Joseph Campbell said, People say that what we are seeking is a meaningful life.
I don’t think that this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we are seeking is an experience of being alive.
Ellie Drake has been fully engaged in the experience of being alive. Raised in Iran, she immigrated to the US with her parents as a teenager and has since made the ‘American Dream’ a real-life experience in her life. After a series of seven-figure successes, Ellie burst onto the scene as an inspirational speaker. She is in such demand as a speaker because her methods speak to the heart of so many different groups.
She both inspires entrepreneurs and empowers women. Her message is inspirational to Fortune 500 executives and is motivational to budding business owners taking their first steps on a path toward grasping prosperity. Her deep understanding of the keys to success combined with her heartfelt compassion elicits a genuine reaction in everyone who attends her seminars. Amongst her other businesses, she currently leads the largest online paid-membership community for entrepreneurial women.
This savvy business woman, in-demand inspirational speaker, doctor, and inspiration to men and women around the globe, is a multi-dimensional success. She maintains a demanding schedule of personal appearances, as well as a series of websites,
each offering insights, newsletters, and products designed to help individuals achieve their personal best.
Chris Attwood: Ellie, it’s really such a pleasure and an honor to have you with us. Thank you for joining us tonight.
Ellie Drake: My pleasure, and thank you for having me, Chris.
Chris Attwood: Absolutely, and I have to tell you, Ellie, we have to begin by having you tell us your story. It’s such an amazing story. You were raised in Iran. You came to America when you were very young. Will you tell us how that whole thing came about, and what is was like for you making that very, very major transition?
Ellie Drake: Absolutely, I’d love to, and good evening/good afternoon to everyone who is listening on this call. I just joined a couple of minutes ago and I heard some familiar and lovely voices of some of the friends, clients, and BraveHeart Women. Good evening to all of you. For those of you who I have not yet had a chance to connect with, I look forward to doing so. Absolutely, I would be more than happy to share that with you, Chris.
My journey has been one that has had many challenges, trials and tribulations in it. Yet, I have learned to learn the lesson from these challenges and be okay with where life is taking me and no longer resist it. Speaking of that, I am going to tell you, as you asked, a little bit about my story. The fact is that I came to America about 16-1/2 years ago, and I didn’t speak much English at all.
I am sure you are still picking up on what I call my ’7-11 accent.’ I came here from a country that obviously has had many challenges for many years and perhaps more so even lately in the world. As I was growing up in Iran, I started realizing that something wasn’t quite right in the country that I was born in. People were talking about the fact that you are not going to have the freedom to choose so you might as well give up on your dreams and give up on your goals and passions.
To have a dream and not to have the ability to pursue it will hurt so much. In essence, to have all this passion and not be able to unleash it is going to be something that would be very difficult. You might as well just not have the passion. That is what I was learning as I was growing up. There was something inside of me that kept thinking, I have what I think to be this tremendous amount of passion for life, for learning, for being, doing, having and giving.
I felt I wanted to be someone so I started dreaming about the possibility of starting my life in a part of the world where I could have choices and I could follow my dreams. Of course, if you are living in Iran, one of the places you dream about as a resident in Iran is going to America, being able to come to this part of the world, to the ‘free world.’ I started really fantasizing and dreaming about that. I remember I was about nine years old or so. I would walk up a very steep dirt road, and I would get to the top of this road every morning. It would probably be two miles or so. I would have to walk this dirt road that was very steep all the way up from the beginning to the end so that I could take a bus and go 60 miles and attend middle school, 60 miles later.
I remember walking up this dirt road. I was very young and what I would do to entertain myself, I would pick up this dictionary and I would choose one word the night before, and my job was to teach myself one word of English one day at a time. Really, at the time, I didn’t think about it. Now that I look back at it, I am just amazed at the fact that I would even go to the dictionary and want to teach myself one word of English.
I believed there was that sort of hidden sense of passion inside of me for something I didn’t know yet. I trusted it and started teaching myself one word of English at a time. That doesn’t mean that when I came to America I spoke English, though, but at least I had given myself some sort of familiarity, being familiar-and here we go; I wasn’t even able to pronounce that word-with the language.
I remember when my parents were going to America it was just fabulous. I had been raised for so many years during the bombing. As the bombs were landing, we would run into shelters. I have seen rockets and bombs at my own high school. The streets would go up in flames and so forth. It’s been a very challenging, challenging life or journey over there, but really one that has taught me so many lessons. When I came to America 16 years ago and I landed here, I knew that this was the beginning of the rest of my life.
I knew that now I had this ‘external’ liberty, so bring that together with ‘internal’ freedom, and put those two together with a healthy dose of passion on a daily basis and you can indeed be unstoppable in this part of the world. I sort of allowed that to be my model day after day. Yes, I did fall on my face, flat on my face, many times, but I just got up and shook myself off and started going forward. Really, that is a brief story of my journey and how I landed here and what the mind-set was like.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Wow, that’s amazing! It must have been quite a transition because there is a big difference in culture between Iran and America. How was it for you to come to a country that you didn’t speak the language all that well, and which was so different in so many ways? What was your experience of that?
ELLIE DRAKE: It was very challenging. I remember I came here and I went to high school. You know how we can be in high school, especially when someone comes fresh off the plane, doesn’t speak English, and comes from another country. It is not a different country; really, the culture, it is a different world. Going there and being all by myself, it was very frightening.
I actually remember the first month or so. This is fascinating to me now that I look back at it. I can see how the human mind can play so many tricks on us. I remember the first month or so in high school that whenever I would see a plane-now I had dreamt about coming to America. It was my dream come true-passing by in the sky, I would look at it. I would almost cry, I would have tears in my eyes.
I would say to myself something like, I want to get on that plane and go back. It was that period of transition. It was amazing, and now that I look at it I’m amazed that I would feel like that or think like that the first month or so after coming here.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Yet it seems quite natural, as well, being a pretty young girl at that time to be sort of thrown away from home even if it was something you had been dreaming about, to be so far from everything that was familiar to you and all your friends and what you had grown up with. It is a big thing. We call this series the Passion Series.
Would you talk a little bit, Ellie, about the role that your passions, the things that matter the most to you, how did those allow you or help you to make that transition, and not only to make the transition, but to be such a phenomenal success as you have been?
ELLIE DRAKE: Thank you. I really believe that passion has played an incredible role in my life; without it I don’t think that I would be able to do what I have done and go through the ups and downs. Looking at that plane is an example or a metaphor for when we go to start a new journey and how that transition stretches the rubber band of our mind. The rubber band wants us to let it go so that it can come back to its original place.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: We want to stay with what is comfortable.
ELLIE DRAKE: Exactly, but it is really passion that allows us to go forward. So many of my clients ask me, How can I have a little bit more ambition as I go forward? My answer is that the most natural and organic way to be more ambitious is to actually raise the heat under your passion. Become more passionate about it. I graduated as a Doctor here in America because my parents had said, Now that we are in America, you are going to be our retirement plan, so you better become a Doctor.
I went to school for many years and I graduated as a Doctor, but it really wasn’t my passion, it wasn’t my sense of purpose. I was doing it on some deep subconscious level so that I can thank my parents for all the sacrifices they had made, for the two or three jobs a day that they each had. I wanted to pay them back on some level. I graduated as a Doctor with $150,000 in student-loan debt and realized that was not my passion.
I decided, I don’t want to practice, and I gave my diploma to my parents. I said my passion, my heart is somewhere else. I know that if I am not in it emotionally, if I am not allowing my passion to pour into my work, then I am not going to be attracting that level of success and fulfilment that I know I can. I decided not to practice as a doctor. I wanted to become a speaker. I wanted to become an entrepreneur. I decided to fall down a couple hundred, a couple thousand times as an entrepreneur, get up, shake myself off and say, That’s okay, it didn’t kill me. I am stronger.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Ellie, it must have taken great courage to take a step like that. When you think about it, most people, after going through all the schooling, would think that being a doctor, this is basically guaranteed security, a great income and certainly doing something that is valuable of serving others and helping them to heal.
The path of the entrepreneur is almost the exact opposite: no security and a lot of scary things that you would have to face. How did you ever muster the courage? You said it just now that you knew that if you didn’t have the passion it would be difficult for you to be successful at it, but how did you actually feel at that time? How was it for you to tell your parents that you were going to give up something that you had spent so many years studying for?
ELLIE DRAKE: Yes, the interesting thing is that I wasn’t afraid to tell them. I was looking forward to it. I was really looking forward to making this leap. Once I told them that I decided not to do it they were, of course, not happy at first. I decided not to do it. I am not going to say that just because I was passionate about it that everything just fell into its place and I was able to just take journey without experiencing any type of remorse. I’m not going to say that.
Of course, I have had so many downs. As a matter of fact, perhaps even more downs than successes. Once again, so did Edison; 9,000 times of not having the light until he had the time after where he had the light. I remember one time this incident-and I actually haven’t talked about this-and I remember sitting at a hotel going to a seminar and sitting there. It was about 3:00 in the morning.
Everybody was sleeping and I was sitting in the lobby. I ordered all this really bad food and I wasn’t aware of the ‘Healthy’ part of Healthy Wealthy nWise. I ordered all this really bad food and I remember I was feeling something. I wasn’t really hungry physiologically, but I was hungry emotionally. I was scared. What have I done? My success is not here. I remember I sort of stuffed myself. Then, the only thing that was giving me that beacon of light still was that this is what I am passionate about.
Unless I am fulfilled, if I have to go into an office and practice everyday but I am not passionate about it, and if coffee is the only thing that is going to keep me up, then is that really worth it? If I am passionate about it, and passion is the thing that is going to allow me to keep on going forward and I don’t require coffee unless I choose to, then that’s worth it. I kept saying to myself, That’s worth it.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Fabulous! For many of our listeners, I’m sure they’re listening and they’re saying, Yes, following your passions is definitely the way to go, but many of our readers ask us the question, How do you begin making a living following your passion? How do you make the transition from going from security to following your passions, which sometimes seems full of risk?
You just said that you had so many obstacles. Will you tell us a little bit about the process that you went through in turning your passions into a wonderful, financially successful life?
ELLIE DRAKE: Absolutely. This is a great question, Chris. As you know, we could talk about this for a full one-day seminar, perhaps even more. Really, to summarize it, you said some of your clients ask, How do I make a living following my passion?
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Yes.
ELLIE DRAKE: I feel that that is actually the wrong question to ask because the moment I ask that question, then I am not trusting that my passions are going to be giving the type of service to the environment, to the people in it, to the world, or to my clients, and I am not trusting the process. What I am doing is attaching my passion to an outcome, which is making a living. Anytime I attach myself to any type of outcome, I suffer.
I have learned to stay detached from outcome. Yes, it is not about expectations. It is about intentions, however. Expectations, ‘ex,’ external. Intentions, ‘in,’ internal. It is about me having an intention and then the art of having an intention is-for me at least-going forward holding that space, holding that intention but without it being attached to an outcome.
To be consistent, I would say that I wouldn’t ask, How do I make a living following my passion? I would say, How do I allow myself to keep on becoming wiser, to keep on learning more as I follow my passions? How do I allow myself to stand in the center of that gravity and to not become a victim of circumstances and to be consistent enough and follow my passion trusting that the outcome will come?
CHRIS ATTWOOD: It has obviously come for you, and you also got done telling us that there were a lot of bumps along the way. Will you tell us a little bit about that process?
ELLIE DRAKE: The bumps on my way?
CHRIS ATTWOOD: The bumps and then how it turned around for you.
ELLIE DRAKE: Yes, absolutely. I have had many bumps. As you know, all the bumps that we talked about that were falling from the sky when I was in Iran. Those were the bombs. Then the bumps here along the way as an entrepreneur, I had $150,000 in student-loan debt, and at one point I was $115,000 in credit-card debt. It wasn’t because I bought a lot of shoes or anything like that; I just made some wrong investments.
I have a funny story. I was about to marry my husband, Charles, and we were driving from Atlanta to North Carolina. I was saying to myself, I better tell him that I have $150,000 in student-loan and $115,000 in credit-card debt.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: He better know what he is marrying, right?
ELLIE DRAKE: Yes, I should tell him, and so I said, Okay, it is what it is, and I’m going to tell him, so I relaxed my shoulders, I took a breath, and I said it being a bit bold as I was saying it. He looked at me so lovingly and he said, I thought you were supposed to come with a dowry and not debt.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Yes, what’s with that?
ELLIE DRAKE: Really, though, there were some of those financial challenges. How did I overcome them? I will give you one example. I remember sitting on the couch in one of the places I was living. The credit report came from the credit agency, and it was like the thesis I had done in professional school, it was so thick. I looked at that credit report and I was going to fall once again back into the same trap, the same victimized mindset of, Oh, I can’t believe I’ve got this much in debt.
What is going to happen? When am I going to be able to pay it off? What if this doesn’t work? I was feeling guilty about the debt and worried about how I am going to pay it off, which is definitely not being in the now.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: The same thoughts that almost everyone goes through at some time or another.
ELLIE DRAKE: Absolutely. The same thoughts that actually keep on recreating more of the challenge we want to get rid of. I remember looking at that, and at that moment something shifted. I have this statement that I use and I say, Shift Happens! I am sitting there and a shift happened within me. This shift was about me saying, Do you know what? I’m going to look differently at this debt.
I am not going to deny the fact that it is here, but I will change my emotions toward it. There is sort of a bridge that connects me to this debt. The bridge has to be made out of conscious emotions rather than unconscious ones. My job is to accept that this is a lesson and this is a teacher. I started doing that with so many things in my life, taking responsibility.
For me, the essence of responsibility is not guilt or fear, it is love, being able to choose and say, Yes, it’s here for a reason and I am learning. It is here and I am not going to deny it, but how I feel about it, that I can change.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Yes. As that internal change happened, how did it change in your external world?
ELLIE DRAKE: Very good question. There were a couple of things. As the internal change, or how I was looking at that, my emotions about it changed, I actually started feeling better. I would get up in the morning and I realized at one point that I don’t have this huge load on my shoulders, this huge emotional load. I used to get up and think, Oh, it is 7:00 in the morning and I’ve got $115,000 in debt. What is today going to be like?
I got up and I started realizing that I didn’t have this emotional load on my shoulders so I was feeling better. Of course, as we know when you start feeling better your intentions change. As your intentions change, your confirmations change, so now I am feeling better. I have more energy to actually want to do something productive with my time. In addition to that, as I was feeling better I valued my life more. I valued my circumstances more. In essence, I valued myself more regardless of them.
Now as I am valuing myself more, I am valuing my time more.
As I value my time more, I do more and more effective things with it. Not only that, but at the same time this shift in my emotions started attracting more synchronicity into my life also, people, circumstances, situations that were matching and resonating with this newfound emotion within me. The essence of it was more inspiration and less desperation.
That also started enhancing the whole formula and really, I started handling, neutralizing and releasing a lot of these challenges, including my financial challenges because I believed on some deeper, universal level that I had learned the lesson.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Yes. Ellie, I am going to be very American here. I hope you forgive me for this. As Americans we really put a lot on seeing what has actually happened. I am going to ask you, if you are willing-and if you’re not, it’s okay-just to share some of the specific things that happened. I assume that you were able to pay off your debts.
ELLIE DRAKE: Yes, absolutely.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: You have had a number of businesses and some of them were not so successful, but some of them have been very successful. Isn’t that true?
ELLIE DRAKE: Sure. Absolutely.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Sometimes people talk to us and they say, How could I ever do something with these great people? Yet, you have spoken on the stage with people as T. Harv Eker, Mark Victor Hansen, Denis Waitley, and Les Brown. All these people are just remarkably famous American speakers, transformational leaders. How did an immigrant girl from Iran manage to do all that when many Americans don’t think they could ever do that?
ELLIE DRAKE: It is interesting because as we talk about this I have realized that really, it is not because some Americans don’t think that they can do it; it’s because some people-and they can be in America or other parts of the world-not every immigrant that comes to this country allows themselves to take advantage of all the tools and resources either.
Speaking of Les Brown, I remember him sitting in my first convention. He walked on the stage. He was speaking, I saw him, and I had goose bumps. I knew that is what I wanted to do. I really knew that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. If I did that for the rest of my life, that would be a fulfilling life. At the same time, I also knew I’d better learn English so that I can communicate better to become successful so I can also teach through my successes.
Now going back to some of the practical things you had asked, yes, a number of things that are considered failures in the mindset, that I would lovingly say that in the mediocre mindset they are considered failures, but in the mindset of someone who is wise, they are considered lessons along the way. As you learn them you grow from them, and then that is how you become healthier emotionally and mentally. That is how you become wealthier.
It was really allowing myself to learn from those lessons, and one of the things that assisted me tremendously was when I got up on the stage, in the first two or three minutes what I would say is I would say something like, Let me just get it over with, at first. I would say, I came to America years ago and I didn’t speak any English. You are probably going to pick up on my accent and I am probably going to mispronounce as I go forward, but you’ll notice that I will mispronounce with certainty.
I would make them laugh and that was good for me, and I’d go forward. I have had times when I had spoken for thousands of people. For instance, one time I drove from Atlanta to Savannah. They said, Come here and speak. We have 50 people in the audience. I said, Okay, good. Fifty people, five-hour drive; that’s no problem. I got my little whiteboard, and I drove five hours to Savannah, and only one person was in the audience. She actually fell asleep as I was talking. That’s okay. It didn’t kill me; it only made me stronger, so now I can talk about it and laugh about it, see?
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Absolutely. As a speaker myself, I can totally relate. We have all had those experiences. I also want to thank you for drawing it back to what we were talking about here, which are really universal experiences that apply to people whatever our cultural backgrounds, whatever our nationalities, whatever our religious or spiritual backgrounds. It seems like we all go through these times of doubting and questioning.
You have talked a little bit about it, but I wonder if you would just share a little bit more about how the experiences that you have gone through have changed the way you look at the world? Particularly for those of our listeners who may still be at that point of saying, Oh, my goodness! I have so much debt, or The obstacles seem so great. What advice or suggestions could you give to them to be able to shift that just as you shifted it?
ELLIE DRAKE: Yes, absolutely. It is very interesting because I believe it was Einstein who said, You can either look at the world as though everything is a miracle, or you can look at the world as though everything is a tragedy. Wow, is that true! It is absolutely the essence of truth. I have realized that at any given time, I can sit here and say, Let me just make a list of the things that are going on that are wrong or negative in my life.
I will expand that into my community, to my city, to my state, to my country, and to the world. I can find thousands, or to begin with perhaps, in an hour, hundreds of things that can support why I am not doing more, why I am not being more. I can really brilliantly find those things effortlessly also. Yet, at the same time, I can choose to look at things that are just fabulous in the world, things that bring love and light, success in abundance, prosperity and things that can support me to grow so that I can be more, have more, do more, and give more.
Looking at this and how my experiences have supported me or supported the way I look at the world right now, it’s very interesting. I will give you one example. I didn’t sleep on a bed until I was 13 years old. It wasn’t a big deal when I was going through it when you just experience what you experience, that’s what you have. It wasn’t a big deal. How it has changed me is that when I go to sleep at night, I hug that pillow, and I just love that mattress and blanket, and I usually have a smile on my face as I fall asleep.
I know that I would not have recognized or realized just the joy or the beauty that could come from it. Yes, they are down comforters, but the joy and the beauty that can come from that is from that change in my experience. That’s one thing, but really looking overall, I would say that when I wasn’t in debt, when I hadn’t fallen down flat on my face as much as I have, I actually had a bigger ego.
The financial debt I have experienced, the rejection I have experienced, the challenges I have experienced have strengthened a part of me where that wiser woman stands up now rather than that sensitive woman inside of me. That wiser woman is more compassionate. That wiser woman can look with wisdom at something and say, Okay, let me look beyond reality; let me see actuality.
I would say that even though it sounds like a cliché, if I really look at my life and the things I have gone through, I see that they have just made me a better person, knowing that I am not just more of who I am.
Seeing that and having experienced that, now when I am presented with challenges-and it’s a continuous journey, and I still am presented with challenges-I can trust the process that I have already gone through, the person I have become, and I can go based on that trust, which just makes the rest of the journey a whole lot more joyous also.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: That is beautiful. I am going to come back to this question. The only reason I am coming back to this question again is because it comes up so much with our readers and listeners. Taking that vision-and what I have heard you say tonight is that you began to shift and change the way in which you look at your circumstances and the things that were happening to you-how does that translate into financial success?
Could you just speak a little bit more about what it takes for someone who is ready and willing to make that shift, who is willing to look at these things as a gift, and who may still be struggling financially, who may find in spite of that, there are still big financial challenges. What does it take to turn one’s passions into outer financial success, as well as inner experience of acceptance and fulfilment?
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