This week I was honored with an alumni of the year award from my alma mater, North Central University, in downtown Minneapolis, MN. There was a beautiful gala and ceremony and I was presented with a beautiful award, to celebrate spirit-filled leadership and excelling in service through career and community. The next day, Chris and I were invited to have lunch with the president and vice president of the college. Afterwards, we walked around campus and I reminisced about our dating days and all the hours spent in the practice rooms, playing piano and writing music and learning to conduct a choir. How does it simultaneously seem like yesterday AND like a million years ago??
Going back to my college is like seeing a map, all zoomed out. The two pins (college and now) are dropped and you see the twists and turns over the overall journey, but not all the details from the last 20 years. I know we have planted 3 churches and moved numerous times. Had 4 kids. Traveled. Lived. Loved. And while our business has grown and thrived like I never dreamed possible, this is not the life I thought I was going to live.
Back in college, we dreamed dreams that never came true.
I thought for sure I was going to be a music pastor and Chris would be the senior pastor and we would live in a parsonage somewhere.
I never dreamed I would homeschool my kids.
And yet, life takes on its own shape and here we are. 20 years later, with our own kid in college. At the banquet, I looked around and saw faces that have cheered me on and loved me the whole time. I saw professors who taught me and encouraged me and who have continued to teach faithfully for all these years.
Life isn't at all what I thought it would be, but it is sure sweet. And while I feel like I've hardly even begun to do the things I would like to do in life, I am so grateful for all the experiences that have gotten us here.
Sometimes it takes an award to make me slow down and see the big picture view. And I'm so grateful.
When I got home from the awards ceremony, I tossed and turned. I didn't fall asleep for a few hours. I kept thinking and thinking.
What was bothering me?
The next morning I woke up early and immediately thought two things:
1. Coffee. Now.
2. I'm gonna need a nap today.
Then I sat down and wrote this. It's the only way I could express the contrast of a fancy award downtown and life I really live, each and every day.
Maybe you can relate.
I’m making an impact.
I can’t always see it. Or feel it. But I know it’s there.
Mostly I am just throwing in another load of laundry. Putting away another lunch bag. Throwing away rotten vegetables. Making another list.
I’m listening to the teens and coordinating schedules. Buying another birthday gift and making more coffee.
I work when I can, as fast as I can, because time is limited. I think about work while I’m driving and in the shower and, yes, my mind wanders off when the husband is talking about sports again.
I know I’m making an impact. With every person I hire and every client I onboard. With every meeting I squeeze in and every decision that I pray about.
I’m making an impact. Even if it feels like 20 years have flown by and I’ve hardly made a dent in accomplishing my dreams.
Even when I fall short, fail, lose my temper, fall asleep crying. Even when I’m up too early, don’t get enough sleep, don’t make enough meals from scratch. I’m still making an impact.
With every hug and bandaid and email and Target run, I am being faithful and what else can I be?
I turn up my music in my van and pray fervently for wisdom. I sleep when I can and try to enjoy the moment. I take in the sunrise and the sunsets and my kids keep having more birthdays. I can’t wait for an empty nest and then I panic. How will I survive an empty nest?!?
Sometimes the world applauds and hands out awards and sometimes no one notices.
Sometimes the biggest and hardest decisions never get noticed and sometimes social media is both connection and a curse. All your celebrations flood my feed and I get the mail and change the laundry and wonder am I making an impact?
But I am. In my home. With my kids. In my community. To my friends. In the work that I do. I can’t always see it. I often miss it. Because real impact is in the ordinary. It’s in the every day moments. It’s often missed. But it’s the real impact. It’s the stuff that matters the most.
I just can’t always see it.
But I have to believe it’s there.
"Real impact is in the ordinary."
We have been having beautiful fall weather here in Minnesota and it’s reminded me of so many happy memories! When my kids were little, we always took a trip to an apple orchard. They loved exploring and running around and I loved buying juicy apples to eat and bake with.
Over the years, we learned about apple trees (and even had some at our house for a few years). We learned that smaller is better. Pruning the branches is important so the sunshine can hit every branch. Waiting until the right time to harvest the apples is crucial. And sometimes it takes a few years before you see the fruit.
I run three branches of our business: Rogers School of Music, Never Alone Business Services and Never Alone Coaching. Each one is like an apple tree. I keep each one pruned and small-ish, so it will produce good fruit. We pay ourselves first—and then decide how to spend the rest of the profits on staff, leases, automations, and services. I’ve never had the mindset of: “I’ll build this huge machine and eventually it will pay off.” We have intentionally grown slower and made sure we were always on payroll (no matter how small the check was!).
Sometimes we choose to cut expenses and trim branches back, to keep the entire structure healthy. There are programs we have discontinued and services we no longer offer. These branches were sucking our time and attention away from the rest of the business, and were not producing good fruit. It was time for them to go. Sometimes my business has felt “too small” compared to other people doing impressive things. But then I hear about their 12 hour work days and they say it’s impossible to go on vacation. They tell me they are the only ones who can answer the phone or unlock the building. It makes my heart sad and I realize that smaller and healthier is better.
So what do you do if your business is overgrown and not producing fruit (income)?
This week’s video is about apple trees. I want you to hear more about how you can grow your business strong and healthy-- and properly supported. I hope it encourages you as you grow and nurture your business.
It’s never too late to make adjustments or changes in your life! Be brave. Your future self will thank you.
The Inner Circle is Open for New Members
Within our Never Alone Inner Circle, you get the support you need, exactly at the stage where you are at. We form small coaching circles so you can connect with other members on a deeper level. We are always encouraging and supportive--no matter what you're going through or what stage your business is in.
If you want to talk more, just schedule a call to talk. Let's talk about your goals and get you there.
Check out this short video about Tracy's experience in the Inner Circle:
Dear business owner,
You've hit a wall. I get it. Exhaustion is creeping in and you're just not sure if you can keep going.
Maybe discouragement is present and you're questioning if you really went down the right path. Is there something wrong with me? Should I just try harder? Or should I change course? Should I quit?
One thing I know: We are all wired differently. From the time we are born, we have unique qualities and abilities. And yet, teachers keep trying to come up with formulas to teach: "Do it this way and you'll succeed!"
How can one size possibly fit all?? It just isn't possible.
Instead of shutting down what you have been building, let's take some time to examine a few things:
1. Are you paying attention to how you are wired?
Have you done your Strengths Finders test yet? Getting on paper WHO you are and what your unique strengths are will change everything. (Grab the book here and take the test in the back:
2. Build your business around YOUR strengths, not someone else's formula for success. Sure, there are principles that work for many people. But shoving yourself, a round peg, into a square hole, is only going to be frustrating and exhausting. Let's be honest: if it hasn't worked yet, then why will dedicating more time to the same frustrating process work? It's time to change a part of the process. It's time to get honest.
3. Do you have the right people surrounding you to fill in your weaknesses? It's a lie to think you can build your business all by yourself. If you're the ONLY one answering phones or answering emails, you're going to burn out. If you really can't trust anyone to do what you do, maybe you have trust issues? I've worked with enough business owners over the last 6 years to know that if you are white knuckling something, you are probably gripping it too tightly. It's time to figure out what is really going on, make the necessary changes in systems or policies, and get back to what is really easy and almost effortless for you (hint: it's easy because it's your strength).
In this week's video, I explain some helpful thoughts that could bring some clarity and light to your situation. Watch it here:
I really, truly want your business to succeed.
Not just in big numbers to impress people, but so you can get your life back. So you can have time for your kids and spouse and extended family.
I want you to lean on your strengths and set up solid systems so you aren't stressed all the time.
Get the Strengths Finder book here:
If you ever need to talk, I'm here. Let's schedule a call so I can hear more about what's going on. Then we'll map out a coaching plan that makes sense for YOUR unique life and your unique business.
About the Author
I'm Jen Hickle. I love coffee, journaling, reading, and cozy winter evenings. A business owner for 20+ years, I can't imagine having a "real" job or getting up every morning to an alarm clock. I love my freedom and my family and the chance to encourage fellow business owners every day.