tricia carlisle northcutt.

nashville, tennessee. | wife. mother. teacher. artist. community leader. good deed doer.  trail blazer.

How did you choose the life you lead and was it a conscious decision?

Being a child of the 60’s, I never had a grand plan, there were life things I wanted try. Travel, teach and write. And then have a family. So I did. I wanted freedom of choice, money was not a motivator but happiness was paramount. I always followed my gut instinct. Whatever I chose as my path, it had to feel right. When it didn’t feel right, I changed the path.

At the age of 21, I was a high school English teacher. After teaching a couple of years, I began a more lucrative career in marketing and advertising. I wanted the opportunity to try and learn something different. I still wonder how I got the job. No experience. I learned as much as I could and then opened my own firm.

Each experience was a steppingstone. I had nothing to lose by trying new things. I saw life as an adventure if I failed then at least I had the experience. I never liked “playing it safe” by not taking a chance. Fear was not allowed in my thoughts. I replaced it with “opportunity for success.” What I eventually learned about myself was that the happiest and best moments (aka the feeling of success) happened when I was helping others. Sounds cliché? Maybe it is cliché because so many people have the same universal experience.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Other than being a mom to three accomplished children, my greatest joy or accomplishment was starting a faith-based non-profit organization serving under privilege kids. Helping uninsured and under insured children get the healthcare, dental, and mental care—at no cost to their families was an amazing blessing to me. Since 2005, Children’s Volunteer Health Network has served over 7,000 kids with over 50,000 appointments. We have a full-time, fully staff dental clinic and mobile dental clinic. Let it be noted none of these accomplishments were done alone. It took an entire “village” to pull this off.

What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?

My greatest obstacle is fear of criticism … from myself. I have to be vigilant that the tiny voice of self doubt is silenced. It is a constant battle not to feel like a fraud and always believe in myself. When I am plagued with fears or doubts, I pray and ask for divine guidance then I focus on the end results. If I stumble along the way I surround myself with powerful creative people that challenge, inspire and help me define what I may have had difficulty seeing. That can be a humbling acknowledging that as individuals we don’t have all the answers and need the help of others.

Was there a fork in the road that distinctly determined your lifestyle?

I really don’t know what creates a life moment or the fork in the road. Sometimes it is an emotional crisis or just a change in circumstance. When my youngest was finishing up high school and preparing to go to college, I had mixed feeling of sadness and joy. I needed quiet creative time to feel the feelings of the proverbial empty nest but felt a heart full of love. For some compelling gut feeling, I decided to create / express my feelings through art. My sweet husband informed me, “you don’t paint.” I replied, “I do now.” I bought my first canvas, paints, put an easel in my kitchen and began painting my heart and love onto an empty white canvas. Another new beginning—my first year as an artist I sold over 20 paintings in galleries and exhibitions. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be successful. My tiny voice in retrospect says, what the heck were you thinking? You weren’t trained as an artist, etc.” I say back to that inner voice, “being creative doesn’t require training, it only requires trying.” Be fearless.

Is there such a thing as work-life balance?

I laugh at the concept of work-life balance. Our lives are a complex mixture of what we do. What are we balancing? Guilt? Each day that we can fill the world with something more than just ourselves is life/work balance. Anything more or less is just self imposed misery. Each day is a new opportunity to begin again. We may never get it right but we can enjoy the process.

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

To live a life gracefully, we must embrace and love our authentic self. Flaws, warts, missteps and all our dark secrets of self-doubts are the DNA of our shadow self, not who we really are. If we can love that person, then we can enter into the world with a spirit of kindness and be nonjudgmental of others. I believe that is the true definition of living life gracefully.

j. jane side notes:

To learn more about the good deeds being done at The Children’s Volunteer Health Network visit

  • Sara Badertscher
    Posted at 19:01h, 28 September

    Great statement: “being creative doesn’t require training, it only requires trying.” I really enjoyed reading your answers.

  • Darlene Kellner
    Posted at 01:51h, 03 November

    “I had nothing to lose by trying new things. I saw life as an adventure if I failed then at least I had the experience.”
    This is great advice because so many people are so afraid to try new things. Change is scary, but subsequently if they don’t try new things, they do not gain the experience.