Whitney Cox left a big Wall Street career behind to transform her life and in the process she saved her own life, and how helps others in transformation with her life coaching business Warrior Girl. Learn how Whitney found her true passion and purpose after surviving breast cancer and now lives the life of her dreams in Colombia.
Melinda Wittstock: Whitney, welcome to Wings.
Whitney Cox: Hi, Melinda. Thanks for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, it's wonderful to have you. I first just want to welcome you into entrepreneurship from Wall Street. You made the right choice. What was it that made you make that leap?
Whitney Cox: You know, it's so funny. For me, it's actually been a long process, which started about five years ago with an emotional and spiritual bottom that I had that was so painful, such torture that caused me to really start making changes in my life.
I was working on Wall Street. Was doing that for like 15 years. I was working for a very large investment fund. Tons of stress. Managing a lot of money. I kind of had done life to the formula, right? It was like you play sports in high school, then you go to an Ivy League school, then you work on Wall Street, then you do your masters, then you become a client and manage money and then by default you are happy. You buy the apartment in the West Village of New York City and your fancy shoes and your fancy vacations.
On the inside I felt like I was dying and I didn't know why. I was ashamed. I felt guilty that I wasn't happy when everybody was like, “No, this is exactly what you have to do to be happy. There's nothing else.” I was like, “Isn't there something else out there?”
No. There's nothing else out there. This is the road. Either you marry the rich guy that works on Wall Street or you work on Wall Street and you do it.
I got to this point where I was so, so, so unhappy that I started considering other ways of being. The first one of those things was I started really taking care of my body and my soul. So a spiritual practice. I started eating right, stopped putting things into my body that would do me harm.
My world started opening up and I realized that I had to leave Wall Street. I didn't know what I was going to do. I didn't know how I was going to do it. I was 37 at the time, which in New York at least it's like, “Oh my God. Send this poor lady out to pasture. Nobody is going to marry her now.”
Melinda Wittstock: Oh God. That's where it begins for so many of us. I mean, what's interesting is that so many women do become entrepreneurs in their late thirties and into their forties. That's where they really thrive. It all seems to come together.
Whitney Cox: Yeah. It's so crazy that you said that because I literally … There was something in my heart and I think through a lot of work that I had done with getting in touch with my intuition I knew I had to do it and I was willing. I was more afraid of my life staying the same then I was of the uncertainty that was before me.
I found this fellowship … I got sponsored by a Swiss fund to go help a company in Columbia. I had lived in Columbia before during my masters. I had always wanted to go back. I thought to myself, “Well, it's a 10 month fellowship. If I don't like it I'll just come back.”
I mean, literally that was my math. I'd rather regret something I did for 10 months than regret for the rest of my life not having tried this opportunity.
I came down to Columbia. That was about four years ago. I had the most incredible two years of my life. I was living the life of my dreams. Getting back in touch with nature, dancing again, the sun, the palm trees. I was on top of the world.
Last year at a routine medical exam I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 39 years old. That was a real … Call it I guess another bottom for me. It seems credible actually as we're talking about this, like all the bottoms that I've had, these periods of contraction, have since led to periods of expansion but it's hard to remember at the time when you're going through it, and-
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, when you're in that, when you're in the depths of that, it's really hard to have a perspective that this is the thing that's going to take you the next level. But it's so hard to have that perspective in the moment that you're going through it.
Whitney Cox: Yeah, totally. I mean, I remember just laying in bed, after my double mastectomy surgery. Just couldn't sleep, the pain was so bad. And I was just like, hadn't worked. Who knew how expensive having cancer was going to be. My money was running out. No idea what I was going to do with my life, or where I was going to go. And I had this epiphany, and that was really where Warrior Girl was born, my life coaching business, where I thought to myself, “I will never spend another minute of my life doing something that I don't love. And I want to teach other women how to do the same.” All the money, the time, the investment that I'd made in myself, over the past few years that led me to where I was, I just came out of it with this commitment.
And it's funny, I was just thinking about it, even today, I was sitting in an office for a meeting that I had, and I was like, “I will never go back to that life.” And I have my cancer to thank for that. So, here I am, a year and a bit later, with this life coaching business where I'm actually touching people's lives, and really using my darkness. I had to find my darkness, and come to love my darkness, in order to find my light. And that, is really what makes me so uniquely qualified to help other people, right? It's like, our greatest defects are what make us … give us the ability to lead people through their darkness, too.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, this is so profound. It's really true. If you really dig deep into any entrepreneur's life history, the problem that they go out and solve is usually something, a problem that they've experienced, or something they've suffered, or a void. It could be in their childhood, it could be just a challenge they've overcome. It could be a near death experience. It could be so many different things like that, that difficulty is the thing that gives you the empathy or the understanding to be able to say, “Oh my god, if I solved it for myself, oh, well there are millions more like me. I can help them up.”
I had a wonderful guest on the podcast a week or so ago, Cynthia Pasquella-Garcia, who had endured horrendous trauma as a child, and she said something that really stuck with me, which was, a mentor said to her, “Cynthia, this wasn't done to you, it was done for you.”
Whitney Cox: Yep, yep.
Melinda Wittstock: And that just put goose bumps on the back of my neck, because all these things, when you look back, and you have the perspective, and you look back, and you think, “Oh yeah, okay, that's why that happened. Oh, okay, right.” But having perspective, and I think it's really wonderful, for everybody listening to this podcast right now, I mean, if you are going through a really difficult moment like this, it's so important to know that often, that's the root of great growth, and great possibility actually is.
Whitney Cox: Yeah. And that's the gift. It's so funny because I was listening to that podcast, I think last week, when it came out, and I loved it, because I remember after I was diagnosed, and the operation, and everything, basically, every fear a woman can have came crashing down on my shoulders, all at once, right? So, it was like, vanity, fertility, financial, professional, relationships. Was my boyfriend going to leave me? All these different things that, they all came down on my shoulders.
Melinda Wittstock: ‘Cause it goes right to your femininity. Like, your “womanness”.
Whitney Cox: Yes, yes.
Melinda Wittstock: Right?
Whitney Cox: It's tough. It's tough to get over. It's like, we identify so much with our femininity with our breasts, right? And so, how it feels to lose all that. And then, at the same time, I had, arguably, every right in the world to be like, “Why was this happening to me? Why? Woe is me.” And then, one night, laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and I was like, “All right, Whitney, you have two choices. You can be a victim, and be sad, and be feeling terrible for the rest of your life. Or instead of asking yourself why, you can say, how can I make the best situation with the time that I have left? How can I help others? How can I use what I've been through to help other people live better lives? How can I use what I've been through to make sure I live a better life?”
Melinda Wittstock: Well, I commend you for doing that, because all too often, people, when faced with that choice of being a victim, or choosing not to be a victim, I mean really choosing to take … I don't know if it's responsibility. I'm not sure the word I'm looking for, but really being able to stand in it, and say, “Okay, well there's a reason. There has to be something good in this.” And taking that, and really using it, really to help other people. That's brave. It takes courage. And I really commend you for it. Really. Because you're helping many, many people now, as a result. And so, tell me a little bit about Warrior Girl. Tell me about your coaching program, and how it all started, and what you do with all these amazing ladies that you're helping go through similar things.
Whitney Cox: So, Warrior Girl, the idea of Warrior Girl, it's really funny. It really came up in the aftermath of my cancer. And I say that when I look at my scars now, I call them, I say they're battle wounds of a Warrior Girl, right? That who, in darkness, found her light. And it's like this … it's an image that, I don't know, just through my experience, it just got burned so deeply into my heart and my soul. And so, along the period of, let's say, even since I left Wall Street, even before I was diagnosed with cancer, people would always ask me, like friends and family that would follow me on social media, “How did you do it? How did you make the transition?” And I always found myself just kind of coaching friends and family, I guess, on how I made that transition. And it wasn't really until I got sick, and I had such a profound experience, that I thought, “Wow, this is really … I want to dedicate the rest of my life to this.”
And the idea is that, when I got sick, and all of these things happened to me at once, and I went through such a tough … I mean, that surgery was really, really tough. Honestly, I thought that when I was getting it done, it was just going to be like getting a boob job or something. It was nothing like that, let me tell you. And what I realized is like, literally, it's in those moments, those difficult moments where those are the gifts, because that is where we actually see how strong that we are. Right? It's like, there's this expression in Spanish, loosely translated, but it says, “In what fear did you discover that you were brave?” And I get a little emotional when I think about that, but it's really the idea that we're all warriors, and I'm just here to help remind you, right?
So, I do that through one-on-one intensive coaching programs. So, they're typically eight week programs. We meet once a week. And we're really working on, there are, I call it four pillars of what we work on in our coaching. And the first one is creating that new belief system, right? It's so important. A belief system is really just … we just accept the belief systems that our society has, because it's what we're told that we have to believe. But just like 50 years ago, you couldn't imagine having same sex marriage, that was just a belief that people accepted at the time. And now, we accept different beliefs. And so, if you're going to have this life, the warrior life, living a life of your dreams, you need to create your own belief system. And that's so important for entrepreneurs. I think we were talking about that earlier, Melinda.
And we also work very vigorously on an emotional and spiritual health routine. So, just like how you have to eat right, and you have to take care of your body, you have to take care of your emotional, and your spiritual health. So, I've developed a program with exercises that works on getting you in that top emotional and spiritual shape. We work on finding the magic outside of your comfort zone. So, I think we, certainly in the more traditional careers, and traditional industries, the comfort zone is where you want to be, right? It's like you're trading security for freedom, without realizing that really, where all the magic happens, is outside of your comfort zones. Which changing the way that people relate to their comfort zone, and we also place a lot of emphasis on exercises that are getting you out of your head, and into your heart. I'm really convinced that the reason that so many people these days are so unhappy in their lives, is because we place such a premium in society, on being rational-based, head-based thinking, which really doesn't get you the life of your dreams.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I call it the life of “should’s” Right? ‘Cause we grow up, and our parents, and our schools, and our friends, and the media. We get bombarded with the way we're supposed to be. And I mean, millions of watts, millions of memories, I mean more than you could possibly even know. And these things become these subconscious drivers. So often, we don't even know why we think we should be doing something. And I know, with some of my clients over the years, and people that I've worked with and mentored, when I hear them say things, just even in their language, when I hear them say things, “Well, you know, I really should,” or, “I should,” or, “I should,” or, “I should,” … like, no. That's not you, talking. If it were you, you'd be saying, “I'm going to,” or, “I am.”
Whitney Cox: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: “I have,” or, “I'm on my way,” or whatever. Right? “I want to.” But not, “I should.” And so, it's interesting to just think about that. Like, anyone who's listening, to, when you hear yourself saying, “Should,” take that as a, “Hmm, why should I?”
Whitney Cox: Yeah, yeah. And it's funny, Melinda, when you think about it. If I had lived my life according to the “should’s”, I think about a few years ago, when it was like, you're either supposed to get married and start your family, marry a wealthy guy, or you make your own money on Wall Street. Those were my “should’s”. And I stepped outside of my comfort zone, and I found a completely new reality that I didn't even know was possible. And as a result of that … I'm not trying to scare people or anything, but my cancer was diagnosed here, in Columbia. And it was totally … the medical norms in the U.S. is at 40 years old, you get sent for a mammogram. And here, for whatever reason, at 39, this woman sent me to get a breast sonogram, and my tumor showed up. Now, in the mammogram, nothing showed up. So, if I hadn't been in Columbia, at that exact time, they-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh.
Whitney Cox: If I had stayed in the U.S., at 40, I would've been sent for a mammogram, and I probably would've been sent home with a clean bill of health, and probably wouldn't have been detected until much later.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness. Wow. So, how interesting is that? That there's something about, on some level, you knew. Or-
Whitney Cox: Yeah. No, I-
Melinda Wittstock: It's so interesting when you look back, and these serendipities, or synchronicities, or whatever, right?
Whitney Cox: Yeah, I couldn't … and I honestly, Melinda, I attribute it to all of the work I had done around getting in touch with my intuition, and getting more in touch with my heart, because I felt this calling, and I can't explain to you why. I just knew it, in my body, that I needed to come here. And so, the reason I'm bringing it up, is because I want people to really think very long and hard about what security means. Because for me, to have stayed in my quote-unquote, secure world, with my six figure salary, and my prestigious job, and my fancy apartment, I actually … that wasn't as secure as I thought it was going to be at all, because I would've ended up … I was on the way to getting sick. Right?
Melinda Wittstock: Well, what's interesting, though, too, is about these material things, right? So again, you think that once you have the amazing Manhattan apartment, and you've got this amazing salary, and all the vacation, all the clothes, the Birkin bag, whatever. Right? All the things. But somehow, there's this … it's the destination of happiness. Like, “I will be happy when this happens, or that happens, or that happens.” And that's not the case. I mean, happiness is a condition that … you choose to be happy right now, whatever your circumstance. But I think the manifestation of happiness is sort of born by choosing to be happy to begin with.
Whitney Cox: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: And so, the radical pattern interrupt of going from all of that New York … I used to live in New York. I know what that's like. I think once you're on that trajectory, you'll never have enough, because there's always someone more, who has a better apartment, or a better this, or more of that, or whatever. And so, if that's where you're getting your self worth, it's not going to make you happy.
Whitney Cox: Yeah, and I think what was so meaningful for me, and was so valuable, was that feeling of getting everything that I thought I needed to be happy stripped away during my ordeal with cancer. Everything was gone, right? But I realized that I still just wanted to be happy. I still, I just wanted to live. I just wanted to live another day and not have pain, and be able to take a shower, and get dressed all by myself, you know?
It was so illuminating for me, because it's like you said. The happiness has to come first, and then the rest follows, because otherwise, you're just chasing around a dream for the rest of your life. It's that having to take responsibility that is so hard, because we don't want to take responsibility. We want to place our blame on something or someone else. When you start to take responsibility for that and know that I am the only one that's responsible for my happiness, this is the life I have, and it's my choice of what I'm going to … if I'm going to make it count or not. To that, I am so forever grateful, that I got sick, because it took me to getting everything taken away to realize that I didn't need as much as I thought that I needed.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, and so tell me, what is it like, living in Colombia? How is your life different, in terms of where you live, and what it's like, the vibe, all of that?
Whitney Cox: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Whitney Cox: It is the polar opposite of New York. I live in Cali, Colombia, which is on the Pacific coast of the country. It is tropics. It is a smaller city. It's about three million people. It is the Afro-Colombian capital of the country, so in terms of music, and dance, and food, it's just culturally, it's totally incredible. My lifestyle is totally different. I mean, I wake up, and I see the birds chirping, and have a river in front of my apartment, and have palm trees blowing in the wind. I kite surf in the afternoon, or I go dancing with a group of dancers that I dance with. I take percussion. I go camping in the jungle, and swim in rivers, and swim with whales and dolphins. My life, it's so integrated with, I guess you would say my essence, like the essence of who I really am, not the “should’s”, because all the “should’s” would tell me that I should not be here, right?
Melinda Wittstock: So, I think it's wonderful that you're bringing people there to experience that. All of a sudden, there's so many amazing kind of retreats, and experiences, and things you can go on. I mean, I just think it's so … So many of friends were just at Burning Man this year. I couldn't go. I wanted to go. I was like serious FOMO for not being there, right? But a couple years ago, I went on this trip into the Amazon rainforest, and it was just transformational, to be there in the middle of … There was no … It wasn't even on a Google map, right? There was nobody you could call. You were just in the middle, literally, of the Amazon.
I was on this trip, and I had so many huge realizations on that, of just how connected we all are, in fact, and why … When you're an entrepreneur, I think one of the things that makes entrepreneurs very successful is being very, very connected to why they're doing what they're doing, that it's not just a business just to kind of flip, or make money, or whatever, but there is some sort of calling, there's some reason or mission to help other people underlying it. Those businesses really tend to sustain, because the founder has a passion. There's an alignment. So yeah, anybody can create a business, like I could go set up an Amazon seller account or something …
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Whitney Cox: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: … but that's not … I don't know. To me, that's not enough, and I think that's true for most women. I think women think more holistically about business.
Whitney Cox: Yeah, and I think it's one thing to create a business. It's another thing to create a life, right? I remember when I used to work on Wall Street, and it was just like I was just clipping coupons. It was like I was waiting for the day that I could finally live. I think the way of the entrepreneur, the road less traveled, it's a lot bumpier. There's a lot of maybe crazy obstacles in the path. It's not as smooth as the neatly paved road of convention, but the view is just so much better along the way, you know?
Melinda Wittstock: Right. So, what are some of the business challenges that you have as you've been setting up this coaching business? What's some of the toughest stuff that you've got to deal with?
Whitney Cox: You know, I think the hardest part has been trying to create more of me.
Melinda Wittstock: Scaling.
Whitney Cox: Scaling has been so tough, because you know, as entrepreneurs, we're perfectionists. We're over-achievers.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, god. You've got to ditch the perfectionism. Oh, man. That crushes us all. Get messy.
Whitney Cox: Yeah. I need to be okay with getting dirty, getting messy. I think the other part, too, is … So, the one part is scaling, and the other part is, how do you create boundaries in a boundless industry, I guess? Because when you're an entrepreneur, you're passionate about your work, and it's your baby, so how do you create boundaries to that you're not working yourself into the ground and get burnt out?
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Right. Well, I mean, it's so difficult to really … Sorry. I'm just going to pick up and ask that question differently. I see a lot of women going out and creating what they think is a business, but they're actually creating a job.
Whitney Cox: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Melinda Wittstock: Right? Because we tend to like to create a business around something that we love to do, but to be a business owner is to separate ourselves from the doing. [crosstalk 00:34:23 owner is different from being a doer.
Whitney Cox: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: So, one of the reasons why so many women burn out is that we try and do it all. We confuse doing it all with having it all. Honestly, if you want to have it all, you have to do less. You have to ask other people to do it.
Whitney Cox: Yeah. Yeah, but it's scary, right? Because you're like, “Oh, it's my baby.” You don't want to delegate, but you have to.
Melinda Wittstock: You have to delegate. That's one of the areas where getting out of your comfort zone … That is a big issue for women. It's not so much for guys, but it's something, to succeed as entrepreneurs, all of us have to get better at. The perfectionism thing is, oh god, it's the equivalent of like, “I've got to clean my house because the housekeeper's coming.”
Whitney Cox: Oh, right. Right. Totally.
Melinda Wittstock: It's totally that, right? One of the things that I've had to learn, and particularly as developing software or things like that, or even the sales funnels, online sales funnels, you know nothing until your customers validate it. So, all you can really do is just get it out there and hope for a lot of people to say, “Oh, that sucks,” or, “That's terrible,” and accept that with gratitude, because it's going to make you better. You're only as good as what your customer is telling you, and if you're so busy making it perfect first, you're not giving your customer the opportunity to tell you how to really make it better. So, it does require us to get out of our comfort zone. It's frightening to think, “Oh, god. I'm going to put something out there, and people aren't going to like it. Maybe they won't like me. Oh my god.”
Whitney Cox: Totally.
Melinda Wittstock: But that's what we have to be prepared to do to succeed.
Whitney Cox: I love that you talk about being okay with failure. Failure is part of the path to success, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, yeah. Oh, god. Well, by that standard, I'm an expert. I mean, I think I have failed so many times, right? I mean, I've succeeded. I've had these huge successes, but I've had a lot of failure, as well, because every day, I'm testing hypotheses, you know? You have an idea, and you say, “Oh, I wonder if this'll work,” right?
Whitney Cox: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: You try it. It doesn't work, and it's like, “Okay.” Well, that's good. That's feedback. That's a customer survey.
Whitney Cox: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That's free advertising.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? How can I make it better? How can I keep refining it? Yeah. It is what you were saying. It's really a mental, a mind shift, I guess, right?
Whitney Cox: Yeah. It's funny, you know? I was thinking, it just reminds me of a post I made last week on social media. It was something like, “Just because I give you advice, it doesn't mean I know more than you. It just means I've done more stupid shit.”
Melinda Wittstock: Well, actually, there's something to be said for that, because I think we learn more when we fail than when we're succeeding, because when we're succeeding, we're just like, “Oh, yeah. Okay, so that happened. That's awesome. Look at me. Aren't I great?” Right?
Whitney Cox: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: But where's the lesson in that? When we fail, when we have difficulty … This is why entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted, because it really does require you to embrace those failures. They're feedback. That's not failure. It's feedback. I think was Thomas Edison who said, “I haven't failed. I've just tried 10,000 times.”
Whitney Cox: I love that.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, so if Thomas Edison, think about it, had to try 10,000 times, I mean, so? We can try 10,000.
Whitney Cox: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: [crosstalk 00:37:55, right? If he can do it …
Whitney Cox: Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: … Warrior Girls can do it, right?
Whitney Cox: Warrior Girls are pros.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. So, what's next for you? What is your big, big why, your big mission? Where do you want to be in five, 10 years?
Whitney Cox: I want to have a Warrior Girl empire. I want everybody to know about this way of life. I want everybody out there to know that there is such a bigger world out than the formula of society has led us to believe. Really, the power is in our minds, right? We have the ability to change our world, literally, literally. So, that is my dream. I want to take up more and more women to this new paradigm. I want to wake up more and more women to the fact that they are so much stronger than they think they are, and they are capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for.
I dream about, I want to write a book. I want to write a book about my whole experience. I want to keep doing retreats. I love the retreats. I want to create more content for women that maybe they're … Not everybody's a one-on-one coaching candidate, so one of my goals for next year is to start getting more online content, as well.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Okay, so the main thing that I'm going to ask you to do is, instead of saying, “I want to,” you are creating a global Warrior Girl empire.
Whitney Cox: Okay. I love it. Okay. I will.
Melinda Wittstock: Because I believe you, right?
Whitney Cox: That sounds so good. Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, so this is awesome. Well, gosh, it's amazing talking to you, Whitney. How can people find out about what you're doing, and work with you, and if they want to go on your big retreat that you're having, how can they find you?
Whitney Cox: Yes, so first and foremost, you guys can all follow me on my Instagram account, which is whitneycox1. You guys can check out more about my programs and my retreat on my webpage, which is whitneycoxcoaching.com, or you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melinda Wittstock: That's wonderful. Well, I want to thank you for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Whitney Cox: Thank you so much, Melinda. It has been an awesome flight.