I've been doing these updates for a while now, and over the last couple of years, I've felt a pull to step away from crafting a "year end" or "new year" post, since my birthday falls on the 5th day of the year. It's so close, it feels like my new year keeps happening over and over. So this year, because I'm working on honoring the calls of my spirit, my "new year" begins today. Happy Birthday to me, yo!
Like I teach in my Dreamblazing program, you've got to look backward before you can look forward. Check your mirrors, so to speak. What went according to plan that you can celebrate? What were the surprise blessings of the year? What didn't quite go according to plan and what needs to be tweaked as we move forward?
Then, when you've got clarity on where you are, you can chart a course for where you want to go. So let's roll!
My 2017 Theme was Collaboration. I tried. Honestly, I did. I feel like I fell short miserably. I had a pretty big vision for growth this year, and while I did manage to hit some of the targets, I also hit quite a few walls - mostly due to financial and time constraints that I didn't properly prepare for. "Life happened" in spades this year, and while I'm proud of how things turned out by the end, there's SO much I feel got left on a back burner to simmer for too long.
As a Fusion creative, it takes a lot of patience and focus to ask for and receive help. It's painful because, quite often, we CAN do it faster ourselves, but the result is that we stay on the hamster wheel of hustle ALL the damn time. So I slowed down, and asked for help on some mission critical things. I hired a VA again. Jeanie is amazing and, because she's also a Fusion creative, she's proactive and sometimes seems to read my mind. I love that about her. It also makes it hard to keep up because she's a quick study. Still, I struggled with releasing tasks for her to handle. I'm sure she thinks I don't trust her, but that's not it at all. There's a LOT of fear around letting go of things and trusting anyone with the things I hold most precious. As a result, she was mostly relegated to handling social media, when I know she's capable of so much more.
I had better luck with my visual brand this year. I made a big investment and hired a team of beauty and style magicians that turned my sow's ear into some kind of silk purse. Then, I found a talented photographer in Nashville , and together, these women made me look like a million bucks in a photo shoot that exceeded all my expectations. I worked on my brand bible in fellow Michigander, Kaye Putnam's Brand New Brand program, then handed all the images over to my designer so she could work her magic.
Tracy is a genius and her plan for my new website is fantastic (wait 'til you see it!). Her branding work is phenomenal, and the cover and interior design of my book are exactly what I was hoping for. She was patient with me throughout the process this year and has become the brand guardian I was needing all along. She makes sure my brand is on point. She keeps me sane. I love her tremendously.
I also took a big leap at the end of the year and asked for help with housing on my last trip to Michigan. I put out a call on Facebook to my friends, looking for couches to crash on for the 2 weeks I was in town. My friends and family volunteered like crazy, which gave me all the feels and hope that the trip would be a pleasant one.
This may not seem like a big deal, but for me, it was YYUUUGE! I go through most of my life, trying to "handle things" on my own. Again, asking for help is a challenge for me. And I had to do a LOT of asking last year that I didn't want to do. So when it came time to stay for 2 weeks in The Mitten, I didn't want to impose on my ex-husband, who had graciously been allowing me to sleep at his joint when I was in town. Plus the "bed" is in my kid's bed fort, on the floor, so it's like sleeping in a coffin with a window. My body couldn't take 2 weeks of that! The thought of even asking - during the HOLIDAYS no less! - just made me cringe. I still cringe thinking about the moment I hit "post" and waited for people to reply. What if no one volunteered? What would I do?
"When your soul is stolen by a storm... stand up tall and hold on tight..."
- Nicole C. Mullen
I always knew I had amazing friends: smart, caring, insightful people that make my life better because they are in it. But it's one thing to know something and it's another to experience the depth of that care personally. Freshly made beds, warm blankets, hot meals, and personal attention. People rearranged and made room in their homes and lives for me - to spend time with me - when they could have been doing anything else during the holidays. I am forever grateful to the awesome people in my life.
And now, a quick look at how I fared in my Key Area Goals:
I often say that faith isn't always about religion or spirituality, and that rang true for me this year. This year was about faith in ME. I've known most of my life that I'm being called to a bigger role in the world. I just didn't know what or how. This year was about positioning myself to be the leader I felt called to become - specifically in the field of creative entrepreneurship. I got paid to speak on stages, at leadership conferences, and on podcasts, in interviews, and in guest posts. Any chance I could get to talk about the message of Creative Freedom, I took it.
The payoff was fantastic! Creatives from all over the world are learning how to own their dreams without selling their soul - without being on the hamster wheel of hustle all the time. In fact, as the year marched on, I heard more and more voices from the Internet Marketing world speaking about this very concept - the need to STOP hustling and start LIVING again!
We took the web series to Facebook live over the summer as an experiment, which was sort of a mixed bag for me. I liked the real-time interaction, but I also missed the higher-quality that comes from a pre-recorded show. Trade-offs. Sigh.
And yes, I finally launched the book into the world after two years of research, writing, and re-writing. Hundreds of people have taken the quiz now, and I hosted my first live event here in Nashville. Creative Freedom Live was an intimate yet powerful gathering, and I'm thrilled that we're already 30% booked for this year's event. Woo hoo!
My number one family relationship this year was my relationship to myself... which is a BIG stretch for me, with all my self-worth issues. My big goal here was to continue my sacred practice and spiritual development... to really care for me, and stop accepting just the leftovers of life. My divorce was final this year, and a few surprises came along with that. Like I say in my book, Maintenance is a growth plan, and I knew that just maintaining my connection to the Divine in this time of change and transition was going to be the best thing I could do for myself.
This was a year of big changes. The kids came out for the summer, so I had to scale back my work time. My oldest stayed into November, which also came with a set of challenges I hadn't prepared for.
Turning inward and relying on my Divine guidance needed to become a stronger habit, and while I still fall off the wagon from time to time, I'm happy with my progress. The PEACE System continues to keep me on track on a daily basis, and I was able to take a spiritual retreat every quarter this year, including one with some very good friends in October.
That time for self care and self reflection has made all the difference in an otherwise tumultuous year, and I look forward to bringing more of that calm and ease into my life in 2018.
"Joy is coming in the morning light..."
- Nicole C. Mullen
While I didn't hit the numbers of this goal, I think I did a great job of hitting the spirit and intention behind this goal. My focus this year was to rehabilitate and heal my body from years of neglect and abuse. To do a better job of listening to what it wants, what it needs, and to meet those needs to the best of my ability. I often tell my clients that you can't control the strike zone. You can't control the outcomes. All you can control is what you're doing on your end, respond to the results accordingly, and trust the process. I invested in a style team for my photo shoot, and that meant hair, makeup, clothes... stuff I tend to ignore in the scheme of life. But I learned how the right clothes in the right situation can make you feel different - better even - about yourself. Confident, more secure; that clothes, hair, and makeup can be part of the healing process.
Tracking numbers became a focal point this year. In business and also personally. My love-hate relationship with MyFitnessPal was rekindled this year, and I have a paper chart hanging in my office to track my weight and measurements daily. It's not my favorite thing in the world, but I've learned a lot about the triggers that cause my emotional eating, how gluten, dairy, and soy can mess with me to varying degrees, and I've been able to release nearly 20 pounds since August of 2016 - mostly through vigilance and changes in diet, not much in the way of consistent exercise. I also somehow managed to squeeze in a massage every quarter. It's amazing how much tension we carry in our body... and how that tension causes other kinds of distress. I used to think it was a luxury to have any kind of body work done, but now I know just how important it is for my own physical well being.
One goal I wasn't able to hit with was my desire to have professional support throughout the year. I had a new coach for the first part of 2017, and worked with various colleagues during the year on specific issues, but did not have that one, "go-to" person I've had in years past. Part of that was a function of not finding a good fit, while the other part was facing the financial realities of life in Nashville - and all the responsibilities that go along with it. I am an ardent proponent of the Profit First method for income and expense management, which meant there were a LOT of things I wanted to do that weren't possible with the existing financial state of the business.
This is the one you're probably most curious about. You may recall that I intentionally curtailed income in 2015, and managed to bring the revenue for the business back to 5 figures in 2016. The big goal was to have a solid 6-figure revenue by year end. Well, while I didn't hit 6 figures in 2017, I did nearly triple revenue and manage a profit and payroll in the process. Using the Profit First method, I took home about half of the company earnings, which wasn't quite a living wage, but it was just about equal to the total business income of 2016.
Further, my personal income was the highest it's ever been, thanks in part to my divorce settlement. It's not something I like to brag about, and yet, I really appreciate how that money helped with the transition. I was able to scale way back and just BE with my kids for the most part, instead of having to hustle all summer to keep the bills paid.
Living alone comes with a different set of financial challenges than I've ever had to face in my life. Some of that is good, some of that is still challenging me. All of it is a welcome opportunity for continued growth in 2018.
More of my income came from paid performances and speaking this year than in any previous year. Both speaking and performing opportunities grew significantly, too, primarily from podcasts and online interviews.
It's no surprise that, because my clients are doing so well, the Creative Freedom Incubator was my strongest source of revenue. Three participants completed in 2017, and three are continuing into 2018. It's an "on your honor" program, and only one participant has been less than ethical so far. Pretty strong results all around, I'd say. I eliminated the 6-month option, because I've realized that it just takes longer to recoup the investment than I had originally planned.
A-Club held its ground in spite of a rate increase. After two years, our retention rate still hovers around 90%, which is pretty damn good for a membership community of any kind. New this year was Portable Coaching, providing affordable email-based coaching to creative entrepreneurs around the world. We're nearly at capacity as I write this. Not bad for the first year!
I also launched that live event I mentioned earlier and parlayed it into a virtual event later in October. The first-time results were less than I had hoped, but remember, I dream big, and I'm VERY pleased with the outcome over all. The people who participated continue to see positive results in their business, which is why I do this work in the first place.
"...misery will be erased... peace and happiness will take my hand..."
- Nicole C. Mullen
My big goal was to grow my audience by roughly 10,000 people, so that the Creative Freedom message could expand and reach more people. It was a misguided goal, I confess. I clean my mailing list religiously, and as a result, there was no net gain for the year. I also found that more of my engagement was coming from social media this year, versus email, so I invested most of the summer cultivating an organic following on Instagram and Facebook Live. So while numbers are higher there, it's certainly not a 10,000 point increase. Still, I see more engagement with what I'm sharing, and more people are reaching out to tell me that I'm making a difference in their life. THAT is what this goal was all about in the first place.
It's also a lesson in chasing vanity metrics. Sure, it's cool to say you've got 10,000+ on your mailing list, but what are your open rates? who's actually responding? I know that there are event hosts that won't touch me with a ten-foot pole if my list isn't at least 5,000, but THEY are the ones missing out, not me.
And I've met a BUNCH of new and interesting people this year - like Helene and Hampus, the 2 Swedes filming a movie about yodeling, of all things. We drove down to Memphis, and filmed by this cotton field as I told the story of Dad's family, working as slaves and using a type of yodeling on the plantation.
Speaking of Dad's family, I had a virtual encounter with a nephew I never knew I had! He emailed me to tell me about his mother - my dad's first child. I never met her, Dad was 56 when I was born, after all. He sent me pictures and opened up my world to a new understanding of my dad (and family) I have since connected with others from that side of the family. It's been fun seeing into a different world than the one I came from, but is still very much connected to me.
And my oldest finally graduated in the spring. He also turned 21. That was a high adventure for the end of the year. A whole new level of freedom there - for both of us.
"When the sun comes out tomorrow, sing like never before, shout like never before, dance like never before."
- Nicole C. Mullen
I had a lot of internal resistance around owning this publicly. I've had many ups and downs over the years, and while I've worked on healing my old stories, one thing I've never felt like I've truly experienced is a sense of wealth. It feels like it carries a lot of expectation with it, and yet, it's exactly what I espouse in my book, so it makes sense to walk my talk.
But I also didn't want to seek wealth at the expense of everything else. My friend Teresa reminds me that the word "wealth" comes from a root word meaning "well-being" and I want to keep that humble definition in mind as I grow. This is about 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.
I actually got to meet Nicole C. Mullen at her birthday party this week, and one listen to the title track from her new album hooked deep into my soul. The idea that there's a way to experience life that is more content, more enjoyable, more life-giving... that's my ideal for 2018. The song's available on pre-order right now, and totally worth a listen (the entire album is pretty yummy, too!). Once the video is live, I'll post it here. Such a great tune and a great tone to set for the year.
How will it all turn out? Well, probably like never before! Onward into 2018, y'all!
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