I so believe that whatever YOU want in life, you CAN create. You CAN turn your life around. You CAN live your dream if only you decide you are the captain of your own ship, called life. You CAN, but the question is: “WILL YOU?” Part of my mission in life is to remind people of what’s possible in life, by sharing the success stories of real-time highly successful people. Today I’m so thrilled to share with you the story of an extraordinary entrepreneur, author, and CNN featured CEO James Kinney.
Speaking of life transformation, James went from being afraid to leave his home (there is a fancy word for that: agoraphobia) to blossoming and now changing lives. James Kinney was able to turn his $200 into $1,280,000 in business in over three years. He has built 5 companies, he’s now heading LA’s fastest growing business and live performance company called 30KFT.
Trees don’t fall down by themselves. They require axes and effort. You can manifest that a tree will fall, you can question whether if it falls in the woods will people hear, but at the end of the day there’s an ax and there’s you and there’s a tree. The only way it’s coming down is if you grab the ax, you pick it up, and you chop it. Look at your business, look at your life in that context. No one’s going to do it for you. No one is here to cut down your own tree.
So, get going and cut down your own tree. Success is a lot easier, than people think. Emotions get in the way. Go up to 30KFT & think strategically from a new perspective when faced with a challenge and shift your life!
Shift #1: To shift your life, forgive others & change your story of being a victim.
Shift #2: Forgive yourself for any shortcomings. You’re never going to be perfect. Perfection is not real.
Shift #3: Create a plan by reverse engineering what that plan is, by looking at the your life’s event-cause-effect patterns.
Shift #4: Realize it’s not about you. The world keeps spinning. Stay on your game.
Be a STAR. Be in charge of your OWN life. A star has a light that cannot be dimmed. There is room for everyone. Be your best self. Focus on micro change, transformation and gradual success vs. failure. Sustainable success is possible over time. Put a value on the opportunities you had to learn from your past failures. Create systems for success. Be the iceberg. What’s in the water is all the work…what people see is the tip of the iceberg. And, most importantly go cut that tree:)!
Thank you so much for watching and sharing this journey to more successful and happy life with me. As always, I would love to hear from you. Share with me: “What is one thing you have been thinking about doing, but haven’t acted on it yet?”
PS: Also, below is the full transcribed interview with James Kinney. Enjoy!!
Anush: Thank you so much for being here. I read your book in one day and it was so inspiring. It was very heartfelt, it was very real, and it was a life changer. I can assume that it can truly change the life of someone that is looking forward to make that shift. My big thing to you is, a lot of times people say, “We do want to have great lives,” but people are stuck, and when they’re stuck they don’t really rise above their situation to see what’s possible. For you that shift happened on the flight 4 from JFK to Los Angeles airport. Can you share more on that and how that shift happened to you?
James: Yes. Anush, thank you so much for having me today.
Anush: My pleasure.
James: Honor and a privilege. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time, so it’s really nice to be here.
Anush: Before we go to the book I also wanted to share that how you walk the talk, and I have seen you train this new, amazing team of elite coaches, and you are really a true leader and a visionary. I love being a part of that as well, and you’re truly walking the talk. Kudos to that.
James: Thank you so much. It’s not easy right? It’s a lot of work to actually do what you say you’re going to do. To go back to your question about how I wrote the book and started to create the life that I wanted, everyone has talked about, “There’s no manual for life.” It’s very true that there’s not. What I found specifically is that we go through our education system, elementary school, junior high, high school, college, no matter where you are in the world there’s that system of education. In that system of education it’s largely academic, but there’s not a lot of life coaching or life training, which is why people like you are so important.
In that journey when you get a couple years out of school, what I realized for myself in particular is that the dreams of childhood, you walk out on the edge of the diving board so to speak and you have to jump into this deep end of life. There’s no real directions or nowhere to go, so you jump in the pool or in the ocean and you’re there, and you’re lost. You don’t know where to go or what to do.
Anush: It’s sink or swim.
James: Sink or swim. That is adulthood right? Motherhood, being a wife, being a husband, being a professional or whatever. I started to experiment and follow my heart, which is what most people do. The first thing for me was music. My music career was a phenomenal experience in learning how to perform, engage an audience, evaluate my performance, measure that performance, allowed things that I do every single day, it enabled me to be creative as well as an executive and as a thought leader. As you mentioned, I became bi-coastal because I sold one of my businesses and I was flying between New York and Los Angeles, and I noticed this pattern that when I was at 30,000 feet I had the space and the quietness to think strategically about my life and what was happening, but also there was an amazing parallel by what I saw out the window. Everyone’s taken a flight, and if you haven’t I encourage you to hop on a plane.
When you look down and you see these amazing mountains and valleys and rivers and streams like I’ll talk about in the book, you see that we don’t have to micromanage it so much. God already has a plan, or the universe, and even if you don’t believe in God and you’re an atheist, you can see that it makes sense. There’s a peak to the mountain, there’s a bottom of it, and there’s water in the middle and it runs down, and that runs to the ocean, right? In seeing that I said, “What if I could live a lifestyle where I never had to panic any more?” Because someone who’s recovering from anxiety and depression and panic disorder, what if I didn’t have to panic any more, and I could … At those moments in my life where you’re in the deep end and you’re freaking out, “What’s my next job? Who’s my husband?”
Anush: True. It’s all based on fear.
James: Right. If I could go up to 30,000 feet and look at it from that perspective, I would notice that everything is going to be okay. If I can think strategically like what we were talking about earlier, the “how” on how to be successful, I think success is a lot easier than people think. Emotions get in the way.
Anush: Yeah, and then people are so caught up with their own life that they fail to [00:06:00] plan their lives by design. People go to a grocery shop and they have ingredient list, yet people go through life without having that vision of what’s possible. I would like to quote you a little bit. In there you say, “The time had come for me to make sense of all the nonsense. Despite my success in music, legal marketing, Wall Street, and entrepreneurship, I still felt defeated by love, defeated by new-found illness, and exhausted from a long bout of anxiety, depression, and alcohol abuse. On the outside, my personal life appeared flawless, and I seemed successful and happy. On the inside, it was a different story.”
James: That’s about as real as it gets.
Anush: You made that shift, and it takes some vulnerability to really realize that. For you, understanding that you’ve got to be at your highest, best self and it is possible, what was that shift for you? What was that transition for you, and how did you tweak things around so that very soon you started running several more successful businesses, and most importantly businesses that had meaning for you and were purposeful, like 30KFT and writing your book, and inspiring all these people, and changing lives?
James: Four things, very specific. Forgive others, number one. Forgive your parents for what they did or did not do. Forgive your ex boyfriend, forgive your ex girlfriend. That’s what I did. I forgave people, because walking around with the victim story does me no justice and it doesn’t do anyone justice who’s listening to your show today.
James: Number one, forgive others. Number two, forgive yourself. I just had a phone call this morning about forgiving myself, and it’s a continual process that you’re never going to be perfect. Perfection is not real, [00:08:00] so forgive yourself for any shortcomings past, present, or future.
Anush: It doesn’t mean you don’t want to go for something better or greater.
James: Doesn’t mean at all.
Anush: It just means be your best self at the moment.
James: Absolutely. Forgive yourself. I think forgiving yourself creates peace of mind and an … That gives you the ability to get back on the horse and just go. You know what I mean? Those are the first two. Number three is creating a plan, but reverse engineering what the plan is. I did a really powerful exercise. I was in London at the time, and I wrote down on a sheet of paper every single thing that I had done in a cause and effect graph. I used a little bit of my nerd, but I put the event, cause, effect, event, cause, effect. For those of you guys who are watching this, I highly encourage that you do this exercise. Go back to … For me, 1977. Event, I was born. Cause, I’m alive. Effect, I’m here on this planet. Then I went elementary school.
What’s interesting is that when you start to look at things like, “We moved to Ohio,” for me. “I went to this college.” Then you start to think, “If I would have went to this college, how would it have been different? If I would’ve married this person, or did this, how that would’ve happened.” You can start to see how those patterns are showing up currently. In terms of making your next move your best move, which I always talk about “Life is chess, not checkers,” you can start to look at your decision making patterns subconsciously and start to discern how to do and what to do.
The fourth one is that I realized it’s not about me. When you can take yourself out of the “about me”… We’re conditioned to have a victim mentality first.
Anush: The blame game.
James: Yeah, right? Guilt, blame, anger, shame. I did work with Lucinda Bassett, who’s a world-renowned stress and anxiety coach, and guilt, blame, anger, shame was her thing. It’s brilliant, so I always talk about that. When I realized that there’s no victim, because it’s like the world’s smallest violin. No one cares. People die every single day, and the world never stops. The biggest presidents, the biggest leaders, the biggest spiritual leaders in the world have died, and there might be a month of mourning for a huge Jesus-level person.
Anush: Then life goes on.
James: The world keeps spinning, so the victim mentality doesn’t serve you or anyone else. Being very clear that it’s not about you is a powerful thing too. For me what it was is that I’ve been a star my whole life, and that’s been amazing. The cool thing I can say about being a star now is that it’s so cool that I’m not a star in an egoic sense.
Anush: It’s not about significance or feeling you’re important because you’re great, it’s about what you do.
James: Exactly. If I can just be who I am, which is a powerful thing, forgiving myself, forgiving others, then I realize you could be on the couch right now at home with no job, but just be the star, know that you’re a star. That’s a phenomenal thing to have cognizant consciousness about that. You can be a star in being of service to others, you can be a star at being an employee, a star wife, a star husband.
Anush: Yeah, and that star thing is just being in charge of your own life. You are the captain of your own ship.
James: That’s it.
Anush: That’s your life.
James: When you think about from an astrophysics perspective of what a star is, most people forget that [00:12:00] a star has a light that cannot be dimmed. A star has … We talk about light years, millions of years of light shine from a star.
Anush: Here we go.
James: The next time you go outside and look at that star up in the sky, think about how powerful that is. Guess what, the other amazing thing about a star is this: A lot of us feel like, and I know in our industry too, “I’m not Tony Robbins, I’m not Oprah.”
James: Yet. Check this out. We can drive around planet earth for days and can never count all the stars that are in existence. What that means is there’s room for everyone. No one has to feel like, “I can’t shine.”
Anush: Then you talk about how there are seven billion people on this planet at this point and it’s like, “What is your brand?” You talk about branding a lot and how important it is to embrace all of us, honor all of you at the same time and not be afraid to be who you are at your core. I think a lot of times what happens to people is that we try to become someone else that we’re not, and that’s when the burnout happens. That’s where people burn out.
James: Agreed. I think our differences are amazing. I’m so blessed to have friends that are … I was on a plane with a guy from Hong Kong on Friday, and we had the best conversation. A Chinese guy from Hong Kong. There’s no difference in me being black and from Texas and living in LA and doing business in New York. There’s zero difference between he and I. We had the same objectives of what we want out of life and what we want to do in this world. I was teaching him things, he was teaching me things, and it’s in those moments at 30,000 feet where you realize, “There are no differences.”
Anush: Of course, being in the United States, Warren Buffett talks about it, about winning the ovarian lottery. It’s such a privilege and it is such a … We have so many opportunities. Very often it’s not about having these opportunities, it’s about making that shift inside and being in charge of your own life, and making that transformation happen. What I loved in your book, you talk about micro-change and transformational and gradual success instead of failure. Again, sustainable change is possible only over time versus overnight. I feel like so many people are stuck because they think things are going to change overnight and they want that magic formula, but there is no magic formula. The only magic formula is that, “Where do you want to go? What are you going to do every single day of your life to go from where you are to where you want to be?” You have built this huge thing for you over the years, patiently, consistently, and persistently. Tell us more about that realization of, “Oops, things are not going to happen overnight, but things are going to happen over time.”
James: Great question, and thank you for that acknowledgment. I think the first thing is this: Knowing that … “Wholeism” is a word that you and I use a lot. Wholeism is the belief that all things affect one another. I realized in my career and now at 38 how my music career has influenced my Wall Street career and my law firm career influenced 30KFT and entrepreneurship, and it’s all one thing. Now I have this big tool chest that I get to pull stuff from. I think number one, acknowledging that … People say, “That was a waste of time. I dated this person for four years and it didn’t work out. Waste of my time,” but you learned something, so you know what to do the next time. I think put a value, an [00:16:00] associative value on those opportunities that you had from a failed business, a job that you didn’t like, and knowing how to quantify the value for those things, I think, is very important.
In terms of micro-change and how to create those systems, my work is around systems for success, not being emotional about them, allowing ourselves to have emotions and to be human in our personal lives, but in terms of what we want to accomplish …
Anush: Almost like to a science.
James: The how, that’s it. In my book when I talked about value plus experience equals a returning customer, when you can put that into a formula and have that as a mantra almost, get the emotion out of it. “Am I creating value? Yes. Am I creating a great experience? Yes.” Done, then it’s a returning customer. In terms of micro-change, I think you brought up a very valuable point. Social media, mass media, shows like So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, X Factor, they’ve conditioned us as a society that you don’t have to do the work any more. You don’t have to hop in a van and play shows around the country and earn one fan at a time. You can literally just go on Oprah or Ellen DeGeneres and become famous overnight via YouTube.
You’re a great example. People are watching this show right now and they don’t realize the hours of work that it took just to get here, and the weeks of work it takes just to plan one and to coordinate one. The on-camera time is the shortest amount of time.
Anush: That’s how it is in life. People see the end result and they compare themself to the end result and they think, “Oh my God, I’m a failure if I don’t do that.” The whole point is, people get rewarded for the things that they get awarded in public, but they have been getting ready for that for years, and people might get famous overnight through Oprah, but how did they get to that path to being featured with Oprah?
James: Two points there. [00:18:00] I told one of my clients once, “Look, be the iceberg.” Some people look at me and they go, “Oh my God, he’s so … ” I’m like, “You have no idea. I only show you the iceberg.” I learned a long time ago, I don’t really need to be flashy. You’re only going to see so much of what’s actually here, and underneath there’s a whole thing. That iceberg analogy is also good for someone all the underneath part of the water is the work, then what you see at the result is just the tip of the iceberg. I think it’s a great way to live life and to do business. Some of the most successful people I’ve ever met, female, male, wherever they are, European, African et cetera, they’re not really trying to show you the whole iceberg. They’ll show you a little bit, and then there’s a lot underneath it.
Anush: Just kind of wrapping up, because we’re running out of time, you talk in your book how important it is to protect your time.
Anush: PYT, your time and money, and also you talk about the business of doing and what a difference it makes to actually get things done. Unless you put things from your head, from your heart, on paper and schedule them and make them real, nothing is going to change. Tell us more about that and let’s inspire people to action, because yes you can have all of these visions, but unless you do that thing nothing is going to change in your life.
James: I’ll tell a really quick story since we’re running out of time. Trees don’t fall down by themselves. They require axes and effort. That’s it.
James: Yeah. You can manifest that a tree will fall, you can question whether if it falls in the woods will people hear it if it’s a sound and all the old stuff, but at the end of the day there’s an ax and there’s you and there’s a tree. The only way it’s coming down is if you grab the ax, you pick it up, and you chop it. If anyone’s ever tried to chop down a tree, it is a ton of work. You’re going to want to quit about 17 times before that tree falls, and if there’s no one else there in he forest and you have to sleep that night and you need a fire, that tree’s coming down. Look at your business, look at your life in that context. No one’s going to do it for you. No one is here to cut down your own tree.
Anush: You can go and sharpen the saw or the ax to make it easier, and that’s where strategy comes into play, but you’ve got to do the work and it’s not about instant gratification. People see the trees falling down and they think, “Hey, I want that end result. I want that magic formula.”
James: Yeah. At some point, whether you have a chainsaw or whether you have an ax, a sharp ax, a dull ax, the strategy is an important part. I think work on people like yourself is a great way to get there faster, but it’s-
Anush: Yeah, that’s where coaching comes into play.
James: Yes, but at some point you have to pick up the ax. If you’re tired of being overweight, if you’re tired of being anxious, depressed, sad, you want more money, whatever it is that you want … It’s not about being famous. Who cares about fame? It’s about being happy with who you are, with the opportunity you have for your ninety years here, your sixty years here, or whatever it is. At some point the ax has got to get picked up.
Anush: Yeah, and it is up to you to make that change and go and get things done. Yes, you can have coaches that are going to help you get there faster, but unless … We’ll teach them how to lift that weight, but we’re not going to lift the weight for them.
Anush: It’s that change, it’s that decision.
James: My last point is this: You can’t talk a tree down. People do too much of this, not enough swinging.
Anush: All right. Thank you so much James, it has been an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to see you change even more lives, and I’m really excited to be a part of it as well. Looking forward to what’s next and thanks again for being here.
James: Thank you. I’ll have to go change my shirt and put on some work boots, because I have a tree to chop down.
Anush: All right. That’s all for today. Thank you so much for watching. Keep on watching the show and start making healthy little tweaks in your life, and pretty soon you will start living the life that you deserve and desire at your core.