494 Michelle Norris:
Many of the best businesses … even billionaires … are created in recessions and borne of personal challenge. Imagine. Losing your house in the 2008 financial meltdown… and then losing your beloved daughter in a car crash just days before her 23rd birthday and college graduation.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur endured the unthinkable … and found inspiration a year later at a memorial service when countless people told her the positive impact her daughter had had on so many people during her short life.
Michelle Norris went on a journey of healing and inspiration to grow the largest Paleo Lifestyle platform in the world as the co-founder and CEO of Paleo f(x)™. Today Michelle shares an important message we all need to hear in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Michelle Norris describes herself as a former corporate warrior whose previous health issues, an extended battle with traditional medical advice, and the tragic loss of her daughter inspired her to upend the way the world tackles health, wellness and prosperity.
Through the Paleo lifestyle, she healed herself. She soon became one of the most outspoken Paleo evangelists, then co-founded and is now CEO of Paleo f(x)™, the largest Paleo platform and event in the world. She is also a founding partner of ID Life, a company whose mission is health and lifestyle optimization. She’s a passionate speaker, motivator and guiding light to those seeking deliverance from a broken economic and healthcare system.
Today she shares her inspiring journey as a tireless firebrand for advancing purposeful entrepreneurs and the Paleo movement; a cultural rejuvenation of self-empowerment for the 21st century. We talk the healing properties of plant medicines like ayahuasca – how it shifted the way she operates her business – and how she learned to honor her sacred feminine.
Melinda Wittstock: Michelle, welcome to Wings.
Michelle Norris: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m excited to talk to you, as always. You’re doing such incredible, inspiring things in the world. But at one time, though, you were a self-described corporate warrior. Okay? So, what was that all about and what was the spark that got you from there to this very enlightened place now where you are with this amazing company, Paleo f(x)?
Michelle Norris: Wow, okay. That’s a …
Melinda Wittstock: Well, We can take it in a few steps because it is a big question, I know. But was there a moment, I guess, when you were just like, “Hey, you know what I’m doing right now just isn’t working. I need to change. I need to completely switch it up”?
Michelle Norris: Wow, absolutely. So, yes, corporate where I was a project manager. I built Starbucks for a living. This is back in 2008 and our nice housing market crisis and everything. We lost all of our money and our house. We had $78,000 of equity in our home. Our home really should’ve been valued or we should’ve walked away with a check around $150,000. We had to write a check to get out of that house for $10,000. So, it was pretty painful.
Michelle Norris: But really the catalyst for everything was on May 2nd, 2009, our daughter Brittani was killed in a car accident. It was three days before her 23rd birthday and a week before her college graduation, and she was a music and worship ministry major. And we had planned this huge party to celebrate her birthday, to celebrate her graduation, and to celebrate Mother’s Day. And on May 5th, which was her birthday, would’ve been her 23rd birthday, we were holding a celebration of her life instead of the party that I had planned. And so, we are standing there and it’s really interesting.
Michelle Norris: So, Brittani was in a car accident. There were four other people in the accident, but she was the only one that was killed. And there was a 83-year-old woman in the other vehicle who broke her neck. And you can imagine, this is right where she’s going to go … She was a music and worship ministry major, so she planned to be a minister and work in the mission field. So, as you can probably imagine, probably angry with God that night [crosstalk 00:30:46]. Had lots of choice words. And so, it was just a really devastating time for our whole family.
Michelle Norris: And what was the tremendous turning point that happened was on the date of her first memorial service, she had three, the first memorial service, I’m walking down the hall at the Swale Center at her college. And this older gentleman who I didn’t recognize came up to me and he said, “Ms. Norris, my name is Mr. Hart. My wife Lovey was in the car accident with your daughter, which was the 83-year-old woman who broke her neck.
Michelle Norris: And he said, “I just came to tell you that our granddaughter and her husband,” who are also in the car, which they were injured. They were in a hospital for several weeks. He said, “After they read your daughter’s obituary, they vowed to get their lives straight and get clean.” They had been going down the wrong path with drugs and alcohol. And he said, “And I just want you to know that your angel changed our lives, and we’re forever grateful.” And that’s where everything began for us.
Michelle Norris: And that night, there were about 700 people at her memorial service, and they had a receiving line for us, and I swear we received almost all of those people. And they stood in line to pay their respects and told us how Brittani changed their lives, and it was not superficial like, “Oh, she changed my life.” It was, “Brittani changed my life. She said this to me,” or, “She changed my life because she did this,” or, “She changed my life because she took me here.” It was the most insane thing. We were just standing there so humbled by the fact that she had changed so many people’s lives in such a short period of time. She was not even 23 yet.
Michelle Norris: And so, we realized that night that we needed to carry on her legacy of changing lives. We didn’t know what that looked like, but we knew that we needed to do that. We thought that it was going to be some type of foundation or something like that, some type of non-profit. And so, what’s interesting is so Brittani’s gifts were music and worship. She was a gifted musician and singer, she had the gift of prophecy, she was an amazing preacher, and those were definitely not our gifts. So, you can imagine we struggled with trying to figure out what that looked like to carry on her legacy when those aren’t our gifts. So, what we realized is, Keith and I, our gifts are food and nutrition and health and wellness and fitness. And so, there was just a disconnect for us.
Michelle Norris: So, two years later, Keith are sitting on the runway at LAX and it’s after the inaugural Ancestral Health Symposium, which is a very decidedly academic symposium that discusses the science of paleo. And we’re there, and I’m talking to him and I’m like, “This was really great.” But at this point, just to give you a little taste of what’s happened in our lives, we finally were able to sell our house in North Carolina, get ourselves moved back home to Texas which is where our family was. And we had become partners in a very small but rapidly growing chain of boutique style gyms that do one-on-one and small group training. So, at this point, that’s one of our main things. That, and I had a … at the time I had a catering company. I am a trained chef.
Michelle Norris: So, we’re sitting on the runway, and I’m like, “You know what they need to do? They need to show people how to do this stuff. They should do cooking demonstrations, and they should show them how to do the movement, and they should talk about the … ” I was going on and on and on. And Keith goes, “Well, it’s an academic conference. I don’t think they’re going to do that.” And then we sat there for a little bit. And he was like, “You know what? I think this is what we should do.” And so, on that runway, Brittani’s legacy was born, Paleo f(x) was born, and we’re going into our ninth event. And tens of thousands of people’s lives have been changed, so Brittani’s still here doing her thing.
Melinda Wittstock: Gosh, I feel so many things listening to your story. Just the grief and loss of your daughter, but the inspiration of what she was able to do in the world in such a short time and what she’s continuing to do. And how, in many ways, she led you to where you are right now and all the good, so much good, that you’re doing in the world.
Melinda Wittstock: The nature of challenge, I think, is on everybody’s mind right now with Coronavirus, because people are being challenged in all sorts of different ways. People who have the virus, loss of life, loss of jobs. Entrepreneurs suddenly having to completely pivot their businesses. People can’t pay them anymore or they have to change or the funding round’s disrupted, all these sorts of things. There’s a lot of challenge right now in the world.
Melinda Wittstock: When we’re standing here right now in this moment of Coronavirus and all its massive impacts in the world, do you think that everything that came before has prepared you for right now?
Michelle Norris: Yeah, absolutely. I think more so I’ve really went down a pretty heavy spiritual path about six years ago starting with plant medicine. What’s hilarious is, okay, so Brittani is the catalyst for everything that we do right now, everything we do in the world. And so, it’s funny. She was also the catalyst for my spiritual journey, which I didn’t have any idea I was going to take and didn’t know I needed to take. So, through the nature and course of Paleo f(x), we’ve had shaman panels, plant medicine panels at Paleo f(x) and everything.
Michelle Norris: So, the interest there was piqued mainly because people talking about having spiritual experiences with past loved ones. So, the only reason that I ever went to do plant medicine was an opportunity to see Brittani. And it’s interesting that it’s actually taken me really far down that path to the point of being called to do that work. And now I’ve been training for plant medicine work and to become a facilitator shaman. And so, it’s really interesting how everything pivoted. But I think I absolutely believe that all of that set me up to be able to handle this right now, and particularly the work that I’ve done in the spiritual and medicine plant space.
Melinda Wittstock: Interesting that you bring up plant medicine. Often the most successful entrepreneurs are very open to everything from meditation and affirmation and visualization, but taking it much further into plant medicine. much do your credit your business success with that sort of spiritual growth?
Michelle Norris: 150%. Because without that, I would not have shifted the way that I do business as a woman, particularly running the business, being the CEO of Paleo f(x). I had a tremendous shift years ago from operating in my masculine into operating in my feminine. I also had some really great business coaches that helped me along the way and helped me understand what it was that I was going through and that it was normal. And that seeing the difference in how my team responded to me when I honored my feminine and operated there. So, it’s huge.
Michelle Norris: I also will say, I don’t think that I’d still be married. I think I would’ve gotten divorced by now if I hadn’t started down that path. I think that it absolutely changed our marriage and changed the trajectory of where we were headed, not just in the company, but the marriage and my relationships. So, it’s been completely different for me.
Michelle Norris: The thing is, is that there’s a lot of people that are like, “I want to go do plant medicine,” and I really feel like you really need to be called to it. I was being called to it in a way that I didn’t understand that was really underlying I needed the change in my life. I had really gone into a place where my health was really suffering. And then my business was not succeeding like it should’ve been because I was operating in this really awful place of control and masculine that was not authentic to who I am, for one thing. But also just really, I was in a scarcity mindset. I was totally in scarcity. Everything I did was about there not being any abundance. Everything was in that negative space. And I focused on everything I did not want, so guess what I got. Everything I didn’t want.
Melinda Wittstock: Are we sisters? Are we sisters? Because I was in the same kind of space.
Michelle Norris: [crosstalk 00:41:13]. Right? [inaudible 00:41:16] Yeah, no. The thing is, is it just completely changed. But the thing is, is that I know that my soul, it was calling to my soul. It was one of the main reasons why we ended up bringing it into Paleo f(x) was it was we were being drawn to it. And so, hearing more and more about it just knew that that … Like I said, my main reason that I went to go and even do any plant medicine was to see Brittani, and there was just so much more there. And then at that point, the calling really began.
Michelle Norris: And now it’s just shifted me into a lot of self-love, self-care practice, a lot of mindfulness and really living intentionally and living in a place of gratitude on a daily basis. That sounds sometimes so contrite, and people are like, “Yeah, whatever.” But it is so intentional every day. Even right now, specifically right now, what we’re going through with Coronavirus, COVID-19, is every single day being happy and grateful and happy for where I am and that I have a roof over my head.
Michelle Norris: There are things that have happened that have really, really sucked since the beginning of March, but I don’t control any of those. What I get to control is how I feel about them. I get to control how I respond to them and/or if I react. And I think there’s the only way that has any mindfulness or intentionality is when you respond, not when you react. When you react, it’s very knee jerk and usually comes out sideways and doesn’t come out the way that you want. So, really allowing yourself time and space.
Michelle Norris: And this is one of the other things is that I really truly learned and understood and now really honor holding space for myself and for other people and allowing that space to be there just because I can allow it to be there, and that’s been tremendous. If I would not have gone down that path, I would’ve lost my marriage, I would’ve lost my company more than likely because I would not have changed things and we wouldn’t be on the trajectory that we’re on.
Michelle Norris: And this is the thing. All the stuff that I’ve done up to this point was leading me to here, and that this is kind of my moment of truth. And I had this one moment of thinking, “Paleo f(x) might not make it out of this. We might actually end up having to fold with all of this if things don’t go a certain way.” And I allowed myself that probably 30, 45 minutes thinking, “Okay, I have to be okay with this. I have to figure out how I feel about all of it.” And I was like, “Okay, if that’s what happens, that’s what’s meant to be and I will figure something else out.” And then I shifted gears and was like, “Okay, now what do I do to make sure that doesn’t happen?”
Melinda Wittstock: There’s something very, very important that you did there, though, is not being attached out outcome and surrendering and trusting to something higher. That when you’re in your highest good, when you’re in alignment and you’re doing the thing, sometimes things shift. A business that was working at one point is not meant to go on to the next thing. You’re meant to have a higher calling. And I think when we’re in that fear and scarcity, we get into an ego battle, we’re trying to control things ourselves, and stuff doesn’t work like that. Things don’t manifest.
Melinda Wittstock: I find that the plant medicine journey for me, which I was called to heal a lot of old stuff, old stuff from an abusive marriage and my own kind of things that I grappled with. It taught me so many things. And now, just feeling this gratitude and this surrender and not being attached to outcome. And it’s hard, right, because our egos are still there. But I think that last time I did plant medicine, Mother Ayahuasca said, “So Melinda, are you ready to surrender your ego?” And I said, “Yes.” And I remember shortly after that about a week later I felt like I was standing in shattered glass. It was like, “Wait a minute, where did I go?” It was the weirdest feeling.
Melinda Wittstock: I really feel for people and what’s going on with Coronavirus. But I’m also in this really intense spirit of gratitude, because it has a message for us. There will be many good things that come from it. what lessons can we learn from it, and how can we adapt? And what do we need, honestly, to let go of?
Michelle Norris: Yeah, for sure. I completely agree with you. The whole thing with Brittani was, and Brittani and I talked about this long before she passed away, was we always talked about the beauty in the ashes, that there was always something beautiful in everything that seemed bad. Because everything at every single point is for the highest good. And I’m going to say, obviously every day of the week I would choose for Brittani to be here. I would choose for her to have not died. I cannot deny the beauty that has come from her ashes. I cannot deny how much good has happened out of what happened to her.
Michelle Norris: And so, those are the things that I actually find a lot of peace in and I actually find a lot of grace in, and I really, really hold onto those things because I think that we can find something good in every single thing. There’s always some silver lining somewhere. It’s just how hard to you want to look for that. Because again, it’s what you focus on grows. So, if you’re going to focus on the bad part or the negative or the thing that you didn’t want, guess what you’re going to always find?
Melinda Wittstock: So, right now with paleo, your company is helping so many people really, let’s get down to it, boost their immune systems. And I think a good government response right now, were there one, would be to be issuing people all the ways that they can improve their health, how they should be eating, what they should be doing to boost their immune systems. Talk to me a little bit about that and what you do, the paleo lifestyle, the paleo diet, just for people who are listening to this podcast that may not be familiar with it. We’ve all heard of it, but what’s a good way to adopt a paleo lifestyle right now?
Michelle Norris: So, it’s interesting because a lot of people think, “Well, Paleo f(x) must be a nutrition or diet conference,” and it’s not. There’s very little of the diet left at the conference. You’re going to find some here and there, but by and large, it’s become a lifestyle emersion event. It’s into the mindset. And so, really, we believe in seven pillars of health at Paleo f(x). And in order for a person to be fully optimized and be a very fully optimized and healthy and happy human being, you need to have all seven pillars firing. And the seven pillars are physical health, mental health, emotional health, relational health, financial health, spiritual health, and tribal health. And all of them are like dominoes. They’re all set in a circle, and they all depend on each other. And if one falls, they’re all going to fall.
Michelle Norris: So, really making sure that you keep all of your dominoes upright and working is what’s super key. And that is if you start having financial issues, it’s going to end up ultimately causing stress which will cause your physical health to diminish, your mental health, your relational health, probably your spiritual health because you’re not in that. And then you’ll probably recede from your tribe, from your community. And so, they all hinge on each other. And so, what I would say paleo actually is, is really removing all of the toxins from your life.
Michelle Norris: And it’s not just the toxins that are in your food. It is the toxins that you put on your body. It is the toxins that you use to clean your house. It is the toxins that you end up ultimately giving to your pets, your dogs, your cats, or whatever pets you have, rabbits, whatever. It is the people in your life. Do you have toxic people in your life? What are your thoughts? Do you have toxic thoughts? We all do, so it’s just something that we all have to work on. And these are the things that cause us to work on them is mindfulness, the personal development, the plant medicine, all of the different things.
Michelle Norris: It is when we start really taking care of this organism, the one vehicle that we get to live in, this meat suit that’s the only thing that we get when we here. If we start taking care of it, then we can actually take care of all of those things. And so, paleo, when you get down to the actual paleo diet, it is, of course, again, removing the toxins, which are things that can be inflammatory for the human organism. Those are the things like gluten, grains, soy. For some people, dairy needs to be removed. It depends. I’m not one of those people. I actually produce the enzymes to break down dairy, so it is not inflammatory for me. It’s all of those type of things. It’s removing processed food and added sugars and processed sugars, refined carbohydrates, that type of thing. So, those are the things.
Michelle Norris: When you think about it, a lot of people call it the caveman diet. And it’s really if you think about what would’ve been available to the caveman, because he actually had really impeccable health though he died young. Usually it’s because he was prey, and he lived in the elements, and there was no medical for if he broke something or had some type of infection, a cut, whatever. Those things were things that they learned thorough plants and everything how to take care of those things, but at that time that wasn’t … But he didn’t have the diseases of modernity. There was no diabetes, there was no cancer, there was no heart disease, there was no cardiovascular disease, there was no kidney stuff, there was no autoimmune. None of that existed.
Michelle Norris: So, when you take the cues back from him as to what we should eat, it is anything that they could hunt, fish. Any of the thing that they saw. Like a lot of the plants and everything, you do want to be careful there because there are some things that have inflammatory issues there. But for the most part, most vegetables and fruits and nuts and seeds are healthy. And then you want good and healthy fats, which is avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, those type of things, and grass-fed butter. So, that’s the paleo. For us, Paleo f(x) is our mantra, what we believe in. That’s the seven pillars of health.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s amazing. When you eat that way and you live that way, really miracles happen. And I think of Coronavirus and the sort of people that are more prone to this disease, they are people with diabetes, they are people with these preexisting conditions that in many cases, well, in all cases, are caused by cell inflammation, and so much of that is just what we put into our bodies. So, it is like a wake-up call even for our health, to really radically change those habits. And all that processed food, it’s making the entire country sick.
Michelle Norris: Yeah, exactly. And anytime the United States gets involved in some little country here, there, or yonder, we bring in all of this garbage, and we end up making a very healthy society very sick very quick.
Melinda Wittstock: So Michelle, your time is now. What are some of the things you’re doing to pivot your business? Your event I know will be back in time, but in the meantime, there’s a lot of stuff you can do online. What are some of the ways that you’re adapting?
Michelle Norris: Well, we’re doing a lot of … We are shifting to some virtual events, and we’ll be coming out with that once we get all of those things in place. We are also doing a lot of online stuff for our … We’ve already got a course that we have given all of our attendees access to. It’s our gut brain evolution course. And some of the foremost experts in the world on gut and brain axis and the microbiome are part of that. And then we’ve got a summit that’s going to be launching here fairly soon. And we’ve just got a lot of stuff right now. And we’re doing a series called Resiliency, Becoming Hard to Kill. Because at the end of the day, if you are strong and you are healthy, you are going to be hard to kill. A virus is going to have a very difficult time taking down [inaudible 00:55:36].
Melinda Wittstock: I love that, Michelle. Hard to Kill. That should be the name of this episode. But what you’re doing is just so important for the world. I want to make sure that everybody has a chance to find you, easily connect with you on social media, work with you and find out all about Paleo f(x). What’s the best way to do that?
Michelle Norris: So, to connect with me personally, I’m Dana Michelle Norris on Facebook and on Instagram, and at danamichellenorris.com. And then for some reason Twitter doesn’t like my full name, so it’s DMichelleNorris on Twitter. And then for Paleo f(x), it’s paleofx.com, and then Paleo f(x) across all the social channels.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. Well, I just want to thank you so much for putting on your Wings, sharing so vulnerably and beautifully. It’s a pleasure to talk with you, Michelle. Thank you.
Michelle Norris: Thank you so much for having me. I so appreciated it.