Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell Transcript
How many times have you heard you have to “hustle” to succeed? Hustle, push through, work hard … even harder … harder still. So you did it, you did it all, you pushed, pushed some more, only to burn out– or worse, find your health compromised.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business ((Start to fade music GRADUALLY under my voice – here) we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who ended up with stage 4 endometriosis and it almost cost her her life.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell was running a law firm, an accountancy firm, a publishing company, and a church with her pastor husband. “I was a stress bunny”, she says, pushing, pushing, pushing, and when the pain came to be too much, popping pain pills like “tic tacs”. Then came the operation that removed her ovaries, her uterus, part of her bowels and her appendix. The endometriosis had even reached her lungs.
Today Lynita shares how her traumatic experience changed her perspective on everything … and how she found the silver lining that now enables her to help others identify and face their fears, embrace and transform their pain, and position themselves watch the blessings reign.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell has founded and led several businesses including her law firm through which was named a Top 100 Lawyer in Georgia. Also an accounting firm, an award-winning media company that published five magazines, two of which were voted as Atlanta’s Hottest; a publishing company that published 7 bestselling authors; and leadership training and development non-profit for which she received the US President’s Council on Service & Civic Participation Lifetime Achievement Award. Lynita has been recognized by Black Enterprise Magazine as “BE NEXT Under 35”, as an Outstanding Georgia Citizen by the Secretary of State, and with the Yellow Rose Community Service Leader Award by the Georgia Women’s Legislative Caucus.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell will be here in a moment and first …
Now back to the inspiring Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell, now using her considerable business talents – and what she learned from her near death experience – as a Performance and Professional Development Coach helping people eclipse the fear in their lives.
Lynita says that with every professional accomplishment and “win”, there is often an equal and corresponding challenge and “loss”. In her case, a brutal battle with endometriosis, struggles with self-esteem and body-image, and career changes that created terrifying fork-in-the-road decisions. Lynita how she overcame these experiences and used them to create a prosperous and rewarding life through her system of Aggregate Intelligence Building … as a national bestselling author of “Knocked Down, Set Straight”, a personal and professional development coach, and a transformational keynote speaker.
So let’s put on our wings with Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell.
Melinda Wittstock: Lynita, welcome to Wings.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Thank you, Melinda. I really enjoy being here with you today.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm so intrigued by your story, because we all have these things in our lives that sometimes happen, that are really difficult, or painful, or terribly challenging at a time, and yet they're a gift for us as well. And I know you had something happen to your health that really made you change the way you pursue business. And I want you to share that with everybody. What happened and what did you learn?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Absolutely. So, I was diagnosed with stage four endometriosis. Prior to the diagnosis, I was a little stress bunny. That's what I have termed myself. I did everything. I'm married, my husband is a pastor and so we have church. I'm a mom of a wonderful 12-year-old who is very active. And I was also running a law firm, and accounting firm because I'm an attorney and a CPA, as well as a media company with 1.5 magazines, that also did large events and covered red carpet including Soul Train. And-
Melinda Wittstock: And?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: … a publishing-
Melinda Wittstock: I'm just letting all this sink in. And?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Yes, and a publishing company that published seven bestselling authors. And I also did speaking and coaching and training. So, all of that on just this little person's abilities. And my body eventually said, “That's enough of that.”
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: And by the time I listened, it was almost too late. I went to the doctors and they said that not only did I have fibroids, because I was hurting pretty badly, but I have a high tolerance for pain. Actually no, scratch that. I was popping pain pills like some people pop Tic Tac’s, which is wrong, wrong, wrong. The first time your body is hurting, you need to sit down and listen to it. That was the first thing that I learned, when I went to the doctor and they said, “Stage four endometriosis. We need to operate.”
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: They went in the first time and they couldn't do anything because the endometriosis had tied all of my internal organs up and it was like a cement block. And so, they prescribed me the same medication that they use for prostate cancer patients to burn off as much as they could, because they wanted to try to preserve as much as they could. So, I wouldn't have a decrease in my standard of living. So, the second time they went in, about six months later, they were able to perform what I consider a miracle, because I still have bowels, so I don't have to have a colostomy bag. But they did take my ovaries, my uterus, a portion of the back wall of my vagina, and a few inches of my bowel as well as my appendix. And they said that they had never seen a case as extensive as what I had, because the endometriosis had actually reached my lungs.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow. Oh my goodness.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Yes. And so, it left me a lot of time, Melinda, to sit and try to recover. And a lot of people will say, “Oh my gosh, this is horrible. I hate that that happened to you.” But I see the silver lining in that, because it really made me reevaluate the way that I was running my businesses, the number of businesses that I was running and the fact that I was not tapping a lot of key talent that I had in my companies to take more responsibility.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: And so, that's the second thing that I learned. Delegation is a must. A lot of times very successful people, and particularly women, we have a really hard time with that because we have a certain idea in our mind, of perfection, of how things must be, and we are not willing to be flexible and generous and allow someone to create a different idea that will still create excellence, but does not necessarily coincide with our idea, which is the standard we have created of perfection. So, I am very grateful for the experience. I wish that I had not allowed it to get as desperate as it did. But I am choosing to use that experience to help other people.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm so sorry that you went through that, but what a lesson. I think there are so many women who become human doings instead of human beings, right?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I love it.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? We think we have to do everything ourselves. And I wonder where that conditioning comes from, whether it's just always been that? Because in the household it was like that. Man went out, speared the wildebeest, whatever, brought it back and the women were doing everything else, right?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I love it. And sometimes if the man was killing the wildebeest, then we had to do that too.
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. And so, what does it take to make that shift? I mean, hopefully people don't have to get really sick and endure what you did to make that shift. But I find a lot of women really struggle with this.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Well, the major thing that has to shift is your mindset. You really have to come to the place where you understand that you are here to enjoy and love life. That life is yours to command and you weren't placed here to work yourself to death. We work so that we can enjoy our living. Work is not the living. And once you get there, then you can realign things in your lives. Because that's how I had to do it. Right now, I do two things. I am a Supreme Performance professional development coach and I am a lawyer. That's it. So I only-
Melinda Wittstock: So, you let the media company go, and the publishing company?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I did, and let me tell you, people thought I was crazy because the businesses were doing well, and they could not believe that… Seriously, we have not published a magazine in a year and I still have people come to me and say, “Oh my gosh. So, I know that you took a break, but when are you going to get started back?” And I'm like, “No, remember the video that I made saying this is our last issue, but thank you for your support.” No, this is it for real. But people do not want to accept that. But that's another thing. You have to get to the place where what other people think about what you should be doing is really not your concern. You're here for your own life experience. And you want people to enjoy that experience with you. But if they can't get on board with that, that's okay too.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, exactly. And I find there are certain businesses that really make your heart sing and other ones that don't. I mean, and I have that from the perspective of a serial entrepreneur, one business after another. Some of them have really succeeded. Some of them I've sold, and some just, I don't know, they just didn't go. Right? So, it wasn't like they… But they were all great in their own way. But one of the things that I've learned along the way is some of them feel like they're in flow. They feel easy. There are synchronicities, the right people show up. There's great timing. It's just in flow. Right?
Melinda Wittstock: And other ones feel like pushing a boulder up a mountain. And I've come, with the wisdom of time, to be able to see those moments, that if there's struggle or if it doesn't feel right or whatever, it just is not in alignment. If it's not making your heart sing, if you don't absolutely love it, if you can't not do it, then it's probably not the right thing. And it could be a great business, but maybe have someone else come in and run it or sell it.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: That's exactly right. But you have to have the mindset that somebody else can come in and do that.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: You have to allow them the freedom and the opportunity to do so.
Melinda Wittstock: I had a question about that. Do you think it's some scarcity thinking, in a way, that makes us think that only we can do it? Like, “Oh, it won't be as good”? Is there some sort of fear underneath that? What is that?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Oh, it absolutely is. Everything is driven by fear. There are two emotions in the world and only two. Love and fear. So, if it's not being done in love, it is being done in fear. And one of the things that we have to get to is we have to eclipse the fear. So, I'm not saying that it's going to always go away, but rather we have to look at it, dead in its eyes and call it by its name, fear, and then give ourselves permission, or forgive ourselves. And forgive the mistakes.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I'm not talking about just letting something go, but rather giving ourselves permission to use the energy created in that fearful state in another way. So truly forgive. And then doing something different with it. If we know that this thing creates really negative feelings within us, then this is not the thing that we need to be doing on a long-term basis. It's creating stress. It's creating anxiety, it's creating disease in our body. Disease.
Melinda Wittstock: I'm fascinated by this shift of energies, as you will, I don't know how else to really describe it, where a lot of people now, including on this podcast, are talking about how the world is shifting into a more feminine energy. Or perhaps women are just embracing that energy more. And by feminine energy, I define it as really leveraging a lot of our God-given skills for intuition and empathy and collaboration, and more of a running a business from the point of view of attraction rather than pursuit. Say in sales, more about enrollment, more about community. I mean, bringing people together, those sorts of things. And I see business models, even of companies run by men, even shifting in that direction. Is that really the influence of women in the workplace and in entrepreneurship? What is that? I'm just noticing that a lot more, a lot more people talking about that.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I agree. And I think one of the things that is happening is that we're living in a place where we believe that dreams are in-possible. I-N-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E. And when that happens, then we have the freedom to work in love. So, we're not just going to work every day to compete and to kill, figuratively, the competition. We truly can be more collaborative. We can look at an organization and see what they do well, and what they do not so well, and to pick up the things that they don't do so well, and that we enjoy, and then possibly partner up. We can embrace the amazing within ourselves and understand that we're great, and the person next to us is great and we don't have to be exactly the same.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I think once we get to those places in our minds that we can now move forward and become the people we've always wanted to be. I believe that the standard of what success is has shifted. So, you were talking about the feminine energy. If you speak with most women about what success is, yes, they do want to make money, but the reason they want to make money is not to provide, necessarily, for the family because to a woman that is the the center point, right? But rather it is to help her community. So, we've gone from going out and hunting to provide food for just sustenance, but to really bringing love and everyone together in the community so that not only do we all eat, but we all thrive. And I think that that is the shifting that we're feeling and we're seeing. And I absolutely love it.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely right. So, I want to take you back in time a little bit, Lynita into your early years. Did you always know you were entrepreneurial when you were a kid?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Yes. When I was in the fourth grade, I was selling candy.
Melinda Wittstock: Ah, that's funny. There's always a clue. There are always the breadcrumbs, or I guess candy crumbs there. Right?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: For all of us. So, this was just in your character, this is what you did, and that was that. Did you have entrepreneurial parents?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Absolutely. So, my father is an orthodontist and he was the first African-American orthodontist in the state of Florida, the second in the South. And so, he had his own practice until he retired at 80. So, I always had that in front of me. And then my mother, although a nurse by profession and she retired from nursing after 40 years, she always had something that she was doing on the side, and it was always something that she loved. So, she did not spend her time doing things that she did not embrace and could do wonderfully.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: She had a thriving plant business. She dealt with antiques. And even now as a retiree, she has a catering business, and she does incredibly well during the holidays with her cakes and her pies. So, my parents were incredibly influential in my life when it came to working and doing things that you love and making money from them and really investing them back into not only the family unit but in the community as well.
Melinda Wittstock: You're an attorney, you're a CPA, you have all these credentials. Now, a lot of entrepreneurs, particularly women, do that. They go for the credentials and the training and all of that kind of stuff, and then launch businesses. And then some of them, like me, I have an undergraduate degree, but basically my degree is in the rough and tumble of just starting something.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I love it.
Melinda Wittstock: Who says that? How hard can that be? Right? That kind of school. Right? So, what is it that drove you from having that real entrepreneurial personality and zeal to something like the law or being a CPA?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: So, the law was something that I've wanting to do since I was very young, and I'm about to go back for a moment. When the Iran-Contra hearings were on TV, and my aunt saw them and I was sitting with her at the time, and she pointed out Oliver North's attorney and how cool and collected he was. And she said to me, “Lynita, you see how he is not cracking under pressure? No matter what questions those congressmen and senators are throwing at him? That's how you need to be if you're serious about being a businesswoman, a successful one.” And so that was always in the back of my mind.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: And so when I went to undergrad, I wanted to major in pre-law and my mother said, “No,” because she said, “If you decide to change your mind about law, you still need to be able to get a job and you can't get a job as a pre-law major.” So, she selected my major for me with accounting, and everybody around me was an accountant so I got my CPA license because everybody else did. And then I said, “This is not for me.”
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: So, I went back to law school and I absolutely love it. I love the fact that I get to help people, no matter what is going on in their lives, whether it's my area of law or not. If it's not my area of law, I normally can refer them to a good colleague who can help. And if it is, because I do real estate, estate planning as well as law consultations and trainings, I can help them with that as well. And I really love the marriage of my experience with my coaching business as well as with my keynote speech, because I can bring all of those things together and really deliver a summary of experiences that I speak for myself. These are things that happened to me, as opposed to speaking from something that just happened in a book or that somebody told me. And I really love that.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, my goodness. That's amazing. Meanwhile, it strikes me that you got really involved in your community in a lot of different ways. So, was that where all the media and all of that came from, was that just a natural thing? You just saw the opportunity and so, why not? Or was it like, “I've always wanted to run a media company”?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: No, none of that. When I started BOLD Favor, I had no experience whatsoever other than writing for a couple of magazines from time to time. I had a transformational experience. I was invited to be a delegate for the international women's conference in Bangalore, India that was facilitated by the Art of Living Foundation. And while I was there, I was disturbed by the depictions of people of color and particularly African Americans around the world. Because I know us to be beautiful, and smart, and funny, and accomplished. But that was not necessarily what I was seeing as I was changing planes around the world.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: And so, I prayed about it and the Almighty told me, “Well, do something about it.” And so I set out to start a magazine, but I was using the term magazine, Melinda, but really I think I had in mind a newsletter, because I was like, “I have about 20 pages,” and I did a call for articles to just my network, just my Facebook friends, and I got back enough content where we had 84 pages. And at 84 pages you don't have a newsletter. That's a magazine.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: So that is how I got into media. We started publishing, and people started taking notice of the very positive, and uplifting, and inspiring messages that we had in our collection. And one of the things that I was adamant about is that we do not peddle a mess. A mess was defined as anything that glorifies people on their worst day of their lives. So we're not going back and forth about their marital problems. We're not gossiping about them. We're not making fun of people. We are not doing anything that would cast someone in a negative light.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: We are taking people who may have had some hiccups, and some real serious issues, but are working through them and moving on because that's what all of us are truly doing in this life. We're making mistakes, we're learning from them and we're moving on. So that's where the media company came from. And we grew to five different publications. And then we started doing red carpet events.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I remember the first time I covered a red carpet. I was scared out of my mind, because I had just seen it on TV. I didn't know what I was doing. I just was winging it. I'm a lawyer for goodness' sake. But it was fun, and I just dove in. And then I started hiring other people to do it for the magazine. So, we built up the entertainment section. And all these things came together, and I met the most amazing people, and some of the celebrities that I had the opportunity to interview and to meet, they really touched my heart because it really showed that those people aren't just airbrushed and placed on the cover of a book, but they are just like you and me. They put their pants on one leg at a time. And some days they don't want to get up out of that bed, but it's the decision that's made. It's mindset. And we're all struggling as some point or another to continue to increase our aggregate intelligence. The mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical parts of us.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. Well, what a great segue into your expertise around emotional intelligence. So, define for everybody what that is, and when we're operating at a high EQ, what does it look like?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Sure. Emotional intelligence is one component of the aggregate intelligence. And this is not just how you feel, but how you in turn make other people feel. So, this is beyond, “I'm happy.” This is a state of being. And one of the things that I tell people about the state of being, you know that you're elevating when you can identify your triggers or the things that hijack you, emotional hijacking. And you can honestly call them by their name and then put them to the side and say, “Okay, I know that that bothers me, but I'm not going to allow it to take me off course of what I'm trying to do.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right, right. There's a beautiful book about this called The Untethered Soul. Have you read this?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: I have not. I will have to check that out.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, it's amazing. It's about this exact same thing. And there's another book that he wrote too, Mickey Singer, called The Surrender Experiment. And really, he set out to just get all rid of the inner voice. That inner bully voice that we all have, right? To clear that out. And really, very, very radical solution, like meditating for 23 hours a day and all this stuff that he writes about his experience. But he arrives at the conclusion that when we're triggered, it's an opportunity to release whatever it is. And we don't even necessarily have to investigate it. We don't have to know what it is. It's just like, “Oh, okay, well whatever this is, it's an old memory, it's not serving me. I let it go now. I just release it.”
Melinda Wittstock: And this is a very big part of my practice. It's completely revolutionized my life. And so, I entirely understand what you're talking about, about those triggers or opportunities, but you have to separate yourself. It's almost like an out of body experience, right? You separate yourself a little bit and say, “Oh look, how interesting. Okay. I wonder what that's telling me? Well, hmm. I don't know if I need that one.” And I let that go. Right?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: That's exactly right. And it takes a lot of maturity and desire to let things go, even when we don't necessarily understand them. Because from the time that we're small, we're taught to figure out the puzzle. We don't quit until we do.
Melinda Wittstock: All of the US government could use a little course in EQ. Don't you think?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Yeah.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: But you know, it's funny, I wouldn't just target the US government, I would say every world leader needs that.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh yeah, absolutely they do. And probably the leader of most of the Fortune 500. Look, let's just say the whole world does, in actual fact.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: Because when we can move to that higher consciousness… I think of this in terms of being a CEO of a company and a leader, an entrepreneur, and a leader of a team. If you can be the change that you want to see, and just really embody this kind of consciousness, it gives other people the permission to do so as well. Because at the end of the day, people do, just like kids, right? They learn from what you do, not what you say.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: That's right. That's exactly right. And at the end of the day, we all are little children.
Melinda Wittstock: I know, I laugh because I feel like I'm a little kid most of the time, even though I'm in my fifties. Anyway.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Yeah. But think of it like this. You are someone's child. And you are loved. And if we were to look at one another and think that way, how much kinder would we treat, not just others but ourselves as well.
Melinda Wittstock: So, I want you to tell me about, and all of our listeners about, your book. It's got a great title, Knocked Down, Set Straight.
Melinda Wittstock: What made you write the book and tell me about it and also where people can find it.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Absolutely. So, the subtitle for Knocked Down, Set Straight is Face It, Speak It, Forgive It, Release It. And that is where the meat of the book comes from. And so, what I am doing is am laying out everything that has happened to bring me up to this point right here where we're speaking. Because the book was written over a five-and-a-half-year period of me developing into this serial entrepreneur. And so, it's the illness, it's the stress, but it's also the joy, it's in the people that I met and the experiences. And a lot of failure.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: What it came down to, if I was going to reach the pinnacle of what I say success is, which is holistic living, so it's my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual intelligence all together in a very high altitude. Just feeling good about everything in life, then I was going to have to be honest about some things that happened. And that requires us to face those things, and it required me sharing some things that other people might be a little embarrassed about.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: For instance, with endometriosis, you experience a lot of fluctuations in your weight. And I'm not talking about just a couple of weeks or a couple of months, I'm talking about at the beginning of the month you might be one thing and then at the end of the month you might be 10 pounds heavier. And it really impacts how you feel about yourself, how you're fitting into your clothing, what people are saying about you, because you live this high-profile life. And I remember going into a boutique that I used to frequent quite a bit, and I picked up an outfit and the owner said, “Now, that's tight on me. So, come on now.” And my feelings were so hurt by that because I had not shared my experience, and what I was going through, with anyone because I was afraid.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: And it was not until I had had the surgery and was on the mend that I started to speak out about it, and only in very small groups. And people were like, “I had no idea you were going through that.” Because when my hair started to break off and fall out, I would just put on a wig. When my skin started to look like I had sat out in the sun too long, I just started wearing heavier foundation. When my weight was going up and down like that, I just stopped buying out of the stores and started wearing materials that could stretch and accommodate, or that I could get wrapped up in. So, you couldn't really tell as much. And so I was doing a lot of hiding.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: And one of the things that comes from all of this in the book is all that hiding, I was not giving myself the opportunity to be the person that I said that I wanted to be. Because it was not until I started sharing what was going on with me with the people around me, in my companies, that they were able to pick up the slack and run. And some of the coolest things that we were able to do, with the bestsellers for the publishing company, with covering some of the red carpets, with the media company, even with my law firm, we weren't able to do those things until I was very honest about what was going on and I stopped hiding.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: And this is probably very extreme, but one of the first things I did as a outward sign to stop hiding is I took my husband's clippers and I shaved my head to just start fresh. And just taking that responsibility, and taking that power, was amazing. And so I started applying that across my life, and that is how it all came to be within the book.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that's amazing. Well, I'm going to definitely get my copy, and how inspirational. Lynita, thank you so much. And so, with all the things that you're doing on the CPA side or on the legal side or anything like that, how can women who are listening to this podcast, and men, find you and work with you?
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Absolutely. So, the best way to find me is on my website, which is my name, LynitaMitchellBlackwell.com, Lynita with a Y. And you also follow me on social media. My Instagram handle is my name. Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell, Esq. for Esquire. And my Facebook, which is my name, Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell. And we have a number of programs, and you can also download our app. I don't know how I forgot that, from the Google Play or the Apple Store, which is Leading Through Living. Leading Through Living Community. And it's free, and it's very warm, a very nurturing environment where we just inspire and continue to love one another and this whole beautiful life that we have.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, how beautiful. Well look, I want to thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us. What an inspiring story.
Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate you.