The boisterous energy of Dianne Langford James can be felt as if she were standing in front of you, even when she is nowhere near. Yes, from 3,000 miles away, I answer Dianne’s phone call and it is as though she is in the room with me. Her exuberance perks me up in this 8am hour and it is impossible for me not to feel immense gratitude that “Mama D” has thought to share her spirit with me this particular morning.
She is called Mama D because of her loving mama vibe. Having mothered six children and raised three of her 19 total grandchildren, it’s clear that she’s had a lot of experience in nurturing others.
But it wasn’t always as downstream for Dianne as it is today. In her 20’s, Mama D fell victim to alcohol and drug abuse as a result of a marriage gone awry. For over a decade, she struggled with alcoholism, still doing the best she could to provide for her children through a slew of corporate jobs including work for a local telephone company and the state of Massachusetts.
It was less than a month before her 40th birthday when Dianne had her “a-ha” moment:
“I knew that my children were my responsibility and I needed to take care of them, I knew that (using) was not how my life was suppose to be. I knew that all things are possible with God and that I was somebody. (And) when I took care of me instead of trying to take care of everyone else, all would be well. So I surrendered to the disease and started the good fight. I took control of my life that day.”
Today Dianne is married to her soul mate, runs her own business and is the first person in her family to have graduated college. She lives the life of her dreams and spends her free time supporting her core belief that each generation should have it better than the last. Through her work with The Torch Foundation, Dianne supports underserved youth through training seminars to become Future Leaders, helping to instill confidence, intention and commitment within them to take on their own lives. Equipping them to be cycle-breakers through emotional intelligence learning. Dianne was personally responsible for taking the California based program to her community in Massachusetts, "Yes We Care Teen Leadership - Torch Training."
Dianne, you are someone who has felt deep lows, yet today, I’m not sure there are many people I know who consistently dish love in every direction, including your own. Can you tell us about the 180 that occurred for you? How did you move into your current state of being?
The 180 that occurred for me was breaking the cycle of drugs and addiction within my family. In my purest moment of clarity it became irrevocably clear to me that I was indeed responsible for writing the rest of my story. After losing two sisters, both drug related, I had an overpowering realization that I could be next. I choose to live, for them and most importantly for myself.
What does it take to turn a life around?
I believe you must be personally responsible for yours first. When I choose to be intentional in my everyday life and do the things that produce results daily, I began impacting the live of those around me consequently. The greatest gift you can give the world is showing up to your life so powerfully that others desire to model your commitment.
Are there specific tools you’d recommend?
My greatest tools have been prayer and personal growth and those who I choose to spend my time with. From reading, audio books, leadership workshops, and personal growth courses I continue to build my mind and body to endure all that life has and will continue to bring me. Investing in myself has been the best investment I could have ever made. As my late sister Maya Angelou said, “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.”
Do you have any favorite quotes that you tell yourself (or told yourself) in harder times?
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sail to always reach my destination. -Jimmy Dean
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. -Charles R. Swindell
Do not go where the path leads. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
You believe in creating 180s for others, particularly in financial independence. How did you build your business and is there anything you can recommend to others who want to find their own way of creating wealth?
After working for corporate America over 20 years and still taking from Peter to give to Paul, I vowed to be the cycle breaker of my family’s financial future. In the process of pursuing my Masters degree I was presented with a business opportunity called ACN, a telecommunication, energy, banking, and personal development company that teaches business ownership through essential services we use every day, and bills we pay for every month. This vehicle has allowed me the time freedom to become clear on the life I desire for my family, myself and the world.
For anyone who may come across this article and perhaps shares that same burning desire to change their family dynamic and create multigenerational changes, I would invite you take more risks. Everything I have ever been able to achieve has lived outside of my comfort zone.
You’re a mother, grandmother, and entrepreneur, mentor and volunteer (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something) – how do you maintain balance?
What is balance? I used to pray for balance. Webster describes balance as, “a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.”
One day I realized there is no such thing as balance in life. However, there is a rhythm and if you can find yours don’t ever stop dancing. People don’t come with instructions or return policies so in lieu of getting frustrated or overwhelmed I often find myself surrounded by music and dancing my way through it all.
If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice, at what age would you visit yourself and what would you tell yourself?
That is easy. Age 18, I had just graduated as Prom Queen from Brockton High and graduated from modeling school with the world at my fingertips. I would have told myself to be a generous listen to those who are already living the life I desired and started building my firm relationship with God.