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Cornelius (Neo) Wright is an Author, Certified Life Coach, Entrepreneur, and Philanthropist. Positive WORLD change is his MAIN focus. His upcoming series of books titled, “Black Boy from the Barrio” will take YOU on a journey of how an African American Boy who grew up working in the fields of Central California in a mainly Latino community, managed to self-educate himself through years of trial and error, to FINALLY (at the tender age of fifty-right) realize WHY he was born. While suffering from a mental illness of his own (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) he is dedicating the rest of HIS LIFE to help break the stigma of various mental illnesses. He figures this is the LEAST he can do after witnessing first hand of the struggles that his mother and her predecessors faced when mental illnesses were “highly stigmatized”.
“As a member of our great family heritage, I WILL
break certain barriers that have plagued the generations before me. These barriers are alcoholism, poverty, and mental illness."
From Neo Wright, the author of Black Boy from the Barrio
I started writing memoirs about my life in 2015 because after passing the age of fifty, for some reason it suddenly dawned on me that I was living the second half of my life and that I would not be around forever. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was once told by an older friend of mine that when he was young, he thought that he would be young forever. I could not relate to him because at that age, I felt the same way as he did when he was twenty five years old. But as I gradually grew older and experienced the various facets of “life”, I started to realize what another friend once told me. He said that “ no one gets out of here ( Earth ) alive”. At this particular time, I was in my mid-forties and it really resonated with me this time. As my 20/20 vision started to dissipate slightly and my first grey hair sprouted up like a soldier standing at attention, I realized that I was getting older. I had a five year old daughter and a happy marriage. I knew that I couldn’t dunk a basketball like I used to do sometimes, so physically, I knew that I had somewhat declined. But somehow being close to becoming middle aged now, changed my perspective. I started to ask questions to myself like, “why am I here and what is my purpose in life”? As life moved on, and I turned fifty, those same questions remained. However, in my mid-fifties, the stars began to line up for me one by one, then for some reason, it became clear to me what I should be doing with the second half of my life, and that is HELPING PEOPLE. Of course there are many ways in which we can have a positive impact on humankind. I immediately knew what would be one of the ways that I could hopefully make this world a better place, and that is writing a book about my life story. This story is about me, a BLACK BOY FROM THE BARRIO.
BLACK BOY FROM THE BARRIO ( Introduction )
The following words are a brief introduction to a life of someone that I know pretty well, or at least I think I do. Sometimes I am not so sure, but at other times, I know 100 %. This person and I have had many battles, both physically and mentally that continue to this very day. These internal battles have brought me to the upper echelons of happiness and to the lower levels of fear, anger, sadness, and depression at different times in my life. I am pretty sure you have an idea of who I am talking about by now. Yes, I am talking about me, a human being. An African American man that was born in the sixties. I have traveled many miles in this world by car, train, boat, and airplane. However, over time, I have discovered that the furthest distance that all of us humans have to travel is the six inches between our ears. So, with that being said, I have two questions for you. Who are you and what is your purpose in life? I realize that not everybody in life has to have a special or a profound reason to exist. However, many of us have the freedom to make our own choices in this world, so If you find some of these stories to be intriguing and relatable to you in some way, then hopefully you will continue reading and it might help you in some kind of way, or at least make you think in a way that you have not thought about previously. If you have no interest at all, I wish you all the best in your life and hope that you will find your way to true happiness. Sincerely, Neo.
P.S..... I have many fascinating stories in all the phases of my life, in which I will go into further detail in upcoming books. Some of the chapters will include things like:
GROWING UP ON A FARM, THEN MOVING TO THE BARRIO ( A Mexican Ghetto in California’s Central Valley ). For the first 14 years of my life, I grew up on an 80 acre ranch which was surrounded by agriculture and fields, which consisted of cotton, alfalfa, grapes, and almonds, etc. We were a family of nine people. I have four sisters and two brothers. I am the fifth child. In the mid-seventies, my parents bought a house in a nearby town of about 3,000 people, mostly Mexican farm workers. I call this town, THE BARRIO.
TALES FROM THE BARRIO ( The Hood )
I have many interesting stories about my youth and growing up in the hood. Some good ( befriending many Latinos and other races whom I still consider friends today ).
Some bad ( witnessing violence at a young age and remembering the first person that I saw that had gotten killed ).
MY TEEN YEARS ( My main focus, SPORTS AND GIRLS )
I had a dream to become the best basketball player in the area by practicing everyday for years. Also, working in the fields in the torturous summer heat in the Central Valley during summer vacations, was another activity that I reluctantly did. Hard work! “But hey, a brotha gotta get paid, right?”
MEETING THE LOVE OF MY LIFE AT THE TENDER AGE OF 18. met the love of my life in the summer of 1979. She happens to be half Chinese, and half Dutch and was born in Canada. After meeting her in the Central Valley initially, she left for college. Her choices were either Harvard or Cal. She attended UC Berkeley ( lucky for me ) graduated, and has various post graduate degrees. We are still married and best friends today because I took a leap of faith and moved to the Bay Area to be with her. It was the best move of my life. So, part of this book is a love story. We have an eighteen year old daughter who is the apple of my eye.
As you continue to read this intro, you will see that I am a true believer in “following your heart”, especially when it comes to love.
Her father was a doctor and head of the County Medical Center and her mother was a nurse practitioner and a nursing professor. She is the oldest of six siblings ( 3 girls and 3 boys. Most of them also have various degrees such as MBA’S, PHD’S, and JD’S. With all of our differences ( Black, White, Asian, rich, and poor, ) we have always gotten along well. I guess opposites do attract!
MY ROARING TWENTIES. ( Stories about how my life was when I was young and had no direction. Also, getting hooked on drugs and almost going to rehab while being homeless for a summer.
BEING A HOUSE PAINTER FOR 32 YEARS OF MY LIFE. ( With only a High School diploma, I had to make a living somehow ).
SELF EDUCATION. ( While painting houses from 9 to 5 for years, I realized that I could not do hard physical labor for the rest of my life. In the mid-nineties, I started working on an exit strategy by teaming up with some successful business people. I met with them in my spare time, usually after my day job and on weekends. In retrospect, I can say that by joining their team and learning success principles such as leadership, accountability, mentorship and commitment,
have helped paved the way to the person that I am today. By the way, I didn’t read a book from cover to cover until I was 31 years old. In the hood, we would watch TV and go play outside all day. Our parents didn’t read, so, neither did we. On my 31st birthday, a friend of mine who was also a house painter from Puerto Rico and very well read, told me that there is one book that every black person living in America should read. At my birthday party, he handed me a gift that I knew was a book. I became more and more curious as I started to unwrap this gift that I knew was a book. How could one book be so important? As I finished unwrapping the gift, I read the title. It said, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X.
THE PLANTING OF A SEED
After reading that book from cover to cover, a seed was planted in me and how much I was missing out on by not reading regularly. However, even though I enjoyed the book, I didn’t all of a sudden race to the local library and start reading everyday. I went back to watching TV for the next three years. Old habits die hard, I guess.
I joined the business group that I previously mentioned in 1994, which was about three years after I had read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. After hanging out with these people for a little while, I realized that they had a “book of the month club”. All of them would read the same book and have weekly discussions about it. Having a thirst for success, I was curious about why they were reading constantly. I will never forget what one of my mentors told me. He said, “Neo, if you want to be successful in business, you will have to become a leader. Leaders are readers, however, not all readers are leaders”. Enough said. Sign me up for the book club. Looking back now, I realize that reading that first book from cover three years earlier, had planted a seed in me, especially when it came to DISCIPLINE.
FAIL AND FAIL, AGAIN
In my opinion, we, as people, have different gifts given to us by the Universe, God, or a higher power. Some people may not agree, and that’s fine with me. As I’ve gotten older, one thing that I have learned, and I am still diligently working on, is to not be so judgmental about certain things and keep an open mind. I believe we “grow” as humans with this mindset. One of my favorite sayings is that we are not “human beings, we are human becomings”.
My wife’s family, for example were all blessed with above average IQ’s. So getting straight A’s from Kindergarten until High School graduation, was commonplace with her and her siblings. When I first met her, it didn’t take me long to realize that she was the most brilliant person that I had ever met up to that point of my life.
I, on the other hand, was not gifted with the raw intelligence that she has. I was a C student most of my school days, however, I was always pretty good at spelling and creative writing. I never dreamed of ever writing a book though, until recently, of course. Boy, how things change!
As I grew older and got more “life” experience, I realized that I was blessed in some ways. Besides the basics, such as, being healthy, being in love, and having a great family, etc., I was personally blessed with what I call “THE INTANGIBLES”. The intangibles for me are 1. I am very ambitious and a big time dreamer. 2. I have a “ never give up” attitude. 3. Discipline. These intangibles have gotten me to where I am today in different facets of my life. I will spend some time in my book explaining this in detail, however, I will give a quick example of what I am talking about.
A BODY OF WORK ( Motivation, Inspiration, and Perspiration )
In my mid-twenties, I started working out at UC Berkeley’s RSF ( Recreational Sports Facility ) Gym. Again, since this is just a preview of my book, I will explain later why I started working out with weights, etc. Trust me, there is very strong and profound reason why I started this activity. Anyway, I started working out in 1986 and I am still working out currently. Here’s my point. In the 33 years since I have been working out, I have NEVER missed a day because I was too tired or too lazy not to go. The only times that I didn’t go was because of a vacation or a designated day off. I currently work out six days per week. I am not saying this to brag or anything. But I had a dream and a vision of maintaining my body throughout my life and remaining at a certain weight. Through hard work and a “ never give up” attitude, I am accomplishing this endeavor. My waist size was 30 inches when I turned eighteen years old. My waist size is still 30 inches at 58 years old. I have a life time goal to remain at this size and weight. I call this “THE FOREVER 30 CLUB”.
P.S....I will be writing about success principles exclusively in upcoming books. One final nugget on success before I continue. To be successful at anything in life, there is a formula. The formula is, “ “PERSISTENT AND CONSISTENT ACTIVITY OVER TIME”.
A SUDDEN CHANGE
As most of us know, our lives can change in a heartbeat. For example, someone you love dies, you might lose your job immediately or you might have a certain unexpected health crisis, etc. The next section is the most important part of my life currently and will remain that way as long as I live. Why? Because it is the primary reason that I am becoming an author, and that reason is TO HELP AS MANY PEOPLE AS I CAN AND TO HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON HUMANKIND.
In the summer of 2017, I started feeling different. It was hard to explain, but I was feeling “off”. I was feeling stressed out for some reason, but didn’t know why. As these feelings continued, I started to become a little concerned. I really got concerned when I started to experience insomnia on a regular basis. If you have never experienced insomnia before, count your lucky stars because even one night without sleep can be brutal.
I visited my ( PCP ) Primary Care Physician and got a thorough checkup. I had bloodwork done and many other health related tests. The results. Totally healthy. So I asked my ( PCP ) whom is holistic in nature, what I should do. He told me that I was probably experiencing some kind of “anxiety”. I had heard of people having anxiety before, but I really didn’t know what it was. He recommended that I take an over the counter sleeping aid, like Melatonin or something. I tried Melatonin for a while, but I was still having problems sleeping, so I called him to seek something else. To make a long story short, the next nine months were the most challenging experience in my life. I found out that I have (GAD ) Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This type of mental illness is similar in some ways to mental illnesses like, OCD, Panic Disorder, Socialized Anxiety Disorder, and PTSD, etc. These types of mental disorders are treatable with holistic activities such as Meditation, Acupuncture, Therapy sessions and certain kinds of medications. However, everyone is biologically different, so each individual that is seeking treatment, must find his or her own remedy. In that nine months time frame, I tried all of these remedies . Through constant online research and a strong will to feel human again, I finally found a “system” that works for me. One last thing. My insomnia got so bad that I would not sleep for 2 or 3 days at a time, just to give you an example of what I was going through. Depression started to settle in because of the lack of sleep. I will tell the whole story and go through the entire process in my book because I know that there are tens of millions of people around the world that are suffering from these mental illnesses and are feeling shame, inadequate, or different somehow because of the “stigma” that is attached to mental disorders. Some of these disorders like depression, are extremely dangerous and can lead to suicide. As a disclaimer, I am not a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, or a Therapist. However, I will say as a Certified Life Coach and a person who is living with mental illness everyday, I know my stuff pretty well.
P.S...... If a small fraction of those tens of millions of people can read my story and relate to it and help them in their healing process, that would make me feel WONDERFUL.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE AND MORE AWARENESS
Having a mental illness has changed my perspective in life, but in a positive way. Let me explain. One of the activities that I have been practicing is meditation. I practice it twice daily, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I use an App called CALM. I will have a section in my book exclusively about the benefits of meditation. It is part of my on-going healing process. In the meditation world, you will hear the term “having an awakening”. All this means is as a person meditates on a consistent basis, you will start to look at the world in a different and more positive way. Let me give you an example. Before meditating everyday, I would drive through San Francisco’s Tenderloin, which countless people are either homeless, drug addicts, mentally ill, or a combination of all three. Although it was shocking to see this poverty before my meditation practice, it really didn’t have an impact on me because my mind was preoccupied with the task at hand, which was picking up my next Lyft passenger. Unfortunately, this is the way most of our society is. We are too busy being “busy”, and are in our own little worlds. I’m not saying that this is good or bad, it’s just the way it is. Once I started experiencing symptoms of my ( GAD ), I started to understand what these homeless people must be going through. It has to be complete “ hell” because I know for sure that we humans that suffer with symptoms similar to mine or God forbid, much worse, ( like hearing voices, etc. ) have to either get professional help, or self medicate with a controlled substance of some kind. Why? Because the symptoms of mental illnesses are too uncomfortable to live with, trust me! So now when I see the homeless or the mentally ill, I will say a silent prayer to them no matter how busy or preoccupied I may be. Hopefully you will do the same because there’s one thing we all have in common. We are all “human” which makes us much more alike than different.
LYFTING PEOPLE UP
I started driving for Lyft, Inc. at the end of 2015. I decided to do this because at the time, I was still in the house painting business, and at my age, driving a car around San Francisco seemed like a better idea than climbing a ladder all day. Plus, the flexible part-time schedule would allow me to work on my book. I must say that that was a good decision on my part. Not only is driving a car a lot easier than painting a house, the best part about about driving for Lyft ( besides the pay ) is the people that I meet on a regular basis. As a Life Coach and an advocate for mental illness now, I get into discussions everyday with people about various topics, including mental disorders. What I have found out is that mental illness is at epidemic proportions. So, I have first hand experience on how common it is by the many passengers that I come in contact with. Even with more and more people like movie stars and athletes openly talking about mental illness on social media and Television ( which is great ), there is still a serious stigma attached to mental illnesses. How do I know? Because of the all of the people that I have talked to that have similar mental disorders such as mine, about 99% of them agree that their is still a stigma attached. Also, in the three years driving for Lyft, I’ve had only about two people openly discuss that they had a mental disorder first. It’s just not something that people talk about regularly. My goal is to change that, one person at a time if I have to. Here’s why. Anxiety and depression isolates you. It puts you in a box, so to speak. It makes you think that you are the only person on Earth that’s having these problems. That’s why Therapy is so important in the healing process. When I was in Therapy for six months, I learned that Therapy is mostly having someone to talk to that understands your problems. My Therapist would remind me every week that I was not alone in my mental disorder. That worked wonders for me. That’s why I started this campaign on mental illness awareness. Since I was driving for Lyft and coming in contact with people everyday, I figured that this would be a good place to start my awareness campaign. It has been great. Just to let you know, I don’t talk to every person that gets into my car. I respect people’s privacy and only talk to people that initiate a conversation with me first. I’ve had countless people thank me for opening up to them about my mental disorder. In turn, they must feel that it’s OK for them to talk openly to me about their illness as well. By the time I drop them off at their destination, we both feel so much better. Their smiling faces, after leaving my car, is the FIRE that drives me on this life-long mental illness campaign. I will have a whole section in my book dedicated to the the countless people, whom I consider friends, that I have met while driving for Lyft. I have some fascinating and heart warming stories. I will share one with you now, just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. So, BUCKLE UP YOUR SEATS AND GET READY!
THANKS NEO, YOU MADE MY DAY!
I hear those words just about everyday from my passengers on Lyft. However, I would like to share a Lyft story that I believe that is relevant to my mission in life, which is HELPING PEOPLE.
In January of 2019, I had a routine ride request at the UCSF Medical Facility on Parnassus Avenue in San Francisco. After waiting a couple of minutes, a young Filipino woman wearing sunglasses got into the back seat of my car. Her destination was San Bruno, which was about a 20 minute ride. She was headed home. As with a lot of people that get into my car, she asked a question. “ Is this your full-time gig, or do you do something else? I told her that I only drive for Lyft part-time but my passion is being a Certified Life Coach and an Author. She asked me what my book was about and I gave her a few highlights, since we didn’t have much time. When I got to the part of telling her about my mental illness struggles and how I’ve become a lifetime advocate, her eyes lit up. She told me that the reason that I picked her up at UCSF was that she has weekly Therapy sessions there. She also told me that the reason that she was wearing dark sunglasses was that she cries after every Therapy session. She told me that her husband had committed suicide one year ago because he had Bi-Polar Disorder and Depression. She told me that she feels so alone and partly at fault for his demise. I told her not to feel that way and it wasn’t her fault. I told her ( from a male perspective ) how men are more vulnerable and more likely to commit suicide than women. As a man, I told her that we men, are taught at a young age not to express our feelings and to be tough. This is what makes Depression so dangerous for men and why the suicide rate is so much higher amongst men as opposed to women. As she left my car, she said “THANK YOU SO MUCH” for sharing your story. I feel so much better now and may “GOD BLESS YOU”. “ Oh yeah, by the way, can I have your business card because I can’t wait to read your book, she said.
MY TRUE CALLING
Even at a very young age, I had always believed that I was here on Earth for a reason. God, The Universe, or a Higher Power had given me special gifts. I happen to be a follower of Christ, by the way. I dig his principles of unconditional LOVE. However, I believe that there are many ways to get to the higher power. If you are a non-believer, that’s fine as well. You are still special and don’t forget that. Remember, one of the things that I am consistently working on is becoming totally non-judgemental. Anyway, after 57 years on this Earth searching for my true calling, I believe I’ve reached that destination. Through all the trials and tribulations that I’ve experienced so far in my life, I can see clearly now why I struggled and continue to struggle today. It is to humble me and prepare me for what I do best, and that is to inspire, motivate, and help people, which includes saving lives and giving people hope. I enhance people’s lives with genuine “kindness” which means that “ I AM NOT EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN”.
25 YEARS ON THE BATTLEFIELD
Since 1994 ( 25 years ago ) as I said earlier, I changed my life by surrounding myself with successful people. Through reading books, listening to tapes, and learning how to communicate with people, mainly through business ventures, I have grown by leaps and bounds.
WELL CONNECTED ( A team of dreamers )
While chasing my dreams for most of my life, I came in contact with some other dreamers. I met most of them by personally introducing myself. I currently have business partners that attended UC Berkeley’s Haas Business School and other major universities. I am a partner of one of the best financial strategists in the Bay Area, whom I introduced to another friend and business partner, who graduated from UC Berkeley with honors in land development in 2017. He just graduated from NYU ( New York University ) with a master’s degree. I will spend some time ( in future books or chapters ) letting you guys know about these wonderful people and their amazing stories of perseverance. For instance, my friend at NYU was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer at around 30 years old and was told by his doctors that he only had 6 months to live. He believed in his heart that it was not time for him to die. He truly believed that God had big plans for him. After six months of aggressive Chemotherapy, there were no signs of cancer. Having struggled for most of his life and being homeless at times, he looked at this miracle as a new beginning. He decided to go back to school. He started attending classes at Moor Park Community College in Los Angeles. He graduated with honors in mathematics, engineering, and chemistry. He is also an inventor and has a patent. He applied to and was accepted to UC Berkeley. After 2 years of studying engineering and land develop, he graduated with honors. As I mentioned before, he just graduated from NYU in May of 2019. I am truly blessed to be involved with people like this. I am not saying this to boast or brag. As far as I am concerned, people are people. We all have the same value. So NEVER devalue yourself. You are one of a kind and you are special.
SOME CLOSING WORDS
As some of you may know, the manuscript for my first book got accepted by the first Publishing Company that it was sent to in October of 2019. They are SO excited to work with me on this book publishing endeavor. My goal is to get my first book ( BLACK BOY FROM THE BARRIO - Volume 1 ) out by late spring or early summer of 2020. I am working with a Hybrid Publishing Company from New York. The Pre-Order Website will be available in January of 2020.
Finally, I have one more thing to say before signing off. My mother is my true inspiration because she and many of her siblings suffered from serious mental illnesses. She is 84 years old and is at a care facility in Porterville, Ca. She has suffered with Schizophrenia all of her life. Although I have ( GAD ), and all the problems associated with it, I can’t imagine what she went through and is still dealing with today. But you know what? She has never once complained during her entire lifetime about her very serious mental disorder. She is truly the Salt of the Earth. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. I will be featuring her and my father in many inspiring stories throughout my lifetime.
Final P.S..... I will be starting THE DOROTHY WRIGHT FOUNDATION, my mother, ( when my book is published) which will be a non-profit organization that brings awareness to mental illnesses and gives money to charitable organizations in her honor. A generous portion of my book sales and any other activities that I will be involved in, will be donated to this foundation. Please join me in this crusade to make the world a better place. Your support will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you and God Bless.
Sincerely, Neo Wright ( CLC )
Certified Life Coach / Author