Dr. Marilyn Simmons Bowe Of CAMP Achievement: “An intrinsic belief in what you are selling”

An intrinsic belief in what you are selling. You have to believe in what you are selling, period! If you do not have an intrinsic belief in what you are promoting, then your sales pitch will ring hollow. You cannot promote health and wellness on the surface yet live an unhealthy lifestyle yourself. Health and […]

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An intrinsic belief in what you are selling. You have to believe in what you are selling, period! If you do not have an intrinsic belief in what you are promoting, then your sales pitch will ring hollow. You cannot promote health and wellness on the surface yet live an unhealthy lifestyle yourself. Health and wellness cannot be faked. Sure, you can get cosmetic work and look healthy but that will not stand the test of time.


The global health and wellness market is worth more than 1.5 trillion dollars. So many people are looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. At the same time, so many people are needed to help provide these services. What does it take to create a highly successful career in the health and wellness industry?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry” we are talking to health and wellness professionals who can share insights and stories from their experiences.

In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Marilyn Simmons Bowe.

Dr. Marilyn Simmons Bowe PhD. is an educator in Atlanta and also works cross-industry as a coach for Social-Emotional Learning. In 2010/2011 she developed the Camp Achievement Theory assessment that calculates and quantifies social-emotional problem areas via an assessment and algorithm. Within Dr. Simmons Bowe’s coaching practice she works daily with business groups, educators, students, and couples.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?

My backstory is one of impoverished conditions with food insecurity, at times. I was not supposed to amount to much by society’s standards! I was born a child of poverty in Nassau, Bahamas, in an urban low socioeconomic area. I was the sixth of eight children to live in my first home, a clapboard house, with no running water nor electricity. It was located on a street called “Burial Ground Corner” — because there was once a graveyard on the site — in the part of Nassau called “over the hill”, which is away from the glitzy tourist mecca of the city of Nassau.

I spent my childhood between the city and a rural “outer island” of The Bahamas, called Harbour Island. My mother was born there, and my maternal grandparents still lived there. Whether in the city of Nassau or on Harbour Island, my childhood, in the Sixties, was spent like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I enjoyed rambling around with the boys rather than sitting around with the girls! We dove for coins that tourists threw off of their boats in Nassau Harbour. While in Briland, as we affectionately referred to Harbour Island, we roamed the rural areas of that tiny island for seasonal fruit and berries; went fishing; and built boxcars!

I was always a curious person. As such, my curiosity led to a stellar academic life. I graduated from high school at the age of fifteen; and earned an Associate of Science degree (A.S.) in Biochemistry, at the age of seventeen. After an initial career as an industrial lab chemist, I earned a Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) in premedical Biology with minors in Chemistry and Education, magna cum laude, and a Master of Science degree (M.S.) in Biomedical Sciences with a special focus on neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. Additionally, I completed a self-designed, quantitative Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in Education and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). My career has spanned from Biotechnology to Public Education. Currently, I combine all of my career and academic expertise as an SEL Coach and Achievement Specialist. When I am not in pursuit of social empowerment for all, I enjoy traveling, reading, actively researching, and long-distance running.

Was there a particular person or event that inspired you to live a wellness-focused lifestyle? Can you tell us about your main motivation to go all in?

My Father, who was my childhood hero, never made it past third grade. This notwithstanding, he became a self-made entrepreneur in the hospitality industry. He started out as a homeless, eleven-year-old orphan who was caught sleeping in a restaurant owner’s kitchen, back in the early 1940s. He was told that he could sleep there at night if he did chores during the day. Hence, his career started as a “kitchen boy”, transitioned to busboy, then maître’ d then restaurant owner. He relocated to the “Second City” of Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island when I was very young. He worked in the lucrative hotels and casinos of the “Bahamian Riviera” where he built his restaurant business, in the late Seventies. I relocated to Freeport at the age of seventeen where I started my career as an industrial lab chemist. I was elated to be near my father and rekindle our relationship!

The event and person that inspired me to live a wellness-focused lifestyle was one of great tragedy. It involved my father! In the Eighties, my father was a jolly 300 lb. chief, in the prime of his life! I was in the prime of my life as well! For the first time in my life, I was not food insecure. I could eat from my dad’s restaurant at will or buy whatever I wanted to eat! Hence, with this new lifestyle and the birth of my first child, I grew to a pleasant 200 lbs.!

Then tragedy struck! My Dad was robbed and shot in his restaurant in the mid-Eighties! The bullets did not kill him. What killed him was internal bleeding. You see, he was too big to fit in the tubular X-Ray machine that we had in Freeport, at that time, which required the patient to be pushed into the machine — similar to the CAT scan machines of today — rather than those of today that can hover over a patient. Since my father could not fit into the X-ray machine, they could not find where his internal bleeding was and he bled out, internally!

This was the tragedy that inspired me to start a wellness-focused lifestyle. However, it still took another three to four years, coupled with another birth and more pounds, before I actually started my wellness journey!

My sons were six and four years old, in 1989. I used to hire a teenager to take them for daily walks because I wanted nothing to do with fitness for any reason! One day, I walked out to the end of the driveway to meet them. My youngest ran down the street and I chased after him. I got to the streetlight — not even a hundred feet away — and I thought that I was going to die! However, the next day, my son decided to turn his prank into a daily event. So, I put on my sneakers and made it a thing!

That was how I went from my sedentary lifestyle to a wellness-conscious, avid runner! From May 1989 to May 1990, I lost 60 lbs. and ran my first marathon in May 1990, in Pittsburgh, PA. I completed my second marathon that fall in New York City. As of March 2020, I have run 180 marathons in 48 states. Additionally, I have run 12 ultras races! The hardest thing that I ever did was completing a 100-mile race in 31 hours in August 2019. I was so proud because I never train for that race, but I finished it well within the 36-hour cutoff time!

Additionally, I have earned a “Legacy Coin” every year since the “Run the Year” inception in 2015. That is, I have “run the year”, or more, in number of miles, every year since 2015. Highlights include: 2015–2050.74 miles; 2016–2945.70 miles; 2017–2975.90 miles; in 2018 I completed 2200.23; 2019–2031.04 miles; and 2020–2251.49 miles. so far for 2021, I am at 1100 miles by mid-June.

One of my proudest feats is that I have completed the challenging Post Oak Lodge Double (2016 -marathon and 50K); Triple (2017- marathon, 50K, marathon); Triple (2018 — marathon, 25K, marathon); Triple (2019 — heavy marathon, 50K, marathon) and Triple (2020 — heavy marathon, 25K, marathon).

My greatest running challenge was completing a virtual race from the Golden Gates Bridge in San Francisco to the Washington Monument, called the Amerithon Challenge. The challenge started on July 4th, 2016, and I finished the 3521 miles in 11 months and 26 days, on June 26th, 2017 by averaging 10 miles per day!

My main motivation to go all-in is born from the reason that I started. To get fit and stay fit! Both mentally and physically. As the years went on, I mused that “I had put in too much work to let it go now”, so I keep going. Around the summer of 2009, I was very depressed because I had lost the last of my two dogs, and I had become a full-fledged empty nester. I did not want to leave the house for any reason except to go to work! I had a treadmill so I would run inside. Eventually, that subsided, and I did not run for about three months! One day, I was dusting off the running medals that I had earned to date, and I felt so ashamed that I had “let myself go”! I went online, found a late fall race, registered, and ran it, without any training! It was my comeback race. I have not lost my motivation to run since. Currently, I am enjoying a running streak where I have not missed a day of running since January 1st, 2012! Nowadays, my motivation is my running streak, with a similar muse as before: “I had put in too many days to let it go now”!

Most people with a wellbeing centered lifestyle have a “go-to” activity, exercise, beverage, or food that is part of their routine. What is yours and can you tell us how it helps you?

As you can already tell, my “go-to” activity is running. It helps because it does not require anything except running shoes and running attire. Additionally, it doesn’t require much planning, no membership fees and it is a solo sport for me. Therefore, I do not have to synchronize time schedules with anyone. I simply run at a time that is most beneficial for me which is 5:30 AM every morning. This time helps me because I can experience the crisp clean early morning environment before the world around me wakes up en masse. It helps because I love to let my mind go free with my daily meditation, mantras, and singing out in the elements with no to few people out and about. I do not have any particular food that is a part of my routine, however, I do live a lifestyle of mostly protein, from any source, and lots of vegetables and fruit. If I get a craving, I will eat “empty calorie” foods like cake because I do not believe in depriving myself if the urge hits me. My go-to beverage is water! I drink tons of water each day. As a biochemist, I know that water is the nectar that keeps one looking and feeling healthy.

To live a wellness-focused life is one thing, but how did it become your career? How did it all start?

From my earliest recollections, I was fascinated by how some people achieved their goals while others didn’t. This was even more awe-inspiring when thinking about my siblings. There are eight of us; two boys and six girls. This was how I became interested in social-emotional learning- how we interact, communicate, and respond to each other. I knew back then that my life’s work would involve some aspect of achievement from a scientific point of view.

However, I took the long road to my present wellness-focused life and career. I became a pharmaceutical chemist and was not into physical fitness until I was in my late 20s. At this time, I was a wife and young mother who felt incomplete and trapped in a career path that was more of a necessity than a passion. I wanted to go back to college and pursue “brain-based” learning in some facet.

This was the beginning of my journey to my wellness-focused career. I studied biomedical science with a focus on neuroscience because I wanted to unlock the secret of achievement that puzzled me back in my youth. I studied the brain and found the link to why and how we achieve our goals, or not: It was the battle between our thinking/reasoning center — the cerebrum, and our emotional center- the limbic system, more specifically, the amygdala.

After earning my MS degree in biomedical sciences, and subsequently pursued a self-designed, quantitative PhD where I studied whether emotions can be used to predict achievement outcomes. While my population sample was a group of high school, and I investigated their science academic achievements, this became the foundation for my wellness-focused career.

From my PhD research, I developed an instrument/created an algorithm that measures 96 emotional dispositions. This is the instrument used to assess my clients, whether individuals, couples, or groups, and develop a plan of action to help them to achieve their wellness goals, socially, emotionally, and/or physically. I was fully enthralled after in Social Emotional Learning and teaching people how to actively use SEL to better their relationships, work, and everyday life.

Can you share a story about the biggest challenges you faced when you were first starting? How did you resolve that? What are the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

It was 2016 and I was facing my greatest challenge since starting my Social-Emotional Learning wellness-focused career/company in 2012. I had formed my company on a concept that was so new that it didn’t even have a name when I started my self-designed PhD back in 2009.

Fast forward to 2016 and I was attempting to build a solo career on a concept that had just found its identity in a new arena called social-emotional learning, SEL.

I had struggled to find a consistent flow of clients from 2012 to 2016. I had the extra challenge of explaining what SEL was and how my approach could help potential clients to understand how emotions and thoughts could help them to achieve their overall wellbeing/wellness goals. I could not get clients to buy into my approach to wellness until they understood what SEL was.

I had to find a way to make the theoretical foundation more user-friendly. Then, I had to get potential clients to buy into the fact that if they quantified their emotions, then they would be better able to recognize the things that triggered their non-wellness habits.

Additionally, I had to hire a PR Agent to help with rebranding and a more “user-friendly “approach. However, the challenge of not having enough clients led to great financial challenges for me by 2017. As such, I returned to my career as a public school educator to sustain myself, financially, and allow me to build capital to hire a PR Agent. Subsequently, I started my rebranding and building my client base.

Can you share with us how the work you are doing is helping to make a bigger impact in the world? Can you share a story that illustrates that?

Living a wellness-focused life requires that we have an intrinsic desire to achieve something that will sustain us along our quest. This is how the work that I am doing is helping to make a bigger impact in the world. As a part of my offerings to my clients, I start with an assessment that I developed which measures 96 emotional dispositions. The instrument, while having the ability to give clients great insight into who and how they are, is simplistic on the surface. Each item is a statement that is algorithmic and measures the following:

8 discrete achievement emotions:

i. five negative emotions — anger, anxiety, hopelessness, boredom and shame

ii. three positive emotions — joy, hope, and pride.

4 neurological domains:

i. Cognitive — thinking

ii. Affective — feelings

iii. Motivation — drive

iv. Physiology/physical — response

3 achievement timeframes that tells what the client’s disposition might be:

i. Before an event

ii. During an event

iii. After an event

Once the results are calculated, I create a results profile and plan of action that is presented to the client. During the post-assessment session, the results are explained/interpreted, and clients get a plan of action that is used as a scaffold on which to build their wellness-focused journey.

I have many success stories of clients who were able to use the results of their SEL profile to live a wellness-focused life. One story that stands out is a young lady, let’s call her Sally. Sally sought my assistance for life coaching because she felt trapped in a status quo of family and friends who refused to accept her for who she was: a freethinker who operated outside of the proverbial box. Sally was on the verge of “giving in” and “giving up her dream” to get married because her status quo felt that she was “getting too old to be chasing her dreams”, at the ripe old age of 28! After taking the assessment and getting her results, Sally felt “vindicated” that she should follow her dreams. She said the results were as if I had “read her palm”.

The results indicated that Sally’s dominant positive emotion was hope; her negative emotion was anxiety; her dominant neurological domain was cognitive, and her achievement timeframe was “before an event”. My analysis of Sally’s results stated that Sally believed in future possibilities and positive outcomes (hope); that she was very particular of planning, cross-checking, and following up (anxiety); she tended to think these through from every angle before making a move (cognitive); and that she was willing to give it to her all from the very beginning (before an event). Today, Sally is still unmarried but happily living her dream as an exotic location realtor where she connects her clients with their dream properties around the Caribbean.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Some of the most interesting projects that I am working on include individual life coaching, couples coaching as well as group training. In particular, I have coached public school teachers in how to incorporate social-emotional learning into their lesson delivery rather than simply conveying the lesson concepts. For example, a science teacher who is working on the law of conservation of matter and balancing equations is coached in how to incorporate SEL into the lesson by getting students to reflect on their lives by asking a question like: “How do you “balance” yourself. Teachers are encouraged t create themes for each lesson. A suggested theme to go with the balancing equations lesson is: “Students will be able to self-analyze how they “conserve” their emotions to remain “balanced”.

Additionally, at the beginning of each school year, I assess students using my SEL instrument to determine their dominant emotions, neurological domains, and best achievement timeframe. For example, John’s assessment indicates that his dominant positive emotion is “hope”; his dominant negative emotion is “anger”; his neurological domain is “cognitive”, and his achievement time frame is “during an event”. Teachers are trained to use this information to manage their classrooms and drive instruction. So, if John has an outburst in class, rather than “writing John up”, a teacher armed with his SEL profile can take John aside and say to him: ‘John, I know that you are upset because you could not solve that math problem. However, your dominant positive emotion is “hope” so I know that you believe that you will get it right. Your dominant negative emotion is “anger” so you had the outburst, but your dominant neurological domain is “cognitive” so let me help you to think this through. The fact that John’s achievement timeframe is “during an event”, teachers are trained to recognize that John will need support after he has started so that he feels encouraged to complete the task at hand.

Another way that I use my SEL well-focused approach in training is to include SEL components into implementation training for new requirements such as new lesson plan templates or new course material. Because we are creatures of habit, change is hard. By delivering new concepts with an SEL rather than a policy approach, I can get teachers in particular and individuals, in general, to see things, from a wellness-focused point of view, that would empower them in their current positions. An example where I Used SEL as a form of empowerment was when I assessed and delivered four follow-up workshops to an affluent private school that felt that they might be seen as not sensitive to diverse cultures. The SEL profile showed that the establishment’s average negative emotion was “shame”; its positive average was “pride”; its neurological domain average was “cognitive”, and its average achievement timeframe was “after an event”. As I delivered the four follow-up “Diversity Training ‘’ workshops, it was easier to get the group to realize that they were culturally insensitive because they were “set in their ways”. They accepted this as the focus of their workshops because the results stated that they cared about their associations (shame and pride); were conditioned this way from an early age (cognitive), and they could be persuaded to see another point of view and achieve a different outcome (after an event).

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three character traits that were most instrumental to my success were persistence, perseverance, and passion. When I started my business, no one supported me nor believed in what I was attempting to do. I could not get clients because the subject seemed to imply that they “needed mental help”, according to their responses. I had to dig deep, believe in myself, and let my passion carry me forth. My entire life has been based on the concept of SEL, long before I knew it and long before it even had a description! This speaks to my intertwined trio of persistence, perseverance, and passion.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. Wellness is an incredibly broad topic. How would you define the term “Wellness”? Can you explain what you mean?

Wellness, as defined by me is who and how we are in relation to the world around us. If we choose to work out daily, eat right, stay hydrated and get the recommended hours of sleep, then that is only half of the wellness definition, in my opinion. The other half of “wellness” as defined by me, is how we interact, communicate and respond to our environment. This is the definition of “wellness’ from my point of view as a social-emotional learning (SEL) coach.

As an expert, this might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons with our readers about why focusing on our wellness should be a priority in our lives?

My company’s name is CAMP Achievement, LLC, where CAMP is an acronym for cognitive, affective, motivational and physiological achievement. I believe that it is important to focus on not just physical wellness, but overall wellness: socially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. When we make wellness a priority, we promote internal balance. With internal balance, we would then be able to handle everyday stresses as well as commit to our wellness regiments. At CAMP Achievement, I promote a strong mind — one that knows what the strengths, weaknesses and triggers are. In this way, by focusing on our wellness, we would be able to compartmentalize and prioritize things as we encounter them, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the slightest of setbacks.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasingly growing understanding of the necessity for companies to be mindful of the wellness of their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, can you share steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental and physical wellness?

Some steps that companies have taken to improve or optimize their employees’ mental and physical wellness include:

  • Acknowledging that emotions are fundamental to achievement.
  • Providing resources such as virtual Yoga and other fitness activities.
  • Partnering with wellness providers to may resources such as self-assessment tools available for employees to gauge their wellbeing.
  • Working with insurance providers to allow employees to use their health insurance for mental health and general wellness (not illness-related) needs.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Five things that you need to create a highly successful career in the health and wellness industry are:

1. A passion for what you are “selling”.

If you have an idea, then that idea should be rooted in passion. If not, it might take off, but it will land flat! For instance, that late Dick Gregory believed so much in veganism, that he incorporated it into every facet of his life, from his comedy career to his civil rights activism.

2. A well thought out plan.

Success can occur accidentally, but it cannot be sustained by accident. There must be a plan in place to create and sustain a successful career in any industry, including health and wellness. When deciding to start a career n health and wellness, one must find their niche. This requires doing market research; getting potential clients to know that you are available; and exhibiting that which are trying to sell. You cannot be successful if you do not look the part that you are promising potential clients that they will look!

3. An intrinsic belief in what you are selling.

You have to believe in what you are selling, period! If you do not have an intrinsic belief in what you are promoting, then your sales pitch will ring hollow. You cannot promote health and wellness on the surface yet live an unhealthy lifestyle yourself. Health and wellness cannot be faked. Sure, you can get cosmetic work and look healthy but that will not stand the test of time.

4. Actions speak louder than words!

This is an extension of number 3, above. Clients will know whether or not you are doing the workouts or regiments that you are recommending to them! If your brand depends on wellness, then you must be the brand! Using my example of Dick Gregory above, he was the veganism brand that he promoted! He used veganism to advance every cause that he promoted, from his wellness products; to his comedic routines; to his political positions; to his civil rights activism. He has become synonymous with the original vegan movements that have been built upon in the twenty-first century!

5. Be persistent because sometimes your passion might need a boost!

I believe in social-emotional learning (SEL) empowerment for all. As such, I built my PhD and business around it. I do not waver on my passion, my plan of action, my intrinsic belief, nor my actions. Even when my business faltered, I held true to my passion and my belief. I developed a fallback plan for economic survival — I went back to the public-school classroom. Yet, everything that I did in the classroom to advance my subject matter was grounded in SEL! As such, I was able to persevere and persist to the point that I could hire a PR Agent and market myself appropriately. I realized that passion was not enough. I needed help from those that are good at what they do. In this way, I could excel at what I do!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would promote the most wellness to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement to promote the most wellness to the greatest number of people, I would start a movement to promote a strong emotionally balanced mind in a strong body. I think that this is necessary because most people do not maintain a healthy lifestyle because they do not have the internal fortitude to be consistent and persistent. I believe that internal fortitude stems from knowing who and how we are rather than what we are. As a part of my PhD work, I developed a social-emotional learning (SEL) instrument that measures 96 emotional dispositions. It calculates a person’s dominant positive emotion (joy, hope, or pride), their dominant-negative emotion (anger, anxiety, hopelessness, boredom, or shame), and their dominant neurological domain (are they a thinker-cognitive; touchy feely-affective; naturally driven — motivational; or need instant gratification — physical/physiological). I believe that once a person knows who and how they are, armed with their SEL profile, they would be better equipped to sustain a wellness lifestyle. As such, they can choose the exercise that they feel most confident about and remain motivated to continue with it no matter what life might throw their way.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Des Linden, my long distance running “Shero”. I would love to meet with Des because she epitomizes perseverance! She has a slogan that says, “Keep showing up”! She believes that once you show up to a race, anything is possible. She was the underdog in many races, many times but she pulled up to be in the top three, or, overall winner, in the case of her historic Boston Marathon win, in 2018. She is a carefree, charismatic runner who looks like a cool person to hang out with. Above all, she collects and drinks scotch whisky!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website is: www.drmarilynsimmons.com and you can find some of my research at https://eric.ed.gov/?q=Marilyn+Simmons+Bowe&id=ED550063

and

https://www.drmarilynsimmons.com/camp-achievement

My Twitter: @drmarilynSELcoach

My Instagram handle is @marilynsimmonsb

My Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/drmarilynSELcoach

My LinkedIn handle is: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drmarilynsimmons/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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