My life was as traditional as you could get. Graduated first in my class from Georgetown Law, got married, and pregnant, clerked for a Judge on the US Court of Appeals, and then went to work at one of the best law firms in the US. I did it all “right.” Yet, it felt so wrong.
After a mid-twenties quarter-life crisis that led to my first level of self-inquiry and exploration, I thought maybe I was unhappy because I was truly an entrepreneur at heart (which was the last thing I expected because I had gone to law school so I didn’t need to be an entrepreneur like my dad), and shortly after the birth of my 2nd child, I launched my own law practice.
It turns out I was really good at entrepreneurship and I went on to build a couple of million dollar businesses, first my law practice and then an online training company, training lawyers on the law business model I had invented. Then, I built another business training people to avoid making the million dollars of mistakes I made — mostly legal, insurance, financial and tax-related — while building those businesses.
Everything was great until 2009, when I began to question what the heck I was doing and why. Once again, I had achieved all the success I thought was possible, written a best-selling book, appearing on TV as a legal expert, house by the ocean, kids in private school, Mercedes in the garage. And, yet, I knew there was something more.
It felt as if something was wanting to claw its way outside of me, but I couldn’t see what it was. All I knew is that I had to make a shift. This couldn’t be it.
I hired coaches, and purpose consultants; I dug deep in self-inquiry and prayed at Agape in LA; I went to Burning Man, hoping I’d find myself there. Finally, in September of 2009, I was called into ceremony with the plant medicine Ayahuasca. Up until that point, I had judged people using Ayahuasca as just looking for another high, but then it was my turn to try the medicine. And I finally found what I had been looking for, myself.
Unfortunately, it also threw me into a depression because what I saw so clearly during that Ayahuasca journey was that I was living a life that was deeply out of alignment. I saw a world that works for everyone. I saw a planet in harmony. I saw my role in creating that harmony and how much conflict I was actually living in everyday.
I saw how I was putting money before most everything else, and that while it was all justified (I have a team and clients and kids to support!), it was flawed. The reality was, I didn’t know how to deeply connect with other people, if money or business wasn’t involved. Something had to shift.
On top of that, I couldn’t keep doing the “legal expert” thing on TV anymore, not in the way I was. I LOVED being on TV. It was the one time when my mind would consistently quiet down and I would be fully relaxed. Then, I found myself on the Nancy Grace sound stage, to gossip about Tiger Woods divorce. Suddenly, instead of a quiet mind, I heard a loud voice booming at me
“Alexis, what the fuck are you doing? You just spent four hours getting into hair and makeup and getting driven across town so you can gossip about another human on national television. You are contributing to the world negative 1,000, at least. You can never do this again!”
I went home and wrote this blog post. A couple weeks later, on Jan 1, 2010, we packed up two U-Hauls, the ex-hubby, kids, two cats, dog and the snake and headed East, to Colorado. It was time to try something new.
The following five years were a time of massive learning, growth and evolution. Within a few months of arriving in Colorado, I fired my whole team (the internal conflict was more than I knew how to deal with), broke up with my boyfriend (and business partner) of three years, and set out to find this “more” I was looking for.
The first guidepost along the way came when the interim-CEO I hired to manage my company during the transition time took me with him to Lightning in a Bottle festival in California. I had been before, but it had been years. And, this time was different.
The story of that trip is a long one, and I’ll share it another time in detail because there were some excellent lessons, but for now the most important one to share is that I began to find myself, the real me, beyond the money, fame and success.
By August of 2010, I was ready to face my biggest fear. I had always been terrified to run out of money, while at the same time having this deeper knowing that all my needs were always met.
I remember standing at a gas station, talking to the interim-CEO (his name is Hitch) on my cell and telling him how terrified I was to run out of money, and he said do it. Run out. This is your Fear Walk. And I laughed. I said, “but then I wouldn’t be able to pay you.”
He said “that’s fine, don’t pay me.” I said, but then no one is going to like me (I was so sure people only liked me because I had money), and he said “Lex (that’s my family name and what he called me), people love you. They’re going to love you even if you don’t have money.”
So, I began to let it all go. I began to make choices not based on whether something would bring me money, but based on my deep, personal truth, even if that would hurt me financially.
I got married at Burning Man. I found my deep, deep love of the Earth at Eden Hot Springs. I went to Peru. I found a long lost part of myself, Ali Shanti. I tried to start a community on a farm I bought near Boulder, and it failed.
And I let it all go.
I faced my biggest fears — I let myself run out of money, stopped paying most of my bills and moved onto the farm, alone with my kids (without the help of a housekeeper, personal assistant, or any number of other people I had been paying for support), where I had tried to start community.
For a year, I did NOTHING I wouldn’t do for free. I launched a show called the Whole Truth Show. You can still see remnants of it at that link. I spent time with my kids, playing cards and games. I grocery shopped, and cooked, and cleaned. I drove the kids to school. I learned to be human. I discovered who I was beyond business and money.
And then, after filing bankruptcy in August of 2012, I returned to the world of business, money and mainstream society. We rented a condo in Boulder, and I came back into the world, committed to build businesses that would support the work I am here to do without the strife, without the conflict, and without the top-down, hierarchical structure that I had not been able to stand before.
As I write this, it’s been three years. (My life seems to cycle in three year rounds.) These past three years I have learned to come to terms with the reality that I have two very distinct parts living inside of me (Alexis Neely and Ali Shanti) and I have found the place of integration.
Today, finally, money doesn’t rule my life. It’s the fuel for my creative dreams and heart projects. It buys food for my family and keeps a nice roof over our heads, but it doesn’t determine where I go, what I do, who I do it with, or when I do it.
Money is abundant because I am deeply in service, doing meaningful work and I know how to ask for what I need to keep doing that. I prioritize my time (a far less available resource than money), my relationships and I follow my heart.
I am grateful.
The three years after filing bankruptcy were full of tremendous lessons, heartache, drama, pain, conflict and ultimately resolution. I have stepped into a role leadership I resisted for the past ten years. Over the coming months, I intend to share it all with you. Maybe more than you want to hear.
I’m doing it because I prayed for it at so many points along my journey. I wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes, in the lives and hearts and minds of the leaders I looked up to; I wanted to know what was real and true.
It was very hard for me to find anyone who was truly telling it like it is. I knew I would have to be the one. So, I am.
This path is a path of love and liberation. It’s a path of leadership, by a very reluctant leader. It’s the path of the road less traveled. Thank you for joining me along the way.