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Colleen Bowler of C&J Innovations: “Start and finish your day in gratitude”

Start and finish your day in gratitude. Be grateful in advance: In the morning, write down three things for which you know you will be grateful that day. Make a point to be generous every day; this, too, becomes a habit. Let someone go in front of you in line. Write a note to someone. […]

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Start and finish your day in gratitude. Be grateful in advance: In the morning, write down three things for which you know you will be grateful that day. Make a point to be generous every day; this, too, becomes a habit. Let someone go in front of you in line. Write a note to someone. Send a text message, offer a smile, share a book. Then end the day by writing down three things for which you were grateful, even if your roof blew off! Gratitude? The fire department came. Going to sleep in a good frame of mind by thinking about positive things and letting that percolate through the night makes a world of difference to me.


The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Colleen Bowler, CFP®.

For more than 25 years, Colleen Bowler, CFP® used deep listening and state-of-the-art technologies to help clients achieve what they really wanted. With business partner Jeanne Hurlbert, Ph.D., she founded C&J Innovations — a firm that gives financial professionals targeted tools to expand conversations and discover what clients really want to achieve. Today’s clients want an advisor who understands what’s important to them — not just in finances but in all areas of their lives. The Passport Package™ includes two impactful online scorecards and in-person workshops financial advisors can use to expedite learning about prospects or clients, create immediate value, and lay the foundation for lasting, long-term relationships. Visit CandJInnovations.com.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

As a child, my life was filled with family; with five siblings, how could it not be? Our family always included “extras” who joined us around the dinner table, accompanied us on our vacations, and stayed over at the house. Although we had little money, we never felt a sense of being “without.”

Our family focused on love, faith, independence, responsibility, and many, many trips to the library. We were all expected to work hard — whether cleaning up at home or completing our schoolwork — and to show respect for others.

Unfortunately, my father died when I was 16, leaving my mom with six children and 187 dollars in the bank. That experience taught me to appreciate, at a deep level, the financial challenges many families face and the importance of having trusted advisors who care for all aspects of a family, not just their finances.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is frequently attributed to Aristotle. In reality, author Will Durant encapsulated Aristotelian sentiment when he said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

I love this quote because it gives us all a lot of grace. It tells us that just changing a habit for the better can help us improve our lives. Imagine if we just changed 10 habits a year how different our lives would be at the end of that year. That’s all it takes!

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

So many books and podcasts have been impactful. I’m re-reading Richard Bach’s book, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. (This is the same author who penned Jonathan Livingston Seagull.) I love this book because it simplifies life’s complexity. The story, which imagines a biplane pilot’s unlikely encounter with a reluctant messiah, contains such nuggets as “You teach best what you most need to learn”; “What a caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly”; and “In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice.”

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the pandemic began?

Before the pandemic, I grew my financial planning firm, Strategic Wealth Partners, into a top Texas firm; co-authored a book, Generous Kids, about teaching children the habit of giving; and coached hundreds of entrepreneurs through a firm called Strategic Coach®.

I sold Strategic Wealth Partners because I wanted to share with other financial advisors the wisdom and knowledge I gained from working with incredible clients and amazing planners. Luckily, I found in Jeanne Hurlbert, Ph.D. a partner who brings expertise in building assessments and scorecards that engage clients and prospective clients. I also found someone who shares my passion for improving clients’ lives. Together, we began creating The Passport Package™ to help other financial advisors expand their conversations so they could bring increased value for prospects, clients, and the advisors themselves.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

When the pandemic hit, our conversations with financial advisors revealed that they needed an impactful, quick way to build deeper relationships with their current clients. And in the time of social distancing, we recognized an opportunity to reframe our approach so advisors could expedite the process of learning about a prospect or client and offer immediate action steps — all virtually.

The resulting Passport Package™ gives financial advisors a way to support clients or prospects while bringing them into their futures. It shows advisors a clear picture of where the individual is now and where they want to be by asking key questions that explore eight critical mindsets, thereby allowing advisors to expand their impact on and their relationships with clients.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

The “Aha moment” came after my conversations with clients, early in the pandemic. As I listened intently in those conversations, a common theme emerged: uncertainty, fear, panic, and confusion pervaded their thinking. They needed help finding a path forward, a way to move from “fear and frozen” toward a new vision of their futures — a vision that encompassed not just finances but all areas of their lives.

How are things going with this new initiative?

As is often the case, the financial advisors who are using the Passport Package™ have shown us additional ways that the tool can create value for planning clients. Although we anticipated that the package would prove useful primarily with prospects and newer clients, the advisors showed us that it reveals information about long-standing clients, too, that had never before emerged. For example, after asking spouses to each complete the scorecard, advisors found that comparing those answers let them see differences in the spouses’ priorities and goals. They also recognized that using the package to revisit the clients’ eight mindsets made the annual review process more efficient, productive, and empowering.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m grateful for Dan Sullivan and Babs Smith, who founded The Strategic Coach.® Early in my career, I heard about a coaching program that focused on increasing your free time and your revenue. As a struggling single parent, that sounded magical. But there was one problem: I couldn’t meet the financial criteria to qualify. After eight years, I finally earned my place in a Strategic Coach workshop. Twenty-one years later, I not only continue to attend these workshops but I also now lead them as a coach. Their wisdom did much more than help me achieve financial success; it helped me find my focus, purpose, and vision. I also found my current business partner in a workshop.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

The most interesting story comes from one of the least-interesting activities: crafting information for the “About” page on our company’s website. What seemed like a boring, if not arduous task became revelatory when we asked ourselves, “What distinguishes our company?”

Women-owned. Value-driven. Results-focused. Relationship-centered. Always fun.

We suddenly realized that we had created the kind of environment we’d always wanted. And we did it through collaboration — not only between our partners, but also with our amazing team and clients.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Team, team, team. Had I recognized earlier the power of team and understood that you don’t have to do it all yourself, my life would have been so much easier! Think about this: Would you want your heart surgeon to spend time learning administration? Delegation rocks. Surround yourself with people who love what they do and who are uniquely qualified to do it, so that you can share your expertise and Unique Ability® with others.
  2. Pay attention to your habits. The quote I shared above highlights the power that habits hold to get us closer to the life we really want. Through its focus on the habit of 10,000 steps a day, FitBit has helped me and many others improve overall health. In his book Tiny Habits, B.J. Fogg, Ph.D. argues that 45% of our behavior comes from habits. Why not cultivate good habits to create good outcomes?
  3. Protect your confidence. Early in my Strategic Coach® experience, I learned that confidence holds a key to success. Being grounded in confidence requires that you habitually do things that “fill your cup.” For me, filling my cup involves exercise, an abundance mindset, prayer/meditation, quality time with family and friends, and gratitude. As Kahlil Gibran wrote, “We give best when we give from our excess.”
  4. Listen to and ask great questions of our clients and team. We learn so much when we ask questions and then sit in silence to hear the answer. It’s not about you; it’s about how you can create value in the lives of others. If you haven’t asked where they want to go, how can you or your team add value? For me, pausing and listening is one of the hardest things because I am so excited about where I think they can go.But I need to listen to where they want to go!

It was this idea that helped my business partner and me come up with our F.L.I.P. pitch tips for financial advisors:

F — First, it’s all about them: What does a happy future look like for them? Focus on that question for the bulk of the conversation, so it’s all about them, not about you. Talk about you and your firm only for the last five minutes of your conversation.

L — Learn: What can you learn from what they share with you? Discover what is most important to your client and gear your advice and conversation toward that. Realize that the top priority may not be money at all! It could be health, family, travel, their home — anything. When you learn what’s most important to them, you’ll know how to help them build their wealth to protect and achieve their priorities.

I — Impact and inspire: You impact your clients by caring about their needs and priorities and guiding their investments and insurance to align with that. And the more impact you have on your clients, the more retention and referrals you’ll see. Inspire your clients with your customized attention and guidance that focuses on what they really want. The more inspired they feel by you, the more open they will be to listening to and acting on your advice.

P — Powerfully plan on purpose: Laying out an investment plan and directing investment purchases is the natural last step — not the first one! Now that you know their priorities, you can collaborate powerfully with your client to create a purposeful plan that gets them “all the way home.”

5. Start and finish your day in gratitude. Be grateful in advance: In the morning, write down three things for which you know you will be grateful that day. Make a point to be generous every day; this, too, becomes a habit. Let someone go in front of you in line. Write a note to someone. Send a text message, offer a smile, share a book. Then end the day by writing down three things for which you were grateful, even if your roof blew off! Gratitude? The fire department came. Going to sleep in a good frame of mind by thinking about positive things and letting that percolate through the night makes a world of difference to me.

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

Since March 15, I have meditated using the various 21-day programs from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. Right now, I am in “Miraculous Relationships.” This practice grounds and supports me throughout the day. I have also fully embraced exercise (and I can’t believe I am saying this!). Before the pandemic, I knew exercise was important and grudgingly added it to my calendar three times a week. But when lockdown hit, I realized that “putting on my own oxygen mask first” would prove key. And now, with so many amazing programs streaming, I eagerly look forward to my hour of exercise five times a week.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My movement would involve listening deeply to people’s stories. Everyone has one and it takes time to listen. If we can understand who people are and where they want to go, we can empower them to be who they really are. When people do that, it changes the world for good. At the very least, you change one person’s world.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Melinda Gates. This powerful woman appears to integrate love, logic, passion, collaboration, and a sense of urgency to get things done.

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn, follow our company there, or connect on Facebook.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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