Jacqueline Boone went from China to “6 Months To Live”
May 4, 2017
Listen to the interview
Interview Highlights
  • Founder: Jacqueline Boone
  • Company: 6 Months to Live, Greater Good Enterprises
  • From: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Lived in: China, Montana, San Francisco, Asheville, New York, Nomadic
  • Recommended reading: Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

Key takeaway: Follow your heart and your own very personal mission. You’ll create a ripple effect of change throughout the universe.

Read the interview

Jess Ainlay: Jackie, thanks so much for letting me sit down and talk to you about risk, travel and entrepreneurship! You fit so well right in that space. If we start at the beginning, did you grow up in a home that was welcoming to risk? Were your parents entrepreneurs?

Jacqueline Boone: It was a mix, really. Both sides of my family have entrepreneurs in them, but it was not encouraged. Both my grandfathers grew up on rural farms in Kentucky, and yet they were both the only ones to leave the farm. One actually went into the navy at 17 and was in China and Japan in the ‘30s because he became a pilot. I never met him, but I would have loved to talk to him, since I lived in China for three years. Then my parents were the only ones in their families to leave Louisville, Kentucky. And then there’s me. I went to China. It’s a joke that my kids will announce they’re moving to another planet.

Jess Ainlay: China is a much bigger leap than leaving Kentucky. How did you make that decision?

Jacqueline Boone: I saw at a young age that a clear path was laid out for me. I was born and raised in Atlanta, went to catholic high school, got good grades, did five internships in college. I didn’t just want to do a crazy semester abroad and then stay in Atlanta or move to New York, work up a ladder, make lots of money, have 2.5 children and live near my parents. I’ve always known that path was not for me. I’ve always been deeply curious about the world. I love that Albert Einstein quote, “My only talent is that I'm insatiably curious.”

Jess Ainlay: Curiosity is what created the desire to see the world?

Jacqueline Boone: Yes, as a writer, you always have that excitement about people. There's always a story, everything can become a character, something to write about. I saw A River Runs Through It, my all time favorite movie…

Jess Ainlay: I love that movie.

Jacqueline Boone: That was the impetus to work on a ranch when I moved back from China to Montana. I literally worked on the ranch outside of Missoula on the Blackfoot River, with one of the women who worked on the ranch with Norman Maclean. And I loved it, because I knew from a young age I wanted to live a different life.

Jess Ainlay: Despite the fact that from the outside, people might wonder how you go from life in China to life in Montana based on A River Runs Through It.

Jacqueline Boone: It is a question of how you live the very best life possible while following your mission, your purpose and doing good in the world and giving back and contributing in whatever way you can and whatever way you're here to. Friends and family don’t mean to dash your dream, they might think they are helping, but if you know your mission, they can’t change you. A dream is like a newborn baby. It’s beautiful, magnificent, innocent and even though you want to share it with the world, you can’t. You’re not going to bring a newborn baby into the bright sunlight a hat, without some sunscreen. Don’t let your crazy uncle hold the newborn baby.

In other words, create and cultivate a supportive community and let them see your dreams first.

Jess Ainlay: What came first for you: travel or entrepreneurship?

Jacqueline Boone: I have always taken risks. When I was young I wanted to change schools and go to one of the top schools in Atlanta. It was ambitious, but they supported me. I played sports and worked super hard to skip JV and make it right to the varsity team.

So very young, I knew that you go for a dream, and even if you don’t get what you want, you change your perspective, realign yourself with what you want and achieve your dream no matter what.

I always felt different. I was the tallest, bad really curly hair, acne, and hit puberty pretty young. For a while I didn’t get invited to social events. I went to camp, decided to be totally myself and made a bunch of friends there. This experience really helped me. A girl named Ashley Wells who I will always have a special place in my heart for, put a surprise going away party for me at camp, with everyone saying how much they would miss me. No one had ever done anything like that for me. Not even a mixed tape. I knew everything would be okay.

When I got to freshman year back at school, my best friend and I created an open table policy at lunch where anyone who didn’t have a group could sit with us.

Jess Ainlay: So getting away, out of your normal element, really affected you?

Jacqueline Boone: This was a precursor to travel for me. Being on the outskirts, not fitting in taught me to be comfortable being uncomfortable. It taught me to understand different ways of doing things, which helped so much moving to rural China and not speaking Mandarin and having to connect with 21 classes with 60 kids each that I needed to connect with. Words matter. Not having them is hard.

Jess Ainlay: How long did you live in China?

Jacqueline Boone: Three years.

Jess Ainlay: Why did you go?

Jacqueline Boone: I interned at InStyle magazine the summer before graduating from Boston University, so I was considering a move to New York. But inside I felt like I wanted to do something that mattered. I ended up doing WorldTeach, a Harvard-affiliated nonprofit, where you teach for a year in a developing area.

I taught for a year with WorldTeach, and I didn’t want to be someone who went abroad for a year, lives in one place, comes back and says, “Oh, I know China.” So I went to Hangzhou and Xuzhou, which is the gorgeous former capital of China. It's very bike friendly. It has willows, everything you see in Chinese paintings is in this city. I went there for National Day with a friend, and I didn’t want to go because I was obsessed with going to Shanghai.

And I just remember entering the city and thinking, “Oh, I'm living here. I don’t know how, but I'm going to make it happen.”

I met a guy on a 16-hour train who connected me to the university there, and I moved to Hangzhou.

Jess Ainlay: You have to trust your gut, right?

Jacqueline Boone: Trust, patience and faith are an integral part of a traveling entrepreneur’s life because you already have to trust the fact that you’re not following the traditional path. So my decision to go to China was a heart-based, illogical decision. I’m writing a book now called ‘Heart Language’ that is all about following your heart and tapping into the universal language out there that every traveler knows exists.

Travel more than anything has given me faith and hope for humanity because you realize very quickly as you travel that people aren’t that different.

Listen to the full interview with Jacqueline Boone on iTunes

Listen

Jess Ainlay: The more I talk to people for this project, the more deeply I believe that if everyone lived abroad for one year there would be world peace. I believe this is a huge part of my mission with this project. I watched your TEDx talk where you talk about how everyone should live their truth and their mission to bring about world peace. How is that possible for people who live in India, or Guatemala who shine shoes, for example.

Jacqueline Boone: Right. That’s a really good question. There's two sides to that. One side is, and I've played that game and really wrestled with it for many years, is the idea of who am I to have any more than anyone else?

In other words, who am I to have fresh drinking water when someone else doesn’t? Or the kind of education that I have, when I saw my ‘kids’ in China study for a Gaokao exam so hard at 16 that their hair turned gray, their teeth fell out because they were malnourished. Ultimately, the way I deal with this conflict is that me making myself miserable or not being grateful for what I do have does nothing to solve the problem. It is up to me to leverage everything that I have learned in a way that can create good in the world. When you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and I feel very lucky to sit in a position of freedom to ask the question, ‘What is my purpose?’ To have those choices is lucky. My dad has this quote that rings true: “To those who much is given, much is expected.”

Because I have this freedom, I can live my mission and create a ripple effect. If I help one person see that they could do something they want, I can start a chain reaction. I co-created a program with Elisabeth Cardiello called “Master Your Mission,” a five-day program for women entrepreneurs. The whole focus of it is mastering your mission in life and applying it to business. We do the program abroad, which we do specifically because you learn things when you travel.

Sharing the world is my favorite thing to do.

Jess Ainlay: Can you talk more about the work you do? What’s your main company? Do you run everything through 6 Months to Live?

Jacqueline Boone: My company really grew out of 6 Months to Live, which is still a big part of my life. It was a blog that is turning into an online publication. It started because I had moved back from China and the ranch, and I was on my mom’s couch in Atlanta. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself because it was the recession, and I was thinking to myself, “How did I go from living this really cool life and feeling like I was doing something that mattered…”

I was speaking Mandarin, had endless learning all the time, and suddenly I was in suburban Atlanta looking for a job in the recession and obviously less than excited about life.

At a conference, a fellow jetsetter named Teresa Rodriguez asked me, what would you do if you had six months to live?

Jess Ainlay: What did you answer?

Jacqueline Boone: I went back to Atlanta, and I thought about it. I realized that I was 26 years old, and if I had six months to live, I’d go for it. This was the early days of blogging and I watched Tim Ferriss’ “55 minutes on WordPress,” set up a blog, and turned my life into an experiment. Then, a bunch of things led to a Kickstarter-backed web show and I moved to San Francisco on New Year’s Eve with $1000, two bags and an air mattress.

If you’ve read The Alchemist, you know about following your personal legend. I was tested by the universe, and I had what I call my Captain Dan moments – from Forrest Gump – screaming into the storm.

But back to the global harmony: I decided I would do whatever it took. I followed my heart, and when you do that, whatever that means to you, you give your gift to the world. I don’t think that has to be travel. My grandmother who lived in Louisville all her life had an amazing way of showing everyone around her how to truly live. She just did it by example. Everyone always had a place at her table. She forgave people when she had no reason to. Be who you are, follow your passion and live your purpose.

Jess Ainlay: 6 Months to Live puts a filter on every decision you make.

Jacqueline Boone: Exactly. Focus on your mission. Say to yourself, “Why am I doing anything if it’s not exactly the thing that I want to be doing. My business was born out that, and today I run a digital marketing and business consulting company that I have run for three and a half years. I help mission driven companies, startups, and entrepreneurs who come to me and say, “Hey, I have this idea,” or “I want to enter this new market,” or “How do I build a business out of this?” And I am able to help them and then the consultants that I work with, we help them essentially build out their business plan, their revenue stream, their marketing plan, their social media strategy, how to enter a new market… all that kind of stuff.

Jess Ainlay: Can you talk about your other projects?

Jacqueline Boone: Everything falls under the parent company called Greater Good Enterprises. My life goal is to be the female Richard Branson with a dash of Oprah. I work together with fellow entrepreneurs and consultants who are all experts in their fields and what they do. Everyone runs their own companies, so instead of staff, I think of it as the Knights of the Round Table, where we assemble the dream team for whatever project we may be invited to work on. This happens through Boone Consulting, which is the consulting arm of the business. I am the project manager, so I orchestrate the work.

Jess Ainlay: You are going to conquer the world… Do you have a home base?

Jacqueline Boone: When I started my business I said I want to be anywhere in the world, at any time that I want. That’s the number one goal. Everything I do is digital. I rent places, I travel, earlier this year I rented a house in Asheville and I’m considering buying a house in Asheville next year as a permanent home base, and even have it be a base for people to all come together there.

Jess Ainlay: What's your biggest failure in risk taking and how did you overcome it?

Jacqueline Boone: A failure is only a failure if you let it be a failure. You learn from it. But to answer your question – six months into my business, I was very isolated. I was nomadic, going back and forth between Asheville, San Francisco, and I was comparing my success to corporate success. So, rather than following my gut, I made a large investment in a program that was very expensive. I signed a contract and had to pay whether I was satisfied with the product or not. I was naïve, I accrued debt and ended up getting very stressed. I had imposter syndrome and gave in to it. There are definitely things worth investing it, especially education, but I went about this the wrong way.

Jess Ainlay: Can you give one tangible example of a skill you acquired by learning a language completely immersed in that environment?

Jacqueline Boone: Interesting question! I think that I learned to really pay attention to people’s body language. They say that words are only 7% of what we are really communicating. Everything else is body language or silence.

Jess Ainlay: Thank you so much for your time! This was so useful for people. Where can people find you online?

Jacqueline Boone: You can find me at 6monthstolive.me, Boone Consulting, and on Instagram @jacquelineboone and @6monthstolive

There's more where that came from.