258 Cynthia James: The Art and Business of Transformation
Cynthia James is a transformational specialist and one of today’s best loved inspirational leaders and teachers guiding thousands of people to make changes at a deep level for lasting healing in their lives. With her latest program,
Advanced Awareness Coaching, Cynthia helps high-level business owners and entrepreneurs find depth, focus and results. Learn more about Cynthia’s healing process, her entrepreneurial journey and how you can transform your life.
Melinda Wittstock: Cynthia, welcome to Wings.
Cynthia James: Happy to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm happy to have you too and I'm interested in your entrepreneurial origin story if you were. You know some of us start out and we have the proverbial lemonade stand or we're just very driven you know. It's creating something, selling something, whatever, and then others among us find entrepreneurship a little bit later in life, almost accidentally. What was the impetus of your entrepreneurial journey?
Cynthia James: Well, it was definitely the latter. I made my living as an actress and a singer and I traveled all over the world and I did that and then I moved into working in corporate America where I was in corporate communication and supporting people. The interesting thing was is that I was really helping everybody else build their kingdoms. And so I would be promoted and I would be doing all this and then I would do my creativity on the side, because I love to speak. And I love to teach and I love to sing which is in coach, right. But I didn't call it coaching at that point.
So I would do my job and then I would my stuff on the side. And one day, I thought, “What if I did this for me?”
Melinda Wittstock: How beautiful. Right because I mean there's a … I forget where this quote comes from, but it's like you can build your own dreams or you can build someone else's.
Cynthia James: Right. Right. And I want you to know that it was very scary. I mean I took this leap of faith. I left this lucrative job and I opened an office and I didn't really have clients and I had all this education and I had all this skill, but I didn't know how to be an entrepreneur. So it was really kind of one step in front of the other and sometimes crash and burn and other times sore to get to this place today,
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. So we all have those crash and burn moments. I mean that's something that I'm keen to de-stigmatize of that entrepreneurship. Because I think a lot of people get there and they read so much about success and the people who were really successful and you read about in Ink magazine or Forbes or whatever, it seems as if they've never had any struggle. They make it look easy and of course, they were overnight successes after working, trying things 50 different ways, 100 different ways, failing and having all those ups and downs. And you know it's all part of the territory isn't it. I mean you really have to be willing to fail and fail and fail and fail again. Its just that difference is those failures are basically market research.
Cynthia James: Exactly. And then you get up and you start all over again. And then hopefully learn from the lessons.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. Well, you learn lessons about yourself. I think at the end of the day as I've been my journey, it's really been a personal growth journey as much as an entrepreneurial growth one.
Cynthia James: Absolutely. I think they blend. I don't think they're separate. I think as you grow as a person, you grow as an entrepreneur and then you inspire others because of what you're bringing.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh. This is so true. So let's go back a little bit in time. You mentioned that you were an actress and a singer and so you're in Hollywood. What were you doing?
Cynthia James: Television. I was the first Lexie on Days of Our Lives. I was doing movies. I was opening at Harrah's for Jay Leno and other people. And it was exquisite and wonderful and then one day, it just started to dry up. What I know today, is that I had another calling but in that moment it was very scary. It was like I have been making my living for a long time in Hollywood and all of a sudden, it stopped.
And if those doors didn't close, I never would have left.
Melinda Wittstock: So there you were, and it's drying up and that's a scary place because at the time, right, well you can look back on it now, and say, “Oh, okay it was for a reason,” at the time and may not have felt that way.
Cynthia James: Oh yeah. I mean it was like I couldn't say the right thing or show up in the right way or enter the room in ways that have been easy for me before. And I … I mean I made up excuses, I was too tall, I was too short, I was too light, I was too dark. I mean even … whatever it was, but the truth is, is that things were changing and desires in the industry were changing and I was being called some place else and I wouldn't have left if it hadn't stopped at that way.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm asking you these questions because I had just a similar experience as a journalist and a television host and I think the final thing that finished me off, was if I had to report one more day on Monica Lewinsky … I was like, “No, no, no, this is not for me.” Right. Like I have to do something more important than this. I have like a higher calling and you know it was great and it was working so well, lots of ease, lots of money…
But in the end, you just say, “Okay, this is not actually why I'm here.” And its curious this on our journeys because we often have these things were we succeed in something really big, you know, in our 20s and 30s and then all of a sudden, we out grown it and to be able to get to the next level, we have to almost go through a really uncomfortable period.
Cynthia James: Well absolutely. And for me, you know, I came from a pretty crazy childhood, a lot of violence and abuse and all that kind of stuff. And I really feel like it was easy as an actress and singer to kind of hide behind the character or the persona. But when you don't have that any more, you have to bring you. You have to be with you and that was … and so that's what was happening. I really had to do some deep inner work to kind of get clear about healing my past so that I could move forward in a way that today supports other people. At the time, I didn't know that.
Melinda Wittstock: So I find it interesting. You get to a certain age and you look back and I think Steve Jobs said this very well. “Things that seemed unrelated or you couldn't really figure out how the dots connected, now you're a little bit older and you can see how all those things come together.” I can imagine all the acting and performing is a really big part of how you show up now and the insights you have as a coach.
Cynthia James: 100%. My speaking engagements, my keynotes, my workshops, the way I am with people, the insights. Because you know when you're an actor, you're an observer. You're watching everything, and that's how characters can come through, and so that ability to sit with people whether it's one on one or in a group is a really great skill because all of a sudden, you're taking in the whole room.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. So the best sales people, the best coaches, I think the best entrepreneurs do have that ability to really observe and listen and understand. Without being able to do that, how could you possibly understand a customer, or understand a customer's problem?
Cynthia James: Exactly, and be in a place of compassion and care to support them from moving from where they are to where they want to be.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, yes. And so you've made a couple of leaps 'cause it wasn't just from acting and performing into corporate, but then that moment in corporate where it's like okay. So I'm building other people's dreams. I'm making other people wealthy. Wait just a minute here. Right? Set up. Tell me a little bit about that set up story because I think so many people listening to this podcast are either about to make the leap or they've made the leap and they feel like they're stuck on the start up sticky floor in overwhelm, right? It's like oh man, I've got 50,000 things to do. I don't have any money to hire anybody. What do I do?
Cynthia James: Right. I took some classes with Lisa Nickles, and she has this thing called parallel preneur, and it's like you're doing this job, but you're building something else, and so I thought that everything else that I was doing was an investor in my new life, and so I was saving money, and I was trying to get clear about what I was going to do, and then at some point I had to leave, and I had to get an office even though I didn't enough clients to pay for everything. So I knew I was going to have to pull into my savings. But the interesting thing is I really believe this is how the universe works, when you take a leap of faith like that, and you are just so clear that you're in your passion and on your path, the universe syncs up. People just started coming and referring people to me, and I started getting invitations to speak and to travel, and without doing the marketing. I mean I learned to do that later, but I realized in this moment that I took that leap. It was really the universe was a yes for me.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. So often you have to leap first. You can't wait for that safety net to appear. Either you're doing it because it's your sole purpose, or you're not. So how interesting is that. I think that's so true. I find even with wings, that moment where I thought about this podcast, and a lot of the work I'm doing to really lift and elevate women, just one day it's like wait a minute. Okay enough. Right? Women have to show up for each other, mentor each other, throw business to each other, invest in each other, and if I want to see that reality I have to start doing it.
Cynthia James: Exactly. Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: So I just started doing it, and then I remember I created this podcast. Originally it was six days a week. It's four days a week now which is a lot, and I remember people saying what you're interviewing seven, eight, nine figure entrepreneurs, how will you find enough women? And I'm like oh. They're there. I'll find them. And it hasn't really been a problem, but that was the problem, right? That everybody was succeeding in silence, and nobody knew how many amazing female entrepreneurs there are actually are out there.
Cynthia James: Which is extraordinary. What's amazing is that you listened. I mean and to yourself and to your intuition not what somebody else was saying out there. There was just a knowing within you.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. It's like we're succeeding in silence. We have all these amazing SuperShero powers. We've got to start talking and owning them, and then we have to do something to to get out of our own way. There should be an AA for perfectionism for instance, right? Because we all need to retire that, right? Like there are certain patterns that start to emerge throughout all these interviews, and you must see them. You work a lot with women, and I want to kind of turn the corner into talking about that because you're coaching a lot of women. What are some of the patterns that you see? Like the good and the bad?
Cynthia James: Women are driven. They're passionate. They're willing to work hard to create what they want. I think some of the challenges are that they don't take care of themselves. We've been acculturated to take care of everybody else. I mean my last book is called Choose Me, and it was written for that because for us to really raise the vibration and to make a shift on the planet we have to put ourselves first because otherwise everything crumbles when we start to dissolve into overwhelm and overwork.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's true. When you see people, when you see women who are, I don't know, they even use sometimes masculine terms for it. They're out there hustling, crushing it, right? For the most part, they burn out or they have autoimmune problems or certainly relationship problems.
Cynthia James: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: And don't really look happy. I think it's interesting. We can go out and be like dudes and try to slay the wildebeest or whatever. It doesn't really look good on us.
Cynthia James: No.
Melinda Wittstock: And I figure if we have the powers of attraction, it feels like that's just a much more elegant way to land clients.
Cynthia James: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Melinda Wittstock: And to grow a business, to be able to manifest and attract, and collaborate, which is more in our nature. Just in an archetypal sort of way. How do you come down on that? Like where we are in terms of leveraging the archetypal feminine and the archetypal masculine?
Cynthia James: I mean both live within all of us, but I think the feminine, there is a nurturing, compassionate, caring part of it that allows people to feel seen, supported, safe, and honored, and I think that that gift allows clients, people that you're working with, companies, in order to see themselves in a different light that has a little bit softer thing. I mean that fighting, hustling thing can work, but I don't know that it creates containers of safety and support.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. That's true. I ask this question because a couple years ago I found myself sitting in the middle of the Amazon rainforest. I was on this wonderful trip, founder's journey to the Ecuadorian Amazon with Pachamama alliance.
Cynthia James: Oh Lynn.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:22:42"] who I adore, and I remember reading her book Soul of Money. It was one of those books early on in my transformation that changed the way I thought about money and so much else, and she was sort of a hero of mine and to actually meet her and then be on this journey, the 20th anniversary to go back and meet the Achuar tribe, who not only met the outside world 20 years ago or something. I guess 22 years now. But to sit in the rainforest and really see this really connected ecosystem that felt very much in balance in terms of the masculine and feminine energies. I'm thinking at that time wow. Okay, we're all connected. We all need to leverage the best of both of these.
Cynthia James: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: And when we're working really in collaboration much like an ecosystem does, businesses really flourish.
Cynthia James: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: So how to go replicate that? Our little Amazonian kind of ecosystems I guess within our businesses, and I find this is the first time I've actually articulated it in that way speaking to you, but it's curious isn't it in terms of what of us that we have that's so special as women that if we really stand in that purpose and really honor it, we can do magnificent transformational things that I think haven't actually been seen before.
Cynthia James: Absolutely. So I had this program called the Academy of Women Emerging, and they're all entrepreneurs, and one of the things that we tell them is that you have to approach this life and this business from a holistic point of view. From the care of self to the care of others and understanding that we're all interconnected, and so that has impact everywhere. I think what Lynn has done has invited people to see that the indigenous people always knew that.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. Yes, they did. In fact, it's funny that the Achuar say, “Well hey, don't come here to help us. Come here to help yourself.”
Cynthia James: Right?
Melinda Wittstock: Right? Which is great for us sort of west when we think we have it all figured out and yet we're learning so much from ancient wisdom, and I think a lot of what we think is new or woo is actually quite old.
Cynthia James: Exactly, and we're just remembering.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Cynthia James: And awakening to it, and I think that's what the world is calling for. I think all the stuff we're seeing all over the planet I think at the core it's like calling for us to awaken to that truth of who we are and what we come here to do together.
Melinda Wittstock: Well isn't it interesting that we're having a business conversation right now, right? But business is becoming really something of actual transformation, and entrepreneurs who are really at the leading edge of tremendous innovations to really improve and change our society are having these kind of conversations that even a couple years ago would be like way out there, ‘woo woo’.
Cynthia James: Right, exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: And now they're really accepted. So like in your coaching business for instance, I mean do you get into all of this stuff just as much as you get into the nitty-gritty of okay, here's how you could find your clients, or here's how you can scale your business, or all the kind of business lessons that clients need to understand?
Cynthia James: Absolutely. In fact, I have a degree in spiritual psychology, and so one of the things that we do is we look at the emotional integration and the core beliefs that are running, and how do you want to show up authentically and how do you want to bring your heart into the business because people don't necessarily buy the business, they buy the energy that you bring, and so we have all those conversations.
Melinda Wittstock: Gosh, that's beautifully said, and it's interesting. As you step into that energy, as you grow. I found that people have started to say things like that to me like out of the blue they'll say things like I really love your energy.
Cynthia James: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Melinda Wittstock: Which is like the highest compliment, and when you start to hear stuff like that, and you think oh, how nice. That's lovely.
Cynthia James: Yeah. Well because you know what? I really think we are all always connected to energy. It just hasn't been described that way, and we haven't been taught that way, and so I just really think that when a person walks into a room that you instantly feel a connection to, that's energy. When somebody walks into the space where you just want to back up, that's energy, and I think if we start getting that, then we can be intentional about the energy we bring to any meeting, any phone call, any experience.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I mean really helping folks who are still stuck transform. So in your coaching business in terms of how you select the people you're going to work with, is it mostly sort of a self selection process, or do people come to you that maybe they don't have the energy that you would like but they need your work? I know some coaches are like I only work with people who are in alignment, right? And other people are no, I work with people who really need my help.
Cynthia James: Right, right.
Melinda Wittstock: How do you choose your clients in that respect?
Cynthia James: Well I set a really powerful intention that no one comes to me that's not ready to do the work.
Melinda Wittstock: Ah.
Cynthia James: And so it's rare that anybody comes that isn't ready to do the work, and I have a reputation of being an accountability person and calling people out if they're not doing what they say they want to do, and so I tell people upfront I always do these kind of 15 minute calls that let's talk about what you want, and let's talk about what I do, and let's see if this feels like an energetic match. And it's worked. I mean it's worked all these years because I really feel like when you're honest, and people get to be honest, it's clear if it's going to work or not.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. Well so many programs out there, online programs are sold. People buy them. They never show up.
Cynthia James: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Melinda Wittstock: They never do anything, and a lot of people want stuff easy. It doesn't come easy. You have to be prepared to do the work. I can't think of anything more soul destroying for a coach than to be coaching and the students not learning or not doing the work that they need to do to actually transform.
Cynthia James: Exactly, and it's only happened twice in my career, but I have fired clients.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cynthia James: I have said I am not the right person for you because I'm not going to support and cosign your not showing up for the vision you say you want to create.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I get that about accountability.
Cynthia James: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Melinda Wittstock: And so we started to go down a path little bit earlier on in the conversation about what are some of the things that women need to work on more, and we did tick one of those boxes, which is self-care, that if we're a frazzled, hot mess, nothing good is going to come from that. So, we really do have to put ourselves first. What are some of the other things?
Cynthia James: You know, I really think you have to be clear about who's around you and what energy and messages they're bringing, because if you don't have people that are recognizing your gifts and what you bring, if you have the naysayers around you that are constantly telling you why you can't do something, or why you shouldn't take this risk, I think it becomes a drain, and then you start questioning and doubting. I say bring people that are high vibrational and at least where you are in this moment that are going to pull you forward because they get who you are. I mean, I've had some people that have said, “You're playing too small.”
Melinda Wittstock: Not that long ago I put out in my newsletter let's all play bigger. There's no point playing small. Why play small? The only thing that makes us play small is fear, and what's really interesting, I think, that all of us have, we have some sort of thought pattern in our heads, some sort of threshold that we don't feel we deserve to cross. Could show up in terms of how we price our services, or how many clients we think we have, or what kind of business we think we can have, or how big that business could be, or what kind of guy or partner we think we deserve, or whatever. I know, are these kind of invisible lines, invisible to everybody but ourselves, sometimes they are invisible to us. We're not even conscious of what those lines are, how to bust through those and play big.
Cynthia James: Well, yeah, and you know, the people that we admire on the planet that are successful or bring extraordinary gifts are not playing small. They have stepped out and leaped and soared, and sometimes, against extraordinary odds, because they're unwilling to hide and to pull their energy back. I'm like, I want to be one of those people. I want to be the person that is courageous and is bravely moving forward, because I just can't help myself.
Melinda Wittstock: That's beautiful. Do women need permission for that, or do we just need to just seize it?
Cynthia James: Nah. Just go.
Melinda Wittstock: Because we look for permission.
Cynthia James: Oh, we do, we do.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? We look for permission from partners and friends, but from other women, and I'd like to think that that's really changing. I mean; it used to be. I'm old enough to remember this time when my female bosses … There weren't very many of them, but they would be competing with you, they wouldn't be helping you, right. It could be actually quite vicious, and how, gratefully, that is changing and has changed. There's still a little bit of sense of women compete with women, or there's some sort of scarcity at the top, or there's only so much oxygen. That's changing, though, right, and it's changing pretty fast, but do we often-
Cynthia James: I do think it's changing, and I think you have to stay awake to notice when something isn't working, or you're trying to impress someone, or get their validation. I mean that's taking you out of alignment with who you came to be.
Melinda Wittstock: This is very, very true.
Cynthia, we've been talking about playing big. So, tell me a little bit about your vision for where you're going next, and the bigness of that. I like big stories.
Cynthia James: Yeah, so last year, we created the Academy of Women Emerging, and we've invited women entrepreneurs to come for one year and just be supported in every area of their life. Their relationships, their money, their marketing, their social media, their personal experience, how they present themselves in the world: We set really big goals so that at the end of the year when they graduate, their business has gone up another level, they're open to different kinds of relationships and care for themselves. I'm excited about that, because that's the legacy I want to leave. I want to be able to support other women in just bringing their bigness to the planet and helping transform it so that we can take care of our children and this earth, and bring love in another form.
Yeah, so what happens is they come to Colorado four times a year for a weekend, and then we support them online with coaches and experts to take their business to the next level. Each weekend has a focus on their business.
Melinda Wittstock: What a wonderful thing. I'm doing something similar to that, but different. It has a slightly different manifestation. I think we should collaborate.
Cynthia James: Ooh, that would be good.
Melinda Wittstock: This sounds so wonderful, what you're doing, and it's interesting and inspiring to me, because I came up with sort of a similar thing. It's different in lots of ways, but I just wanted to lift women, so brought together 60 of the most successful entrepreneurs in the United States and around the world, all with six, seven, eight, nine, even 10-figure businesses, all paying it forward, by creating hour long presentations, and worksheets, and cheat sheets, and all sorts of different things to really help advance women across mindset, mojo, money. It's all online, but I was thinking wow, wouldn't it be great to do sort of a physical kind of manifestation of that to really create really interesting, epic experiences and masterminds and things where we can actually, through all that learning, have that sort of accountability. So, I'm fascinated with what you're doing. I think it's fantastic.
Cynthia James: Well, thank you. It's really been extraordinary, because one of the things that we do is when we're together, it becomes a tribe, it becomes a family, and so one of the things that they're required to do is, the weekend that they come in, we leave on Saturday at [spp-timestamp time="4:30"], and everybody has to go to the spa. We have to have something where we're nurtured, and what we find out is a lot of them don't do this. They don't do that.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh. That's amazing that the spa … OH my goodness. I feel like I'm talking to my soul mate here, because epic experiences I wanted to do, there was going to be mandatory spa time as part of this.
Cynthia James: Exactly, exactly, and it makes such a different … Everybody just starts to come down a notch into relaxation. The things online are really … It's like, they have an accountability coach, they're in small groups, and that accountability coach, they set these goals before they leave in the weekend, and that coach is like, what are you doing?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that's wonderful.
Cynthia James: It's awesome, but I love this hour-long mindset, mojo, and money. This is great.
Melinda Wittstock: I think it's awesome, and the more we all show up and create these programs, and collaborate and cross fertilize by sending people around, just circulating. Different people get different things from different groups and seminars and epic experiences, and online things. I just love this idea of catalyzing an ecosystem where we all really are lifting each other up in this way. I can hardly wait to talk to you a little bit offline about this too.
Cynthia James: Me too. I do feel like you're a sister soul, that's for sure.
Melinda Wittstock: I know, right? I feel the same way about you. So, we'll make sure that in all the show notes, we have all the details about all your programs, but right now, just tell everybody a little bit about how they can find out about that program and some of the other things you're doing and how they can work with you.
Cynthia James: My personal website is cynthiajames.net, and there's a section that says for women, and women awakening videos and all these things to support. The awe program is under the umbrella womencreatingourfutures.com/awe. It tells you what the program is and what it does, and I'm a little bit biased because I'm excited about it, but I would love to be connecting with the women here and seeing how we can support you, because that thing within you that wants to be an entrepreneur, I believe, is a calling.
Melinda Wittstock: Aw, yes. It truly is. So, do you have any special gift or offer for our listeners today?
Cynthia James: I do. I have a program, it's called self-care mastery, and it's an online course. I'm giving 25% off, and they can just go in. There's a code called FREEYOURSELF, and you just go in and download it, and videos and papers come into you over a few week period of time to just really help you identify where you are in self-care and what you need to do to up level it to take your life to the next level.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that's beautiful. Well, Cynthia, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Cynthia James: I have loved every minute of this. Thank you for the invitation.