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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Life Coaching Success Stories

Jan 01, 2022 06:00AM ● By Noah Chen
Life coaching clients and their journeys are as unique as fingerprints. The following are stories of four individuals who were transformed by working with some of Atlanta’s most prominent life coaches.

Renee Tyner
David Smith / I Speak Life Coaching

When Renee Tyner met life coach David Smith, she was an executive assistant at Urban League of Greater Atlanta, but she had dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. Smith was brought on to provide team building and coaching for Tyner and her co-workers, and she was intrigued by his ability to get her team to connect with each other and to see the people they worked with eight hours a day “in a more trusting light.” She was so impressed, she immediately hired him for private coaching. 

“I needed a different perspective on how I was viewing life because it wasn’t moving how I wanted it to move,” says Tyner. “I learned it was because of the lens I viewed my life through.” 

With Smith’s guidance, Tyner left her position and started her own business, Ride Out with Renee, providing spin coaching. “The confidence to be an entrepreneur and get my business out there was important, and Coach Smith helped me find that,” says Tyner.

Once her spin classes were a success, Tyner launched a second business, Neema and Company, a consulting company that helps start-up businesses set up their finances and get their products to market. 

It’s been five years since Tyner first met Smith, and both of her businesses have become successful. Even so, she continues to receive coaching from Smith. “The coaching makes you more self-aware and more aware of other people,” Smith explains. That sense of awareness keeps her going back to Smith. “If self-awareness is not at your forefront, he will bring it to your forefront. He goes really deep and really makes you think.” 

Tyner found that extra helping of self-awareness crucial to balancing her work, social and personal lives. “Once you shed the corporate structure, you’re the one that’s in charge and has to generate revenue.” She found it easy to get too focused on her work, and that was impacting her social and personal life. Smith helped her realize she had control over her time, helping her to find the balance she needed.

“If you’re working a 12-hour day to get your business off the ground, what do you do in the 13th hour? You have to be there for your spouse, and you have to focus on social/relationship goals to be a healthy, balanced individual,” says Tyner. She especially appreciated the practical tools she got from Smith that helped her establish a healthy lifestyle in her work and the rest of her life.

“Success comes from what makes you truly happy,” Tyner elaborates. “There has to be some level of a happy, harmonious relationship between your physical and cognitive being. Me being happy and peaceful, having harmonious relationships—that’s ultimate for me.” 

Ellen McLeod
Jill Volpe / Jill Volpe Coaching & Healing 

In 2020, Ellen McLeod wanted to change her lifestyle, but she wasn’t ready to take the leap. She was working as an office manager and trying to get promoted but was frustratingly underestimated by her management. Denied a promotion, McLeod began to doubt herself. 

“I was afraid to apply for these other jobs; they seemed out of reach for me,” she says. Unable to progress in her current role and unsure of her ability to score interviews, McLeod felt stuck. McLeod had been to therapists in the past, but this time around, she was drawn to a life coach.

“The thing I liked about coaching was that it’s goal-driven,” McLeod explains. “I was at a point in my life where I needed to make a professional change for myself, and I needed someone to help me refine, set and hold me accountable to my goals.”

Enter Jill Volpe of Jill Volpe Coaching & Healing. Jill is a life coach and energy healer, and McLeod was drawn to this pairing. “I enjoy the fact that I could work with her both on the physical plane and also on the energetic plane as well,” says McLeod. McLeod, who is also a yoga teacher, found the spiritual side of Volpe’s coaching integral to the process. “I don’t think I could move forward without having some awareness of spirituality. That may not be something for everyone, but Jill has this really beautiful structure to her programs, and they’re all very personalized.” 

So Mcleod began life coaching sessions with Volpe and started practicing Reiki with her as well. They structured their sessions around defining McLeod’s goals and, through the lessons, McLeod was able to envision a new path for herself. 

“I identified I was interested in working as an administrative assistant, which is a higher level than my previous job, but I didn’t have the confidence to seek out and say, ‘Yes, I can support your CEO,’” says McLeod. “Sometimes the fear of not getting what you chase after will cause you not to chase after it.” After a few sessions, she was ready to take the leap. She left her position and began the job hunt. 

Today, McLeod is an executive assistant to a CEO and CFO for a company in Lawrenceville, Georgia. But she has also seen other changes stemming from her lessons with Volpe. “I’ve gained a kind of boldness,” says McLeod. “Being bold is something I had to practice. It’s being willing to ‘Brené Brown’ the world—get into the arena and do it.” 

Volpe taught McLeod practical methods to embody the boldness she desired. “We developed a mantra that I work with: ‘Everything I need is available to me at just the right time.’ That’s what I learned about being bold. If you don’t chase it, you will 100% not get it.”

Jeremy Ciccone
Anthony Strayhorn / StrayFit

Sometimes life coaching looks like a therapy session; other times, it looks like a workout. When Jeremy Ciccone goes to his coaching sessions, he doesn’t go to an office or someone’s home, he goes to the gym. That’s because he trains with Anthony Strayhorn, founder of StrayFit. Strayhorn focuses on both physical and mental aspects of his clients, and Ciccone and his wife have been receiving his coaching for the past six years. 

“We wanted to take better care of ourselves,” says Ciccone. “Someone gifted us a session with Anthony, and we really liked it. So we just kind of stuck with it.” 

Strayhorn’s sessions are a mix of training exercises designed to emulate games and discussions of goals and methods of achieving them. “They have a sign on the wall that says it’s 50% consciousness, 30% nutrition, and 20% exercise.” 

“Being mindful of choices that you’re making leads to different momentums and energies in your life,” Ciccone says. He found that the blend of physical and life coaching and the consistency with which it is taught are what has kept him and his wife in the class. “Anthony is a very consistent guy,” says Ciccone. “He’s consistent in his tone, in his advice, and he’s consistent in showing up.” That was necessary, Ciccone explains, because the training might not get done if it was just up to him and his wife. 

“We like the idea of a neutral third party as our accountability,” says Ciccone. “I can rationalize not doing something for myself, but if I’m paying for someone’s time, it’s hard for me to blow that off.”

Through his training, Ciccone realized the importance of mindfulness in his life. A few years into the training, he and his girlfriend got engaged, and Ciccone decided to slim down for the wedding. Afterward, his weight slowly crept back up. 

“So now we talk with Anthony about having a bigger ‘why.’ You need something bigger than something that’s just three months into the future, like my wedding. Because that’s not a lifestyle. A change in lifestyle plays for bigger prizes.” 

Ciccone says it’s hard to be mindful without a larger goal, so to increase his mindfulness, Strayhorn is helping him define that larger goal. “You can change a plan,” says Strayhorn, “but you can’t change no plan.” 

Ciccone sees his physical training, mindfulness, and goal setting as part of the same system. To lose weight, he needs to be mindful. To be mindful, he has to have larger goals. 

To that end, Ciccone began to meditate in an effort to become more mindful, which, in turn, opens up more pathways as his goals become concrete. “Really, the coaching is about acknowledging everything that you’re doing is a choice and not letting your brain go on autopilot.” 

This approach has also helped him ease social interactions that are often stressful. “It changes the accountability structure,” Ciccone says. “I’m in control of myself, but I can’t control what others are doing. I can only control how I react to it.” 

Whether it be physical fitness games or meditation, Strayhorn’s coaching has helped Ciccone become stronger, more aware and more in control of his life.

Elli McKinley
Diane Martinez / Conscious Creating Life Coaching 

“If you told me five years ago that I would move to a beach in Portugal, I would have told you you were nuts.” 

For the past four years, Elli McKinley has been building confidence in—and learning about—herself with the help of life coach Diane Martinez, owner of Conscious Creating Life Coaching. McKinley sought out life coaching because she realized she was repeating an unhealthy pattern handed down by her mother—and she wanted to break free of it. 

“I learned [from my mother] that, as a woman, I had to not have a voice, and I had to go with the flow and not make waves,” says McKinley. Happily married to her husband for 43 years, she wanted to learn to speak up for herself. “My husband loves the new wife that he has. He loved the old me, too, don’t get me wrong. But I think he can see that I’m steering the boat a little more now, and he likes that.” 

But she wasn’t always like that. “I literally had to learn the words to speak up for myself,” she says. Martinez helped her realize that some of the stories she told herself were false, and she could move past them. 

“When I first got married, I had a friend who told me I was a terrible cook and that I was too slow. I realize now that I’m very deliberate because I approach cooking with love. For me, that takes time. And I’m a great cook! So there!”

There’s also a spiritual part of Martinez’s coaching, says McKinley, that helped her change her life for the better. “Diane introduced me to so much reading. Researching helped me find my center, find peace.” 

McKinley had been craving peace for a long time, and in the past, she would simply “go with the flow” and wouldn’t speak up for herself, she says. But today, her peace has taken a whole new shape. Once the world shut down in response to COVID, McKinley and her husband started dreaming of traveling the world with their children. They loved the idea of going to Portugal, but there was a hitch. “We learned we could move there, but we couldn’t travel there.” After talking it over a while, McKinley and her family packed their whole life into 19 suitcases and left for the warm sands of Portugal. “We are living out our dream,” says McKinley. “Through life coaching, I’ve been able to bring these dreams to fruition,” she says. “I’ve allowed myself to start thinking broader, and I’ve been able to start asking myself, ‘Why not?’” 


David Smith / I Speak Life Coaching

Jill Volpe / Jill Volpe Coaching & Healing 

Anthony Strayhorn / StrayFit 

Diane Martinez / Conscious Creating Life Coaching 
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Noah Chen is an Atlanta writer and journalist who writes for a wide variety of large companies and publications.

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