11 years ago, I escaped my father’s cult.
It was 15 minutes to midnight, on a Thursday night. A slight chill in the air – typical for August in Pennsylvania.
I remember looking up, briefly, in one split second because that was all I had. I saw the twilight sky full of stars.
The neighbors were watching—odd, they were never out at night.
My sister whispered– “They might call the cops.” It didn’t dawn on her that at 23 years old, she wasn’t a minor, and no one could force us back.
I’d masterminded this escape night, every detail.
My car was hidden one block away—my freedom chariot, bought with the hard-earned cash of my new online writing skills.
I got out.
The next 11 years have been the hardest, toughest journey I’ll never regret taking.
Twenty-one years of my life till then were claimed as his.
I lived in silence.
I was forced to keep his secrets: stripped and beaten in the basement…
With no one even aware of it… much less coming to my aid.
I was in a Fundamentalist puritanical cult, where women and children do not have the autonomy and freedom to function for themselves.
They are abused and bred for the “cause.”
And it was only when I got out, that I could begin to go from surviving to thriving.
Here I am today—11 years later.
Healing is the hardest and best journey I’ve ever been on.
With every year, every journey, every destination, there comes a new version of myself that I love.
And over the past few years, part of the impact I’ve been proud of has also been through my memoir, Woman Rising, published in 2020 and created to help bring light to hidden abuse.
We’ve reached thousands of readers across 90 countries on Amazon that find and message me on the regular.
From merely surviving – to thriving. Fulfilling my potential and shattering every limitation, here am I today.
I’ve shocked myself with what is possible.
From ten years in content – hiring 100 people in the company I’d built – to now being the President of an AI company at the forefront of AI itself (Content at Scale)…
I’m building a life that thrills me EVERY SINGLE DAY I wake up.
Change that to thriving, like I did. You have the right to thrive.
Don’t let your life ebb by without you having lived.
Know that YOU are the “secret sauce” of your own life.
There is no one any more powerful to your own future, than you yourself.
Your life is waiting around for you to start living it.
So, do it.
Be bold. Be YOU.
Fight for your right to thrive.
Don’t give up. You’ve got this.
God’s got your back.
That’s what this post + video is about: sharing my story with you. This is how I turned trauma into triumph, and how I went from living in a cult to building a career in AI.
From Trauma to Triumph: Julia McCoy’s Story
The picture on the left is a rare but actual picture from the actual Fundamentalist cult I was in. I think my eyes and the plastered smile tell it all, even though I look fairly healthy and “normal.” On the right, I’m celebrating the growth of 2023 and embracing this role as President of Content at Scale. I think my eyes tell a much different story. I’ve been through pain, but I’ve come out a warrior. 💪
Part 1: Starting with Less Than Nothing
Perhaps THE defining moment of my life happened 11 years ago, in 2012.
It was one of the best and scariest things I had ever done, and will ever do.
The day I drove away from my father’s cult was the day I found the path to creating the life I want to live.
I was trapped.
The cult – and my father – controlled every aspect of my life.
I was taught religion and lived by it in a strict, controlled, toxic structure.
We lived below poverty levels. Sometimes we didn’t eat, and often, the fridge would be empty.
In my childhood, I went through such severe mental and physical abuse that I almost gave up. I wanted to die. I believed my father’s lies: that I was a waste of space.
Trauma Shapes You into a Lethal Weapon of Comeback – Only if You Let It
Trauma defines my early life, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that it has the power to shape you into something incredible.
You don’t have to succumb to it. Instead, you can use it, learn from it, and build yourself up better than ever – stronger, more resilient, and wiser.
Because it tests you, trauma reveals who you really are.
I’ve studied some of the most successful people in their fields and seen it time and again. Incredibly famous, successful people like J.K. Rowling or Tony Robbins went through untold trauma (J.K. Rowling was deserted by her husband, had lost her job, and rocking a baby to sleep in a coffee shop while she wrote Harry Potter – at the time, she said it was all she had left).
The they chose to let their troubled pasts shape them for good. Ultimately, their traumas molded them for their later successes.
However, healing is a choice.
After trauma or failure, you either make a comeback or a shutdown. Only the strong people choose to heal because – I’ll say it again – healing is a choice. The greatest and hardest choice you will ever make after trauma is to heal from it, learn from it, and move forward.
That night when I escaped the cult? I wasn’t alone. I took my sister with me in the passenger seat.
Unfortunately, her life doesn’t resemble mine. She did not choose healing.
I did. And that choice has reverberated all throughout my life.
Part 2: The Turning Point and the Comeback
Before I left the cult, I was already tentatively taking steps toward a lifelong dream: to become a writer.
That pull within me was so strong that I couldn’t ignore it, even in the stifling environment of control the cult inflicted.
At 7, I had the opportunity to see a computer get online. As soon as I heard that dial-up modem screeching, I KNEW my life would change forever.
I saw the internet as a golden highway. Computers and writing became an escape, a way to create a second reality for myself that was opposite of the one I was living. Cult life drove me to find my passion, because my passion was my relief and my escape.
At age 12, I wrote my first book, a 200-page novel. And it was only going to snowball from there.
The Turning Point
I started my writing business at 19, still inside the cult. With only $75 worth of savings in my pocket, I invested it all in creating my first website.
As I slowly made money writing for online clients, I secretly squirreled some of those earnings away. I even saved enough to buy myself a car with cash.
The wake-up call came when my father handed me that fateful letter when I was 21. “You shouldn’t have been born. You’re a total disappointment.” Those words echoed in my head, taunting me.
Ultimately, they were the words that gave me the push I needed to leave the toxic cult environment for good. Because my father was wrong: I DID have a reason to exist, and I knew I WAS born for something: writing.
I packed up my car with everything I owned, and in the middle of the night, while everyone was sleeping, I escaped. I left everything I knew and drove away from that life forever.
With my writing dream on my horizon, I was running toward an open door of possibilities.
And that feeling was only reinforced as I experienced my first day of freedom outside the cult. I had been so stifled, so throttled, so cut off before, that stepping outside that confinement showed me exactly how much I could achieve if I kept going and worked hard enough.
But the turning point was that first, brave risk I took that started it all. I left behind everything I knew to start over. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
Watch the Story
Our incredible production team, Nathaniel Diaz-Rua and Aldous Antonio, put their heart and soul into this beautiful little film for me. ❤️ I hope it speaks to you just as much as it did to us when we created it.
So, what have I accomplished since leaving the cult?
- I built and grew my little writing agency into a thriving company. In 2021, at age 31, I sold it for over $1M.
- That same year, I had a near-$3M year.
- I’ve written 8 books, some of which have reached over half a million people in a single weekend.
- I joined the team behind leading AI software, Content at Scale, and became President of the company.
- I’ve appeared onstage at many industry events, and I even led my first keynote this year.
What was critical to all of this – not just earning monetary success, but finding the courage to escape the cult and heal – was setting a vision. I did this from the very beginning, and I stuck to it. My vision kept me accountable, focused, and on track.
In 2013, at 22 years old, I wrote an entry in my journal that set my vision and direction for the future:
“I will be a millionaire or make $1M by the age of 30. I will sell my writing agency for at least $1M.”
Friends, I achieved both of those things. By age 31, I had a $2.9 million year – not gross income, but cash in the bank.
I couldn’t have done it without setting a vision and intention for myself that would see me through.
More importantly, it’s not all about the money. For me, it’s about impact. I want to impact and reach millions of people. Someday, I want to build a foundation that creates homes for victims of abuse. Of course, that takes $$$.
But to make that happen, I need to speak that dream out loud.
Write it down. Tell the world. Hold yourself accountable. Take risks.
If you need inspiration, here are some books I recommend, ones I rely on again and again:
- The Bible – Yes, I’m serious. Ironically, after I left a religious cult, I found God. I have read the Good Book every single day for the last three years. It is an endless wellspring of wisdom and inspiration.
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill – Most people either love or hate this one, but the concepts in it are true.
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason – The concepts in this book dovetail with those in Think and Grow Rich. As the Bible says, “As a man thinketh, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7)
Part 3: Enter AI
Risk-taking has become part of my M.O.
Since that first risk I took years ago, leaving the cult, I have challenged myself to get outside my comfort zone over and over.
I know it’s the only way to reach greater heights. I can only truly grow as a person if I leave what’s “comfortable” and “safe” behind in my dust. 💨
True growth happens in discomfort. If that thing you’re considering – changing jobs, pivoting in your career, starting a business, making an investment, making ANY big move – doesn’t scare you a little, it’s probably not worth doing.
For this very reason, when my writing agency was at its pinnacle, making $40K in one week, I decided to sell it.
Selling My Writing Agency at Its Peak
People were shocked and skeptical. “Why are you selling this?!” they asked me. I understood their chagrin – it was a literal cash cow.
The thing is, I could feel the winds starting to shift in my industry. Artificial intelligence breakthroughs were on the horizon. The writing business just wasn’t where I needed to be spending my efforts and energy anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. This decision terrified me. It made me question everything. But I never regretted it. Selling my agency allowed me to do everything that came next. It gave me the nimbleness I needed to pivot (that’s foreshadowing, by the way 😂).
I spent the next year, 2022, consulting, coaching, and teaching people about how to build their online brands and do content marketing. But GPT was looming.
Of course, we all know what happened next. In December 2022, ChatGPT was unleashed upon the world.
Meanwhile, I had already set my vision and intentions for the future. Consistently, between 2021 and 2023, I wrote in my journal that “I will acquire $100M. I will do so by or during 2033, when I am 41.”
I put my dreams on paper, and I spoke my vision into the universe.
Content at Scale and the AI Revolution
Unbeknownst to me, what was in development as I spent two years learning and listening as well as teaching and consulting?
Insane AI technology that would blow open the doors of my industry (and countless others) and change it forever.
I’m not just talking about GPT. I’m also talking about groundbreaking tools like Content at Scale.
Because, now, AI has the power to write a fully-fledged content piece, from start to finish, in 10 minutes or less.
Think about that for a minute. Every business that operates online needs content. Before, that content needed a human writer behind it, and good ones are hard to find. Now AI is swooping in to make that task, content writing, easier, faster, better, and more efficient.
It’s so crazy, I believe that I’m now in the role – President of Content at Scale – that will lead to $100M and beyond. 🚀
AI is already upending jobs, careers, markets, businesses, and work as we know it. But pivoting is part of my DNA. Risk-taking is what I’m all about. And I’m going all-in on Content at Scale.
Celebrating Who We’re Meant to Be
Trauma didn’t change me. It just revealed who I was meant to be.
That’s why I always make a point to celebrate the hardships in life. Find joy in the failures. Find growth in the discomfort.
If you can walk through the fire and come out the other side, that fire will mold you into something better. Something stronger. You’ll be made of stuff that’s even more resilient, with wisdom perching gracefully on your shoulders.
So, if you’re facing something hard, don’t turn away or throw in the towel. Confront it. Challenge it. Move through and past it. Choose healing. Choose discomfort, and let it mold you into who you’re meant to be.
The journey you’ll take is just as important as where you’ll end up. Don’t forget that. Keep going – greatness is on the other end. ❤️