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Mom story: I went from welfare to life coaching

After enduring poverty and loss, Cynthia Occelli’s life experience helped her create practical approaches to success. Feeling compelled to share her knowledge, Cynthia wrote Resurrecting Venus, a guidebook that gives real-world insight on how women can tap into their feminine essence and achieve the life they want. Learn how Cynthia coaches women to believe in themselves.

by Cynthia Occelli
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin

The lowest point of my life was the day I brought my newborn son home. I loved my baby so much — he was beautiful and perfect but it broke my heart that I could barely provide for him. I was 19 and “home” was a detached, barren garage in Seaside, California, owned by my son’s paternal grandmother. My son’s father was incarcerated, my mother was poor and I had nowhere else to go.

I’ll always remember the nails protruding from the rafters, the bugs and it being so cold because we didn’t have heat. It was nearly impossible to afford diapers and food on welfare, let alone a crib. I felt like I’d failed the most important person in the world. I knew that I had to create a better life for my son.

Steps toward change

Turning my life around wasn’t easy, but I felt I had nothing to lose. I was already a ninth grade drop-out living on welfare. I reasoned that failing wouldn’t look much different. I relied on my dreams to guide me. I used to imagine living a safe, healthy, successful life every night. I did it to escape the misery I was feeling but it changed my outlook and helped me to become motivated and to recognize opportunities and possibilities.

After being on welfare for more than two years while caring for my son, we moved into a house with a roommate. I was so thrilled to have heat and plumbing. I took the California Real Estate License exam and the following year moved to Los Angeles to be with my mom.

I was willing to do whatever it took to change our lives. I stepped outside of my comfort zone. I babysat, sold insurance door-to-door and learned bookkeeping. I listened to motivational tapes and read books about people who were successful. I learned to believe in myself. I took constant action. I applied for jobs, thought of business ideas, and always tried to better myself. Determined to prove my worth, I set my sights on law school. I did well on the LSAT and found a school that accepted me. I graduated in the top 3 percent of my class a few years later.

A Cinderella story

After I climbed out of poverty, I found love and married a wonderful man. We welcomed a little girl and built our dream home in Bel Air, California. My life was a fairytale but in an instant, my world collapsed. My husband had a ruptured brain aneurysm that washed away his memory, personality and our marriage. I took care of him for almost a year and then he went to live with his family in France and we later divorced.

In my darkest moment, I wanted to just let everything go and stop trying. But I couldn’t give up on life and leave my children to suffer. I resolved to put my life back together. I had no idea if I would ever feel like smiling again. Over the next several years, I worked hard on myself. When I reached a place of emotional wholeness and inner joy, I knew I’d achieved something special and I wanted to share it, but I didn’t know how.

Stumbling upon coaching

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I decided to become a business consultant. I helped entrepreneurs solve problems, implement plans and infrastructure and maximize profits. Ironically, instead of doing what I’d been hired to do, I always found myself coaching an owner through her fears or resolving relationship issues between co-workers. In time, my practice morphed into success coaching. Then, I began focusing on women who were starting over after a loss, or a change in lifestyle. I really hit my stride and the reward of seeing women overcome challenges and realize their dreams was the greatest sense of professional success I’d ever experienced. I decided to write the book, Resurrecting Venus , with the hopes of helping women to use their feminine essence to better themselves and their lives.

Today, my son’s in college, my daughter’s in 10th grade and I’m in a committed relationship with an incredible man. My children taught me about unconditional love — their love pulled me through my darkest moments. I want my kids to know that life is precious and the most important thing they can do is live a life that fits their unique definition of success.

Mom wisdom

You’re the most powerful person in your life and the only failure you’ll ever have is giving up — everything else is a setback on the road to success. Believe in yourself, take action and persevere.

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