Dentley has already established himself as a renowned entrepreneur through Total Life Changes, his mentoring, and life coaching business. His industry-leading public speaking boot camp, Inspired2Speak, has produced countless superstar orators. “I’ve been fortunate throughout my life and learned so much, and now I am driven to share this knowledge with a larger audience,” he says. “It’s time to give back in the biggest possible way.”
Dr. James Dentley is all about other people’s stories. As a marketing titan and transformational guru, entrepreneur, and public speaking coach, he has trained and educated people from every corner of the globe and, at last count, had created 84 millionaires. He’s seen a lot, done a lot, and inspired a lot of people. But now, at 63, he feels he’s just getting started.
Yet while Dentley is the ultimate champion of his students and disciples, his own story is a fascinating one, a heroic, come-from-behind battle to upturn the odds, and one that nearly met with failure on more than one occasion.
Dentley’s desire to give back is rooted in his own underdog story and wanting to help others rise up:
Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Dentley was determined to live life to the fullest from a young age. He and his friends would scale buildings and trees just to one-up each other. He’d stubbornly walk the 30 blocks to and from school through various gang territories so that he could keep the pocket change for the bus.
With his father mostly out of the picture, Dentley also felt an obligation to provide for the four women in his life. So, from a tender age, he did anything he could to make a buck. He’d rake leaves in the fall and shovel snow during the bitter winters. By 10, he was taking two city buses to get to a part-time custodial job. At 17, he was working at Church’s Fried Chicken. He was also becoming something of a local celebrity. “I could just dance,” he laughs. “I would go on the other side of town and go to the discos, and I would just tear it up. Saturday Night Fever – I lived that.” He’d enter and win dance competitions, making enough money to pay his bills. But his dancing wasn’t the only thing that made him stand out. “When I would go there, usually there weren’t a lot of African Americans,” he says. “I knew there was racism, but I didn’t have a lot of those issues. I got along with everybody.” That ability to connect with people from other walks of life would serve him well later on, too.
When Dentley turned 18, he was promoted to general manager of the restaurant – the youngest GM of a Church’s franchise in the country. He was soon snapped up by another chain and moved to Midland-Odessa, Texas. For a young Black man from the big city, the culture shock could’ve proved insurmountable. Dentley embraced the challenge. “I had the best time of my life,” he says. “I realized that I had the ability to be able to work and build relationships with people, no matter what they looked like. When you smile at people, normally they smile back.”
Dentley also suffered through bouts of self-doubt. In his mid-20s, he contracted a skin disease that left scar tissue and made the hair on the back of his scalp fall out. Then he got a blood infection that left him in excruciating pain for years. “I wanted to die,” he says. “I wanted to kill myself.”
After he divorced his first wife, Dentley needed a fresh start. In 1994, he moved to Atlanta and began working for fledgling telecommunications company ACN. He was asked to prepare an oral presentation due in two weeks. “I went home and practiced every night, every day,” he says. “Three o’clock in the morning, I’m talking to doorknobs. I’m sweating bullets.” The combination of work ethic and charisma paid off; Dentley crushed his first public speaking assignment with a preview of the same easy and engaging style that has won over countless audiences across the globe in the decades since. In that way, he never looked back.
Still, success in Atlanta was elusive at first. But Dentley saw adversity as an opportunity to grow. “The first time I had to sleep in my car, I remember putting my little comforter over my head with everything that I own in the backseat, and I said, ‘I’m going get rich,’ ” Dentley says. “I just looked at it like Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning. You see two men both trapped behind prison bars. One man saw the mud; the other man saw the stars. I chose to see the stars.”
Over time, Dentley was able to detect a pattern. He realized that if he was struggling in one area of his life, it was a matter of time until it seeped into others. It’s how he identified as “The 5 Frequencies of High Performance” — a blueprint for personal success that would become the title of one of his best-selling books. To that note, Dentley’s book gives readers tools they can use to bring their spirit, mindset, physical body, relationships, and financial stability into alignment. Dentley learned those lessons the hard way. He hopes others can learn from how he responded to his own setbacks.
Finally, the odds have turned in Dentley’s favor. Here is what people are saying about him now:
“James has this ability to connect the dots,” former NBA All-Star Mark Aguirre, now a close personal friend and also from Chicago, said. “He has this way of talking to you, which makes everything seem possible.”
“There is always the personal touch with James,” renowned business mentor and author Sharon Lechter said. “He is kind and thoughtful — and you can see how much it means to him for the people he meets to find their own success.”