Balancing it All

Ep. 92 What is Your “Enough” Number?

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Hey everyone, this is Julie. I’m the worst podcaster ever. I’m so inconsistent. But here I am and I got a great question today from a Digital Insider and I thought, you know what, I’m just going to pop on my headset and record this as a podcast.



So the question was, what is your enough number? And this particular person said that they think that they’ve always struggled with building this 8 figure business but then trying to align that with freedom and fulfillment and family goals, it just seems like such a risk to grow with a huge company and employees to the 8 figures, doesn’t even make sense.

So I thought, okay, let me answer this question because it’s an amazing question, and I realized as in enneagram 6, I actually am not the typical personality type of an entrepreneur. So I will regularly see people on Instagram saying, “Oh, I want to go from 3 to 6.” Or “I want to go from 1 to 2.” Or whatever their revenue goals are, and of course at Funnel Gorgeous we set revenue goals, but we set them not because we’re trying to gun for some particular number, it’s more that we want to know that the company is growing. So my enough number personally doesn’t really have to do with my business revenue, it has to do with the number that will help me retire, or stop working should I choose, or if I need to or Iwant to.

So I actually work with Ari, you’ve probably heard me talk about him. He helps us with some financial investing and things, and he talks a lot about this number because most people don’t know what do you actually have in the bank or in investments in order to retire and live comfortably in the lifestyle that you’re at now, for the remainder of your years. And that number is really hard to come up with. I think for me, I would say that that number is about 5 million dollars, as is you know, divested into investments and some cash. But that would be probably the number that I’m looking at. So once I know that I have $5 million invested in various places and accessible to me, I would say, that’s the point at which I could stop working if I wanted to, but I don’t want to.

So in the meantime, I just continue to grow a business that throws off capital that I can use to invest, knowing that I’m thinking, okay, it’s probably going to take me, how many more years is it going to take me to grow that? So here I was answering this question and the reality is that what kind of business would you rather have, a $2 million business that throws off nearly a million in profit, or would you rather have a business that’s making $10 million and throwing off a million in profit? And the bandwidth of a $2 million business is very different than the bandwidth of a $10 million business.

Now if you are motivated by impact, or volume or status, or you want to have a huge reach or you want to grow a big team, you might answer that question and say, “I would like a $10 million business throwing off a million in profit, because probably at $10 million I have a majority of people doing the work, I don’t have to be doing all the things or wearing all the hats, so I’m comfortable with that.” And that’s cool. Or you might say, “I don’t want 50 employees. I want a $2 million business. I want a small team of 5 or 10 people, and I want to be hands on in the business.” So these are the decisions that you’re making. So now if it throws off a million in profit and you have to put whatever, 30 or 40% into taxes, that’s earning, let’s just say for easy math, about $500,000 a year. So if you’re trying to get to $5 million in cash you’ve got to live off that money and then save it. So it’s going to take you 10 years or so to build a business, to build enough cash reserve and investments to retire. And the average person retires at about 65. So you know that’s kind of how the math works. Very macro, not very detail oriented.

So I have this unique vantage point of working with a lot of clients, so I can see on the back ends of a lot of businesses, and understand sort of the lifestyle implications of those businesses. So here’s some things to think about. I’m not going to give you any answers of what is your enough number, but here’s some ideas.

The first thing is that Digital Insiders is my current personal business. And that is a capped business, it will not scale beyond about $2 million a year. I do not want it to scale beyond that. I could grow it and change it and morph it, but I like it. And it has been a steady million dollar a year business, and as I cap out at 100 paying members, it has grown, but that’s going to be about a $2 million dollar a year business, it’s going to have good profit margins, and it’s going to be an amazing way to spend my years working. Now the thing about that business, it’s a full time, 40 hours a week position. Because it’s a small company, I don’t have a big team doing everything, I’m doing a lot of the coaching. So just very, it is taking a lot of my time. So if I wanted to have a business where I didn’t have to talk to a lot of people, where I didn’t have to spend 30 hours a week coaching through Voxer and Audits and Hotseats, then I would need to choose something else.

Now Funnel Gorgeous is a completely different animal. That has a coaching aspect to it, but it’s not a one on one coaching aspect. And then it has course sales, it’s a more scalable business, and we’ve also been rolling into software. That has a much larger team, Funnel Gorgeous in on track to do $4 million this year with about a 40% profit margin. There’s also a second CEO so the capital it throws off has to get divided differently. Plus we have a lot more people on payroll. And the thing with Funnel Gorgeous is that there’s a lot more scaling team, logistic systems management, and less of the heavy duty, intensive coaching.

Now the reality is that for the past couple of years, Digital Insiders and Funnel Gorgeous have kind of thrown off, at least in 2020, I would say they threw off about the same amount of capital. Um, yeah. Sort of. About that. So I can kind of feel from a lifestyle position what it feels like to have a Digital Insiders type high touch coaching business versus at Funnel Gorgeous where I’m more managerial, and I do have a little bit of coaching. But still, what am I going for? Am I trying to hit some magic number with Funnel Gorgeous? No. We are trying to grow. We’re actually trying not to grow too fast. It scares me to death to grow too fast. So that is not something I’m interested in.

So when you’re looking at your enough number, it is really tempting to just gun for some big number without the context. And it is incredibly dangerous, because when you get to that number you’re probably going to be pretty disillusioned as to what it means, because you attached a meaning to it that wasn’t really true or accurate. So when you’re sitting down and sort of building out your value ladder or if you’re a company and figuring out where you want to go, you want to start with that end number in mind of when do you want to retire? What age do you want to be when you retire? How much money do you want to have invested or in the bank in order to retire? And then back into it from there.

And then as you’re building that business, thinking about the different containers that business can go in, you know, do you want to have a huge impact? Do you want to have big volume? Do you want to manage a big team? Do you want to have a smaller business? Do you want to have more intimate and deeper connections?
So those are the things that I would encourage you to think about, as you’re trying to plan out your enough number.

Anyway, thanks guys for listening. Sorry to be so MIA, but life. We moved, we got a puppy, and there’s been a lot going on in the land of Funnel Gorgeous, but I’m glad to be back.

On Being Kind While Growing A Thick Skin

I had a realization the other day, that somewhere in the past three to four years, I’ve learned an important lesson I want to share with you all. It has to do with being kind while growing a thicker skin. 

Let’s face it: Business is literally an activity whereby the business owner willingly subjects him or herself to increasingly difficult and complex problems in exchange for money.

That’s what you sign up for when you decide to go into business. There is no destination, just progress forward or backward, and with each new level… comes harder and harder problems.

And as you grow, there’s something new that happens to you as the business owner: You are in contact with more and more people. Customers, colleagues, and a growing team.

The exponential growth of relationship dynamics for a business owner is staggering if you watch it play out. If you’re an introvert, an empath, or just a sensitive person in general, this can be the most exhausting part.

I remember the first time a customer made me want to burn my business to the ground. He was a suspicious sort, and paid me $1000 to redo his website. He didn’t like the changes and proceeded to block me, demand a refund, and insist I was trying to hack him.

I cried for a solid day.

Little did I know (and thank God no one told me) that would be the easiest “hater” client I had.

Over the years, I’ve had more unhappy customers and hater trolls on my posts, messages, and in my inbox than I could recall. Some are funny, some are crazy, some really take me a day or two to get over.

And each time I have the same reaction: Is business worth all this? Is it really?

And then I remember this lesson I’m about to teach you….

NEVER make a decision in the heat of the emotional moment because I GUARANTEE that in 7 – 14- 30 days you will be in a team meeting and laughing about how ridiculous it all was…or at least acknowledging that it was a fuck up that you can retell on a blog post someday.

Promise.

I don’t openly talk about the issues I face on a weekly basis with unhappy customers because I choose to focus on the 99% of the people who are happy and content. I know that it’s human nature to focus on the negative, so I train myself to see the positive.

The thing is, I realize now that this may have unintentionally perpetuated the idea that everyone loves me and therefore what’s wrong with you that you have sour grape customers.

So let me tell you about the time…

  • I spent a year with a client who used all my services, didn’t have a good year in business, and then turned around and blamed me for all of it, resulting in me giving back 50% of her money (losing thousands and thousands of dollars)
  • I have one particular customer who insists I’ve stolen all her IP, and harasses me regularly with threats for stealing her ideas
  • On a weekly basis, I’m wrangling angry or disappointed customers at FG Funnels who didn’t like their support experience, or felt the app was too hard.
  • Randomly I’ll find influencers block me and then when I reach out to ask why, I get no satisfiable answer.
  • Well meaning advice flies in my direction on the daily. I’m not doing enough of this, or enough of that, etc.
  • Partnerships gone bad that turn into untrue passive aggressive rumors.
  • Facebook commenters that accuse me of drama, of being too fragile, biting the hand that feeds me, etc.
  • Customers threatening to call BBB on me for a mistake they made.
  • People misunderstanding the words I use or the intentions of my heart.

On and on it goes.

So no…it’s not just you. You are not weird for having a hater, or a pissy client. You are not weird because you feel like burning it all to the ground when things go sour.

But what you can do in that moment, no matter how rotten you feel – is tell yourself that Julie said in 7-14-30 days I will be laughing about this. Okay maybe not laughing, but you won’t want to burn your business to the ground.

When the urge to run + hide hits you, that’s the moment to stand. 

Because something important is happening. You’re developing a thicker skin while remaining kind. It’s literally happening in the moment for you, not to you.

To run + hide is to defend yourself. The thing that will turn thick skin into cynicism. Resist.

For every encounter you have that you STAY in, keeping your kind + sensitive heart while not crumbling under the weight of not being good enough…another notch in your thick skin belt is being formed.

And one day – you’ll hit another customer being upset, and you’ll notice that you don’t want to burn your business down.

You don’t want to run and hide. You take a deep breath, channel your inner strength, face it head on with your kind thick skin.

 

Ep. 87 2020 Recap + Takeaway

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Hey everyone, oh my gosh. I meant to record this podcast at the end of 2020, but here we are in 2021. This was going to be sort of my 2020 recap report and takeaway, and it’s now January 11th. But I’m recording it on January 11, who knows when you’ll see it. But nonetheless, I’m here to talk about the year of all years.



I have to say, I did write this on my blog and I’ve been procrastinating a little bit on recapping 2020, and I think I feel so much conflict because this year brought so much stress and trauma, and crisis to all of us. But in the midst of it, there are so many gifts and lessons that I’ve learned about myself, my relationships, my business, that I don’t really know what to think about 2020.

And 2020 is also the year that I finally stopped keeping everything about my life and business in silos. You know, I was given the advice that you never, ever, ever want to talk politics or religion in business, and I think I held onto that for a long time, and 2020 was really the year where I finally broke free from that. And I have a few reasons why. I think one of the big reasons why I struggled to find my voice was because I was working in an organization and company that has values that are very different from my own. And it has taken me a long time to come to grips with how much of the real me I was suppressing in order to fit in a role that I was in.

You know, I have nothing but warm feelings and respect for the people over at Clickfunnels because they have been critical to a lot of my knowledge and expertise and visibility. So I just want to honor them in that, but there is a real thing that happened to me when I became a part of that company, representing that company, that my voice kind of went dormant. And that’s because my voice is in direct contradiction to a lot the things that their voice is in. So I left in 2019, but I think it took me 7 – 8 months to really feel my way back into the world.

So for 2020 I started talking about politics, the election, Black Lives Matter, the Coronavirus, and then I also started talking about fun things like plant based living and eating and gardening and birds, and all that kind of stuff.

So this year was interesting because I lost thousands of followers, in fact, I’ve culled my email list in half, and yet, my business is still growing. So I know there’s a really important lesson in there. It obviously sounds really cliché, but it is the stay true to yourself mantra and to continue to deliver value. And your business will be fine, no matter how dorky or unpopular your opinions may be.

So that’s sort of a big overview of some of the significant changes that have happened in 2020 personally and what you’ve seen publically through all my channels and my email list.

Now financially 2020 was a great year. For my revenue in 2020 it was 2.24 million dollars. And my net profit was 1.4 million. Now that is an enormous success, and also a really important lesson there, which is that my revenue in 2019 was 2 million, my revenue in 2018 was 2 million. So I know that 2018, 2019 I was working with Clickfunnels, so it was very hard to be a VP and run a business, so you can see sort of that stagnation of revenue growth there, because I’m not superwoman.

So this year was the first year, 2020, which was a crazy year, where I didn’t have any other obligations. I wasn’t working at Clickfunnels. So you can see that I went from 2 million into 2.2 million. Now that may not sound like a lot of growth, that may not sound exciting, but I have trained all of my clients and students to celebrate all wins. And the reality is that 15% growth year after year is actually excellent in the real world. 30% growth is amazing. And it only seems to be in the internet marketing world that people think that 100% growth is the only kind of growth that you can have.

Now to go from 2 million to 2.2 million is not quite even 15%. So I only grew, whatever, 8-10%. So I’m like, “Okay, what do those numbers actually mean? What do they actually say about what happened in 2020?” because you can’t just look at the numbers, you gotta look below them. And again, another reason why people spouting revenue numbers is not helpful. So a couple of things changed. Number one, I stopped promoting Clickfunnels as an affiliate in 2020, which means I’ve lost a lot of revenue, by no longer doing that.

Now, I still am getting some recurring revenue, but my Clickfunnels affiliate was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. So this was a big sort of change for me. I stopped selling my create your laptop life membership. I had you know, about 700 or 1000 people in a $50 a month membership. I sunsetted that so that I could work on this new project, FG Society with Cathy. I also stopped selling TDG, that was my $2000 program.

So basically, I stopped selling everything except for Digital Insiders. So when I look at my revenue and I say, “Okay, I stopped selling most of what I’ve been doing, and I still grew by 8-10%.” That’s a sign that it was an excellent year. Right, because I mean that’s awesome. It means doing less but making more, which is what everybody wants. Now if you look at my net profit in my business, which was 1.4, the thing is that that is my most profit year to date. So even though I only grew by whatever it is, 8%, 9%, in 2018, 2019 my profit was less. So all in all 2020 has been my best year yet.

And that is despite the pandemic. I had a bunch of lost income due to people who couldn’t afford to pay because they were losing clients, you know there’s that ripple effect. So I did set up a scholarship fund for those people, so I absorbed a lot of that cost. So there’s just a lot of things that happened. And so I’m really, really proud of these numbers because of the story that they tell.

And a bunch of people asked, they said, “So does this include Funnel Gorgeous?” because a lot of you know that my personal business is Digital Insiders, but I co-own Funnel Gorgeous with my partner Cathy Olson, so people are like, “What? How does that work?” So I just wanted to kind of share that, because I didn’t really share it in my blog post.

So the 2.2 million that I earned in 2020 includes my post-net after tax FG distributions. So basically whatever Funnel Gorgeous makes, after the expenses, after we figure out the profit, then we cut 30% off for taxes, and you pull that out, and whatever distribution I get, and the distribution Cathy gets, that is included in that number. It turned out to be somewhere around 6 or 700 thousand dollars, right. So maybe a little bit less, I’d have to go back and check. But my point in telling you that is just to sort of create an accurate picture. And then my point also is to say that if I were an internet marketer who is trying to wow you with my pizzazz-razzi numbers, what I could have done is take my profit and my revenue from my business, and then taken out the distributions, and then just instead talked about my gross revenue at Funnel Gorgeous. And I could be like, “Well look, it was like 1.7 million in my business and 2.2 million, or whatever it is in Funnel Gorgeous.” And I could 2.2 and I could add 1.7, and I could be like, “I did 3 ½ – 4 million dollars this year.”

Now that would technically be a true statement and what would that number show? It’d be like, “Oh my god, she doubled her business. She went from 2 million to 4 million.” And that would perpetuate the lie that it’s easy to just double your business when you’re up at these high numbers. And I think a lot of people, it’s not sexy to say, “I went from 2 million to 2.2 million.” But that’s $250,000, how many of you listening would love to have a $250,000 a year business. How many of you have a $250,000 a year business and work so very hard? But that number doesn’t feel big at that level.

So this is what I’ve been trying to do, and you’ll see in my upcoming podcasts, that I’m really trying to kind of beat this drum to change the conversation around all of the stripe screenshots, and revenue numbers and all that kind of stuff.

So I have a state of the union address on my site, I recommend you read it. I’m kind of giving you the highlight, I went through and tried to figure out how many podcasts did I do, which I was probably super inconsistent with, as you guys know, how many blog posts, where I got to speak, how many emails I wrote, what kind of presentations I built, where I donated, what I was able to do with raises and bonuses for my team, and most importantly how much I was able to change my lifestyle so that I wasn’t burning out.

So that is the story of 2020 and I am incredibly grateful for everybody who has purchased from me, spoken about my business, followed, sent an encouraging word, I really value all of you. And I just thank you for being on this journey with me and if you have enjoyed my very inconsistent podcast, and you would leave a review, or share it, or tag me on Instagram, that would be amazing. Guys, let’s make 2021 a different year than 2020. I appreciate you all.

Ep. 86 Adventuring in an RV (Personal Update)

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What’s up? I’m finally getting around to a little bit more of a personal podcast episode today. I wanted to talk to you about my big adventure across the country, sort of how that came about, what I thought, some of my takeaways from it all.



It was really my first trip since March, when this whole Coronavirus quarantine thing hit. So I thought I would just kind of give you a little behind the scenes of what’s been going on in my world, and it’s also sort of my excuse for why I haven’t been podcasting.

So back in the summer my Digital Insiders were really hankering for an in-person visit, the Coronavirus had kind of waned a little bit, sort of, in certain parts of the country. And I started to think, “Okay, maybe we could get together safely.” But as luck would have it, of course we saw that summer surge, and that just wasn’t going to happen.

So I was really thinking hard, well how can we safely meet? What can we do? And I knew immediately that whatever we had to do would have to be outside, and in order to be outside together for multiple days you need to have great weather. I didn’t want to have a lot of rain and bugs, heat, humidity or super, super cold. So I started looking around for climates that have very little rain and great temperatures, and sure enough the only one that works in October is the high desert. So basically a million miles from my house here in Connecticut.

So I reached out to Julia who is in Digital Insiders and I asked her about the area, because she’s in Colorado, only a couple of hours away from that high desert area, and I said, “Is this a great place?” And she said, “Oh my gosh, yes. I’ve been here.” She actually traveled in an RV and lived on the road for two years, so she knew everything there was to know about that area.

So before I had too much time to talk myself out of it, I had booked this giant group campsite in Moab. And it is 33 hours from my house, driving time. And not only that, but it was going to be a dry camping experience. There would be no water, no showers, no electricity. There would be drop toilets, so that’s a plus. And here’s the kicker, no cell service.

So I booked it, I didn’t really think much about it, and I told everybody, and everybody was super excited, and we had about 45 people reserve immediately. And I said, “Bring your own food, bring your own shelter, we will be outside the entire time so it is a safe venture for everyone and no one feels at risk.” And that was that.

I really didn’t think about it much until about two weeks before the trip. Thankfully, thank God, my husband was thinking about it, because he had all the tools, the camping tools. But about two weeks before I thought, this is nuts. I was a little scared, we had never, Alex and I had never driven an RV, rented an RV nothing. I mean I’ve done some dry camping, but man. We were going to bring William, who is my 5 year old, and we were going to try to, I was going to try to work on the road, and school on the road. I just started to get a little nervous. And I made the mistake of Googling, to kind of get some RV tips, and realized pretty quickly that we had been extremely over ambitious in our estimates of how far we could drive.

So we decided we’d leave on a Wednesday and arrive in Utah on Sunday, we would camp from Sunday to Thursday, and then we would drive home Thursday and be home by Sunday, which makes it about a 12 day trip, roundtrip. So it was crazy. And I’m here and alive to tell the tale. And if you follow me on Instagram you probably saw a lot of the highlights. I’m not going to lie about 3 hours into the trip, realizing that an RV is nothing like a plane. I had all these grand visions of being able to work and school and cut vegetables. And about 3 hours in I realized, “Oh, no, no, no, this is not that. This is like a ride at Disneyworld, and I am about to vomit all over my son because I’m so carsick.”

So thankfully I figured it out and I didn’t vomit, and I also didn’t work. I mean, I did my Voxers, but I really wasn’t able to do much else. So it was kind of an unintended consequence of 66 hours of driving over 8 days, was I had a lot of time to think. And it was glorious.

I don’t think I would have willingly put myself in that situation ahead of time. But it was what it was and it ended up being the best thing for me. So one of the advantages I say that I’ve found out about RVing is that, especially when you get carsick and you can’t really do much, is that it gives you an incredible amount of time to reflect. There’s nothing to do, you’re on the open road, you look out the window, talk to the people you’re with, and it was so good for my mental health. In fact, despite the fact that it was an incredibly exhausting trip, I came back more emotionally and mentally refreshed and calm than I have in a long time.

4 days in Moab with Digital Insiders was incredible. We had a fantastic time. Basically we all hung out in the early morning hours, it was chilly in the desert, but it was amazing. Had tea, coffee, talked and we all sort of scattered, did our own thing, whether it was hiking or crazy, life-risking UTV drives along Hell’s Revenge, and then we’d all get back together in the evening, have our dinner, be around the campfire, talk, sing, hang out, and we did that for 4 days with no cell phone service. So it was just a lot of connecting with the people you’re with. And I really, I do recommend if you have never gone off the grid, that you try.

I will say that I did drive, 5 or 6 miles each day to go get my twitter updates. But that was just because we were in Moab right as the president was getting sick, so it was very hard not to know what was going on. The drive home was crazy and if you decide to take a road trip, do not do what we did, which was think that we could do a 12 hour drive in one day. A 12 hour drive is actually a 16 hour drive when you include stops, sanity stops. So that day was brutal. On the way back we left Moab on Thursday at 10am, we arrived in Kansas around 9 pm. The next morning we left at 5:30 in the morning, around 5:30 or 6, we left Good…I think it was Goodland, Kansas and we made it all the way across Kansas, all the way across Missouri, all the way across Illinois and into Indiana. We arrived in Indiana at 1:30 in the morning.

We also had, we lost two hours because of two time zones, so it was really like 11:30. But still it was about 12, it was a long time. And then we woke up in Terre Haut, I think that’s how you say it, Indiana. We stayed there in the morning just to try and get our bearings, and we drove until 9 pm just to get to Pennsylvania, slept at a truck stop for about 5 hours, Got up at 3 in the morning and went from Pennsylvania home. It was crazy.

So the moral of the story is that you should go off the grid, you should try RVing. You should not try RVing across the country as your first RV trip, thinking you can do 12 hour days, that is nuts. That’s where I’ve been and I would encourage you, if you are a leader in any kind of group community, look out for your people. It has been a very, very hard year, it is hard to not see people, figure out ways in which you can do it safely, and ways in which you can still get that much needed connection. Because we desperately need it and we’re heading into a rough fall and winter, there’s no doubt about it.

So whatever you can do in the next several weeks to connect with the people that you serve and connect with your students, go ahead and do it. Because even though it’s hard and crazy and very inconvenient, it is always worth it. Talk to you soon.

Digital Insiders Take Moab

It never stopped feeling just a little bit crazy… even after we arrived.

Back in June/July, in the slog of quarantine and covid, the Digital Insiders were hankering for some sort of in person event. There was no way we could do a traditional mastermind, but I thought that if I could find a place with perfect weather and wide open spaces, we could have a safe get together outdoors.

Turns out the only spot in the country with truly perfect 24 hour outdoor camping weather is the high desert in Utah. So Moab it was. I booked four campsites, told people to show up with whatever they wanted (RV, camper van, tent, sleeping bag) and figured we’d wing it.

It wasn’t until about two weeks before we left that I started to feel the craziness of this idea. For me, Alex, and William, it meant a five day 33 hour drive across the United States as first time RVers.

The learning curve was steep. Less so for Alex who has a natural aptitude for cars + outdoorsy things.

But for me? I have a leg full of bruises to remind me that my “idea” of making lunch in a moving vehicle was far more aspirational than realistic.

Thankfully no sharp objects came flying out of the RV as we drove. William was an incredible trouper. We’d drive for 8 hours, stop once or twice for gas, and then camped at night. He basically had three hours a day of “non moving” time because by the time he woke up the next morning, we’d already be an hour into our drive.

Alex and I got really good at quietly securing everything in the RV so as to not wake William.

We also realized about halfway into day 2 that we needed to alter our driving schedule some because four days in a row of 8 hours was too grueling. So we stayed an extra day by the lake in Nebraska.

Ya’ll it took three days of the longest driving in my life to get to just the center of the United States. It’s incredible. And during all that driving, really the only thing you can do when you’re prone to carsickness is eat, sleep, and listen to stuff. All my grandiose ideas of writing and working were promptly buried about 4 hours into the first day.

RV life is pretty comfortable I’ve gotta say. I slept well…well except for the fourth day when we tried to pull an all nighter as Alex drove through the mountains of Colorado. That wasn’t a good night sleep. Basically – no sleep. It was far to windy and bumpy. By 3am I begged Alex to pull over so we could sleep, and with no hookups or generator running, we settled in for a toast 30 degree mountain winter slumber.

Arriving in Moab the next day, it was so strange to watch the lush green Colorado rockies turn into desert red rock with sand and cactus everywhere. I gotta say though, high desert camping is the best. No humidity. No mosquitos. Just a SHIT ton of dust, but for someone like me who loves the beach, I’m used to sand.

As we set up camp, Digital Insiders slowly started showing up. By nightfall, we had almost everyone.

  • Matt + Heather in their Rugged all terrain car and adorable little airstream.
  • Julia + Neil in their pop-up tent and truck looking like an advertisement for Patagonia.
  • Tyler flying solo with his itty bitty tent.
  • Robin + Ken with their two dogs and their trailer (after taking a more reasonable 6 days to get across the country).
  • Cathy, Erik, Maizen, and Aven… oh yes, and Lucky their dog.
  • Ausi + Ron who flew in with their tent.
  • Chris, Jen, + Jack came in with their tent and Christmas lights for some flair.
  • Stephanie, John, Josiah, Jude, Jocelyn, and Journey – PACKED to the gills in their Honda Odyssey.
  • Katie + Caitlin who rolled in with their minivan while smartly waiting for their fully prepared RV to be dropped off (no idea why we didn’t think of that).
  • Christina and her horse Shadrick and her dog Bella (she’s legit a badass).

This was the crew the first night. It was hard to believe we’d all made it – from all over the country, now sitting in the quiet desert rock of Moab – not a streetlight or wifi signal for miles. We were all ready to dry camp.

Well it wasn’t quite all of us yet. There were still a few missing.

Roxanne + John had gotten held up on their way out with a broken down RV. When they finally showed up Monday afternoon, we realized they were also pulling some pretty cool side-by-side and ATV vehicles on the back of their trailer.

Sean (aka Elon we nicknamed him) came in his Tesla in the middle of the night, and showed us all how it’s done with “camping” mode in the Tesla. No tent. No supplies. Just him and this weird little “almost chair” he brought for campfire chats at night.

And last but certainly not least, Dani came rolling in with her truck and crazy cooking supplies (she’s a food blogger and knows camp food like nobody’s business).

We did it. We overcame all the headache of packing for four days of dry camping where you begin your day in a down jacket, gloves and hat, and end the afternoon wading in the frigid waters of the Colorado river in your bathing suit.

  • Where there is no cell service.
  • No water.
  • No electric hookups.
  • No stores for at least 45 minutes.

For experienced campers, this is still glamorous of course. With an RV and only a 45 minute ride to town, it’s hardly roughing it. But if you’re not a camper, this is a stretch.

Nonetheless the promise of four days of just being together in nature, with nothing to do but chat, cook, hike, and enjoy the outdoors, it was enough to pull everyone into the adventure despite the headache it was to get here.

Most everyone woke up between 6-8. In fact, I notice without my phone, my body QUICKLY adapts to the rhythm of the sun. I am nearly asleep by 9pm at the campfire, and I open my eyes just as the sun starts to cast that pink glow on the mountains.

We all just huddle around in our jackets and hats, with tea or coffee in hand, and just chat. Make plans for the day. Some go hiking. Some go off roading. Some just want to sit and stare at that rock and have nothing to do and revel in the absence of the crazy modern world.

At lunchtime, there’s usually another transition as people return to eat lunch, strip off all their morning clothes and change into full on summer weather gear, and settle in for the hot afternoon.

By 4pm, there is nothing to do but bring your chair down to the river where you can wade into the water about to your knees. The water is FRIGID and moving quickly. It’s too dangerous much beyond that but it’s a good way to cool off.

Around 6pm, we’re all back. The campfire gets lit, food comes out, and it’s time to just sit and be together. The kids run around in the dust and sand chasing each other with glow sticks.

Erik puts on his Russian Siberian winter hat and comes out with his tray of S’more fixings.

There’s lots of talk about the sky, which is littered with stars, and a crystal clear view of the Milky Way galaxy.

People retell their harrowing stories of climbing mountains, or nearly dying in some Hell’s Revenge car trail that seems like utter madness to me, but they love it.

It’s easy for me to get choked up in moments like this. I know that the investment into the Digital Insiders over the last three years has created a network that almost acts like a family. I mentally thought about all those that weren’t able to make it, and try to figure out how I can plan more of these adventures that bring all of us together.

I am so blessed.

I am sad today is the last full day. It went by so quickly, and I know that this will probably be the last time until spring that I see people other than my immediate family.

Last night William (I wish you could have seen him)… he was still in his bathing suit from the day, but it was so cold he had on a down jacket on the top, bathing suit on the bottom. Covered head to toe in sand from rolling around in it playing some game of tag.  He was so sad to have to go to bed. This was just the kind of vacation he needed after 7 months of staying in CT without any friends other than his siblings to play with.

We plopped him in bed and I saw a plume of dust land on his pillow, but I didn’t care. It’s been about 8 days since we’ve had a shower. They’ll be time for all that later.

Tomorrow we pack up and begin the long drive home. Our schedule for home was EVEN more ambitious than getting here, which just points to our naivety about RV life. I’m not sure how it’s going to go. I’m a little worried about the cascade of notifications on my phone when we go back into civilization, but just one day at a time right?

People asked me, “What do you think about RVing now that you’ve done the mother of all trips?”

I would say I REALLY enjoy it, but you have to go at a slower pace. 6 hours of driving a day. Staying one or two nights at a stop. I LOVE the high desert which is hard, because it’s so far away from home, and even if I can handle the trip, it does mean at least 2-3 weeks away from home, which is a lot.

Katie’s “drop off the RV” and fly in idea wins in my book. When we do this again, that’s what we’ll most likely do.

People also asked how hard was it to eat vegan the whole trip? Hard. We broke the rules a few days, but not as bad as you might think.

We did a few ham sandwiches for lunches on the road because to whip up beans + rice or some soup wasn’t feasible. Dinners were easy because we were stopped and could cook. Breakfasts were toast + jam or avocado toast, so… not as hard as you might think.

We did try a few dehydrated vegan camper meals, which were pretty tasty!

Lastly people asked, “Would you do it again?” The answer is most definitely yes. If we can make this work in the middle of Covid, we can do anything.

It is always worth it to do these things, even when it’s hard. Like John Maxwell says, “Everything worthwhile is uphill all the way.”

**Photos not included because I’m doing this all on cell data hotspot and I wasn’t in the mood to upload photos!

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