[Note: I started doing an annual recap back in 2010. You can find previous years here: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2021 - 2020 got skipped for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the pandemic that shall not be named.]
Here's the TL;DR: last year was hard as hell, so this year, it's all about creating more ease in every possible way. I'm not accepting any more Incubator clients after June, limiting my coaching availability, raising rates on coaching & consulting, and offering more free training throughout the year inside our new community.
Last year's recap was a podcast episode. While it was expedient to do it that way, it left me feeling... well... like I didn't do it "right".
Shoulding all over myself. Not-enoughing it. Cranking it out and then feeling bad about it.
But it is what it is. And it's done. Over. Finished.
Just like 2022.
I almost wrote an apology for the length of this post, but I'm not going to apologize for being real. My best clients read long posts. They want the details because they know the details matter in business and might save them a world of hurt. As a business coach and consultant, I've never apologized for being my own guinea pig. It's how I learn what really works and how to translate that to my clients for their own success - without the painful learning curve.
So yeah, this will probably be long. #NotSorry
While we did okay income-wise, it was a roller coaster of a year.
Just before the year began, we returned to Nashville from Mississippi. Jim accepted a new teaching job, so we sold our house and moved. Rental rates being what they are in Nashville, we signed a 10 month lease, thinking we'd have plenty of time to find a home, put in an offer, and move again before we had to renew.
We thought wrong.
Jim's employment situation ended up being more precarious. Two jobs after we moved back to Nashville, Jim was physically exhausted, emotionally drained, and by January of 2022, decided to take a 6 month sabbatical.
My eldest had also joined us from Michigan. It was his "Hail, Mary pass" - he certainly didn't want to leave Michigan, but he didn't have a place to stay. He found work doing foam insulation and settled in for a while. Having another person in our otherwise empty nest made for some growing pains, but we managed.
The physical and emotional demands of 2022 took their toll on me. It drove home the point that I'm not 20 anymore and my mental and physical health have been low-priority for too long. Having major surgery two years in a row also took a toll on my mental health. By the end of the year I wanted to take a break from EVERYTHING. Even after I took my year-end vacation, I came back to work with a sense of dread. Too much of what I didn't want and too little of what I did want... and I had painted myself into this corner in many ways.
I started 2022 by celebrating my birthday with COVID.
It was, hands down, the worst start to any year. Even the year my ex forgot my birthday I was at least able to go out and be with friends. This year, I was alone, sequestered in my office. Tortuous to an extrovert like me.
The physical demands of the year were steep: I got the final stent out from November's surgery. I had sciatica on and off for the first half of the year that led to back surgery in September. And we packed our home and moved again. This time to Indiana. We had to stay in a hotel room for three weeks before we could move into our home, so we really moved TWICE - once into a storage unit and then a second time into our Indiana residence.
My doctor said I need to be walking more throughout the day - meaning I have to change my work schedule to accommodate my new physical demands. AND I'm in physical therapy as part of my recovery from back surgery (I still have numbness in parts of my foot).
But the emotional demands were even greater.
The added financial and emotional stress of having a partner out of work left me feeling like I was carrying too much for too long. I'm thankful that I'm married to a swell guy who understands the importance of communication. We were able to keep talking throughout a very stressful time, which did help things. That and providing for my son - while he looked for a new job after our move to Indiana - increased my emotional load.
I've pretty much ignored my physical needs for most of my life - mostly putting other folks first to my own detriment. It's a hard habit to break. Now, basically being forced to put so much attention and time into caring for myself was as much of an emotional adjustment as it was a physical one.
The depression and anxiety around being able to work (or not being able to work), hit me hard when I spent 11 days laid up in my bed while I waited for my surgery date. Every movement was excruciating, and I've never cried as much as I did then. I lost 10 pounds because I only ate or drank what was absolutely necessary. By the end, I wasn't even going to the bathroom anymore because there was nothing in me.
To be clear: my family brought me food and drink. I just didn't consume much because everything hurt all the time and I didn't want to make things hurt MORE.
The cherry on top was that the earliest my surgery could be scheduled happened to fall right in the middle of my annual client retreat.
Laying in bed for 11 days gave me plenty of thinking time. About everything we were doing inside my company - and everything I wasn't doing that I wanted to be doing. About how things needed to be different when I got back to work. I remember sharing in one of my mastermind meetings that I was doing so much stuff, but so little of it was what I WANTED to do. It was more about keeping commitments and fulfilling obligations I'd made long ago.
Because the hotel was kind, we were able to re-schedule my client retreat. I'm grateful that people re-arranged their schedules and I LOVE doing this event every year. Still, it took a lot more out of me to ensure that folks who couldn't attend got what they paid for. I don't regret doing it, because I love my clients. It was just harder to make everything work.
Then, I got COVID again for Christmas. It was harder this time. I still have an infrequent cough that leaves me gasping for air every time it strikes.
DAMN, I feel old!
Integrity and honoring commitments are important to me. Maybe a little TOO important!
The older I get, the more important ease becomes. You never know when a pinched nerve could take you out of commission for 11 days! Having a business that fully supports me, regardless of what's happening in my personal life, has to be more important than continuing to honor commitments that don't support my well-being.
I learned the hard way that my company can't yet handle more than that.
Thanks to the Federal EIDL, I made several investments in my business. Some turned out great, while others are still waiting to see a positive Return On Resources.
I expected my messaging work with Dr. Michelle Mazur to be a year-long adventure - because it takes time to roll out new messaging and get it to stick in the mind of your audience. As part of that roll out, we planned to redirect some of our marketing energy to Linked In, to build an audience there. My existing VA was training my new VA to handle the projects that weren't time sensitive. Between the two of them, it looked like we were finally going to get some momentum in our marketing.
Then... MAN DOWN!
My "old" VA found a full time job and transitioned out by the end of the month. The "new" VA I had just brought on to cover low-pressure projects was suddenly thrust into doing EVERYTHING.
So, um, LOTS of... um... pressure.
I should have slowed down, scaled back, and focused on one thing at a time. But I didn't.
I found a VA agency to work with and that sort of helped. My new new VA was learning from my old new VA, which was more like a game of telephone than making meaningful progress. I didn't have the spoons to take the work back onto my plate, and our income wasn't supporting having so many people on the team.
We were able to get the podcast up and running, but not much else. It was at this point when I almost shut everything down and walked away.
If it weren't for my clients, that is. Having those commitments kept us afloat. Even if I was stressed to the max on every other front, working with my clients gave me hope for a better tomorrow.
I made two other investments that still haven't panned out: I hired an agency that guaranteed placements on top podcasts. The original commitment was that they get results for most of their clients within 4 months. That seemed pretty ambitious to me, especially since this was being presented as a beta test offer. But hey, it was guaranteed placement, so I figured the ROI would be worth the investment.
A year later, I'm still waiting for half of those "guaranteed" bookings to materialize.
I also hired a company to direct and film my videos. This was part investment, part experiment. I wanted to get video editing off my plate, so I took a chance to see if someone else could handle it. This company promised to help script, direct, produce, and edit my videos.
I thought this would be a great way to bring video back to Season 7 of our show, but it didn't turn out that way. Sadly, their editor lived in Ukraine and, well, WAR broke out over there, so everything stalled.
I'm no tyrant, so of course I was willing to change our timelines. Besides, this was an experiment. I didn't put all my eggs in this basket. We went ahead with Season 7 as a podcast-only season. We managed to make it through the year, but our results were less than stellar.
By June, the agency director had shifted directions and was focused on short-form content for social (think: tiktok & reels). Short form content is NOT my jam, but I filmed a few pieces of content under his direction. He also promised me access to a course he was teaching to help me learn how to create better short form content.
It is February of 2023 as I write this and I am still waiting for access to the course that was promised last year.
Trying to keep too many balls in the air was a disaster - and resulted in a LOT of dropped balls! This year's focus on ease should help, but it's also an important reminder to me to focus on one thing at a time, since we're not a huge team of people that can tackle eleventy jillion things at once.
By the end of 2022, I was feeling apathetic and "meh" about so much. As I considered every aspect of my business, I recognized I had strayed from my own mantra of "define and achieve success on your own terms".
I was letting other people's terms dictate what was possible for me.
Over the past 7 years, I've focused a lot of resources into supporting our Incubator clients. It became our primary income source, which was never the goal. Combined, our handful of clients have created close to two million dollars in real revenue. Many of these folks started from zero, so that's a major accomplishment we can all be proud of!
I love seeing them make progress toward their dreams, but it's happening at the expense of my own.
As I said, the Incubator was never meant to be my company's primary income source. My original vision for was to be able to fund the program to the level where we had dedicated staff supporting clients on all the admin as well has having a spare coach to pick up some of the coaching hours.
We probably could have hit that goal, were it not for the pandemic of 2020. Too much team instability meant we couldn't get our systems locked in.
You can't grow if you aren't stable.
And we simply didn't have the level of stability, nor the cashflow to do things differently. So while I'm proud of our accomplishments, that old Marilyn Monroe quote keeps playing in my head:
Sometimes good things have to fall apart so that better things can fall together.
I wrestled with the question: Do I want to continue trying to work this model at the expense of the other dreams I want to pursue?
But then there's this: I have my own anxiety around not leaving anyone hanging. I don't want to let people down - especially not my clients! I can't just quit what I'm doing and leave them in the lurch!
I love my clients. I love helping them AND I want to see my own dreams take root and grow. Those things shouldn't be mutually exclusive.
I enjoy coaching and consulting, but I have to do it in ways that work for how I'm wired to work.
That's why we're phasing out the Incubator and introducing some new ways to work with me. I'm not accepting new Incubator clients after June (if you want in, you better get moving!). Anyone currently in the program can stay until they graduate. We'll phase out the program through attrition.
In order to grow our audience and continue to support our existing folks, I'm rolling out a new workshop each month during the first half of the year. We hosted the Customer Journey Workshop in January and our Build Your Promo Plan Workshop series is next week! March will have our content creation sprint, and quarterly planning. April will see the return of our Cashflow Creator workshop. We'll cycle through these workshops throughout the year and unveil an all-new three day event in fall: Creative Freedom LIVE! It's nothing like our client retreat, which used to fly under this banner, so if you've been around for a while, know that this is an entirely new event, built around the content in my book.
As a Fusion creative, I need to do more than one thing, otherwise I feel stifled. I enjoy teaching business building concepts and I especially enjoy working hands-on with folks to help them get results and clarity NOW. But I have a growing need for the flexibility of short-term commitments, which are also better for how I'm wired to work. That means I'll be offering more short-term coaching and consulting, including one-day/half-day intensives and single sessions.
Giving people a way to work one-on-one with me in a more concentrated way works better for how I'm wired. Plus, my best clients often prefer to work in this way - a 2-hour sprint or a day-long intensive to hammer out a plan and start seeing results before we're even done. They don't have months to consume a course and learn as they go. They need clarity now.
I enjoy being on podcasts, but hosting my own podcast isn't as fun or profitable as I'd hoped. According to our numbers, the "shelf life" of an audio episode doesn't begin to compare to our video show. So, we're bringing it back.
I tabled the video show half way through 2021 because of our move. I wanted to resurrect it in 2022, but our experiment failed and then we were moving AGAIN! Housing uncertainty is NOT a good situation for shooting video!
That said, the numbers don't lie. Video is better for me for a variety of reasons:
Since it looks like we're going to stay in Indiana for a while, I'll have a base of operations to make video production easier. It may mean editing content in-house, but it's worth it to reach more people, have a bigger impact and see our audience growing again.
The plan for our show this year is to split the difference: videos with deeper, richer content, but not as long as the podcast episodes. Instead of going 10-15 minutes, our show will likely run 15-20 minutes and live on both our podcast and video feed. We'll re-assess at the end of the season to see how the numbers shake out.
It seemed like the only thing that was easy last year was my relationship with Jim. Despite the ups and downs of the year, Jim was a steady, loving presence through it all. Where my previous partner would shut down and not communicate, Jim stayed in the room. He was willing to have hard conversations and make tough decisions with me, instead of leaving it all up to me to figure out.
He raised me up and kept believing in me... in us... through all the hard stuff of the past couple of years. Even on his sabbatical, he was consistently showing up in our relationship. THAT is the greatest blessing I've ever experienced.
In fact, one of the hardest things I've been able to do is lean into his love and support. Trusting that he really DOES love me, that he really DOES think the world of me. That he means it when he says "I love you forever. No take backs!" I haven't been able to trust that in the past, and his steady, loving presence is a strength I get to learn to trust.
And I want more.
More supportive, trusting relationships that lift me up, see my potential, and want to see me shine. I'm being more proactive in my outreach - despite how scary it feels sometimes. Last year, I invested in a mastermind group that helped open that door. Our facilitator really gave a damn about us... about me. I could feel that in our conversations. I learned more about what being "coffee worthy" really meant.
This year, I'm amping that up. I'm part of an international networking group for women. I'm actively connecting with more of them on a more consistent basis. Not necessarily to drive more business (although, that's nice), but more so to develop a solid, supportive community around me.
If there's one thing I've learned about myself, it's that I don't "do alone" very well. I get in my head and sometimes get stuck there. But I also don't "do community" the way other people do (hello, neurodivergence!). It takes a lot of effort and energy for me to feel connected or feel like I belong in a group. That's my growing edge.
I'm also curating a community space of my own. For years, we've hosted our Accountability Club on Facebook and our Rising Tide learning library on my website. Neither was fully optimized and both languished a bit because of it. It took time to explore some different options that made sense. For a while, no one wanted to leave Facebook. Now, you can't stop them from jumping ship. After a bit of research, we made the decision to migrate everything to a new platform this year. Migrating and integrating everything takes time, though. Our goal is to have the new Rising Tide/Accountability Club space ready for visitors in Q2.
I recorded this mashup almost 10 years ago...long before I left Michigan (or my first husband). But it's pretty appropriate for this year's focus. I was sick that day. But I showed up anyway. And I kept it easy.
Easy, like Sunday morning.
That's my theme for the year, so this song makes perfect sense - and it's a silly video that reminds me of how much fun it was to do this work then. I'm bringing that fun and ease back in every possible way.
Hope to see you on the ride!
It's my birthday - or will be by the time this post goes live. That means it's once again time for my year in review, for those among you interested in the inner workings of me, myself, and I. If you're new to this ride, you might want to check some of the previous years' posts to catch up. Otherwise, strap yourself in, because we're taking a ride in the way-back machine to this time last year.
One of the phrases my clients are probably tired of hearing me say is "Plan. Do. Evaluate." It was something I learned from my kid when he lived in the wilderness camp for two years. They did it every day. I'm not so gung ho, so the beginning of a new year is a great time to look back, see what went well, where things went off the rails, and begin to formulate a new plan for this year.
My 2018 theme was Wealth and Health. My definition was "finding the appropriate balance for me between making a living and having a life; Working in a way that affords me the ability to enjoy my life, while experiencing wealth and happiness at a deeper, soul level, with a sense of peace and contentment I’ve never had before."
So that was the "plan" part. The "doing" didn't go as well as I'd imagined, but not nearly as bad as I'd feared. My 2017 theme was Collaboration, and I doubled down on that in 2018, bringing on a few new (and amazing) part-time team members to round out the organization. I got a LOT better at trusting Jeanie to do the work... maybe a little too well. There were times when I found myself with little to do - and no motivation to step things up. I found myself going through a mild depression about half way through the year that lasted most of the third quarter. More on that as we look at how I fared in my 5 Key Area goals.
This year, I wanted to trust more deeply. Opening myself to a loving relationship wasn't really on my mind when I set my goals for the year, but nothing sets you up to trust more deeply like new love. I met and fell hard for a guy that checks boxes I didn't even know I had. That was one of the biggest surprise blessings of the year. It hasn't been easy to let go of old stories, patterns, and habits. 10+ years of marriage creates some deep ruts in the routine patterns of your brain. It also came with challenges that really forced me to examine my beliefs about life, God, and really, everything. The year-end result is exactly what I'd hoped for, even if it didn't happen the way I'd planned. I know myself more deeply. I trust my decisions more fully, and I feel infinitely more confident in my relationships because of it.
About mid-year, I got the intuitive guidance that I needed to pare down everything and get ready to move. So I did. I put nearly everything in storage, expecting that I'd go on the road once my youngest was back home with his dad. That didn't happen. At the very last minute, I found a new apartment on the opposite side of town and I've been there ever since. It worked out so effortlessly, that it felt like Divine timing.
Trust the process, right?
We had some clients complete the Incubator earlier than expected (all but one was a Chaotic creative, which is another story for another day). That also called me into a deeper relationship with my sense of Faith. It's easy to say "letting go of a client makes room for something even better". It's another thing to believe it and live by it. I expected this might happen as the Incubator grew - a function of needing to refine our screening process as our pool of applicants grew. Several clients were entering a business downturn when they came to us (normal in every business), and when cash flow slowed, it scared me a bit. I had to lean harder into my Faith, trust the process, and keep showing up to do the work in front of us.
This year's goal was a continuation of last year. I needed to continue to rehabilitate and strengthen my relationship with myself. My ex remarried in a surprise wedding in China, which created a lot of unexpected emotional stuff for me. As an advocate for my child (who still lives with my former husband), there were a lot of unanswered questions about his new stepmother and stepbrother. As someone still friends with my ex, it was another emotional blow in the trust department. The emotional tailspin found me unable to complete the Creative Freedom shooting season, and we ended with only 10 episodes - my shortest season to date.
I spent the rest of the summer hanging with my kid and my new sweetheart, digging into those relationships for some stability and comfort. Intellectually, I knew that I had no longer been attached to my ex husband for well over a year, but emotionally, the marriage started a grieving process I didn't even know I needed. So I took it easy all summer, until we were able to finally tell my son the big news. Initially, he seemed shocked, but took it well. As time has gone on, however, he's had some emotional "leaks" that indicate he's trying to wrap his 12 year-old brain around what's happening to his family.
I felt the final stitches of my family ties unravel this year. My last trip back to Michigan brought some joy, but a lot of pain, and it became clear that it's not my home anymore. It's where my kids live. It's where some of my best friends are. But it's not home.
2018 was a year of immense clarity for me in my relationship to myself. I've gotten much better at being my own advocate - before I need to learn a hard lesson about boundaries. 🙂
On the one hand, this year was a joke in the physical fitness department. I didn't hit my goals and I found myself undoing all the progress I'd made in 2017. On the other, I learned a LOT about my body. A trip to the ER got me more focused and curious about how nutrition really affects me. I learned that iron is inversely related to blood pressure. So if my iron is higher, my blood pressure is lower. I didn't learn it from the ER doc who was treating me for a migraine, tho. I learned it from donating blood at Red Cross. This year I learned a LOT about what works for my body (and what doesn't) - mostly through trial and error. I learned that, while I'm grateful for medical doctors, they're overworked and focus on symptoms more often than causes. It's up to me to be in the know about my body and what it needs to be healthy. I've been lazy about that all my life. That changed this year.
My emotional funk also did a number on my mental well-being this year. Despite having a fantastic relationship with a guy that I see as a real blessing in my life, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. We each hard plenty of relationship fear and baggage that was triggering us, and it took patience to drop the baggage and hold each other instead. Suffice it to say that 2018 was an emotional roller coaster that gave me a lot to be grateful for after a LOT of emotional labor to be ready for those blessings.
It was a banner year at Ark Entertainment Media. We did more than double our previous year's earnings, making it one of the highest-grossing years of my entrepreneurial career. We expanded the Incubator this year, which helped bolster revenue, but book and course sales were higher, with an average 33.73% of my revenue coming from leveraged offerings. My goal was 60%, so I fell short, but with the business downturn in Q3/4, I'm pleased with the final outcome, since we're on track to do even better in 2019.
One of the interesting things that I discovered was that Portable Coaching is a great feeder to my other offers. In fact, by the end of the year, most of the people who started Portable Coaching had graduated to A-Club or another program. Since I didn't market it heavily, the program didn't get many new enrollments. On the other hand, A-Club doubled in size this year, and our retention rate is still around 80% with an average member lifespan of about 20 months. Still one of the highest in the industry, as far as I know. And we just added private coaching as a "consistency incentive" to stick with the program, so I think we're going to do even better as we move forward.
I added coaching because I realized how much more progress people can make with even just a little help from me. Clarity matters, and a good coach can help you get that clarity quickly.
After the launch of my book, Creative Freedom, I saw a flurry of activity from radio stations, podcasters, and other media outlets that wanted to talk about the book and my process for helping creative entrepreneurs make good money doing what they love. My goal is at least one interview or guest post a month, and that's a goal I'm maintaining this year. We're entering year three of the Creative Freedom brand and season 5 of the show is just around the corner. Yes. I got out of my funk long enough to develop a content plan to re-launch the show very soon.
I feel like I lived in a sense of Health and Wealth last year, but it certainly didn't look at all like I expected it to. I'm glad 2018 is over, and i'm already soaking up the rays of 2019. It's a beautiful day in Nashville today, and, for the first time in a long time, I have fun plans to be with someone I love on my birthday. That is no small thing for me. It's more meaningful than me winning the lottery without buying a ticket. More meaningful than bigger gestures. Just staying true to what I really want and seeing that become reality. I want more of that in my life, and this is a great start to my year.
It's a #BraveNewYear for me, and as Gavin said, I don't want to be anything other than me. The writer. The Performer. The Singer. The teacher and coach. The friend, lover, and mother. Just me. And be well-compensated for it. This year, it's about a new album, a new publishing division (got a book inside you? Let's talk!), and new ways to reach even more creative entrepreneurs to help them own their dreams without selling their soul. There's more, and it'll come in time, but for now, that's the news that's fit to print. I'm off to enjoy my birthday!
[Note: for the past 7 years, I've posted an annual re-cap of the highs and lows, lessons learned, etc. After the roller coaster that was 2016, I'm pleased to say it was more up than down. You can find previous years here: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016]
It's a simple concept that was drilled into my family when my eldest went off to spend 2+ years in a wilderness camp for boys with emotional difficulties. Make a plan, execute to the best of your abilities, and when it's all said and done, evaluate what went well, what didn't, and how you can improve for the next set of plans.
With the spate of childhood icons and heroes that died this year, it would be easy to tell 2016 to "suck it", but looking at the whole year opened my eyes to just how good things really were.
My 2016 Theme was Radiance. My biggest faith goals were focused in on faith in myself and my abilities as a performer and coach. There were days - weeks even - when it took every ounce of my being to feel the slightest bit radiant. Months where it didn't feel like I was shining at all.
Moving away from my family and friends was an act of courage that took a lot out of me. I landed in a great spot, and I still had to learn how to be on my own. Never in my entire life have I ever lived completely alone. I either had a kid, a room mate, or some other family living with me.
I started the year thinking that radiance was something other people saw through me. I ended the year realizing that I shine for no one but myself - and only then can that light be seen by anyone else.
"It's just the fear of falling that makes my lose my grip ." - Step By Step, Annie Lennox
I had some impressive money stuff happen. 2016 started with the SOLD OUT launch The Fine Line. THAT was incredible. I actually had PR people reaching out to talk about possible radio airplay. Most of it didn't pan out, but it was nice to be approached like that, considering it's been about 10 years since the last album.
Creative Freedom season 2 was abbreviated due to my relocation to Nashville, but it got great reviews and I'm gearing up or Season 3 and a new podcast to add a new dimension to the shows. My friend and client, Pam, offered her basement space as a studio, which gave the show a much needed upgrade in look and feel. We also upgraded the audio, and added new graphic elements designed by Tracy Lay at Digivisual Design. She and I sat down early in the year and started fleshing out the new direction for my branding. I'm looking forward to a new web site in 2017, too! Tracy is an amazingly gifted artist, and I'm one lucky gal to have her in my corner.
I grew revenue back into 5 figures after a planned downturn in 2015. I launched 2 new experimental programs to support creative entrepreneurs: Accountability Club and the Incubator - both of which did exceptionally well. I even won the lottery - without playing!
Not knowing how it would pan out, A-Club lasted the entire year with impressive retention rates. Only one enrollee dropped before the end of the year. The Incubator has been a long-time dream of mine that I had been sitting on, waiting for it to be "perfect" - the curse of many Fusion creatives. So I decided to launch it imperfectly and SOLD OUT before the initial enrollment period closed. I was going to re-open the enrollment period in January, but it looks like we're going to be full from wait list applicants. So I'm be rolling out Accountability Club enrollment instead (doors are open now, hint hint).
I also saw a sharp increase in sales for Direct Sales Classroom - again, with no promotional effort on my part. Truly passive income is a joy to behold! The downside is that it's unpredictable, so I either have to build it into my marketing plan for 2017 or just enjoy it when it shows up. For now, the plan is just to enjoy it. I've already got other fun stuff in the works, including Creative Freedom Live in October!
"There's a road I have to follow, a place I have to go. Well no-one told me just how to get there, but when I get there I'll know." - Step by Step, Annie Lennox
The move created a bunch of unplanned expenses on both the personal and professional front, but thanks to Profitability 2.0, I had my most profitable year EVER in business: more income, more free time, and more fun - thank heaven!
It was also a great year for media coverage. The work I did with Creative Freedom and the 300 songs project saw about a dozen placements in podcasts, interviews, and guest posts across the interwebs. People got excited about my research into the creative entrepreneur spectrum and many took my free quiz to discover their own creative entrepreneur type.
This was a year of family transitions. In no particular order, my youngest hit double digits. My eldest turned 20. My youngest cousin got married. My eldest Aunt was diagnosed with cancer. I moved to Nashville, and my husband and I have filed for and are now waiting on the outcome of our divorce.
The boys visited me in Nasvhille, and we all spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together. My husband and I are not just civil, we're friends. I don't think I could have said that for most of our marriage. Our relationship is SO much better this way. It's a lot easier in many respects (and yes, harder in others). We each brought our own expectations to our marriage. When those expectations didn't get met, resentment, frustration, fear, and anger were the predominant emotions that one or the other of us was dealing with on a daily basis. We both decided early on in the process to focus on the kids. I told my husband that my goal was to be able to sit across from him at our kids' weddings and still be friendly to each other. We both came from divorced parentage, and we wanted our kids to have a different, more empowering picture of what divorce could look like. So far, so good. Without the expectations of marriage between us, we both seem happier and able to appreciate each other's company on the whole. There's a lot less taking each other for granted, and a LOT more gratitude.
Liam's still trying to wrap his brain around having parents that aren't married to each other, but he seems to be adjusting well. Forest is stepping into adulthood and flexing his wings to fly. I pray for him daily. He's got a good head on his shoulders, but - like any Chaotic creative - gets distracted easily when it comes to matters of the heart.
"I know you're hurting but don't let the bad things get to you." - Step By Step, Annie Lennox
Saying goodbye to my mastermind group was probably one of the hardest 'family' relationship moves of the year. For the past 3-4 years, these local women have been my rock, my source of comfort & joy, and generally great models of human beings in my life. Plus, they give great hugs.
That's been the hardest transition of all. Living completely alone means I can go days at a time without any physical touch. I used to get hugs every day from one person or another, and I find that's the thing I miss the most right now. Sometimes I'll intentionally brush the cashier's hand when they give me back my change at the store, just so I have some human contact. It sounds creepier than it is, I promise.
I was grateful that my transition to Nashville was eased by Tajci Cameron and her wonderful family, who hosted me for a month, while I figured out my living situation. I only know a handful of people in the state of Tennessee, and Tajci's family welcomed me like I was one of their own. I also got to reconnect with a couple of my theater peeps who had moved to Tennessee long before I ever did. They're not in Nashville, but they're close enough to make it a day trip.
I continued my challenge to read more good books, and was fortunate enough the help launch a few into the world. Nely Galan made a splash this year with "Self Made," Mike Michalowicz brought "Surge" to life, and Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy gave us "Living Forward" - a book about developing a plan for your life, not just your work. In fact, I researched and reviewed nearly a dozen planning tools this year as I set about the re-launch of The PEACE System and Dreamblazing - tools I continue to use to map out the direction of my life and work.
Overall, I read about 50 books - some new, some old, some repeats, and for the first time, I gave myself permission to STOP reading books that just didn't do it for me. As a recovering "all or nothing" girl, that was a HUGE awareness for me.
In the physical fitness department, I've managed to increase and get more consistent with my physical exercise, and eliminated most of the gluten and dairy in my daily diet. That was one of the hardest personal tasks for the year, but moving to Nashville made it a LOT easier. I simply don't bring it into the house! That's also made it easier to avoid it when I go out to eat, because I don't miss it anymore. In all, I've lost about 10 pounds since I relocated, and the downward trend seems to be continuing, with a small uptick while I've been back in Michigan for the holidays.
"Don't give up. You got to keep on moving on. Don't stop." - Step By Step, Annie Lennox
I got my dream car... and then this happened:
My son survived the quarter-mile rollover with minimal injuries, but the car was not so lucky. It happened, believe it or not, on the same day Ben and I went to meet with the divorce lawyer. It was a blessing in disguise, since the Jeep was the one asset that was posing a problem for the divorce. Once the car was totaled, it wasn't an issue anymore. And thank GOD for gap coverage - it paid off the outstanding loan, which set me up for a big upgrade this fall:
My own car, my own apartment, and all the responsibilities that go along with them. You'd think that someone who works regularly with 6 and 7-figure income earners that this would be no big deal. But it's YYUUUUUUGE. My husband and I committed to a lower standard of living based on some old money stories that caused part of our marital problems. When I got clarity around that, I gave myself permission own who I am and what really matters to me. Part of that is a strong sense of freedom and interdependence, which made the move to Nashville a logical one.
"Just like a new excursion upon an open road, I've got the will to take me just where I want to go." - Step By Step, Annie Lennox
In an effort to learn the town and get out more, I picked up driving for Uber/Lyft from time to time. It's made for some interesting experiences and great stories. I've met some nifty people that taught me about both Nashville and myself.
NOT doing everything by myself. Asking for help, support, and the genius of others. Just because I live on my own, doesn't mean I have to be ALONE. I want to do more work directly with amazing people. I'm launching FOUR initiatives this year: Portable Coaching, Income Generator, Business Accelerator, and Creative Freedom Live. All of them are designed to be hands-on collaborative tools to help creative entrepreneurs make more money doing what they love without selling their souls to do it. Oh, and I'm still in the throes of writing Creative Freedom (the book), so I've got plenty on my plate this year!
I've also started making other changes to my business model - like creating a full-year promo calendar so that YOU can see what's coming down the pike for my business. One of the things that's always bugged me about the Internet Marketing world is that most product launches have a 2-week window for you to make a buying decision. That's great for them, but hard on you, because if you haven't already budgeted for it, you very often feel pressure to buy. A real business doesn't plow money into every shiny object that comes along. They make a spending plan for the year and budget for their expenses. Once it's complete, you'll know what's coming up so that you can make a smart plan for your life and business. You'll also be on the inside track for early-bird offers that are only available to my subscribers. This is something I've wanted to do for years, but like the Incubator, I kept waiting for it to be perfect - which, of course, it never will be.
Collaboration often means slowing down a little at first. That's a challenge for Fusion creatives, and one I'm ready to take on. This will also be the year I step back during the summer. Our new custody arrangement means my youngest will be with me during the summer, and I'm re-structuring my business to accommodate that change. I want to be fully present as much as possible with my kid, and I'm currently looking at support team options to make the transition smooth.
2017 is going to be a fun adventure! I just have to take it one step at a time.
"Step by step. Bit by bit. Stone by stone. Brick by brick." - Step By Step, Annie Lennox
[Editor’s note: This is the next installment in a series of posts. Each year since November, 2010, I've posted an annual re-cap of my happenings and a projection of things to come. If you're ambitious, curious, or just plain bored, you can find the previous posts here: 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 ]
For six years now, I've been selecting a theme to carry me into the new year. I'll get to this year's theme shortly, but before I do, let's look back at the crazy, effed-up, wonderfully horrible year we called 2015.
The theme for 2015 was Compassionate Determination, which was about creating my own niche, living as myself more consistently, and not wearing so many masks in my life and work. As I mentioned in my previous post, it's about progress, not perfection, and being consistent met with more challenges than I anticipated. I'll admit that sometimes I forgot it. It's easy to get overwhelmed in the day to day of working and living. I think John Lennon said "life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" and that was a clear reflection of 2015. So much "life" happened.
Here's my recap of my 5 Key Areas of Success:
From a financial perspective, 2015 was awful. My total business income was roughly $3k.
Nope, that's not a typo. I didn't leave off a zero. Yes, it's scary to admit that.
Three thousand dollars. $3,000. USD.
And if I hadn't planned on it, everything else would have sucked, too.
Some would call me "lucky" and say that because I had a husband to "take care of me" I didn't need to make any money. But that's not true. My business has to stand on its own - without sucking money out of our family finances. I paid myself for the work I did during the year, and still managed to have one of the most profitable years on record (percentage-wise) in my business because of the strategies I implemented in 2014. Profitability, for me, is not just about the money anymore. It's about the quality of life.
Two things I knew I wanted to accomplish this year: re-focus my brand and get my album, The Fine Line, out into the world. A good portion of my income this year came in during my work on the web series $30 Days to $5k. It might be a spoiler to tell you that I didn't hit that goal, but the experiment in offering paid entertainment programming was a big success. I filmed a 30 day reality-type series and offered it for about what you'd expect to pay for a season of your favorite TV show. It was one of my biggest-selling offers of the year. People who watched it said they got a lot out of it and it gave them a deeper insight into what really matters to them as well as who I am and how I operate in the world.
As for re-focusing my brand, well, that wasn't as easy as I'd hoped. I began my online coaching journey about 10 years ago, working with direct sellers almost exclusively. In fact, Direct Sales Classroom and its flagship program, Direct Sales 101, still serve clients from all over the world, even though I don't promote that website much at all. People still find that site via search engines, which speaks to how well it's positioned in the marketplace, despite my lack of attention through the years.
A few years ago, as my audience expanded, I started waffling back and forth, working with all kinds of entrepreneurs. Best selling authors, direct sales leaders, and even people who have chronic health problems have come to me seeking new ways to reach more of their right people using the internet. It made it very difficult to clarify who I help best. As a result, I had clients all over the map, and I couldn't figure out their common denominator in a way that would allow me to speak to them with confidence and clarity... something I'm pretty good at helping other people do.
"I ran away in shame and pride, but the echo in my heart keeps telling me to try." - What Love Can Do
So, 2015 was the year I dug in and got market clarity. I researched, tested, tweaked, interviewed, listened, and spent countless hours honing in. Some would say I spent too much time listening, and not enough time "shipping", but I disagree. I debuted the first season of "Creative Freedom", launched two new training programs, an album, and the aforementioned paid web series. Add to that my music videos with Des, and it was a pretty full year - it just wasn't focused on making a lot of money. It was focused on testing the market, validating demand, and really listening to what my audience was telling me.
So often entrepreneurs, especially creatives, throw so much spaghetti on the wall they don't have time to see what's really sticking because they're too busy cleaning up their mess. Chaotic Creatives want everything to show up a certain way. Linear Creatives want results YESTERDAY, and Fusions want it all.
In that pursuit, there's a lot of rushing, a lot of hurry, a lot of "hustle" that, frankly, can kill you, and I wasn't having any of that.
On the physical fitness front, I learned a lot about what triggers me as an emotional eater. I learned that I have cycles of "bad eating choices" that coincide with school breaks. In short, when the kids are home, I stress out and eat more... or at least, I did, until I figured that out. Now, I'm spending more time in my new office (more on that in a bit), and less in the kitchen - which was the hub of activity in our old house. I'm inching my way down the scale, and I'm buying smaller clothes. All good signs in my book.
I also watched "the hustle" nearly ruin four colleagues last year. They all hit major financial milestones, but their health and mental well-being fell apart. One nearly died from a burst appendix because they were "playing through the pain" to complete a project launch. Sure, they hit six figures, but it cost them a lengthy hospital stay in the process. Another pushed so hard to launch her program and hit seven figures (while she was pregnant and due any day), that after it was all over, she spent a week doing nothing but waking up, feeding the baby, and going back to sleep. She admitted to being depressed, unmotivated, and exhausted.
Gee, I can't imagine why.
To be clear: they were not my clients. I don't advocate that kind of approach. The "push. push, push" approach to "fast cash" attacks the heart of what it really takes to build a profitable, sustainable business. Sure you can work like crazy (well, some people can), but then you have no life. I remember the great Jazz vocalist, Wesla Whitfield, once saying that people told her she'd never have a career in Jazz if she stayed in San Francisco. She replied "That's right! I'll have a life!"
This fabulous woman - who was paralyzed by a shooting in her twenties - is a staple in Jazz music, with over 500 songs in her repertoire, dozens of albums to her credit, and a musical legacy that has inspired people all over the country. She's been doing what she loves for decades, despite her circumstances, and making a good living doing it.
That is what profitable and sustainable looks like. Yes, it's glamorous to brag about making millions of dollars in less than half a nanosecond, but that's not the norm. Not for creative entrepreneurs who are in it for the long haul.
And I am.
On the mental fitness front, I challenged myself and read over 25 books this year - and not all of them non fiction! I spent time with Shakespeare's sonnets and whole lot of Dr. Seuss, alongside helping Lewis Howes and Michael Port launch their new books into the world last fall.
In the process, I got inspired to write another book, which is nearing completion. Creative Freedom is a how-to book specifically for Creative Entrepreneurs who want to make good money doing what they love serving an audience that loves them right back. I spent a good part of the year meeting, interviewing, and learning about all kinds of creatives, which led me to develop my Creative Freedom Entrepreneur Type Quiz. Hundreds of people have taken the quiz and it's been a big help to my research for the book.
I also met some really fascinating people (that's me and Tajci Cameron in the photo), reconnected with some old friends and colleagues, and had some challenging conversations about race, gender, diversity, and inclusion. I was really proud of myself for NOT shying away from those conversations, which I might have done in previous years, just to avoid conflict. Being myself, fully and completely, means being willing to speak my truth, in love, with the people that matter most to me.
That wasn't always easy this year.
Which brings me to the hardest subject of the recap. The people that matter most to me. As I mentioned in my last post, 2015 was a long slog at figuring out what really matters. What's staying, what's going, and all that jazz. We talked early in the year about relocating to Nashville, but that didn't happen. Lots of emotional baggage and childhood trauma reared its head. Tempers flared. Things were said. We survived it. The upshot was my need for freedom. To be mobile, agile, and able to travel. I need people. My husband doesn't. He's content to live like a hermit. I am not. So we bought a house (which actually saved us a good deal of money every month),and upgraded my car.
Then, I asked my husband for a divorce.
I don't say that glibly. There's no joy in that sentence. It's taken years to make this decision, and I didn't make it lightly. I truly love my husband and want nothing but the best for him. Even after 12 years together (10 as a married couple), our wants and needs are still in opposition to one another, and that's painful for both of us. If one of us is happy, the other is frustrated or feeling anxious, which doesn't make it easy to be married to each other. I want him to be truly happy, in a meaningful relationship with someone that is in alignment with what he wants and needs. I want that for myself, too. I believe we'll both have happier, more enjoyable lives if we're not married to each other.
"My wounds are deep, I can't deny. And the salty rivers flow down my face 'til they run dry." - What Love Can Do
So while I intended to take only a month off for the move last fall, it turned into a season-long hiatus because of depression, fear, and other emotional baggage that I had to work through to come clean in my relationship with my husband. There's no need for commentary, and we're still in the early stages of sorting this through. We're committed to doing this our way as much as possible - focused on doing right by our son, giving him the best possible environment in which to thrive, with no mud-slinging, fighting, or passive-aggressive behavior. We're still in the same house. We're still co-parenting, and for now, there are no plans to change that. I'm sure that will evolve as time moves on, but for now, that's where we're at and it works for us.
The new album is out in the world and has already outperformed my last two albums combined. That was a huge leap of faith for me. I can't tell you how many people (friends and family alike) told me that it was a bad idea to do an album of pop-infused jazz and blues tunes. Nobody will buy it. Nobody will listen to a jazz version of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" or Bon Jovi's "Bad Medicine" - well, maybe once, but who's going to listen to it over and over again?
Apparently at least three times as many people as bought my last two albums combined.
I can start breathing again.
"I heard a whisper on the wind and an echo in my heart tryin' to tell me to begin." - What Love Can Do
I put a lot of time and effort into this album. After spending several years working myself to the middle of 300 songs, and bringing Des on board as a permanent fixture last year, it was time to put the album to bed and get it out into the world. But it didn't exactly go as planned.
All kinds of things tried to thwart our progress. I got sick several times and ended up not being able to record the vocals until after we completed the move. We kept pushing back the launch date until, finally, I bumped it to 2016, just to be sure I could get the project done.
After getting sick a few more times during and after the move, I recognized the tell-tale signs of an upper-limit problem. So I focused on extreme self care for the remainder of the year, just so I could finish the album.
I expect 2016 will be more of the same. I just turned 41, and women keep telling me that your 40's are the best years of your life, So I'm going to try and hold them to it. I've got new tools and support options launching this year, and I'm getting closer and closer to the core of ME.
My goal this year is to come to terms with my divorce with grace and compassion (for both of us). In the process, I've still got work to do: a summer concert tour, a new group coaching program for creative entrepreneurs, and of course, the launch of Creative Freedom - the book and the second season of my web show. Oh, and I'll be studying acting with Kevin Spacey this Spring, booya!
Those are just the tip of what appears to be an exciting iceberg for 2016.
Let's pray we don't run aground, okay?
"Once again your love is calling with the words, so gentle, and so clear." - What Love Can Do
It's about stepping up, stepping out, and shining my light for all my world (or at least my right audience) to see. It's scary, but it's also pretty freaking awesome. I already have a great story to share (but I'll save it for the next blog post). It takes a certain level of clarity, confidence, and courage to show up every day as yourself - warts, sparkles, and all - without letting the world deter you. The good news is, you already know how, because it's born in you. You were made to be you. And I was made to be me. And that's exactly what the world needs. Judy Garland said it's better to be a first rate version of yourself than a second rater version of someone else.
That is what I'm up to in 2016.
It's a work I began in earnest last year: peeling off the layers of dust and debris, practicing showing up as me - even if people might find the real me a bit to their disliking. As luck would have it, the more me I shared, the better my friendships became - even if we didn't always see eye to eye. Relationships got real. People drew nearer, and they didn't run screaming for the hills as I feared they would.
That's the power of love - loving yourself and putting as much time and energy there as you do any of your other relationships. For decades, I didn't. I put everyone else before me. I even taught this stuff, for pity's sake, but we often teach what we most need to learn. Turning and returning to a place of love and loving service (to myself and others), that is what I choose to radiate in 2016.
What about you?
This year was about "Divine Alignment" - and there was a lot of re-alignment happening.
Every year for half a decade now, I've intentionally chosen a "theme" and a "theme song" to set the tone for my year - both personally and professionally. As a personality-based brand, it's important to choose something that reflects both pieces of the puzzle. So much of what I do overlaps, connects, and is even interwoven throughout my life and work. It makes sense, then, to craft something that has meaning in both arenas.
Here's a summary look at my 5 Key Areas for 2014:
For me, faith is where my core beliefs and values intersect. The values in focus this year were freedom, space, contribution, creation, and joy. That meant doing more of what I love and reaching more of my right people. Trips to Atlanta, Minnesota, New York, Vegas, and Arizona had me re-connecting with bunches of people that mean the world to me - and connecting with a few new friends as well. Talk about JOY! And I've got a car again, so there's some more space and freedom opening up for me. I did a LOT of connecting this year, including more work with Des (and the incomparable Damn Whippersnappers) - and TWO online shows.
I was also pleased to be able to work with my friend and coach Teresa Romain in her year-long program. The folks in that group are always so inspiring, and I'm lucky to now count many of them as friends. My Faith cup runneth over this year, to be sure.
"It's my life. It's now or never. I ain't gonna live forever." - It's My Life
My oldest not only managed to turn 18 this year, but fell in love and moved out. As a mom, there's still a bunch of emotional baggage I carry about that, but as a coach, I recognize that I can't live his life for him, and he's a much happier, better adjusted, more responsible guy now. So in that respect, Mom's happy. He's actually working to get his GED so that he'll graduate ahead of the other kids in his class. Go figure! After years of struggle, it's so nice to see him happy, healthy-ish, and living a life he's proud of.
The rest of the family is drawing closer. Hubby and I are staring down the barrel of our 10th anniversary this year, and we've managed to carve out a bit more time for one another. Our current pastime is "Netflix at Night" - where we carve out an hour or two to cuddle on the couch and watch a series from beginning to end. This year we checked off "Burn Notice" and we're swapping through "Psych", "Criminal Minds", and "Royal Pains" as we speak. We're both a little bummed that "Psych" is kaput. That's some funny stuff for any child of the 80's.
As I say in my book, "sometimes friends are as family". My extended family this year includes two amazing groups of women: my mastermind, and a spiritual group that evolved from Amy Oscar's Soul Caller retreat last year. They've always been an encouraging, uplifting, and often enlightening bunch of ladies. My Mastermind had their first get-away weekend, a book-signing event in Traverse City for Jill, and a jaunt around the lake in Ortonville on Pam's family boat. Our retreat group had a reunion gathering this year that was simply amazing.
It's always a blessing to watch these ladies soar to new heights, and I expect that 2015 will be even bigger for them.
I'm making slow, yet steady progress on the 100 pound weight loss goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year. I'm about 75% dairy-free now and closer to 95% gluten-free. The challenge comes when I am not home, and don't have a back-up plan - like when I'm mid-flight and ravenous, or when someone brings brownies home the night before grocery day when the cupboard is getting bare. It's forced me to be more proactive about my meals, which is rarely a bad thing. I'm at my lowest weight all year as I roll into the holidays (pray for me).
I've still got a few pounds to go before I hit 20 for the year, and I'm being compassionate with myself. I'm not giving myself carte blanche, though. I'm still doing what I can to be mindful. See all those cookies? The Aunts in my family have an annual tradition: Cookie Day. We made 11 different varieties of cookies. I had a few, but I shipped most of them to my son or my sister in California. Hee hee.
On the mental/emotional side of the Fitness coin, I did a lot of self-education this year. Aside from the work I did with Teresa, I jumped into several online courses, books, and training programs. I also got designated as a Certified Profit First Professional Business Coach (ooh! Fancy!). After being one of the editors for Mike Michalowicz's book by the same name, I recognized that implementing the Profit First approach meant that my business would be guaranteed a profit at the end of the year (it worked!). I was also able to work with a few clients in this approach, one of whom went from losing $10-12,000 each month to turning a $2-5,000 profit during our time together. Sha-zam! If you're interested in getting your own profit analysis, let me know. It's the first time in my life where I've said "I LOVE RUNNING THE NUMBERS!"
As I mentioned, my business turned a profit this year. Not only that, but I took quarterly profit sharing distributions - a first for my business. In the past, I didn't really feel my profitability - it was more on paper than anything else. This year, it felt empowering to cut myself a profit check at the end of each quarter. I'm really looking forward to next week's check - which should be the biggest of the year.
The shift was almost entirely due to the Profit First approach. It meant scaling back on a few things I didn't want to admit were not serving me. It forced me to be ruthlessly honest with myself about what was working in my business, and what wasn't. Gone were the "big" clients were playing "Moneyball" with my Great Work. I hired a kick-ass VA, updated the website, and got clear on my target market (not necessarily in that order).
I created content - lots of it. There are nearly 100 tunes in the 300 Songs project - many with videos now. My YouTube channel had over 50,000 new views this year, and now sports almost 250 subscribers, which is on pace with my goal for the year. Woo hoo! I also launched my new Dreamblazing program - a strategic planning system for personality-based business owners to meld their personal and professional goals.
"Tomorrow's getting harder make no mistake. Luck ain't even lucky. Got to make your own breaks." - It's My Life
I spoke at a National Conference in Arizona (and had a ball!), taught a workshop in Minnesota, and got to perform in a variety of ways - including work for one of Detroit's biggest rap superstars (no, I did not rap, btw).
But the coolest thing that happened was seeing The Secret Watch hit multiple Amazon best-seller lists in the UK and here in the states. An experiment as part of my annual give-back campaign, it was a thrill to see my name "in lights" next to Tony Robbins and other business luminaries. What was even cooler was seeing all the 5-star reviews. Heartwarming at this time of year.
I got me a car, yo! I traveled a bit during the first half of the year, but I was still relying on others to get around. By the end of the year, I got my own set of wheels, and I am mobile, baby! When I made the commitment to pay cash for my ride, and NOT have a car payment, I thought it would only take a few months. It took YEARS, but here we are, and it was SO worth the wait.
On Father's Day, me and the fam took a trip to Cleveland so I could audition for The Voice. I learned a LOT about myself on that trip. I was in the audition room with a backup singer who was taking a break from a tour with a big name artist. He forgot his words and tripped over his introduction. I nailed my audition. Neither one of us got a call back, which just goes to show you that it's not about talent as much as it is about casting. So much for "blind" auditions.
"I ain't gonna be just a face in the crowd. You're gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud." - It's My Life
Since this was a value in focus this year, there was a lot of getting myself aligned around the sense of freedom. I did a LOT more of what I enjoy, met some pretty amazing people, and had one of the best years of my life. And I turn 40 in a few days, so that's saying something!
I've put in a lot of effort over the last few years, tried on a lot of hats, and sorted through a lot of stuff that didn't end up working for me.
The time for all that is over. I've finally merged my love of music and performing with my love of business strategy in a way that works for me. It's taken years of doubt, trial, tears, and effort. This is the year of The Singing Business Coach, yo! Watch me work! 🙂
Creating your own niche isn't easy. There are definitely easier roads. I could just perform, or I could just coach, but neither would be fulfilling. It's like asking me to choose if I'm white or black: I'm bi-racial. I'm both. Deal with it.
So I've got to focus in, and stick to it, no matter what. I'm going in, guns blazing, determined to see what can happen for me in 2015.
Bon Jovi may have released it in 2000, but the lyrics really connected with me this year. I was especially struck by the Frank Sinatra reference: "Like Frankie said, 'I did it my way'." The idea of doing things my way has always come with a lot of baggage, and I'm ready for that to be different now.
I've had to "force" a lot of things to happen over the years. And doing things "my way" often meant doing things the hard way. Pushing to meet a goal or a deadline. Putting my financial or personal health at risk in order to achieve something.
Now I understand DUMB goals, and how my way doesn't have to be "push, push, PUSH" all the time. I lived it this year. I like it. And I'm ready for more.
"This is for the ones who stood their ground... who never backed down." - It's My Life
Inspire. Brave. ENTHUSIASM! Uncommon.
Each year, I try to pick a word or phrase that reflects my focus, my "theme" for the year. Then, at the end of said year, I look back and evaluate, before rinsing and repeating for the new year. For 2013, that theme was "Inspire".
I launched the year with a goal to record 300 songs. I fell short. I'd say embarrassingly short, but I'm not embarrassed by the results:
I learned a LOT about what it really takes to make a quality recording in your home. More than I thought I needed to know, frankly. I learned how grossly out of my depth I am with the audio engineering process, and how it's a lot more art than science.
I think I'll stick to the art I'm good at, thanks.
Still, 50+ songs is nothing to sneeze at, and while we had some hiccups on the copyright issues with some of our broadcasters (I'm talking to you, SoundCloud!), I finally got my music heard by new fans all over the world... a bucket list item for almost 30 years.
I also met and began working with an uber gifted arranger, and we started working on the tracks that will be on my new album - my first recording in almost 10 years!
The biggest hurdle to finishing the recordings wasn't a lack of skill, it was a lack of time. The one thing you can't predict going into a new year is what new and unexpected surprises will benefit or befall you. This year was a doozie! We were right on course until April, when I was hit with horrible news about a close friend and my youngest son. That's when everything on the music front took a tailspin.
I launched several new programs including my Dream Big Breakthrough, Get Your Year In Gear and the Spotlight Sessions. Not all of them were big winners, but all of them reflected the growth and new direction that 2013 was leading me in. On the direct sales training front, I hosted a year-end livestream conference that doubled as my retirement party. It had a few hiccups, but overall, it was well received and a powerful event to help direct sellers move into 2014 with confidence and know-how to build their own noble empire and inspired life.
We also did a site redesign for the direct sales website as it moves to a publishing platform in 2014. Oh, and my brilliantly gifted designer created a new logo that will go along with this website's re-launch in 2014. Here's a preview.
You might remember the phoenix. We resurrected it from The Renaissance Mom - remember that? I thought it fitting, since my whole life has been about overcoming, rising up from the ashes, and whatnot. The laurel represents achievement, hitting the mark, and the rewards & accolades that come from doing more of your Great Work in the world. I'll tell you more about it in a future post, but recognize that this is a meme for me: owning my dreams and living them fully. THAT is what 2013 taught me and what the focus for 2014 is.
We had a harrowing spring, when a friend of the family was arrested on charges of child sexual abuse - and my youngest was part of all that. We've spent a good deal of the year in recovery mode with him, and he's making amazing progress. My teenager's drama led to more court dates, which revealed even MORE underlying issues that we as a family had no clue about. It was a hellacious year for my family, and I think we've pulled through the hardest part. There's still more court dates to come, but I know we're on the right track, and there don't appear to be anymore oncoming trains on the horizon. My oldest just turned 17, so one way or another that responsibility will not be mine for much longer. His life is truly in his own hands.
"When it all came crashing down in tiny pieces to the ground, I was all alone down here, trapped beneath the atmosphere..."
- Learning To Be The Light
I lost (and lost touch with) a lot of friends through this rough patch. It really helps you get clarity on who's got your back when you're going through tough times. I'm grateful for those friends and family members who really came through in our dark hours this year, and hope I'll be in a place to return the favor at a later date. Those who've fallen by the wayside, while painful, remind me of the wisdom of Dr. Seuss: "Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind, don't matter." I respect their needs to honor their boundaries, and pray they do the same for me and mine.
The upshot of all of this was that I got clarity on what really mattered to me. I got to see how much I matter to my kids and to my husband. I got to see how much I wasn't making myself or my self-care a priority. For as much as I preach on it, I still find myself ignoring my own self-care needs when things get stressful.
In truth, things probably get stressful because I'm neglecting my self-care in the first place. Oh the irony!
But because of all that clarity, I made some big decisions relating to my professional life.
I rolled up the sidewalks on my direct sales coaching practice. For the last 8 years I've been a coach and trainer to the direct selling industry as a solopreneur. It's been fun helping people do their best work and live their dreams. It's also been hard, being on the outside of an industry that's more of an old boy's network than anyone cares to admit. Since I'm not a game player, I've really had to forge my own path - and that's a lonely way to work. Plus, it's not the work I was put on this planet to do. I've gotten good at it. I enjoy it, and I know that God has a different purpose for me. So, after two years of hemming and hawing, and much hand-wringing, I got me a job.
Yep. A w-2 filing, income tax-withholding "j.o.b." - I'm still more or less in the sales arena, but it's more in alignment with my ultimate objective - which isn't to have a job for the rest of my life.
I'm still new here, and one of the youngest turks in the company, but nearly everything I'm doing is right in my wheelhouse. It gives me freedom to travel and, most importantly, allows me to have that financial stability (that I chased for 8 years as a coach) to pursue what God put me on this planet to do: write and perform.
I've been a storyteller my whole life: stories about overcoming adversity, empowerment, and being more than your circumstances. Sometimes I write them (here on the blog, or in books like this one), sometimes I record them (like the 300 songs project), sometimes I perform them live (as an actor or singer). But it's always been about the stories. It took me a good portion of this year to realize that.
My whole life has been about believing in the possibilities of people. That's my Great Work: I believe in people. I inspire people to see the possibility in themselves. I believe in people when they don't believe in themselves. It's a great (and dangerous) gift to have as a coach - and part of why I think I got so good at it. I've always looked at how I can make something happen, instead of why it won't work. But ultimately, coaching isn't the platform I'm supposed to be using to do my great work.
See, just because you're good at something, doesn't mean that's what you're meant to do. It just means you've had a lot of practice at it, and maybe some aptitude. My aptitude, combined with 8 years of practice gave me a strong foundational skill-set... and created a comfort zone that was difficult to step out of.
"...and now everything is falling into place. A brand new life is calling and I owe it all to grace."
- Learning To Be The Light
A LOT fell apart this year. Or should I say, it finished falling apart. We dissolved a business in 2012 and FINALLY was able to complete the bankruptcy proceedings this year. Which means, in MANY ways, 2014 is a clean slate.
I got to thinking during my annual planning process, that if it's really a clean slate, what do I want to write on it? How do I really want my life to look as I start down the barrel of turning 40 soon. I had goals and ambitions that I never got around to... until now that is.
There were a lot of nights (and mornings, and lunches) spent in prayer, meditation, & contemplation. I fought with God a LOT, and finally surrendered to a more difficult - and far more satisfying - path for my life. The words that kept coming up for me were "divine alignment" - stepping more fully into who I really am, who God called me to be in the world, and to do more of my Great Work on a global scale.
"You gave me something I want everyone to see."
- Learning To Be The Light
A friend of mine turned me on to this tune by NewWorldSon (thanks, Deb!), and I've listened to it so many times that I think I've burned a groove into my CD. I believe in my core that we're all given at least one Undeniable Gift to put to use for good in this world. This song really speaks to the longing I have in my heart to explore and share my gift with the world.
"Oh God I just want to love on everyone. All I have is Yours to give so let the people come"
- Learning To Be The Light
I know it's not a given that I can just step out onto a stage somewhere and start singing. There's work to be done. I laid some groundwork in 2013. I managed to get my book into the hands of more than 1100 people! I had at least one performance or speaking opportunity in every month of 2013. People got to hear my message - a message I'm still crafting an honing.
Gratefully, people are listening, and telling others, and joining the revolution. It's not just my journey - it's a journey we're all called to make: to own our dreams and share our gift with our world. That's what Divine Alignment is to me, and that's my focus for 2014. You'll hear more about it in coming posts, but for now, I'll let NewWorldSon say it:
"I'm learning to be the light that makes the shadows hide, the light that breaks the curse of pride, the light that takes the weary in it's arms."
- Learning To Be The Light
That was the theme for 2012, and as I look back, I can say I'm pretty happy with where things ended up.
Even though they are far from the mark I set for myself.
And that's okay. In fact, it's actually a good thing. Because it took a LOT of bravery to adjust my sails as the winds picked up and the seas started churning in my life and business.
You may or may not know that I essentially dissolved my business in 2011. That means starting from very close to scratch in 2012. God bless my avid readers, because they are the ones that kept my ship afloat this year.
[Editor's note: this is a re-post from January 2012. Part 4 of a series of year-end posts I write each year. When we migrated to the new site design, all the old posts were archived. Here are posts 1, 2 and 3]
Every year, I pick a word to frame my development. I also pick a "theme song" to underscore my morning mindset work. I get to dig in and rock on each morning with a tune that pretty much sets me up for the day I want to have, the life and business I want to create.
Last year, my word was "ENTHUSIASM" (yes, I decided on all caps about half way through the year) - the idea being to infuse more spirit into everything I was doing. My theme song was Matthew West's "The Motions". I would lip sync and sing and conjure my own "rock videos" in my living room - like I was going to be on American Idol or something. It was funny, but it was also a very honest reflection of the kind of enthusiasm I really wanted to imbue in every action, every effort, every everything in 2011.
This year, after a daunting 2011 (hey, I asked for it!), I figured I needed to power up a bit, and picked "brave" as my word o' the year. I also selected Nichole Nordeman's song by the same name (some of the lyrics are in the boxes below). (more…)
[Editor's note: this is a re-post from December 2011. Part 3 of a series of year-end posts I write each year. When we migrated to the new site design, all the old posts were archived. Here are posts 1 and 2]
This is an ongoing topic of discussion for me. Fear is one of my most blogged about topics. So imagine my surprise when I attended a local metaphysical church and received a reading dealing expressly with fear. As accurately as I can recall, here's what she told me:
"For you, fear is everything. Spirit wants me to tell you that you need to put pen to paper, make a list, and write down all that you would do if there were no fear. You are capable of some amazing things, once you get past the fear."
The other reading was about a heavy weight that I've been carrying that will be lifted soon. I'm hoping that's something to do with my oldest's graduation from the wilderness camp he's been at for nearly two years now.
But I digress...
For those of you new to, or uncomfortable with the idea of intuitive readings, I try to take an approach that's comparable to what scripture tells us regarding prophecy and those who prophesy. At this moment in my life, I don't believe that anyone has all the answers for my life, so I'm willing to take any guidance that is presented to me and take it under advisement in prayer. It is foolish, to me, to ignore such gifts, and equally foolish to take them blindly at face value. Since I often get intuitive hits myself, I know that you can't always explain how or why you "know" something about someone or a situation. That doesn't negate the value or potential validity of the message being offered.
So as I'm wrestling with this intuitive guidance, my friend, Amy Oscar, decides to launch a December writing circle with this prompt.
Each year, I pick a theme and a song to undergird my doings for the year. This year's song was "The Motions" by Matthew West, because my theme was "Enthusiasm". I wanted to infuse everything I brought to the table with spirit, zest, and life. I didn't want to go through the motions or pay lip service to anything I was about this year. I'd say I hit my goal most of the time, although there was definite room for improvement in this area.
For 2012, I chose "Brave" as my theme, and the song "Brave" by Nichole Nordeman was a perfect fit for my continuing journey. In light of the whole fear thing, I find it equally illuminating that relinquishing fear is part of being brave.
My journey includes pit stop destinations of two new books, a new music CD (it's been a few years since the last one), and an interactive television program where viewers can actually be part of the program and help shape the direction of the story lines. And, if I have to, I'll go it alone, but I plan to enlist the help of many friends for this journey (that would be you, and others, silly bean!).
I'm also bringing my can-do attitude, my duct tape, pocket knife, laptop, smartphone, and chewing gum. MacGyver would be proud, me thinks.
I look at my living room, which is slowly starting to empty out of storage unit mode and back into living room mode. I recognize that I (and my family) have carried around a lot of lifecrap for years and years. Like the boxes in the living room, it will be a slower, more deliberate process to clear out. I am determined to leave as much of it behind in 2011 when 2012 dawns. For me, this is at least as significant as any of the pitstops my 2012 journey may provide.
Oh, and presuming the world doesn't actually end in 2012, I'm looking forward to plotting a virtual retreat during the holidays next year.
Let the games begin!
[Editor's note: this is a re-post from January 2011. Part 2 of a series of year-end posts I write each year. When we migrated to the new site design, all the old posts were archived.]