Balancing it All

How To Stop Riding Life On The Default Setting

It might not be obvious to any of us on a day to day basis, but the world has radically shifted in the last 50 years.

We’re watching as understood norms and structures are collapsing right before our eyes – either through corruption or a mass awakening or both.

  1. Is college really the best way to get a higher education?
  2. Is the American dream of buying a home with two kids and a white picket fence really sustainable?
  3. Do the police actually protect us or are they a part of the problem we see today?
  4. Is Democracy stable against tyranny and uprising?
  5. Do we really need banks and intermediaries or can we democratize and digitize money?
  6. Why do we think staying in the same career for 30+ years is the right path for most of us?
  7. Is Capitalism destroying the planet?

Will we even be here in 100 to 200 years? If we are, it won’t look anything like what we’ve known as modern society in the last few decades.

What happens energetically in society as a whole trickles down into each individual person and depending on where you are in the structure of it all, you might be feeling this radical shift internally as well.

  1. Is everything I worked for what I actually want?
  2. Why did I believe that this was the best path for me? And is it still true?
  3. Do I feel like I’ve lived fully so far, and if not, do I need to make a change in order to make the next 30-40 years more fulfilling?
  4. Have I coasted on societal norms and expectations only to feel empty and lost?

You might read those questions and say, “Oh that’s just someone in a midlife crisis.” And that might be true.

But in this time of the world, I would argue that these questions are a necessary ask to every human being who doesn’t want to just ride through life on the default setting.

Especially now when our civilization is headed for collapse.

The scariest moment for all of us is when the answer to those questions requires a reinvention. And that is something I know a bit about. I’ve done it before, and in many ways… am doing it again.

Truth #1: The fundamental belief that “end” means failure… must die. 

In 2014, my first marriage ended. And with it, a lot of the traditions, routines, friends, and community that went along with that union.

In addition to the end of my marriage, I lost my church. My best friends. My home. My town. My entire community. If you could write a definition of burning it all to the ground, that was it.

It was a mess. And in that season, I learned another truth.

Truth #2: Mess isn’t bad.

Walk into a garden in October in the Northeast and you will see a mess. The flowers are dying. Weeds might have grown up. Bugs. Maybe even some disease on leaves after the hot and humid summer.

Walk into that garden in February and you will see death. Nothing is alive or moving. The ground is frozen.

Walk into that garden in May and everything will look right. Bright green foliage, new flowers, life. Even still… it’s planted in dirt.

When things come crashing down in your world, it will be messy. You’ll feel conflicting emotions. You’ll doubt yourself. It doesn’t mean it was the wrong thing for you.

What happened for me is much like what you see in the mystical Phoenix. With everything dead and burned, I was able to resurrect the parts of me that I wanted to carry forward, and the parts of me I needed to let die.

My life today looks nothing like back then, but I still hold many of the same beliefs I did then. They just are expressed differently.

My potential would not have been unlocked if not for that mess and failure and end.

It doesn’t feel good to watch the deck get shuffled. But that cliche saying about failure is true.

Truth #3: We learn more in failure than in success. Failure is our greatest teacher.

We need to redefine failure because it is the only true catalyst for change in the human heart. Yet, most of us go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it. And by doing so, we avoid learning deep truths about ourselves that can change the way we impact the people around us.

That reinvention in 2014 taught me so much about myself and the world around me.

And silly me, I thought that was the only one I would need.

Why do we believe that a human being (average lifespan 75 years old), wouldn’t need to go through several cycles of reinvention in order to reach their highest potential?

Show me something in nature that doesn’t cycle naturally through seasons. I’ll wait.

And in all of those life cycles, death is a part of it. What’s true in one area, is true in another. For us as humans, our physical life cycle might have one natural death, but emotionally/intellectually, it’s absurd to think we wouldn’t go through several of those cycles in our lifetime.

Truth #4: If you’re committed to reaching your potential, be prepared to leave behind old patterns that don’t work anymore.

In my decision to end my current marriage, I had to wrestle with the societal norm that says divorce is only for people who can’t stick it out in relationships.

No one was going to come and reassure me on that. Despite the fact that I would be more accepted societally if I had slept around with 10-15 guys and married none, vs. staying loyal and true in two longterm serious marital relationships that ended.

It sounds absurd right? Why would I have more scorn from the world than that other scenario where I would be unable to commit to anyone in a real meaningful way?

Truth #5: Question what you believe and why you believe it. You might discover cognitive dissonance at work.

It’s scary when you uncover beliefs that don’t make logical sense. And, as a faith based person, I don’t worship logic as the highest form of thinking. I’m perfectly comfortable believing things that require faith to hold.

However, doing that with the awareness that they are based on faith is where you have to square up with yourself.

Pretending your beliefs are logic based when they are clearly not creates a pattern where you’re not willing to question yourself and your beliefs regularly.

As I’ve been walking through this divorce process over the past months, I have a new awareness of how much the body does keep the score. My physical body is the key to what’s happening emotionally for me, and this is one of the first times I’ve really understood what’s happening.

I’ve learned to notice the sensations in my body – a queasy stomach, tightness in my chest, numbness in my hands, racing heart, shaky jaw… and then even more subtle sensations… a feeling of fullness in my throat, small vibrations in my stomach… it’s all communicating to me important truths about the emotions running through me.

I didn’t realize how much I try to push certain emotions down until I started paying attention. Most of my anxiety is fueled by the desire to avoid feeling pain and sadness. And this is where I got stuck back in 2014.

I learned so much but didn’t understand this. And I do now.

Truth #6: We’re designed to feel our emotions, and if we don’t, we get stuck. They will entrap us. The way out is through. Simply feeling an emotion in the body and letting it wash over us like a wave is how we process emotion.

All this talk of hard things does have a positive flip side.

The potential for love is deeper.

The ability to tap into true empathy means you will be able to reach more people.

The feeling of true happiness and contentment is more accessible.

The body keeps the score in both positive and negative ways. Living in stress, avoidance, fear, anxiety, frustration will take its toll on you physically as much as emotionally.

The brain controls everything, including the hormone response to stress. And those stress hormones in large quantities over a long period of time will manifest in your life.

How about we use this incredible power of the mind body connection towards the positive?

None of this is easy, but it’s 100% worth it. I’ve been through some of the deepest pain and sadness in both seasons of reinvention, and it’s tough – but in each of them, I have held onto my commitment to doing what is best for me, regardless of how it feels in the moment.

I know that the more responsibility I take for myself and my potential, the more impact I will be able to have on those around me.

I did a podcast episode the other day and I was asked the question, “What legacy do you want to leave on this Earth?” and it took me a minute, but it was clear as day.

I want people to look at my life and think, “If she did it, so can I.”

xx

About Divorce

The grief took me by surprise. The depth of my tears seemed to come from the innermost parts of me and sometimes I felt like they would never run out. I felt very much like death had come to my door, and I had no choice but to ride out the tsunami of grief it brought

  • Death to surviving.
  • Death to over functioning.
  • Death to loose boundaries.
  • Death to bending because I’m scared of losing love.
  • Death to trying to make a happy ending.

Today, I find myself struggling sometimes to hold onto these new set of shoes I’m wearing. I want to kick them off and go get my old comfy sneakers that take me to places of desperation, neediness, over adaptation, codependency. But then I say no… I put bandages on the blisters forming where my new shoes are causing discomfort, and I keep walking. 

I realize it’s normal to one minute want to run right back into the past. To soothe the pain of separation and loss and pretend that everything is okay.

But then the next minute feel the incredible rush of relief that comes with finally learning to honor oneself.

One minute you want to beg to someone, anyone, to tell you you’re worth loving, even when you’re not useful or accommodating to them.

The next minute.. standing in that feeling of alone-ness, in the middle of the night when your body and brain can’t fall asleep, and your souls whisper… “you’re doing it.” 

One minute you can’t hardly bear the idea of being alone forever.

The next minute you cannot imagine how you went so long without a sacred space that is just for you.

Though the world sees me as incredibly competent and reliable, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life thinking I cannot be left to my own devices. I need someone to rescue me, take care of me, give me feedback because I can’t give it to myself. And it turns out this was the biggest lie of all. A belief system that dictated the entirety of my adult life is crashing down.

It’s only been a short while, but it feels like a lifetime.

There are still many hills to climb, many of which seemed huge and insurmountable before I made the decision to be alone. I wish I believed it when people told me those hills would not seem so huge once I trusted my instincts.

I spent so long being afraid of them, and here they are – and the grace and strength is there for me, in abundance.

Even still, grief is so messy and unpredictable. Sometimes I watch myself flail around trying to find a stabilizing force. I try not to fall into shame and judgement because no one ever said it wouldn’t be messy trying to break out of a cocoon to become a butterfly. Those caterpillars have to turn to goo first to even get their wings.

When I think about having a partner again, I feel so many things. 

  • Guilt. Should I not want this?
  • Anticipation. Will someone actually be able to walk alongside me in this life?
  • Despair. I don’t know that there is any man able to reach the standard I’ve now set for access to my heart and mind. 
  • Joy. I know that I’m an entirely different woman now and won’t choose out of need.

I feel God is close to me in this moment. I know He is near to the brokenhearted.

I see Him in the eyes of my children who are closely watching how I choose them as my first priority.

I see Him in the mentors who are right there to send love and advice and reassurance just when I need it.

I see Him in the face of my parents who show me unconditional love and acceptance no matter how messy my life gets. 

I see Him in the arms of friends who are walking this with me.

And I know, when He sends me a partner who will be strong enough, smart enough, capable enough to just walk alongside me in this life – I will see God in his eyes too.

In the meantime, I will keep going. I will keep finding joy. I will wake up every day grateful I get another morning to get up and see the goodness of God in this life. I will celebrate life and love in all its forms. I will take risks. I will be gentle with my mess ups. I will find compassion for everyone, even those who don’t know how to care for my heart. I will choose forgiveness. 

I will not be ashamed that my life doesn’t look like the fairy tale endings we were all spoon fed as children.

I will choose love.

For myself as much for anyone else. 

xx

2021 Income (ish) + Takeaways

Every year I write a recap of sorts. I put it on the blog, write it in an email, and use it as a bookend to the year.

I linked up the older takeaway posts at the end of this email if you want to see them – many of the takeaways are still true today as they were when I wrote them. Some things of course are different too.

2021 was a blur of content creation and growth. Digital Insiders had its biggest events ever, with a sold out mastermind all year long. Funnel Gorgeous (painfully) doubled in size and with that came all sorts of growth, fun, chaos, stress, and gratitude.

I wrote an email teasing some of this financial growth out a bit and got MAJOR kickback about it. People apparently only like you talking about money on your rise up, and there’s a line you cross at which point character assassination and shaming are what you can expect.

It was hard. It made me not want to talk about money ever again.

But I got over it. I’ve been consistently transparent since I got online. I’m not going to stop now because a few people decided to throw stones.

So here’s how the year ended.

Digital Insiders

  • Total Revenue for 2021 = $1,961,724.81
  • Payroll + Contractor Costs for 2021 = $699,454.84
  • Expenses = $320,680.39
  • Net Profit = $941,589.97
  • Taxes on Profit (50% est when I pay federal, CT, and several other states ????) = $470,794.985
  • Net Income = $470,794.98

As you can see, this program has remained steady, as it’s not a scalable offer due to the constraints around the coaching services. I also do not want it any bigger because I want to continue to have 1:1 to access with everyone, so I’m content to keep this business “in the sweet spot”.

The largest expenses in DI are for labor and events.

Digital Insiders also takes an incredible amount of time and bandwidth. This is not a set it and forget it business. I am actively coaching and interacting with clients at least 25-30 hours a week. I spend two weeks a year with Insiders nearly 24 hours a day. So if you’re looking at the business model saying “Oh that’s a sweet deal” – it 100% is an amazing business model if you like people and enjoy investing in them. If you are okay answering voxers 50 weeks a year without stopping ????.

It’s hard to explain how much mental energy it takes to run a dynamic mastermind and keep it healthy and interactive and helpful and all of those things. And it’s also hard to explain how important it is to have a coaching team that is expert level, drama free, and full of integrity. I’m so grateful to my team and their commitment to the group, to each other, and to me. And of course it goes without saying that a mastermind is only as good as the people who are in it, and they are some of the most incredible entrepreneurs I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Funnel Gorgeous was the business that doubled in 2021 (went from $2m – $4m). This is largely due to the fact that we added a brand new revenue stream at the end of 2020 in the form of SaaS. Whereas formally we were just a course + coaching company, now we have SaaS as well.

  • So our course + coaching business did about the same as 2020 – $2M in sales.
  • We added an additional $2M in sales through FG Funnels.

It was crazy to see that both revenue streams were almost equal. I didn’t expect that.

Expense wise, our biggest cost was… you guessed it… labor! I don’t have the final P&L for 2021 to share the exact numbers but in November, we spent over $128k on payroll, contractors, etc., in one month.

Overall, our profit margin is coming in around 40% for the year but we’ve slowly seen profit margin decrease as we’ve grown (which is to be expected). December’s profit was quite low due to the upcoming Marketer’s Heart event (events are SO EXPENSIVE) but the average for the year was great.

So what do I feel now that 2021 is over? Any magical takeaways or insights?

  1. I built a lot of content. I counted it up on a post a few months ago, and it was insane. 2022 is not looking any less, so it’s clear this is one of my zones of genius. Whether it’s workshops, coaching, courses, or presentations, this is where I shine and where I should probably stay. The question is, will I ever slow down enough to write a damn book!?!?!?
  2. Growth isn’t anything like what people think. It’s literally all about people. Hiring people, managing people, coming up with company systems for performance reviews, meetings, insurance, relationship dynamics, etc. Growth is about hiring more lawyers. Growth is about financial strategy conversations. Growth is about not losing your shit when people misunderstand you.
  3. The Internet is changing. It’s changing so fast and we’re right in the thick of it. We’ve got blockchain, VR, web3, NFTs all swirling around the edges of our everyday life and it’s going to continue to come faster and faster into 2022. In change is risk + opportunity. Expect to win and to lose if you play.
  4. The era of dollar in two dollar out Facebook Ads is over, and it’s not coming back.
  5. It’s hard to grow a thick skin and be kind at the same time. I wrote about it here and here.
  6. Most people if they can figure out business, can’t seem to get a handle on the money part of business once it’s made. It’s a big gap in Internet Marketing circles and it’s something I want to help solve (this was the motivation behind Future Fund launch in August with Aryeh Sheinbein).
  7. I did the two biggest events I’ve ever done in May and November. Both were hella epic and I’ll remember them til the day I die (and it makes me want to do more!).
  8. My top podcast of 2021? The Coaching Formula 
  9. My top posts of the year on the blog?
    1. The Tightrope
    2. How to Build a Marketing Plan that Doesn’t Rely on Facebook Ads

Personally it was an interesting year!

  • January Alex and I put an offer in on Longwater Farm.
  • February Nala came to join our family (I also turned 40!).
  • March we moved to Guilford.
  • April + May were adjusting to farm life and inviting all of Digital Insiders to the farm in May.
  • In June, school got out and we went to Disney for the first time since the pandemic.
  • We came back and Ellie contracted covid and landed in the hospital. That pretty much deterred our July.
  • August was another workshop here at the farm, and then school started anew for all the kids. My inlaws also came to live with us for half a year.
  • One kid started college. William went to school for the first time ever. Our girls started a new high school.
  • November was Disney World with Digital Insiders.
  • And then it was the holidays. December 30th, 2021 – the year that’s gone the FASTEST so far in my life.

I’m in a bit of a funny headspace as we race into 2022. I’m hella aware of the state of our planet. The pandemic, climate change, an impending midterm election year, web3 and the metaverse coming in hot. It’s a lot.

A LOT.

Add family and business and it’s no wonder so many of us are tired.

But one thing I know to be true. Our place on this Earth is for such a time as this. I was not a mistake born when I was, and neither are you. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you were made for this hour.

Embrace it.

All my love,

Julie

P.S. Some of my older takeaways…2020201920182017.

Ep. 100 Behind the Scenes of The Disney Mastermind

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Full Transcript:

Today I want to debrief with you on the latest Digital Insiders Mastermind. This was probably the most ambitious thing I have ever attempted in my business, and it was a basically week long Disneyworld meets Digital Insiders Mastermind Extravaganza. So I’m gonna kind of go into the event and give you sort of behind the scenes.



So we decided to do something different for the 2021 masterminds because we had all been virtual for Covid. So back in 2020 I had the idea, you know we all been sort of sitting on the sidelines here, doing everything virtual, let’s go someplace amazing. Let’s go to Disneyworld.

So I contacted the event team, and I just have to give a major shout out to Disneyworld Event Team, they did a fantastic job, but also my team. Really, Jessica Foster was the machine behind all of this helping put all these logistics together. So we went ahead, picked the dates, got the room block, and basically I said to people, “You have got to book this now, come hell or high water.” Because you know, when you’re planning an event, it’s always a little tricky with the room block because they make you pay for whatever you don’t use on your room block, so that can be kind of financially scary. But the Digital Insiders were super, they were down. And we booked up the room block in just a couple of weeks.

So we stayed at the Grand Floridian, which is the flagship resort in Disneyworld. Amazing location, amazing views, just absolutely fantastic. We got a really good deal, normally it’s like $700 a night at that resort, but we ended up getting about $329 a night for a room and people wanted to share. So we booked that out pretty fast. Then what I did is I put together a Disneyworld Committee through the Digital Insiders just to get some feedback and some ideas on how to do it, because you’re combining play with work, it was completely different than any other mastermind.

So we met once a month for a couple of months. We talked about food, we talked about ideas, we talked about the blend of play versus work. So that was sort of a recurring theme as I was planning this event. How much play is enough? And how much work is enough? And with entrepreneurs who are very, very work focused, I was a little nervous that this would be a hard transition. And it turns out that it was a little bit, but it was also really, really good.

So a couple of things, number one, the way we ran the schedule is we did two full masterminding days from 9 to 4 on Monday and Thursday. And on both of those days we had hosted dinners. So basically the way the schedule worked is we Mastermind from 9 to 12, we had a 2 hour lunch break, and everybody went to various restaurants around Disneyworld. And that was quite a logistical feat that I had a Digital Insider help me with to get reservations, since Disney is kind of complicated. And then we had a nice long break from 4 to 7, and this was great because it allowed people to either go to the pool, or talk, or network, and then we had hosted dinners on Monday and Thursday night.

So those were the big mastermind days. Tuesday and Friday were half day mastermind days. So on Tuesday it was a 2 to 6, and on Friday it was 11 to 3. So on those days we had other things going on. So Tuesday morning we had people going into Magic Kingdom. And on Friday night we had people going into Epcot. So those days were really, really long. I thought they were going to be fine, but they were actually more tiring than the Monday/Thursday because of the switch from play to work, play to work.And then Wednesday, smack dab in the middle, was just a day of play.

So a couple of cool things that we did at the mastermind that I will never forget as long as I live. The first thing is that I rented out Animal Kingdom, after dark, after closing. So we got on coach buses, we got to animal kingdom, and all 80 of us walking into the park while everyone was walking out, was just something I will never forget as long as I live.

We went over into the Africa area, and we went to Harambe market where there was a West African band playing, a huge buffet, Raffiki showed up and we basically spent an hour and half or two hours just having a meal together. And then we picked up and walked over to the land of Pandora, which is all lit up at night. It’s bio-luminescent waterfalls, sounds. We went over there and we had 90 minutes access to the most popular ride on Disney property, which is Flight of Passage, although, I would say it’s probably the second most popular ride now that Star Wars is around. And we got 90 minutes to ride it, just us. And it was so unbelievably cool.

And then we had a dessert party with all kinds of desserts. I honestly can’t quite remember. So that night was just absolutely unforgettable. The next morning, Tuesday morning, about 40 of us got up to go do Magic Kingdom. So we were up late, and we were up early, and by Tuesday night we were just absolutely exhausted.
But it was interesting to see what happened, because some of the people who were a little bit less excited about the play part of the mastermind, noticed that once they were kind of pulled out of their regular environment, they were waiting in lines, they were eating meals, they were dancing, they were swimming, they were doing all these things, and ideas started to kind of bubble up to the surface. And that that need for play is so built into our DNA, and it’s the thing that really drives creativity.

So on Wednesday we all did a VIP tour. So I had got 6 VIP tour guides and each team, they were based on teams and they were named after different pirate ships, got to choose what they wanted to do for 7 hours. So some teams did one or two parks, other teams hit all four parks in 7 hours, it was nuts. But of course, with the VIP tour guides, you can get to the front of the lines, they drive you through the back entrances, they get your coffee for you, your ponchos, whatever you need. So it’s just such a luxury experience. And I cannot tell you, I will treasure for the rest of my life, all the pictures that came flooding in during that VIP day.

So Thursday we went back to work, but there was like a new energy in the room because we had had all this play time, and Thursday night we had a party at the Grand Floridian. We watched the fireworks, we danced, we stayed up until 2 in the morning in the hot tub, and it was just an absolutely amazing, amazing day.

Friday was, Friday was a little hard. It was hard because it was sad because people were leaving. It was hard because we were exhausted. We did mastermind again, we had some great presentations, and then we went into Epcot and we did the food and wine festival and the fireworks. It was a full day. And we were all exhausted. But the takeaway from it was that play is as important as work, especially if you need creative energy for your business. It also is very obvious that people need connection, they need face to face human connection. And I saw that play out, and you know we know that the pandemic has caused a lot of hardship and social isolation. But watching the sort of sadness and crash after, just reminds me how much we need to belong in a community.

So if you’re thinking about putting on an event like this, number one I would make sure you have someone like my team. Jess and also Emily and Helen and Nuno, they were all really, really critical to pulling this off. I had Helen who was overseeing the virtual, because there were virtual about 20 people who couldn’t come, so we wanted to stream them in. Nuno who was sort of working the room and making sure everybody felt good and could belong. And Emily was sort of the liaison between the virtual and the in-person, she was also my gate keeper. And then Jess who was managing almost every logistic from you know, oh my gosh, the time and what to do if it rained. And we had a little bit of a snafu with our park tickets not being hoppers, and we had to upgrade them all, just little things like that.

It is definitely an expensive event, both for your clients and for you. This was triple the cost of what I normally spend on a mastermind event, and 100% worth it. I had a few people ask, “What’s the ROI on an event like this?” I didn’t sell anything, so I didn’t “make back the money”. However, I had spoken to Emily, who is my CFO about this when some of the quotes were coming in for these ridiculous experiences, like renting Animal Kingdom, or renting a ride, or VIP tours, all that kind of stuff. You know, I wanted it to make business sense, but at some point it didn’t. You know, when I’m normally spending, you $40 to $50,000 on an event where I’m not selling anything, it’s a fulfillment event, what is the reason for spending 3, 4 times more than that for an event?

So I knew in my head that experiences matter, not just for the sense of community, but for retention, but also because I knew that giving people an experience would help re-invigorate their business, and does that have an ROI? Yes, 100%. Does it have an ROI on my PNL? It will, you know what, because I don’t necessarily at this point in my business, worry so, so, so much about my PNL. My PNL is pretty steady and yes it will take a dip, but I know that the memories, that the relationships, the connections, the creativity, it is going to last far beyond the 2021 budget.

So again, I would say to you as a business owner, if you are planning an event, or thinking of attending an event, and you’re struggling to find the ROI in it, you’re not quite sure how it’s all going to work, take my story to heart and know that, it was funny, Emily got off Flight of Passage on Monday night, and you know she’s always the one watching my books, and she came over to me and said, ‘You know, half way through the ride I thought to myself, there’s really no better way to spend money than what we’re doing right here.” And it’s really true, like from a personal values standpoint, I don’t think I can think of a time in my life where I was happier than watching so many people I love have the time of their life. And you really can’t put a number on that.

So I would encourage you to think about experiences in your business, yes there are a lot of logistics and they cost a lot of money, but they are 1000% worth all the headache and time that they take to plan. And shout out to Disneyworld. If you have never done anything at Disneyworld, their customer service team is just unparalleled. It’s a business lesson in and of itself. Watching the way they run their company, the way they run events, the standard at which they hold themselves to, it’s something that Cathy and I at Funnel Gorgeous, and myself at Digital Insiders aspire to.

So I am still not recovered. There was a pretty bad dopamine crash after this. Of course I’m already thinking about when’s the next time we can do something like this again. And the takeaways just keep coming. It’s funny, I met with the Digital Insiders yesterday and we did takeaways at the event, but it takes some time to really let things percolate. And the stuff that’s starting to bubble up is really, really good.

So go find a way to play today, get some experiences, get outside of your comfort zone, and I’ll talk to you soon.

The Day My Nightmare Came True

On Sunday morning, July 4th, while most of America was waking up to talk about barbecues and fireworks, I found myself in my daughter Ellie’s room – with an at home Covid test in hand.

She was crying, coughing, and said, “Mom it hurts to even move my fingers.”

I don’t know that I expected the test to be positive honestly. She’d come down with a 101 fever on Friday night and without ANY other symptom, I wondered if she had an ear infection from swimming at Disney, a UTI, or possibly Lyme. Covid wasn’t on my radar.

Thing is – Covid HAS been on my radar (and in my nightmares) since February 2020. Before most the world woke up to the danger of the pandemic, I was fretting on Twitter 17x a day looking for every scientific expert I could find to help me understand this mysterious virus ripping through China.

After 16 months of vigilance and super low positivity rates in Connecticut, my brain wore out of worry.

And then the test was positive. Like in MINUTES. I’d purchased an at home Covid test at Walgreens and knew it might not be reliable but false positives were rare. Ellie had Covid.

Downstairs my three other unvaccinated kids and three unvaccinated nieces and nephews were blissfully unaware.

My nightmare came true.

  • A child with a serious virus.
  • Me as the primary caregiver, forced to come face to face with one of my greatest anxieties.
  • 6 other kids to protect.

Something funny happened to me as I stared at that test…and I think it’s a business + life lesson we can all learn from.

I was calm.

I knew what to do, I set about to do it, and I told myself that I would have two criteria to watch for – fever and O2.

The 16 months of anxiety on the one hand had prepared me better than a lot of others because I knew so much by this point, but my anxiety also lied to me. It made me feel like I wouldn’t be able to handle it if it happened.

Now, 10 days later I can tell you that I managed to care for Ellie, keep my other kids away from harm, and handled five very hard days in the hospital.

I did handle it, and it was okay.

Your anxiety about anything – lost clients, sickness, relationship problems – don’t let it lie to you that you’re not strong enough. You are. And you won’t have the grace to face the crisis until the crisis, so wasting time and energy worrying about it will only deplete you. I’ve rehashed these truths in therapy over and over, and the past week and a half gave me a very tangible example to experience.

For the first three days post-knowing-it-was-covid, we did all the things at home you’re supposed to. Isolation, masks, O2 checks, temp checks, Vitamin C, Tylenol/Advil. And by Tuesday (this was now day 5 of fever), her temp started to dip and I crossed my fingers we were in the clear.

Wednesday it was clear we were not. I’ll never forget taking her to the pediatrician that morning. She was so nauseous and feverish (almost 103). The doctor was only willing to see her outside in the parking lot. I had a picnic blanket and put it under the shade of a tree so she could lay down and the doctor came out in full gear, looked and listened, and said, “This is the sickest kid we’ve seen.” She was sweating in the 90 degree heat and yet cold because of the fever.

I think right in that moment, I flashed back to every Facebook conversation and comment I had with covid conspiracy theorists, anti-maskers, and their ongoing argument that it wasn’t a big deal, especially for young kids.

I wanted to take the picture of her and blast it all over social media. I was enraged. Enraged at the anti-vax rhetoric that kept me from being able to vaccinate her, and every keyboard warrior that told me I was some fear monger.

She had no pre-existing conditions. No asthma.

The pediatrician said she was borderline for the hospital at 93% oxygen and to watch her every hour.

By 2pm, the 93 had dipped to 92, and off we went.

Sitting in the ER, the nurse wasn’t really convinced she was sick enough to stay. Her O2 on the main monitor was around 95, they said my at-home pulse ox probably wasn’t accurate, and her fever was down because of the motrin. Slightly worried that I had jumped the gun, we sat in the room for an hour while the Xray tech came in to check her chest.

Within 30 minutes, I had a text from the ER that she’d been admitted. Before I saw the doctor or any person told me, the automatic messaging system alerted me and I knew…she had pneumonia.

It was a flurry after that. An echo, blood drawn, and then she was brought to the 7th floor in a negative pressure room and admitted.

This whole time I was with Ellie. In fact, for about five days I felt like I was tempting fate (and my vaccine) every time I went to care for her. I might as well licked Covid off the floor.

Yes I was vaccinated, but still – to face a virus that’s making your child so very sick, watching everyone in the hospital dress up in full PPE while you’re sitting there with one dinky mask on, it messes with you. How was I not freaking out (yes even with a vax) that Ellie was essentially blowing Covid in my face with every breath?

And yet, I was calm. Tired and running on adrenaline, yes. But had you told me 18 months ago that I would be able to do what I just did…I would have laughed.

Remember, you don’t get the grace you need for the moment…until the moment. And then it’s there.

By the time she was admitted, I started posting updates on Facebook – so you can see the progression of her virus by just reading my timeline. I won’t bore everyone with the medical details, but the story has a great ending. After five days at the hospital, she’s home. Still pretty sick and weak, but fever free and breathing with more ease now.

None of the other 6 children have shown symptoms. Honestly I think the combination of me acting fast with her fever, masking her right away, isolating her with her own bathroom, and good filtration and sanitation – that’s what kept them all safe. That and every adult in the house was vaccinated so as I interacted with her, I didn’t carry it back (I was also incredibly careful). We’re “technically” not out of the quarantine period, but breathing much better now that it’s been 10 days since first symptoms appeared.

I understand that everyone is tired of Covid, but it’s still here, still dangerous, and yes – it does affect kids.

We have a follow up appt with the infectious disease team and pediatrician to monitor symptoms, make sure there’s no lung damage or relapse, and to help her get her strength back.

There were lots of other things I learned through this whole ordeal, but for now – for tonight – my message to anyone who struggles with anxiety or fear is this:

You will not have grace for the moment until it happens. Your anxiety lies to you and tells you that you can’t handle it, and you can. And you’ll surprise yourself when it happens. People will be there for you. Your adrenaline will kick in. Your brain will use a new set of rules to determine what’s important and what’s not, and most importantly… you’ll be okay.

xx Julie

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