[Note: I started doing an annual recap back in 2010 . You can find other years here: | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2021 | 2022 - 2020 got skipped for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the pandemic that shall not be named.]
OHHHH 2023. What a year you turned out to be!
If you've been in my orbit for any length of time, you know that my new year starts on Jan 5, because that's my birthday. It's so close to the beginning of the year - and I take that week off anyway - so it just makes logistical sense to my brain to count things that way.
So yeah... Happy New Year, y'all!
In many respects, looking back on 2023 felt like ripping a Band-Aid off a hairy, scabby wound.
But once the bandage is off, you see it's not so bad in there, after all.
While we didn't hit all our goals and objectives for 2023, we did manage some pretty cool stuff at Creative Freedom HQ. And there were some really neat surprise blessings that came along. The biggest of which TECHNICALLY happened in 2024, but I've been paving this path for months, so I'm counting it as one of the surprise blessings of 2023.
And yeah, there were some pretty crappy things, too - not the least of which was Jim's surgery. So let's pop into the wayback machine and have a look at the year we call 2023...
Oh, and for those of you unfamiliar, I set my goals using my Dreamblazing program, so you'll see me break my goals down by each of the 5 Key Area of Success.
At the beginning of 2023, this was my number 4 goal - to SHINE like the STAR that I am. To recognize, embrace, and celebrate my own Star Power. Self-belief has been an ongoing struggle since my divorce. It's easy to put on a veneer of confidence, but to actually FEEL like you're making progress toward the things that matter most hasn't been as easy for me. I had major surgery three years in a row, Covid at the beginning and end of 2022, and five moves in 4 years. Unsettled, unstable, frenetic, scrambling would probably be the best way to describe the undercurrent of energies I've been feeling for a while.
But moving to Bloomington allowed us to put down some tenuous roots... and they're starting to take hold.
Depression and anxiety have been nipping at my heels for a couple of years and THIS year it finally started to feel like I turned a corner and the clouds were rolling out. I made some new friends locally, was active in our TEDxBloomington organization, and will likely move into a more permanent curator role in the next year or so.
"Life happens every six months" was a lesson I learned from my manager during my days as a financial advisor. He encouraged us to schedule reviews with our clients at least that often, which is part of why I still hold semi-annual review sessions with my community. By the mid-point of 2023, I recognized how important it was for me to really step more confidently into the next version of me.
A lot of priorities got shifted with Jim's surgery (more on that shortly), and this was no exception. It became my number one priority for the second half of the year: to play big in healthy ways so that I can shine like the star I am and trust the Divine to provide.
Careful what you wish for.
So that showing up and shining part? Yeah. I think I checked that box. The trust part? Um... welll...
I definitely had some great opportunities to shine - My TEDx Talk finally went live on the TED channel, as did my marathon 4-part interview with Rachael Kay Albers about the Internet Marketing Family Tree. Enoughness became a whole thing in the second part of the year. I did several talks and interviews exploring the subject more deeply.
I also had an amazing photoshoot. The talent in this town is uh-may-zing! Jim was my Art Director for the shoot, and we hit up a bunch of locations around town. My stylist, photographer, and hair & make-up artist did a bang-up job of helping me step into this next iteration of me.
They say God doesn't give you more than you can handle. So, in that respect, we came out okay. We're still here. It was a rollercoaster, but we made it. I wish that trust was easier. But trusting the divine (as a goal) almost implies that SOMETHING is gonna happen to test that trust.
Jim was already in the throes of his months-long medical situation when his company decided to start screwing with paychecks. A day late, then a week. Layoffs and firings for seemingly no good reason. Then, while he was out on leave, a company-wide pay and hours cut.
My trust was definitely being tested!
With the help of my coach, my in-laws, and some Divine timing, we made it through. It was stressful, but he was able to tender his own resignation this week. His last day will be the end of the month.
This was my number three goal for the year - to cultivate a supportive community that sees and believes in me - and tells me so. This goal didn't change over the course of the year, but it did shift in priority, from #3 to #2.
While we were on vacation in July, Jim ended up in the hospital. He had some kind of mass on his abdomen that had probably been growing for at least 15 years undetected. It finally decided to make itself known in a big way. The rest of the year, Jim was in and out of the hospital a few times, culminating in major surgery just before Thanksgiving. He's still in recovery as I write this. His health is improving, but he still needs a visiting nurse a couple times a week to care for his wounds.
Yes. "Wounds", plural. They had to cut a few holes in him to fix the issue. But it IS fixed at this point. Now, it's just a matter of continuing on his healing journey.
Once Jim's health became an issue, I got clear that I don't want to move again, at least for a while. We've moved SO many times since we got married, due in part to Jim's work. With his health and work situation getting murkier as the year went on, I realized that staying here meant I needed more local friends and connections. People to go out and DO things with, but also, locals who knew who we are and could become a local community of support since we're so far from all our family.
Our neighbor Gary started mowing the lawn so that we didn't have to. He's got a riding lawnmower, so I think he likes doing it anyway. I'd bake them snacks and he'd mow our lawn. They're an adorable older couple and I'm glad to have them as neighbors.
Look at me! Actually getting to know my neighbors and whatnot!
Jim turned me on to Bumble's BFF app - essentially a dating app for finding friends. He had connected to a couple of guys, one of whom was the station manager for the local NPR station. The guy let it slip that they were looking for a morning show host, and well, let's just say, I saw an opportunity! More on that in a minute.
The app helped me to connect with a couple of new folks, too. We've hung out a few times and it feels like I'm starting to build some connections and make friends, which feels really encouraging after years of social distancing.
I also took a VERY part time job at Torrid in the mall. I certainly didn't do it for the paycheck! My youngest makes more as a high schooler than I do at this job. I get out of the house for a few hours, meet some people, and get the employee discount on anything I want to buy with the money I make. And anything left over goes into our tax account because we're likely to have a pretty big tax bill this year. More on that in a bit.
We also migrated the Rising Tide community off of Facebook and into a private platform. People were finally getting frustrated with Facebook enough to want a different solution. After 2022's website crash, I knew I wanted to pull all my courses off the site and had been looking for a place where both the coursework and the community could live. We settled on Heartbeat (yes, that's my affiliate link), which does both pretty well. We've removed the old LearnDash and Wishlist plugins from the site and migrated everything over there. I even moved all my direct sales training from Direct Sales Classroom. Now everything lives in one place - and I LOVE it. Engagement is higher, new people are finding us and connecting to our community. Most importantly, though, people are using the training and getting the support they need to succeed.
That's the best feeling in the world for someone like me!
Cultivating anything takes time, but cultivating community is a long game. Seeds planted and nurtured this year will hopefully yield fruit for years to come. I'm excited to see what comes of all the new relationships begun in 2023.
I DID NOT HAVE COVID!
Since I started and ended 2022 with the dreaded virus, this was sort of an unspoken goal for myself! In fact, this year was pretty much incident free for me! Which was good because it was apparently Jim's turn this year. In general, I try to set two goals for this Key Area of Success - one for my physical container, the other for what's being held inside that container (my mental, emotional, or other well-being stuff).
My number two goal was to take pride in my body, no matter my shape or size. My other fitness goal - at number 5 - was to rebuild my body for optimal health. For me, this was the balance of "love the body that you're in" and rehab/care for what can be improved.
My heel lift had deteriorated after my spinal surgery in September, 2022. If I stand on one foot and try to get up on my tip toe, I can do it on my left foot, but not my right. This is one of those goals that didn't see much improvement, despite months of physical therapy. I had two rounds of PT last year. It's been frustrating, but I'm still hopeful that there are a few things left we can do in 2024 to turn things around.
Not being able to lift my heel makes dancing a challenge. So my audition for Lizzo's reality show was probably one of the last times this year I actually did much dancing. Heck, just walking for more than a few minutes at a time is progressively more uncomfortable. The longer I walk, the more it hurts. I've tried to not let my physical constraints cause too much disappointment and sadness for me. I've got a lot of good things going on and I'm looking forward to what 2024 has in store.
My mental well-being definitely improved. By mid-year, I changed the verbiage a bit and goal two, which moved to the #3 position, became more about having a happy and healthy outlook in general, and less specifically about my body.
I needed to put more attention on my mind-body connection. We were going THROUGH it last year, and it was easy to feel defeated. When my student loans were finally forgiven after 20 years of repayment (YAY!), I learned that Indiana will tax me on that "income".
Ugh. If we were still in Nashville, we wouldn't have this extra financial burden! I was worrying left and right about how to deal with this new development. On the one hand, getting out from under student loans is a tremendous blessing, but we weren't prepared for a big tax bill. AND I didn't want to be one of those IRS horror stories.
It was easy, especially as Jim's health and work situation started deteriorating, to waffle between panic and worry. RE-focusing on my mental health and mindset helped me see my best path forward. It also helped me create - or in one case, re-create - some healthier habits around caring for my brain and my mental well-being. I was on a waitlist for a therapist all year long because of our insurance. I credit those habits (and my coach) with helping dig me out of the years-long funk I'd been in.
This year began with an admittedly vague goal: Be a wealthy, generous entrepreneur. Part of the task in this goal was trying to figure out exactly what that meant. Thus, it was the lowest priority - Goal #6. By mid-year, I realized that it was less about BE-ING, and more about experiencing. Exploring into what it would be like to live the life of a wealthy, generous entrepreneur. Having experiences that I imagine would come along with being a wealthy, generous entrepreneur. So I shifted the goal wording to reflect having a STAR experience.
Hiring a stylist for the photoshoot was a great first step. Trusting my team to just let me show up and shine during that shoot was a great next step. But I still wasn't clear on how to bring that kind of ease into my life. Ease was my word for the year. By August, life still felt anything but easy!
Enter Jacqueline Gates' STAR Program. Nope. Not an affiliate link. I just believe in her work that much. She uses a brilliant mix of coaching and stagecraft to help you develop and tap into the "character" that is your next future self. I've been an actor and performer for most of my life, and I've taught the "future self" concept to my clients, so I laugh at myself for not making this connection sooner.
Jacqui has a great way of connecting the dots between character development and identity. Working with her helped me embody the changes I wanted to step into. I finally stared to have an experience of ease - even when things were getting increasingly chaotic during the year. In fact, I've said numerous times that this is the most prepared and confident I've ever felt going into the start of a new year. Despite all the things in flux.
This was actually my number one goal for the first half of the year - to feel spaciousness and ease in every way throughout the year. Like I said, "Ease" was my word for the year. I wanted goal achievement and project completion to feel easy and light. I wanted ample space for leisure, vacation, and travel.
That meant really pulling back on things. Frankly, our team was just not up to snuff this year. We started the year with 2 support people, but things just didn't click. We struggled to get good workflows and meet deadlines - even ones that seemed generous. "Stuff" kept coming up. One team member had two deaths in their family within a couple of months.
Things just didn't feel easy. We had to release that team member. The other is my rock, and she has limited capacity, so I'm still actively looking for alternatives to round out our team. That has not gone as well as I'd hoped.
On one hand, it would be easy for my Fusion Creative self to just take back and do all the tasks - because it really is often faster for me to just do it that way. But, this is part of the growing pains of running a growing business. Finding reliable, consistent, quality help within your budget often takes time.
Then, once Jim was hospitalized, my priorities shifted. So at the mid-point of the year, this goal moved down the priority list and morphed into laying the foundation for Jim's retirement in 2025. Still with some sense of ease and spaciousness.
Less travel, more prep for the future.
The funny thing is that once I had THAT kind of clarity, it became a lot easier to see what was important and what needed to be thinned out. We were trying to maintain several social media presences. Even with automation, it wasn't generating the ROI that made it worth the investment. It was taking up too much of our collective time to do everything that wasn't moving the needle - which meant the show kept getting put on the back burner. I spent a good part of the second half of the year working with my assistant to clean up and pare down all the extraneous stuff.
Now, while I may have a "presence" on multiple platforms, it is primarily to reserve that user ID, not to create new channels of communication. This year we'll be focused on Youtube and Instagram. I still have groups and connections on FB that will require my presence, but don't expect to see a lot of activity from me there.
Turns out that my goal was a bit prescient, because Jim had to take 6 weeks off unpaid for his November surgery. We managed to make it through, but we wouldn't have had I not shifted this priority in July. He just tendered his resignation and is deciding on his next steps. We're not quite ready to retire him completely, but with the other big change happening this month, he's got more options and freedom to choose what his next move will be.
I applied for and accepted the position as the Morning Edition host on our local NPR station. It was a months-long interview process. I got the call on my birthday - happy birthday and happy new year to me!
With all the flux at Jim's job, I could feel the anxiety creeping up on both of us. Instead of waiting around to see what might shake out, I did the thing that would take the pressure off Jim to find something right away.
It was actually a bit surreal: applying for a job that I didn't NEED, but thought would be fun. To go into an interview process ready to walk if it didn't feel good isn't an experience I'd ever had before this year. Applying for jobs always came with a sense of desperation and fear. Like they held my life in their hands or something. Both the mall job and this radio station gig are on my terms. And I love it!
Plus, the benefits are amazing. We've almost always had insurance through Jim's work. Now, it's my turn!
And I hear your wheels turning... Yes, technically I'll be working two jobs AND running a business.
But here's what's so great about that: I'm already up at 6am - why not get paid for it? Plus, I'm home in the early afternoon, so it doesn't change anything about how I work with my clients. That was something I made abundantly clear when I interviewed. I'm a business owner. I plan to STAY that way for years to come.
And I have the capacity to do this work. I know not everyone does. And there may come a point where I don't. But for now, I do, so I'm going to ride that wave because it works for us. I've already adjusted my calendar and my offerings to reflect my new availability... and honestly, it isn't a whole lot different than it was before.
This position gives us a huge opportunity to make Jim's transition to retirement happen with more ease and more speed. He can't retire yet - we've got a few goals to hit first - but being the morning show host means that Jim gets to have that same experience of freedom to choose. He doesn't have to walk in to an interview feeling desperate or fearful. He can take some time - without a ton of financial pressure - to find something that suits him.
And we can stay put for a few years! Then, when he's ready to retire, he can work if and when he wants to, not because he HAS to. I've wanted this for him for a couple of years now, and I'm excited to see it coming to fruition!
So yeah, 2023 was a year of big changes, and 2024 has a few already in motion. Inside Creative Freedom HQ, we're getting ready to roll out a new website with updated brand elements - including the images from my recent photoshoot. We closed the Incubator to new clients last fall when I rolled out Intensives. I've raised rates on most of my work and LOWERED the price to join us in the community. I streamlined offers and made it easier for the right people to work with me - something I preach to my clients all the time!
But the thing I'm most excited about our the Star Power Intensives. These private, half-day sessions give me the opportunity to get down-and-dirty in your business like I did in the Incubator, while creating real and lasting results the same day.
Available in mini and half-day formats, I've had the joy of taking several people through their own Star Power Intensives at this point. They've all raved about the level of clarity and efficacy of what we've developed together. Of course, not everyone is a good fit for an intensive, which is why I still offer Next Steps Sessions - to help you figure out your next best move.
Over all, this is a MUCH more streamlined set of offerings, focused on helping you have the reach, the impact, and the respect that comes from being a celebrity in your niche. That's my focus going forward. I want to see more good people in roles of influence in the world. We've had enough of the rocket-launching billionaires taking the spotlight. It's time to shine a light on folks who are doing the work to make a positive impact on this big blue marble.
My word this year is LUXE - luxury, yes, but also "lucks" - luck in many ways. My coach gave me this mantra: I can only win!
It's helped me re-frame a lot of what's been going on in my life as I move into 2024. I've never felt more ready for a year to get going, and this year feels like it's going to be BIG! It's my last year in my 40's. This time next year, I'll be celebrating the big 5-0, and I have plans for it to be pretty freaking spectacular. Let's do this, 2024. I'm ready for you!