CJ Scarlet

Choosing to be mindful in all interactions with others helps me stay focused on what’s important—kindness, compassion, respect, and appreciation for the fact that everyone is fighting a hard battle.

CJ Scarlet knows first-hand how violence can destroy lives. A survivor of sexual assault as a college freshman and while serving in the Marine Corps, CJ spent years dealing with the emotional aftermath of her experiences. After taking her power back, she became an advocate for others who had been victimized, running a child advocacy center and serving as Director of Victims Issues for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

While with the Attorney General’s Office, CJ initiated and co-chaired an inter-disciplinary commission which designed the nation’s first statewide automated victim notification system that notifies crime victims before their perpetrators are released from custody. This system was selected as the national model by the U.S. Department of Justice and won several awards.

An expert in victims’ rights and advocacy, CJ has given speeches and workshops at national and international events; and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including MSNBC and NPR. She is the author of The Badass Girl’s Guide: Uncommon Strategies to Outwit Predators and Neptune’s Gift: Discovering Your Inner Ocean.
The former U.S. Marine photojournalist and forest firefighter holds a B.A. in Political Science from Virginia Wesleyan College, and an interdisciplinary master’s degree in Humanities with an emphasis on Human Violence and graduate certificate in Women’s Studies from Old Dominion University.

Named one of the “Happy 100” people on the planet, CJ’s story is featured in two bestselling books, including Happy for No Reason and Be Invincible.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

CJ Scarlet (ad)Ventures is a multi-faceted company, consisting of my writing, speaking, consulting, and nonprofit work. I formed the company in 2001 while battling a life-threatening autoimmune condition. Although I was in constant pain, I refused to submit to my illness and was determined to stay active. But in 2004, I was told my condition was terminal. I became so debilitated I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get upstairs, and I couldn’t lift a cup of coffee or hold a hairbrush. I became deeply depressed and anxious about my impending heart failure. Then I was offered the opportunity to meet privately with a Tibetan Buddhist lama who kindly but sternly commanded me to “stop feeling sorry for myself and start thinking of the happiness of other people.” Daunted but determined, I began performing small acts of kindness—letting the mom with the crying baby go ahead of me in line, giving my cane to a woman who was struggling to walk, and volunteering at the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina. These simple, spontaneous acts made me feel a happier, so I did more, and the more I did the better I felt, until I reached a point where my heart was so full it no longer mattered whether I was sick or well, or even living or dying—I was filled with gratitude for each moment. At that point, my condition went into remission! Today, I feel better and happier than I ever dreamed possible, and I am thriving both personally and professionally.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My days are my own and life as an entrepreneur is sweet! My day begins with a quick meditation to set my intention and put myself in the right frame of mind. I spend the morning marketing my books, writing my latest manuscript, and working on consulting projects. My afternoons are filled with meditation, yoga, journaling, and watching documentaries on Gaia.com. In the evenings, I usually spend time with my son and grandchildren.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I allow ideas to come to me, which they often do in my dreams and meditations. I am a “doer” and immediately act on ideas I feel have potential and that fit my goals and values. When an idea isn’t meant for me, I try to pass it on to someone else.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The trend toward wearable technology really excites me because the possibilities are virtually limitless. I foresee a day when everything we need resides on small devices we wear on our bodies, beyond what fitness bracelets can do today. They will be in our shoes, buttons, ties and scarves, ear pieces, glasses, etc.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Choosing to be mindful in all interactions with others helps me stay focused on what’s important—kindness, compassion, respect, and appreciation for the fact that everyone is fighting a hard battle.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell that sweet girl that the very things she believes she must hide about herself are her greatest sources of strength, resiliency, and wisdom.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That we choose and create our reality with every thought we think. Most people believe life happens TO them by forces OUTSIDE them. When we don’t accept responsibility for our role in creating our reality, we give up control of our lives and destiny to others.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

“Lift as you climb.” That old African proverb is my mantra and it drives me to seek out ways to elevate others—especially other women entrepreneurs.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Seeking first to help others achieve their goals. Although I don’t do it just to get their help in return, that’s how it happens to work; it’s a wonderful and natural side effect.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve experienced many spectacular failures in my career and regret none of them. The biggest was being unable to raise the funding we needed to bring a wearable personal security device I invented to market. It broke my heart to close the company, but I got over it by turning my attention to other ways I could protect people.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I had a company called Roving Coach International (from 2009 to 2013) that was moderately successful, but not enough during the bad recession to support three founders. We had 50 coaches in the U.S., UK, and Canada who did 30-minute coaching for middle managers. In today’s economy, that business would thrive and I offer that idea to anyone who wants to run with it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I spent just over $100 to enter my latest book, The Badass Girl’s Guide: Uncommon Strategies to Outwit Predators in several writing competitions. So far, the book has been selected as the winner of the Pinnacle Award and a finalist for the International Book Awards in the self-help category. These awards are now being leveraged in my marketing efforts.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Toodledo is an online and mobile to-do list that enables me to see my tasks by due date, project, or completion status.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The best marketing book I’ve read is Badass Your Brand by Pia Silva. It turns traditional branding on its head and will make you totally rethink your marketing approach. It will blow your socks off!

What is your favorite quote?

“World peace begins with inner peace.” This is my own quote and it guides everything I do. When I begin to feel overwhelmed by the troubles of the world around me, I remind myself that the best thing I can do for the planet is to get my own mind and spirit straight, and that when I do this by being loving and kind and compassionate, I am being part of the solution.

Key learnings:

  • Our greatest challenges offer the greatest gifts.
  • Mindfulness, which can be cultivated through meditation, helps one stay focused on what’s really important.
  • We choose and create our reality with every thought we think.
  • Help others get what they need and your own needs will be met in the process.


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