack” and I crossed paths. Mack was in town doing bodyguard work for a dear friend Jim Rome who hosted a popular Sports Radio Show but I knew – he was the STAR to me. I called my Mother the day I met him to tell her I met the man I am going to marry. She said, “Sure Mandy, ok right.” Mack’s pick-up line of “Hey, I am traveling back to Los Angeles now, but here is my website and a book I’ve written. I’d love for you to check me out. If you’re interested – I’d love to fly back and take you out on a date”. WOW! I was ALL IN naturally. So I read this book by this Super Intense Navy SEAL – which I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew he was going to be my husband. My Dad then read the book and said Mandy, please read this book again. This man is NOTHING like anyone you have ever dated. My reaction was, what? He’s so cute and strong. His first visit to take me out on a date my Dad brought out a .357 pistol and showed it to Mack. Mack politely grabbed it and dissembled it in 29 seconds flat. Dad looked at me said, “I like him.” These were words I never thought I’d hear from my Dad. After the back and forth travel for nine months, Mack proposed in front of my Mom & Dad and Aunt and Uncle the day he was featured Full Page in the Calendar Section of the LA Times. He knew we would be ok.
Six months later, we were married. A couple of months before Mack’s FutureWeapons audition and just days after returning from our honeymoon, he said: “Hey Babe, I have my Bukido FIST Training Course coming up in a few weeks and I’d love for you to do the training.” Still on Cloud 9, I was again ALL IN. I had two brothers, I was a pretty tough feisty Italian Girl so I thought, I got this. He told me it was mandatory though that I take a written test on his book Unleash the Warrior Within. I was then thinking, UM ok – this is a little intense. I realized then, I better really read this book and pay attention. Students were flying in from all over the world to do this three-day training course for $1,500. What a life-changing event it was. At the heart of Mack’s training was this – if I can train a civilian man or woman when they are fatigued and under stress and pressure with combat as a metaphor – I can help them apply it to their everyday life to accomplish their dreams and goals. WHAT? It was amazing and the breakthroughs that happened to me and my classmates in those three days made me so much more confident, self-aware and freaking honestly scared to death to meet this person inside of me that was hidden all my life and I never knew existed. It was phenomenal. Mack was born to be a teacher and he was in his element and from then on, I honestly couldn’t believe this amazing man had chosen me to spend his life with. Mack and I spent a ton of time talking about dreams, goals and TARGETS. I couldn’t explain what in my heart I really wanted to get done, except that I knew somehow and in some way I wanted to help people. I had such an amazingly blessed life. Two amazing parents with honestly never really a hardship or challenging time and yet I saw so many good people around me divorced, or with zero communication with their families, unemployed and just in a tough position in life. Like they had a dark cloud following them around at all times. I wanted to help – SOMEHOW.
October 2005, FutureWeapons for Discovery Channel began and we had an awesome run for over three years. I was able to travel the world with Mack and we had amazing experiences making great memories and a pretty cool TV Show for The Discovery Channel. In 2007, we made the move back to Pearland so we could raise our girls. In 2008, we decided to start our family business NDCQ – Not Dead Can’t Quit and I got the trademark registered for him as a gift and the website and speaking career took off. Shortly thereafter, FutureWeapons was canceled and we moved from Discovery Channel, to History Channel and then to SPIKE TV doing more TV shows such as Weapons that Changed the World, Ultimate Soldier Challenge and Deadliest Warrior. In 2011, I challenged him to get a radio show to help spread the NDCQ Message and find a broader scale to reach people. The challenge was accepted and then I began helping him book guests on The Mack Show. I loved to hear Mack talk to others and help others take control of their life and hit targets they set up for themselves. But to be honest, I really had never physically or even mentally experienced Not Dead Can’t Quit in the slightest way. I was supportive – but it didn’t feel genuine.
THEN, November 22, 2012, Thanksgiving Day, my world was turned upside down forever. It was a very strange holiday because My parents had decided to celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary out of town just them two. At first, I was a bit annoyed about it, but My Mother emphasized to me that I needed to start making my own family traditions with my family and she just wanted to get away and relax. So, we went about that morning and went to a fancy brunch with the kiddos and then was heading home to have Friendsgiving Dinner with our sweet neighbors. As I was walking the kiddos around outside in their wagon, I noticed that a girlfriend of mine was driving down my street – sort of fast. I waved and she pulled up on the curb right in front of me. There was a police car behind her and she was crying. I was super confused and she went back to speak to the Trooper for a moment and he proceeded to walk towards me and asked if I was the daughter of Vincent and Debra Leggio. I naturally said yes and then chaos ensued and I started shaking. He calmly reported that My amazing parents were in a 100 car pileup that morning on I-10 and they did not make it. I distinctly remember arguing with him. I politely invited him in and said Sir, I’m really sorry, I don’t think you have the right people.
As we were entering the house, I shouted upstairs to Mack to come down and speak to the policeman in the kitchen and tell him he had made a mistake. Please tell him this is not my parents. There is just absolutely NO WAY this is true. He said Ma’am, it’s been all over the news today of a couple that was killed by an 18 wheeler in a 100 car pileup – but they haven’t been able to release the names yet so I immediately ran to the TV. Sure enough, there were my amazing parents’ beautiful faces plastered all over the television screen and I realized HOLY SHIT my Mom and Dad are never coming back. What are we going to do? How do I do this? By this time, my girlfriend had driven down the street to my brother’s house and he burst into my living room with the same face as me. What is happening right now? It was the most awful, confusing, scary, lonely, and devastating day of my life that I would not EVER wish upon another soul. These things do not happen to me. I have this perfect family and this perfect little world and bad things just do not happen to US. A few days later – I’m positive, I hadn’t still slept – I remember walking up the stairs and looking and Mack and I said this is what Not Dead Can’t Quit means. This is what moving through pain and fear and heartache means. I didn’t know how to do this – BUT I thankfully had the tools. I even asked him how do people do this? It was at this moment, I realized I have to move forward for the girls and I fully committed ALL IN to keeping their incredible Grandparents’ memory alive to them so they will always remember what amazing people these two were and how much they were deeply loved and adored by them. It was a time in my life where the core of who I am was changed forever. The past was the past and I had to press on and be tough and thankfully, I had my super tough Navy SEAL husband to support my family and I through this. I would tell him constantly – I NEED you. You are all I’ve got. At this time, our girls were 2 and 5.
From there, we moved to a home built in the early ’80s that I had been to as a little girl with my Mom for a Mother’s Day Tea. I remembered my Dad had this very photo of my Mom and I at this house in front of this specific leaded glass window – so I felt this was the house I needed to be in. Soon, the crazy renovations began and Mack was able to build-out a studio in the house to continue The Mack Show. They had given him some time to get back on his feet with our loss and the move and we were just staying super busy really trying to mask the daily pain and heartache we were feeling. Once the dust started to settle and the fog was clearing – Mack decided, I don’t think I’m going back to radio. He said he was just feeling a little slow and sluggish and he wanted to go back to writing and maybe get back into television. He also wanted to get his new book cranked out as well. I decided I was going to start flipping houses because I was loving the renovation process so much at home. Over the summer of 2015, we went on a really great trip with some friends to the Cayman Islands. It was there I noticed that Mack was seeming a little off balance and out of sorts when we were in the water at the beach area. I chalked it up to well he just turned 50 – I’m sure he’s fine. He’s invincible.
When we got home, I noticed a couple of times Mack was starting to sort of walk into walls a little bit not walking in a straight line when we would enter the house. One day, he even told me “I lost my balance walking up the stairs the other day.” Still, an illness never even crossed my mind. In hindsight, these were all serious warning signs – but he was my tough Navy SEAL Not Dead Can’t Quit rock that was going to take care of me – he is made of steel. So, I ignored it. But he knew something was really wrong. He failed to tell me about the headaches but the back pain he was experiencing had to be bad because he never complained. So, I found a highly recommended Chiropractor in our area and sent him in for an adjustment. No biggie. He calls me on the way home and said “hey, I am pulled over right now, but I’m pretty sure I just had a shallow water blackout and I cannot use the right side of my body all of a sudden.” I said “do not move I’m coming.” I could hear a woman in the background asking “Sir, are you ok?” I loaded up the girls and was heading out of the neighborhood – and sure enough, I saw his Jeep pulling into the neighborhood. I frantically turned around and little did I know, this would be the last time he would ever drive a vehicle – the right side of his body would never fully function again. He tried his best to get out of the car not panicked – but his whole demeanor was different. Something was really wrong.
From there, we start researching effects from a chiropractic adjustment and our first thought is Stroke. He was losing feeling on one side of his body – so it made sense. We were back in the chiropractor’s office the next day limping and he stopped us and said Mack, let’s get you in for an MRI. It’s like he knew something bad was happening because I remember him inviting me back for a free adjustment and was really trying to help me relax because he could see the fear and worry all over my face. Next was MRI day. Now, we needed a cane. In just days/literally hours, we lost the right side by 60%. After the scan was done, we started to head out to the car and a nurse grabs me and says Mr. and Mrs. Machowicz, the radiologist would like to speak to you both in his office. No problem, we were anxious to get some answers on how to fix this problem we were having. So, we sit down and I remember a nurse walking in with a box of tissues but I really didn’t pay close attention. Mack’s MRI was pulled up on the screen. He politely introduced himself to me and said Mrs. Machowicz, I want to show you what we see inside of Mack’s brain. He said there is a tumor the size of a golf ball inside of Mack’s head. Mind you, Mack is standing there with me. And I look a little closer and I said “oh wow, we need to get this fixed.” What do you recommend?” He said “well, do you know of a neurologist that we can maybe call to get him into asap?” I said “sir, this man doesn’t even take Advil, we do not do Doctors so I have no idea where to start.” Then, he said the dreaded words “I actually think you need to find an oncologist.” This was the feeling I had when the Trooper was in my front yard telling me my parents were never coming back – I got angry and didn’t believe a word he said. He was just looking at a scan – how would he know if we had cancer? He said I don’t want to frighten you, but I have an ambulance on the way and we need to get you to the medical center now. This tumor has to come out.
Through all of this time in this radiologist’s office, Mack was very, cool, calm and collected. When he saw me shaking and starting to cry, he calmed me down and said Dear – Not Dead Can’t Quit. I got this. We are going to be ok. So, I got my composure back and said you’re right. Let’s fix it. We got to the hospital and one of My Mother’s friends had just recently mentioned something about an Army Colonel who did a spine surgery on her sister. So, I thought to call her from the ambulance. Thank God, he was there and willing to see us. By the time we got there, he had been briefed on Mack and who he was and what was going on. He was a very straight, tell it like it is a gentleman but there was a very calm way about him that was extremely comforting. He made sure that Mack was given royal treatment and was a fan and extremely respectful and I will forever be indebted to Dr. Parrish.
As we were prepping for surgery, Mack and I were doing research and trying to make a game plan and I said hey – as long as we do not hear the word Glioblastoma – I think we’ve got this. Mack always kept his Not Dead Can’t Quit attitude and stayed so positive for me I know. Unfortunately, Glioblastoma Multiform was the diagnosis and we were then given the dreaded “get your affairs in order” conversation, you have maybe two or three months, this is the worst possible situation. I remember right after the surgery, Dr. Parrish came to the waiting room and brought me to a private room alone. As he delivered this news, I could see that he was so sad about it and could tell I was in complete denial. I told him, “Dr. Parrish, I lost both of my parents, he’s all I have left” and he said, “you are going to need a support system and what I’m going to do now… is tell you the absolute truth, because if it was my wife sitting here I would want someone to deliver this sort of news to her in this very manner. He said it’s really bad. The worst possible scenario.” From there, he got my brothers and friends in the room and reiterated that I was going to need each one of them. Mack’s surrogate Mother “Momma Bear” Carol was there by my side and I could not have gotten through this chaos without her. Still, I didn’t believe it.
Hell began that day, but Not Dead Can’t Quit – WE were going to beat the odds. At this point, I asked God – Why do horrible things keep happening to these great people. And why to me? And I asked him to please stop testing me on the toughness scale – I was maxed out. So home we go and we eat, sleep and breathe cancer Never Quitting. Mack dealt with his cancer so bravely and honorably. He never said Why me? In fact, he was grateful and thankful to God that it was him and not me or the girls. Living with a Not Dead Can’t Quit mindset wasn’t just our business or an avenue for profit – we were living and breathing examples of just a lot of days focusing on our breath in and out and we would just do our best to put one foot in front of the other every single day. And this is what we are about. If we do not live it, then NDCQ means zero.
My goal is to take my story along with every other brave soul’s story on the planet and use it to help others and show them that bad things do sometimes happen – but we have to accept that the sun is still going to rise and set that next day and figure out how to press on no matter what. I distinctly remember the day Mack used his walker to walk back behind our bedroom to what was once his office – and now his hospice room. He looked me right in the eyes and said this is it. This is the beginning of the end. And it wasn’t that he was quitting – he was accepting that he had done everything he possibly could to put me in a good place and it was on me now to keep going for our girls. He said I am not going to ruin the holidays, I promise. Mack told me often, I never see myself getting old. I have put myself in harm’s way so many times voluntarily, and he was right. He saw it. He was so amazing at getting rid of the things that do not matter and clearly seeing his targets to knock down. He had reached his limit and it was time to focus on the end. After 17 months of fighting, Mack passed away on January 2nd, 2017. Just after the holidays as promised.
Deafening Silence. I had been through sudden and tragic loss, and now I was going through a planned loss – not sure which tragedy was worse and the thought of comparing that makes me sick to my stomach but that was my surreal, unbelievable, can’t be happening to me nightmare and hard cold truth was – this was reality. The answer to that horrible thought. Both… both are equally disastrous and horrible. There are pros and cons to both. The suffering Mack endured was so unfair. But we had time to prepare. With my parents, it was instant with no suffering – but at the end of the day, they are gone. The saying “Life is short” – well it’s certainly accurate. When someone dies, I tell people it becomes a business. There are so many moving parts and loose ends to tie up and you have to stay focused on the business you need to take care of until you eventually learn to live your new normal. Whatever that may mean. Thankfully, I had two beautiful girls to keep me busy and a great support system around me.
After making sure my girls were ok and in a good place and simply trying to make sense of so much – I asked my best friend and neighbor Jody to help me renovate my bedroom and Mack’s office and make it mine. I needed a fresh start. I was trying to figure out what I would do next because I had this overwhelming sense of EVERYTHING IS ON ME. Jody and I discussed often about how Mack would tell us “you two should work together. Y’all can make some really cool stuff happen I bet.” And when the dust seemed to settle, we made the choice to create together Inspired By JAM (JAM = Jody & Mandy) and we have been flipping, remodeling and investing in homes ever since. But I still had this voice inside my head telling me NDCQ is Mack’s legacy for the girls. You cannot let it fizzle out. Somehow, you have to let it live.
In the Fall of 2019, Jody and I went to a RISE Conference by Rachel Hollis and it was an awesome experience. It was there that I gained the courage, with Jody’s support, to go back and blow up NDCQ big time and invited her to join me. Thankfully, her response was I thought you would never ask. I am ALL IN. So, I hadn’t even shared with her yet that I found a video Mack had left for me a few months before he started losing his ability to speak. His words sometimes were jumbled but at the heart of it, he had his Navy SEAL grimace almost shaking and intensely telling me Mandy you can do this. You’ve got this. You are smart and capable, You can do this. So Here and NOW, I have to do this. I am currently working on a book telling my story and my goal is to help others lay out a plan to be strong and tough in unimaginable situations. Also before Mack passed, he and I Co-Founded a Non-Profit Organization called Texas TEAM Foundation in which I am now the President alongside some very accomplished SEALs and First Responders… Mack repeatedly said “Mandy, you always said you wanted to help people – use me and what I have gotten done to the max and make it happen. You’ve got this. Not Dead Can’t Quit and Texas TEAM Foundation are gifts I am leaving behind that keep on giving.” Every single time I cross paths with someone our message speaks to or meet a family in need I am honored to be able to hand over a check. I think of the blessings that I have had and believe it or not, I am thankful for the hardships as well that have shaped me into the woman I am here today.
Has it been a smooth road?
My life has not been a smooth road. But who’s life is? There will be tough times you will encounter as time marches on and your attitude and self-talk is what will make or break you. Try to find the silver lining in every single thing you do. My struggles are not the same as anyone else’s struggles, but a Not Dead Can’t Quit attitude and way of life will change you for the better. When it feels that the world is against you and you are breaking down – slow it down to a simple breath in and out – notice the beat of your heart. Slow it down and focus on what you’ve got to get done. Mack often talked to me about life after him and was adamant I find a good man that is loving to me and our girls. He was a realist and knew my life would continue on. He wanted me to find happiness and I believe he felt tremendous guilt for having put me through the challenging task of becoming a caregiver for him and he wanted me to smile again. I am very pleased that I have been blessed to find happiness with another and the fact that he supports me wholeheartedly and lives NDCQ to the max in his life and with me means the world to me. In fact, HE still to this day carries around the NDCQ Challenge Coin Mack personally gave to him back in 2008 and it has a whole new meaning to us all now. I feel my life now is proof that God does have a plan for us all.
We’d love to hear more about NDCQ – Not Dead Can’t Quit.
NOT DEAD CAN’T QUIT is about being fearless and tough – especially when you don’t want to. Being comfortable being uncomfortable. Picking a target and knocking it down no matter what. It’s intense, but it’s relatable. I remember my oldest daughter Josie falling off of a stool and busting her lip open and on the hospital table getting five stitches, she wasn’t crying – she was clenching her teeth saying Not Dead Can’t Quit! It resonates! My goal is to get some freshly written material out to the world with more feminine merchandise and begin a Podcast full of NDCQ Stories to Inspire us all to live a better life. We feel we have been blessed with this amazing legacy of an accomplished Navy SEAL’s Not Dead Can’t Quit mentality and mantra and our TEAM is committed to bringing this same level of courage and commitment to all we do. We intend to listen to our audience and see what will serve them best. We want you to feel good wearing our gear and really use it as a reminder to be better than the day before EVERY day! When people write in and tell us their story and how NDCQ has changed their life, it assures me one million percent that I am right where I am supposed to be helping others. I live for it!
Finding a mentor and building a network are often cited in studies as a major factor impacting one’s success. Do you have any advice or lessons to share regarding finding a mentor or networking in general?
Go back to the basics. Have physical books to take with you and read when you can. Use YouTube for learning how to do practically anything. Be your genuine self. Work hard, play hard. But stay on task. Find a mentor far more successful than you and study them. Emulation is such a great tool to really learn from. Watch what people do that’s great and also learn from their failures. And failure will happen – know that and accept that. That’s how we learn and grow.
- Address: 2800 E. Broadway, C-215
Pearland, TX 77581
- Website: www.ndcq.com / www.texasteamfoundation.org
- Phone: 281.389.1864
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: NDCQ
- Facebook: NDCQ
Mandy Machowicz, Jody Cornelius, Andrea Kinsel, Taryn Young