Michelle Ward is the When I Grow Up Coach. She helps creative women get out of their soul-sucking, energy-draining jobs and into work that feels like play.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Michelle had an audience, an idea, support and great feedback all in one, but when she launched her membership site, all she heard were crickets.
Entrepreneur AH-HA Moment
- Hippie-Dippie!… you’ll have to listen, Fire Nation!
What has you FIRED up?
- Her new Podcast!
Small Business Resource
- Teamwork.com: Your team will know what they have to do, when it must be done and who needs to do it.
Best Business Book
Michelle: Yes, obviously. Obviously, I can't wait.
John: Michelle is the “When I Grow Up Coach.” She helps creative women get out of their soul sucking, energy draining jobs, into work that feels like play. Michelle, say what's up to Fire Nation, and share what's going on in your world right now.
Michelle: What's up Fire Nation? I'm so excited to be here. What's going on in my world? You know, my big thing is that it is my fifth entrepreneur adversaries, I like to call it.
Michelle: Thank you very much. Coming up real soon on March 19th, and I am celebrating by debuting a podcast, so that is huge. It's so exciting. It's called Grown up Gigs. An different also just launched a program called It's Business Time, with a former client, who’s turned into a very dear friend of mine. It helps creative women discover their dream business, and brand it. And in six months, they leave with an offering, and a mission statement, and an actual logo, and a website. Yeah, it's a fantastic offer. All of that has been happening in my world, and it's been great.
John: Killer. Well, I love your branding Michelle, way to stick to it. I love the fact that you're dipping a toe. Let’s be honest, you're diving into the podcasting world. You're not gonna mess around.
Michelle: No, way.
John: I know you got all the support and guidance that you need for sure. And what I want to do now Michelle, before we dive into your journey, I mean, your five year entrepreneurial anniversary, I mean, that’s really impressive for a lot of reasons, which we can get into, but first it's the one minute mindset, which I'm going to ask five insights into your mind girl. Five questions, take about a minute-ish each to answer these. The first one being, ideally, what do the first 80 minutes of your day look like?
Michelle: On days that I run, I wake up and get into my running clothes, and have a banana and have some water, and I go for a run. And I'm a very slow runner, so by the time I come back, I have my smoothie and my coffee, and that’s about my 80 minutes.
John: It's 9:00 p.m. and I'm like ready to go to bed, no.
Michelle: Exactly. It takes all damn day. On non running days, I wake up, I have a ten month old beautiful daughter, and my husband and I both work from home. He’s a freelancer as well. We get to, you know, take her out of her crib, and get her changed, and give her her bottle, and set her down to play while we make some smoothies. And I am a Judge Judy fan, a huge one. I DVR Judge Judy and I watch it every morning. And my daughter watches it, too, and my husband. And we watch Judge Judy and have our coffee and our smoothies.
And watch some Sesame Street. And usually, my husband works in the mornings, and so I watch the baby and make sure she’s all good until it's time for her nap. And that’s a good 80 minutes right there.
John: And Michelle, Fire Nation is in Brooklyn, so get used to the police sirens, they will be a whirling. Michelle, what is your biggest weakness as an entrepreneur?
Michelle: I want to do all the things all the time, John.
John: Wait, we're not supposed to do that?
Michelle: You know, I think that when we do that – I was reminded of the quote recently that you could do anything, you just can't do everything. So I think when you are such an extrovert as I – I'm like super super extrovert. And I want to say yes to all the things, and I want to work with all the people, it gets to the point where, you know, I get too overloaded and fried. And then I have to back pedal and say, “Oh, no, I can't do that thing, and I have to wait on this thing.” That’s definitely my biggest weakness.
John: Fire Nation, especially when we're starting off, go one inch wide and one mile deep. Get in there, laser focus, like a champion. And Michelle, what's your biggest strength?
Michelle: I think my biggest strength is my annoyingly overly optimistic and energetic nature. I think I connect with the people that resonate with that. And I know that my super power, from what I hear from my clients and anyone that has kind of come in contact with my site and given me any sort of feedback, is that they come to me and read something I've written, or have a session with me, and they go, “Oh, my God, I could do this. Like, I could actually do it.” And they have new found energy that they haven’t felt before, in regards to making their dream careers come true. And so I think that it's definitely my biggest strength.
John: Well, I can tell you, I love when somebody comes on EO Fire, and matches my energy. And Michelle, you are there girl. I'm giving you a virtual high five.
Michelle: All right, I'm taking it.
John: Thanks for being awesome. Michelle, you have a lot of good habits, but what's a habit that you wish you had?
Michelle: Oh, I wish I had the habit to turn things off and walk away a lot easier than I do. You know, I'm definitely one of those people that I find myself still at the computer at 10:00 at night. Man, shutting down Facebook, I wish I could just delete that app from my phone.
John: You are on Instagram right now, don’t lie.
Michelle: I totally am. I'm scrolling. I'm scrolling through Hootsuite, Pinterest, and Facebook, and LinkedIn. You know, I just worked with a branding person, and he’s like, “You don’t need to be on all these sites. It gets a little confusing.” “Oh, I don’t. I don’t need to be on all these sites?” I wish – I guess it's connected to my greatest weakness. Like, I wish the habit of just not feeling the need and the want to be everywhere and do everything, and unplug a bit, was more inherent to me.
John: Michelle, I know what I'm most fired up about that you have going on right now, but this is your interview, so share with Fire Nation, the one thing that has you most fired up?
Michelle: You know, I think it's my rebrand, just like celebrating my fifth entrepreneur adversary. I looked at it and said: I'm gonna actually, like do things right. And do things in a serious business lady – I like to call it being a woman of the world, full time entrepreneur sort of way. Because every time I've redone my website, or I've redone my logo, I just kind of talk to my designer, and kind of fall back on my own energy and personality, and the clients that I want to work with. And I give her like very, I feel like rough and unspecific things to work with, and she delivers every time because she’s magic.
But now, in working with a branding consultant, and really being able to say: oh, I have a strategic statement for my business. Oh, I have like a visual piece that I'm seeing, you know, what my ideal client looks like, and her motivating factors. And that like – just that in general gets me fired up then to go work with the one on one clients that I work with, and launch the program that I just launched, and get the podcast up and going. I don't know, it's all like equal and exciting. So it feels so monumental to be working on a rebrand, and giving myself, like a real life branding consultant to help me with all of that.
John: Yeah, I was zeroing in on the podcast. I'm not gonna lie. But, you know, I'm prejudice. And I just love the fact that your energy, you know, your optimism, your voice, is going to be unleashed upon the podcasting world, so awesome stuff.
Michelle: Thank you.
John: Michelle, we're gonna take a little turn here. It's not a turn for the worst, but it is your worst entrepreneurial moments. I want you to take us there. You’ve had five years, you’ve had ups, you’ve had downs, what's your worst entrepreneurial moment, Michelle? Tell us that story.
Michelle: One that pops into my head first, and I'm sure you have it too, all of us entrepreneurs have it, there's a lot of competing moments when you’ve been in business, you know, working on your own for five years, there's a lot of stuff that doesn’t go right. But the thing that pops into my head is the launch of a community membership site that I did back in January of 2012. And I worked on this community site, and just like a lot of online businesses I was thinking about, how can I grow my reach? How can I work with – I don’t want to say the most amount of people – but more people.
How could I serve more than the people that I work with one on one, and charge a lot of money, too? And how could things kind of be more passive? And I was like: oh, let’s launch this community site, where it will be a private Facebook group, but it will be a group coaching hall once a month. And it will be access to every worksheet I've ever created. And it would be, you know, all these different things. And I spent months putting it together, and I got such great feedback about it along the way. And when I went to launch it I got three sign ups, three sign ups. And I wrote – I ended up writing a post about it the next week. And I think the post was called like: yep, three sign ups.
You know, and then in parenthesis, or what went wrong? Here’s the launch of my clubhouse and what I'm doing to fix it. And having those expectations that like, here’s gonna be something that’s gonna give me, you know, $5,000 every month recurring, you know, passively, quote un quote. And then to just have it be met with three sign ups was really frustrating and upsetting and sad. It's hard not to take things like that personally. But what I ended up doing is – I didn’t think that the offer was bad. I knew that there were things that I needed to tweak and change.
There were things in the sales pitch, I think, that were confusing. I went from having three different tiers of membership to having one membership, so as not to confuse the person looking to become a member. I realized I didn’t reach out to my people like I usually do to tell them to share the noise about my clubhouse. And, oh, maybe I need to go back and do that. Maybe I need to go buy those ads that I used to buy. I was kind of resting on my laurels a bit much. I was able to go back, I like to say with my Nancy Drew hat on, and really say, you know, what was it that didn’t work?
And I tweaked things, and I was very honest and transparent about the fact that it did not work, and here’s what's changing and why. And it ended up being an offering that, you know, while it was never my most popular offering, it's one that I ran for almost two years. It's one that I know was a great value and resource to the people who signed up. And it was also, I think, a good move that I ended up shutting it down just a few months ago, realizing that I could serve these people in a private Facebook group that I created for free.
And so let’s do that, and let’s roll them into that group and not charge them anything, and be able to still support them, and reach them in a way that I wanted to. And that felt really good. So I just – you know, I'm such a hippy dippy life coach, for me it's all about the life lessons and the pivot, and the end result of everything. It was still such a worthwhile thing for me to explore, and fall on my face, and pick myself back up, and makes work in the way that it worked for me until it really didn’t anymore.
John: There's a lot of life lessons in here that I really want to kind of pull out. I mean, number one is, we evolve Fire Nation. We evolve as entrepreneurs. You know, what's working right now, may not work, or we may want to have a different look in the future, and that’s okay. And that’s what Michelle has recently done, and that’s cool. Another thing is, you know, resting on your laurels. It's something that we all do. We get into our comfort zone, that little bubble, and we say: okay, I'm here. I'm in the comfort zone, this is where I'm gonna stay. And until that gets popped, you know, sometimes we don’t stretch out to get to where all the magic happens.
And I will say Michelle, when you were sharing that and you were getting all the support along the way, and then you launched it to just three sales, I thought that you were gonna title that post that you wrote the next week: You Lied to Me. You told me that you were interested, and you told me it was great, and you didn’t join. What's the matter with you? What's the matter with you? But you took the higher road, you analyzed, you Nancy Drew it, I love that, and you figured it out, so a lot of life lessons.
Let’s kind of keep this momentum going right now with another story, but this one is an epiphany, an “ah ha” moment that you had at some point in your journey. I mean, you’ve had a lot, but you know Fire Nation, what's one that we're gonna resonate with? Take us to that moment and tell us that story.
Michelle: When I first decided that I was going to become a certified life coach of all things, and this is back in 2007, when we still had much more, you know, hippy dippy, let’s read your crystals, sort of stereotype then, than I think, thankfully we do now.
John: Well, let me step in for one second. So you said hippy dippy twice. I'm not familiar with that term. What does that mean?
Michelle: Oh, like granola, like crunchy granola.
John: Okay, cool.
Michelle: You know, that sort of person, hippy, hippy person.
John: Got it. Hippy dippy, I'm writing that down.
Michelle: I'm glad you stopped me because I do use that a lot. When I decided this is what I was going to do, the first thing I did was get my certification. And while I was getting my certification, because that took me almost two years, I set up my website to be the When I Grow Up Coach. And it is nothing like what you see now. It was super basic. And I only sent the link at the time; you know it just debuted, to my close friends and my family members, who I knew that I was doing this. And I basically said to them, if you're curious as to what life coaching is and what I'm doing, here is my website.
You know, I would love for – whatever. And I got a call from my dad, who has been very supportive my whole life of all my crazy dreams. I went to NYU for musical theatre, so I chased the musical theatre acting business for a long time. And he was always very supportive of that, even though I didn’t come from that type o family at all. He called me and he said, “Oh, I got a chance to see your site.” I said, “Oh, great. What did you think?” And he said, “Well, I don’t think that it's very professional. And I wouldn’t hire you.”
So I kind of smiled because at this point, even just early on in this, I was confident with what I had put out into the world, and having it resonate with the types of people that I wanted it to resonate with. And I said to him, “Well, why do you say that?” And he said, “Well, your tone of voice is very casual, and you make too many references to being Jewish.” And I think – which he is also. And I think that I mentioned, like I'm a nice Jewish girl from Long Island. And then later on I said, “Oyo Vey” somewhere. And so I kind of – I laughed, and I said to him, “Dad, you know, I appreciate you looking out for me, but I'm not looking to work with 60-year-old business men.”
And I really feel very strongly that, you know, if my acting career taught me anything, it was that I need to put my authentic self out there, and I'm not the person who is having stock photos of people in business suits. And I'm not having very dry copy. I want to bring in my personality, my energy, my sense of humor, and I think this will resonate. And he gave me one of those dad types of grumbles, like do what you want, but I know best, and blah, blah, blah.
And just a few months later, I was still at my day job, I was doing this work on the side. I got a call from a reporter at Newsweek, who was doing a feature on life coaching, a video feature on life coaching, and wanted to come and interview me. So I had to – I had to call in sick the next day at work. And I had this reporter come into my apartment, and interview me about life coaching. And I had to call in a client. We had like a mock session that he could tape. And when I debuted it was pretty much a video segment all about me.
My dad saw it. And he said to me, “You know, how I told you before about your site, and this and that? Yeah, obviously I don’t know what I'm talking about. Just keep doing what you're doing, and I think you’ll be fine.” And I think that even though I had the confidence to kind of – I don't know – stand up to my dad, and tell him that I wasn’t going to make these changes that he wanted me to make, I think having Newsweek be that affirmation, and then having him apologize, which he rarely does, and say that he was wrong, which rarely happens, like that was very affirming to me. That, oh, okay there's something here that’s resonating and I can make it work.
John: I love this story. I know that I resonate with it incredibly well, like incredibly well. So much so that, like I was so proud of the first few interviews that I did with Entrepreneur On Fire. Even though I knew I was inexperienced, and I knew that I was struggling and robotic in a lot of ways, but I was still – I had done them and I was proud of them. I sent them to my father for a little listen, and the email he sent back was the opposite of positive. It was not praising in any way shape or form. And it hurt, like it cut for sure. And I know that I sent him an email back. And then, I'll never forget, like he sent me an email back, which to this day I still have not read because I was just like that’s not an email – I'm such a fragile little flower right now.
You know, this is 930 episodes ago. I was such this fragile little flower that I knew that whatever was in that second email, that literally had the power to potentially crush what I was looking to do. And as entrepreneurs, we need to know this, Fire Nation, you know, we are fragile. When we're starting, like it's part of the journey. That’s why it's so incredibly important to surround yourself with the five people that you want to be the average of. Like, if Michelle had just surrounded herself with five of her fathers, they would have crushed her, but she was around other people who were like: no, hippy dippy this, hippy dippy that. Like, let’s make this work.
And that’s where it comes to the avatar, knowing who you want to serve, and who you want to be around. So a lot of great lessons there. Michelle, what I really want you to do here, is just in one sentence, let me challenge you, sum up for Fire Nation, what do you really want us to take away from this experience in your life?
Michelle: That you could make a grown up living doing what you love.
John: There we go.
Michelle: That’s my mission. That’s my mission as the When I Grow Up Coach, and that’s the message I want to spread everywhere. I hope that – that’s what my new podcast is all about. And that’s always what I hope. You know, Fire Nation, and everyone that I come in contact with, ends up taking away.
John: I love it. Well, if you had had a mike in your hands, you could have just dropped it and walked away.
Michelle: Oh, yeah. Do it like Kenya, man. I'll do it like Kenya.
John: I love it. Michelle, we are about to enter the lightning round, but before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Michelle, welcome to the lightning round. Where you get to share incredible resources and mind blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Michelle: I'm ready.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Michelle: Two things, one money, feeling like I would make enough to contribute to my part of the bills, and two mindset, having it drilled into me that that was the risky unsafe option. Those two things are the perfect storm to keep you from being an entrepreneur.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Michelle: It goes back to putting yourself out there. And I can't say that anyone has specifically has said that to me, it's just all – all the things that I did wrong along the way, and all the lessons that I learned. It is about making sure you're tapping into who you authentically are, what is it that you want for yourself, and putting that out into the world. It's really scary, but the payoff is so worthwhile.
John: What's a personal habit you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
Michelle: I'm hyper, organized; hyper organized, project management, like to the hilt, and a really natural self starter. I was never someone that – I was never worried, you know, to wake up in the morning as an entrepreneur, and like sit in front of the TV eating bon-bons watching General Hospital all day, like that was never a fear of mine.
John: Absolutely. And what's pretty interesting is that this is actually usually what people say on Entrepreneur On Fire as a habit they wish they had was to be more organized, so definitely a good quality, Michelle. Do you have an internet resource like Evernotes that you can share with our listeners?
Michelle: Yeah, my project management system, let’s just keep going down this path, is teamwork.com. And while I wish it was a bit prettier, and I'm definitely a creative and visual person, it's not super pretty, but I've tried all the other project managers and this one gets the job done for me. So a shout out to teamwork.com, I think it's a really great resource.
John: So if you could recommend one book for our listeners, what would it be and why?
Michelle: I want to give a plug to my book called An Effective Escape because it's all about how to build your own safety net, so that you feel comfortable leaving your day job, without fearing that you have to move in with your parent s—move into your parent’s basement. So like that, I feel like Fire Nation needs to know about. And then the book that wasn’t written by me is the Renaissance Soul by Margret Lobenstein. If you are someone that resonates with being multi passionate, and feeling like you have a lot of different interests, the subtitle of the book used to be: life design for people with too many passions to pick just one. If that resonates with you, then go get the book. I talk about that book all the time.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audio. So I teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com. And Michelle, this next question is the last of the lightening round, but it's a doozey. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand world that’s identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still have all the experience and knowledge you currently have. Your food and shelter is taken care of, but all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Michelle: I love what I do so much, and I think I like how it's all grown. It took me almost three years to get my certification and build my business, and be able to leave my job, so I could do this full time. And I did that by building a very basic website, starting to blog, getting on Twitter, making connections, talking to people. I think I would do the same thing. I’d build the website all over again. Hopefully, I could find a designer to help me, and do it for $500. And then, start making new connections. I'm really – I do this work selfishly because I'm a relationship builder.
And so even though I would be so devastated that all of my family and friends are dead, it would be – it would be an opportunity to and a way to say there are new people to meet and reach out to, and that still need to hear this message, and can do this work. And now I think more than ever, we need to be able to do the work that we enjoy doing, and be able to live the lifestyle that we want to live for ourselves, and not be stuck in a job that we classify as soul sucking or abusive, or torturous in any way. So, I would take – I would build my website, and I would just get back out there.
John: And Michelle, what I love is that you love what you're doing, and you would follow in those footsteps. And just to clarify for Fire Nation reference, you know, people that you know aren’t necessarily dead, they're just not alive.
John: It's just a brand new world.
Michelle: I was like, they're just not here. It's like okay, it's sci-fi, it's like another dimension sort of thing.
Michelle: They're safe somewhere else. Okay, I like that. I like that better. That makes me feel a little better.
John: Michelle, let’s end today on fire with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you, then we’ll say goodbye.
Michelle: Yeah. My parting piece of guidance, you know, I think it's the very first thing that I tell people to do in order to start figuring out what they want to be when they grow up, and that’s to suspend disbelief. So allow yourself a day to stop asking yourself, how could I do that? How could I do that? How could I make this work? Will this ever work? And instead just say: well, what would it be like if it worked? What would that be like? What would that consist of? How would that feel? So suspend disbelief and you’ll start getting in that mindset where you’ll be able to find your what.
And I've never worked with someone to find their what and haven’t been able to find their how. You just kind of have to trust that the how comes afterwards. Everyone can find me at whenigrowupcoach.com. Like I said earlier, I'm everywhere on social media land. And so all of my links to Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, and Pinterest, and whatever, is all there, so just go to whenigrowupcoach.com and you’ll find everything that you need. And what was the last thing, John?
John: That was it girl. You knocked it out of the park. Fire Nation, you know this, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you’ve been hanging out with Michelle, hippy dippy, Ward, and JLD, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, and just type in Michelle or Ward, W-A-R-D, in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop right up with resources, the books, everything that we've been talking about today. And Michelle, I want to thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, for that we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
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