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MVP Philosophy: The Quickest Path to Clarity and Confidence

MVP Philosophy: The Quickest Path to Clarity and Confidence

An MVP philosophy, adopted from the field of software development, is the fastest way you’ll find your dream career. Why? Because taking consistent, imperfect action (a key element of the MVP philosophy) builds two elements of a fulfilling life: clarity and confidence. 

The problem with your typical approach

We often think we need to figure everything out before we move forward. But action leads to self-discovery, giving you loads of information about what you want. 

Action also builds confidence since it requires facing fear. And this isn’t faux confidence—it’s evidence-based.

Once, I had a dream to run my own Etsy shop. I spent most of my free time in my fully-stocked craft room making things. Why not make money too? 

After weeks of researching and planning, I opened Color Riot. I liked being an entrepreneur, but I didn’t like sitting at craft shows all day. I enjoyed designing new products, but I didn’t like recreating them in bulk. So after running the shop for a year, I stopped.

I learned so much that I couldn’t have known before taking action, and I had the confidence of a woman who had made her dream a reality. 

“Action is absolutely essential for people who don’t know what they want.”

Barbara Sher, speaker, coach, author

The MVP philosophy

The concept of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is popular in software circles, but everyone in every field should know about the power of an MVP philosophy.

In simple terms, an MVP philosophy asks this question: What’s the least amount of effort I can exert to create any amount of value?

Instead of focusing on creating the most value—which means lots of time thinking and planning upfront before delivering anything—an MVP philosophy ensures that you’re creating and delivering value as quickly as possible. Instead of waiting for everything you do or create to be “perfect” before anyone sees it, an MVP philosophy pushes you to incrementally take real-life action and experience how that feels, one small step at a time.

Applying the MVP philosophy to your work life

Think of your work life as a “product” that you’re continually building and enhancing. With your career, what’s the least amount of effort that allows you to feel the way you want to feel, at least a little bit?

What’s the easiest way to feel the way I want to feel?

Here are some examples of how an MVP philosophy of life can look:

  • You want to write a book. So, you create a blog website. Then, you write a short article. Then, you write another article and share it with friends…
  • You want to create a product you can sell at a much higher price point than your existing products. So, you list out your ideas for the dream product. Then, you package up the elements of that product that you can already deliver, and sell that. Then, you build one new dream element…
  • You want to feel more balanced by working 35 hours per week instead of 60. So, you experiment with one week at 50 hours. Then, you reflect and ask your coworkers for feedback. Then, you try a week at 45 hours…

Make it easy, every day

Have you ever been super jazzed about a goal, but soon after completely dropped the ball?

Maybe you signed up for a marathon, but never made it out of your neighborhood.

We get overwhelmed when we try to take too much action at once. Remember that all change, no matter how big, happens one tiny step at a time. To run a marathon, you have to run a mile. To run a mile, you have to put on running shoes.

“All change, no matter how big, happens one tiny step at a time.”

Mandy Kubicek

Always identify a next step that’s literally easy, otherwise keep breaking it down.

I once went months without working on my memoir. So, I set a goal to write 15 minutes a day. It sounded easy. But, it didn’t happen. So I let go of my ego and allowed myself to commit to just 2 minutes of writing a day. Once I was consistently writing for 2 minutes, I was able to write even more. Why hadn’t 15 minutes been possible before? Who cares! Without overanalyzing my resistance, it was gone. 

Making it easy also means you should be able to do it every single day.

Every day, take at least one step towards what you truly desire. Think of these as your daily risks. They’ll be scary, but if you can make them easy, you will do them!

“If you want to live a life you’ve never lived, you have to do things you’ve never done.”

Jen Sincero, author, speaker, coach

Are you ready for action?

Are you ready to take action? Do things you’ve never done before? Lean into fear and discomfort so you can create the life of your dreams? 

YASSS! I’m so excited for you! And I’m here to help make your dreams come true. Applications are now open for a free one-on-one Clarity Call with me. Will you say Yes to yourself?

3 Fun Ways to Overcome a Negative Mindset

3 Fun Ways to Overcome a Negative Mindset

I’ve written before about the impact a negative mindset has on our results.

Once you begin consistently noticing your mindset, you realize that you are not your thoughts. You’re an observer of those thoughts. This is a powerful distinction, because it lets The Real You take control of your life.

You are not your thoughts.

It’s easy to lose this wisdom in the moment, though. Here are 3 fun ways to keep The Real You in the driver seat so you can get results.

Repeat your thoughts

Try this simple and surprisingly effective practice from the field of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

When you notice a stressful thought, repeat it in your head or aloud 3 times. Then, add “I’m having the thought…” to the beginning, and recite it 3 times. Finally, begin your thought with “I notice I’m having the thought…” and recite this full phrase 3 times.

I double-triple-dog dare you to do all 9! Then send me an email or tag me on IG to let me know what you noticed.

Name your fear factory

A negative mindset is always fear-based. Name the aspect of you that’s churning out fearful stories so you can mentally distinguish it—it’s not You, but one part of you. 

Get real silly and visualize this character.

I call mine Lizardo. He’s so terrified of what people will think of us if we do something different. I imagine being in the driver’s seat of a car, and he’s a little 10 inch tall green lizard-ish creature in the backseat, standing on his hind legs. When he gets riled up, I toss him some potato chips and let him know, “You can totes hang out, but I’m driving.”

What name will you give the fear-driven part of your mind?

What does this character look like?

“Every person’s fears are unique, but the themes of lack and attack are drearily repetitive.” 

Martha Beck, author, life coach

Judge people on paper

Another way to notice limiting beliefs for what they truly are is to get them on paper. Try using your everyday experiences with the Judge Your Neighbor practice developed by Byron Katie.

We’re taught from a very young age not to judge people, at least not openly. To me, it’s a bit like pooping. I really don’t like to talk about it, I pretend I’m not doing it, and yet, I’m human. I poop! 

And just like every other human, I judge other humans.

Ultimately, doing your own inner work will lead to less judgement. But there’s no shortcut. The key is to acknowledge your judgements (to yourself, without shame) instead of pretending they aren’t there.

Any time you are irritated or upset with someone, fill out a Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet. You can read more about this process at When you’re first learning this practice, judge other people rather than yourself. It’ll be more fruitful. Besides, you’ll find that the things that annoy you about others and the things that bother you about yourself are one and the same. 🙂

Overcome any negative mindset

These DIY techniques work great for the subtly-upsetting thoughts that spring up—the stuff we know isn’t true but keep thinking anyway. (For me: I’m a bad wife! He shouldn’t have done that! I’m not working fast enough!)

But what about the deep belief systems we’ve clung to since childhood? This is where partnering with an exceptional, professionally-trained life coach can dramatically change your life. When you’re ready, I’m here.

A toolbox for creating lasting change with Anne Thompson

A toolbox for creating lasting change with Anne Thompson

What would a healing practitioner say about how to deal with our strange political environment?

I recently met with Anne Thompson—founder of Healing Spirit and—on the sunny patio of an Omaha coffee shop

Also known as EcoAnnie, Anne uses her MS in Psychology; certifications in hypnotherapy, energy work, and yoga; and her own dramatic life change experiences to guide people through life transformation. A passionate environmentalist, she also educates on the health of the planet.

Anne was decked out in Bohemian attire for our interview, down to the bright boho bag she told me she had sewn with her daughter from an old patchwork skirt. You know how some people just light up a room and make you smile? That’s Anne.

Read on to see what Anne says about living a full life, covering topics as diverse as politics and intuition.

Easy steps to help Mama Earth

Mandy Kubicek: You’re known as EcoAnnie because you care so deeply for the Earth! As you know, I’m big on teeny tiny action steps. What are some little things we can do to help the environment?

Anne Thompson: There are so many easy ways you can help create a healthier planet!

Ask questions, build awareness, just notice. Think local. Appreciate the Earth, plants and animals. 

Buy less stuff. Reuse or buy used when possible. Refuse to use plastic when possible. Share with your neighbors. Buy produce without packaging. Use both sides of a piece of paper. Buy recycled products.

Allow “weeds” to grow. Toss your kitchen scraps into your yard or a compost pile. Leave your lawn clippings on your yard. Mulch your leaves. Plant flowers, bushes, and trees that support wildlife and the planet. Use a rain barrel to water your plants. Catch as much rain as you can in your yard.

Divest from big banks that support the pipeline, pharmaceuticals, and Monsanto. Support companies that care about the earth and the people. 

“Be patient with yourself and others.” – Anne Thompson

And be patient with yourself and others in the process of transitioning to an Earth-healthier lifestyle!

The state of our nation

Mandy Kubicek: There are so many infuriating things in the news these days. I wish I could contribute more without feeling overwhelmed. What do you think we can do to solve our country’s biggest social issues? 

Anne Thompson: When you look at how a family operates, how a business operates, or a country, it’s really all a reflection of the emotional health of the people involved.

Our president is the shadow side of America rearing its ugly head. That’s a good thing, because it needs to be seen and acknowledged, and simultaneously, we can heal and move more and more into our hearts to change how we interact with one another.

So what do I do about that? In addition to taking actions that feel right to me, I focus on healing my own emotional wounds so I can love better.

We all affect one another. When one person makes a change, it affects the whole. It’s the little things, like you talk about. In each moment, learning to be aware of your own intentions, how open your heart is to those you are with, noticing where we are judging another and ourselves, or closing ourselves off.

You practice it here, in your own moment wherever you are, and the effect grows to those around you and beyond.

The 3 ingredients of your self-love toolbox

Mandy Kubicek: What have you learned that you’d want anyone just getting started to know? 

Anne Thompson: Be authentic! People love heartfelt, vulnerable authenticity, and they will be drawn to you when you show them your light.

Pay as much attention as you can to your intuition, including how you feel emotionally about what you are doing and experiencing around you. Let that be your guide. Set your intentions clearly and follow your intuition on which action to take next. Don’t expect to know how to do it all, because you won’t. Just hold your clear intention and take some action. You’ll find your way.

“Set your intentions clearly. Follow your intuition. Take some action.” – Anne Thompson

Find people who can help you learn the skills you need. If you’re scared, find someone to help you move past your fears because you’ve TOTALLY got this!

Learning how to apply these concepts

Mandy Kubicek: These are such important concepts! I find that things like authenticity and intuition can be hard to put my finger on. Is there any way people can learn more about how to apply these techniques to their everyday life?

Anne Thompson: Yes! So many people ask me, how do I connect with my heart to access my inner wisdom? I’m excited to announce that registration is now open for my Self-Healing Classes! You’ll experience the transformational power of the heart as we explore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual healing over the course of 5 weeks. We start October 16, 2019.

Apply here!

The #1 Reason You Haven’t Reached Your Goal

The #1 Reason You Haven’t Reached Your Goal

You want to change your results. 

What you may not realize is that your thoughts cause your feelings, which in turn cause your actions and results.

This is why questioning thoughts is foundational to my coaching and my life.

Thoughts → Feelings → Behavior → Situation

Our thoughts are EVERYTHING!

Transition creates endlessly fearful thoughts

You’re going through some changes. Do you know exactly what you want? Has it been easy to create the life changes you desire? Are you living the life of your wildest dreams right now? I’ll bet not!

That’s why people like you and me invest in coaches.

Questioning your thoughts is particularly important during times of transition. 

Our mind doesn’t like change. In an effort to protect us from danger, it does everything it can to prevent you from doing things differently. It does this by feeding you fear-based thoughts. So, working with these thoughts is critical if you want to live an amazing life.

Let’s be clear

In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. If you don’t already know you have this problem, take a deep breath and trust that I’m sharing this with love:

You are delusional.

It’s OK, we all are! We walk around confused by our thoughts, which we treat like facts, and let them guide us towards behavior that doesn’t serve us. So before we dig into this work, let’s be clear about what a thought is and what it is not.

A fact is something known to be true by experience or observation. It can be tested and proven. AKA: truth, reality, law, rule

Example: There is a pile of clothes on the floor of my basement. 

A thought is the product of mental activity. It is simply a product of your mind, and something with which not everyone on Earth would agree. AKA: idea, opinion, belief, reflection, judgment

Example: My basement is a mess.

So, while thoughts often feel true, can you see how the vast majority of what runs through your mind is not factual? (Technically, I would argue that none of our thoughts are factual, but that’s a philosophical point for another day!)

“You are a victim of the rules you live by.”

Jenny Holzer, artist

Uncover your fear-based thoughts

The first step towards intentional change is awareness. What beliefs are keeping you stuck?

There are many ways to uncover limiting beliefs, from meditation to working with a Professional Life Coach. One DIY method I love is simple brainstorming.

Think of your most important goal. What are your biggest challenges to achieving this goal?

Write everything that comes to mind. Consider beliefs about yourself or other people (I’m not creative enough),  if/then thoughts (If I had more money, then I could…), global beliefs (Everyone knows you can’t make money as a…), and shoulds or have tos (I have to ask so-and-so what they think.)

Choose differently

What will you need to believe instead to easily achieve your goal? 

What would feel amazingly empowering?

Who do you have to believe yourself to be?

Remember the definitions I shared above for facts and thoughts. I have a goal to finish writing my memoir. I can think, “I’m not a good writer,” and I can think, “I’m an exceptional writer.” Relative to who? Can either be tested and proven? Certainly the second feels more empowering to me.

I’m not saying lie to yourself. I’m saying the world isn’t black and white, so you might as well intentionally choose thoughts that a) feel good, and b) literally empower you to do more.

Still struggling?

Not sure what’s keeping you from achieving your goals? Struggling to see your stressful thoughts as anything but factual? Want to make a change and finally move forward with your biggest, wildest life dreams? I get it. And I’d love to help.

How to make quick decisions

How to make quick decisions

Do you make quick decisions? If you’re like most people, even though that in-between time is uncomfortable, you hang out! We often stay stuck because we’re afraid we’ll make the “wrong” decision.

How can you make decisions more quickly?

How do you know whether something is right for you?

What’s the difference between an uncomfortable feeling that means “That’s not for me!” and one that means “This is SO right for me, but I’m scared!”

Our 2 decision-making tools

Gut feelings, inner guidance, inner wisdom, true self, essential self, soul, the human brain, heart, spirit…

Whatever words you choose to use, we all have this wise (and loving) part of ourselves behind our fearful thinking.

The key to distinguishing between the two?

Become more aware of your physical sensations.

Why? Because this wise, loving part of you literally feels different from your fear-based mind.

True wisdom feels different.

Which tool are you using?

Let me explain via example.

A coach once asked me, “What do you need?”

I immediately thought, To slow down.

This felt clear and peaceful. My body was relaxed, my breathing steady.

Then, so quickly that I almost missed the first thought, I had thoughts like these: That’s a bad idea. That’s not what I really want. I have too many important goals to slow down!

This felt stressful and messy. My heart sped up. My neck and shoulders tensed. 

Make quick decisions

With practice, I’ve come to recognize that the thoughts that make me feel calm and steady are wiser than the frantic ones that cause physical tension.

So what decision, big or small, have you not yet made? How can you use this new insight to make at least one decision today?

What decision will I make today?

Clear the path

This work can be much easier said than done. As a professional life coach, I can help you explore the details of your decision and clear the path to your inner wisdom so you can feel confident that you’re moving in the right direction. Let’s talk!

Get more done (part 3): Why and how to review your goals

Get more done (part 3): Why and how to review your goals

So you’ve set your goals, created a plan to achieve them, and are taking action. But do you review your goals regularly? As you move forward, do you take the time to look back? 

Ask any project manager: plans are meant to be changed! 

To reach your goals as quickly as possible, you have to slow down enough to appreciate how far you’ve come, learn from this progress, and adjust your plan.

Review your goals: the basics

Review your progress on a regular and consistent basis. 

Decide on a review cadence and the content of your goal reviews. Then schedule them.

Guard this precious time

Be sure to protect this time. 

If you miss a review session, reschedule it, and reflect on why you missed it. What are you telling yourself is more important than your dreams? Are you afraid of something? Or do you need to adjust your sessions to make them more valuable?

An example plan to review your goals

Annual (1-2 hours): review vision and core values; review annual goals, wins, lessons learned; set goals for next year

Quarterly (1 hour): review vision, values, and goals; review quarterly wins and lessons learned; set goals for the next quarter 

Monthly (30 minutes): review vision and quarterly goals; review monthly wins and lessons learned; update desired feelings

Weekly (30 minutes): review vision and quarterly goals; review weekly wins and lessons learned; set weekly focus; schedule everything.

Daily (15 minutes): review weekly focus; review daily wins; review calendar appointments; create daily success list

Tools to try

  • Trello is a simple & powerful tool that allows you to create boards, which are lists of lists. This page is a collection that inspires creative uses of Trello.
  • Learn the simple process of bullet journaling here.
  • Leuchtturm makes a dot journal that’s nice for daily bullet journaling.

The whole shebang

This article is part of Get More Done, a 3-part series:

Looking for more support? I won’t leave you hanging!

I’m offering a way for us to connect at no cost. Walk away with new clarity and at least one action you can take immediately to create a more energizing and fun work life. Apply here!

Get more done (part 2): The habit that’s costing you hours every day

Get more done (part 2): The habit that’s costing you hours every day

We all know that task-switching hurts productivity. Every software engineering team I’ve ever worked with has debated how to minimize interruptions. And yet, we still let it happen. Perhaps because, even presented with data, we underestimate its full impact? 

One study shows that it takes 25 minutes to get back on track after a task interruption. (Shit, that’s a lot of wasted time!) I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s twice this in a typical work environment, when you mix in exhaustion, unbelievable frequency of interruptions, and high-pressure deadlines. 

So, if you task-switch regularly, changing this one habit will save you hours of (wasted) time every day. Before you work through the tasks on your success list, check out these tips.

Use your calendar

Are you organizing your day to minimize interruptions? 

You probably know I’m a big advocate of focusing on what’s most important. So get that right, decide to make it happen, and then…

Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time (3 or 4 hours) to focus on your most important tasks. 

Yes, I said 3 or 4 hours. Yes, this can be done in the corporate environment. And once you identify your true priority and decide you’ll make it happen, I’m positive you’ll figure out the how.

That email can wait

Are you still leaving your inbox open all day (or your app notifications on) and responding to emails as they come in? Does your boss know you’re wasting hours of your creative potential every day with this fear-driven habit? 

Stop it!

Schedule non-real-time communications—like email and social media—once or twice per day, and avoid them outside of these scheduled times.

Remember, the sender intentionally used a non-real-time communication method. Email isn’t urgent. You’re making it seem that way.

If this really terrifies you, consider an auto-responder that explains your new habit. You might even inspire others to take more control of their work days.

Thanks for your email! Just a head’s up—so I can focus on helping my amazing clients create energizing, spontaneous-jump-for-joy work lives, I respond to emails between 4 and 5 PM CST Monday-Thursday. Have a great one! – Mandy

Design your environment to minimize interruptions

Notice your most common distractions and use your environment to help you.

If you have a tendency to reach for your cell and thumb your way to Facebook, put your phone in another room. Install an app that blocks the websites you’re trying to avoid, or slows you down enough to make the decision conscious.

What’s distracting you? How can you change an element of your physical environment to easily avoid this distraction?

Strategize with your team

If you work with others, you probably aren’t the only one frustrated by the interruptions and distractions within your work environment.

Create team norms that empower each team member to communicate when they are focused, and when they are open to interruptions. This doesn’t have to be complicated, but you and your team do have to be committed. 

Hang a sign on your cubicle wall, use a status message in Slack, or schedule a meeting-free block for the whole team each day or week. Then adhere to these new standards without exception!

Make it easy to minimize interruptions

Eliminate the everyday mindless distractions you’ve been allowing and watch yourself easily get way more done in less time. Start small, incorporating just one change at a time, and celebrate every win along the way!Want to be among the first to know when the next article in this series is published? Sign up here.

Get more done (part 1): Stop wasting brain power

Get more done (part 1): Stop wasting brain power

Where to begin

In this 3-part series, I’m going to share my most effective task management* tips so you can get more done in less time.

Keep in mind that all of these practices assume you know your most important vision, decided on a strategy, and set measurable goals.

vision strategy goals tasks

*This is the thing you probably call “time management.” We don’t control time. We can, however, choose what we do within (the illusion of?) time. So upgrade your language, and notice how much more powerful you feel. 💪

Why does this matter?

Ever let a project fall off your radar? Of course you have!

Gee, I was going to write/work out/start a company, but it just didn’t happen.

You mean you didn’t make it happen, right?

This quick and simple technique solves that problem. You’ll never again forget about a project, or that “crazy” idea you had one time.

Second, and imo more importantly, you’re going to literally create space for more creative thinking. Which means better results on whatever projects you choose to pursue.

You’re better than this

Our thoughts are so damn repetitive. 

I need to feed the dog as soon as I get back from the gym.

I need to feed the dog when I get home.

As soon as I get home, I’m going to remember to feed the dog…

Sound familiar? What a waste of your highly advanced analytical power!

Write it all down

The key is to write it down as soon as you can. This gets it out of your head.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

David Allen, productivity consultant, author

Have a system for recording 3 things: ideas, projects, and tasks.

Keep a list of ideas that you aren’t working on atm.

Keep a list of active projects. Mine include “Program Upgrade!” and “Write Memoir.”

Capture your tasks, which includes your daily success list and any tasks you want to remember for later. When you’re creating task lists, review your project list as a reminder to record the next action for each important project.

(Side note. Unlike my beloved Martha Beck, I am SO not a fan of detailing out every single task required to achieve a project. Just a few easy next steps works for me!)

Capture these lists in a simple online tool like Google docs or Trello, in a physical list such as a bullet journal, or a combination of both. 

Peaking required!

For this to work—for your mind to trust that you’ll look at that note later—you have to have a trusted system.

So you’ve written it all down. Now, decide how often and when you’ll look at these lists. 

You want to free up mental capacity. The thing is, your brain is smart enough to hold onto your thoughts if you’re putting them in your Notes app where you might see them again 8 months from now.

So decide how often you want to review (read and update) each list, and schedule it in your calendar.

Get even more done

So, write down your ideas, projects, and tasks. Look at it on the regular. Keep them updated. 

You’ll not only remember to move forward on your most important work, but you’ll have more creative brain power, which dramatically ups the quality of work you’ll produce!

Sign up here to be among the first to know when the next article in this series is published!

Passion, Purpose, and Pastries: How Michelle Kaiser Found Meaning in Her Work

Passion, Purpose, and Pastries: How Michelle Kaiser Found Meaning in Her Work

Michelle Kaiser is a passionate entrepreneur and baker who owns The Omaha Bakery here in (you guessed it) Omaha, Nebraska. I recently interviewed Michelle about her career journey. Read on to learn how this joyful woman has found meaning in her work.

This one’s a tear-jerker, folks!

Meet: Michelle Kaiser

Michelle has shiny auburn hair, a friendly smile, and an almost cartoonishly cute voice. When I met her in her bakery for this interview, we stopped to chat with regulars as we slowly made our way to a table in the back of the comfortable event space connected to the bakery. While we talked, her youngest daughter sat beside us, silently filling pages of her sketchbook with impeccable drawings of Spider-Woman Gwen.

I met Michelle two months earlier when she spoke at 1 Million Cups about her recent business transformation. After a full decade without paying herself an income, her business is now booming as she focuses on keto baked goods. (Some customers drive three hours from Kansas City for her unmatched ability to create delicious pastries with such limited, healthful ingredients.) But why keto?

The decision that saved her life

A little over a year ago, Michelle was *very* sick.

She had developed multiple autoimmune disorders, one of her many medications had started giving her seizures, and she was in so much pain that she couldn’t even stand up. Specialists said “There’s nothing we can do” and even “You’re not sick.”

Her resulting depression was so severe, she had plans to commit suicide.

That’s when a friend suggested she look into a ketogenic diet. One final thing to try, she thought. Almost immediately, her ailments started to disappear. Now 95 pounds lighter and much happier than she was last July, not only can she stand without pain—she can bike over a mile!

Fascinated by her transformation and vulnerability, I wanted to learn more about Michelle’s life and career journey. How did she get interested in entrepreneurship and baking in the first place? What kept her going all those years without a paycheck? And as someone who seems to love what she does so completely, how has she found meaning in baking treats, something that seems so… extraneous?

The mindset that took her to culinary school

Michelle grew up in smalltown Nebraska where she developed a strong conviction.

“As a woman,” she explains, “I was always told what I can’t do. And I thought, I’m gonna prove you all wrong!”

After realizing college wasn’t for her (OK, maybe that one time they weren’t wrong), she decided she wanted to go to New York. She admits to having some major naivety behind this desire. Being on the coast, she assumed it would be sunny every day, and she’d spend all her free time at the beach!

Her family urged her to stay. “You can’t do that. That’s too far away!” But this only pushed her more.

Michelle went to New York as planned and became a nanny. (The sunshine didn’t quite pan out as expected.) As a nanny, she enjoyed cooking and baking. But, she explains, “I didn’t want to be somebody’s servant. So I decided, I’m going to be a chef!”

Having made her decision, she waltzed into more than half a dozen restaurants asking for a job before learning that as a woman, she’d need to go to culinary school to make it into those kitchens.

So she did.

An abusive early mentor

In culinary school, the first 6 months of classroom training were followed by 6 months of unpaid internship. Michelle joined a French bakery that frequently employed interns. The owner loved getting the free labor and never hired interns full-time, instead keeping a steady stream of unpaid workers coming in the door. 

The talented French pastry chef, on the other hand, hated having to invest his time into training someone only for them to leave. During the day, he was a much scarier Gordon Ramsey. When he had nothing to say, he’d say nothing. Otherwise, he’d scream and throw things across the kitchen. Michelle says, “For six weeks, he made me cry every single day.”

One day, the chef asked Michelle to make pastry cream. She hadn’t seen a bain-marie, the equipment she was accustomed to using to make the classic French creamy custard. So she asked, “Chef, how would you like me to make pastry cream?”

He replied, “Just do it,” and hit her over the head with a cast iron skillet.

Not aware of how easy it would be to get a different internship, Michelle did what she knew how to do: she stuck with it. 

“Giving up is never an option,” she tells me.

Plus, at night, the Frenchman would turn into a different person. If she did exactly what he told her to do, he might stay an extra hour or two and teach her how to make things her classmates didn’t have the opportunity to learn: truffles and nougatine and beautiful, flat marzipan… (She was so excited at this point in her story that I found myself wanting to be in that New York kitchen making complex French delicacies!)

She hated him, and she respected him.

After her internship, Michelle became one of the only interns to ever be offered full-time employment in that bakery. The Frenchman promoted her to Assistant Chef, and they worked together for 2 years.

Searching for meaning in tough times

Since those early days with the French chef, Michelle has held many jobs, married, had three children, and made her way back to Nebraska.

Sometimes, money was painfully tight. Michelle recalls her family’s financial low, during the years her bakery was called Alotta Brownies and located in Fremont, Nebraska. She had to routinely figure out how to cover utilities and feed their family of five on less than $50 a week.

Feeling hopeless at this time, Michelle took to prayer. She didn’t expect her prayers to be answered, but she said them anyway. If you haven’t noticed, she’s not much of a quitter.

“I just start praying. I prayed every single day: on the way to work, on the way home from work, at night when I couldn’t sleep and was crying. ‘God,’ I said, ‘tell me what you want from me. Because I know I’m making a difference. I know I’m doing something right. But is that enough? Is my husband going to stay with me? Are my kids going to appreciate this someday? Or are they going to resent me?’ And one night in the middle of the night, I couldn’t sleep. I heard God say, plain as day, ‘Tell your story.’”

She was surprised but certain. And she didn’t understand.

God speaks through peanut butter rolls

Several weeks later, on a Tuesday morning, a woman walked into Michelle’s bakery.

“I’d like 2 peanut butter cinnamon rolls,” the woman said.

“Well, it’s your lucky day!” Michelle replied.

It really was. They don’t normally have peanut butter rolls on Tuesdays. Rolls don’t sell well. So, they only make 6 at a time, and only on the weekend. However, that morning, they happened to have a special order for 12 peanut butter rolls. Michelle was annoyed, in fact, when she walked into the kitchen earlier that morning and found that her staff had taken 14 rolls out of the freezer. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sell them, and money was too tight to waste two rolls!

As Michelle made conversation, she learned that the woman had driven over from Council Bluffs.

“You drove 45 minutes each way for a couple of peanut butter rolls?” Michelle replied with a smile. “What’s up with that?”

The woman took a breath and began. “Well, on Saturday night, I was with my best friend. She’s dying of cancer. I asked her, ‘If you could have one food in the world, what would it be?’ And she said, ‘I want a peanut butter cinnamon roll from Alotta Brownies Bakery in Fremont.’ You were closed on Sunday and Monday, so I’ve been waiting to come get these peanut butter rolls and take them back and share with her. It’s probably going to be the last meal she has.”

For Michelle, this was a clear sign from God. She had been given a purpose. Signs continued to appear for months, and together, the direction she was looking for began to take shape. She had her answer.

“My purpose,” Michelle says, “is to inspire others through food and emotion, and comfort and love and happiness.”

Just the beginning

Like yours and mine, Michelle’s story has many chapters left to be written. She’s working on opening an online keto shop and a keto cafe! 😮 You can follow the bakery on Facebook to stay in the loop.

And if you’re in town, stop in for a fresh coffee, heartwarming pastry, and friendly conversation! (The vegan raspberry coconut scone I ate was—not kidding—the most delicious scone I’ve ever eaten.)

More powerful stories

There’s something so powerful and connecting about hearing other people’s stories.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for my weekly Play Dates. I’ll personally deliver my next warm-fuzzy story straight to your inbox!

Anxiety almost ended my business

Anxiety almost ended my business

Everyone I know suffers from anxiety, depression, or both (including myself, at times.) Not usually in the my-best-friend-just-died sort of way, but because of something else: dirty emotional pain. What do I mean?

Clean pain is a natural response to a stressful situation, like a physical injury or the death of a loved one. Once felt, it fades away very quickly. 

On the other hand, our thoughts about a situation cause dirty pain. It sticks around as long as the thoughts do.

Clean pain is a natural response to stress, while dirty pain is caused by our thoughts about it.

Clean pain is the hurt in your knee when you fall off your bike. 

Dirty pain, however, is the mental whirlwind that follows: blaming yourself for not seeing the dip in the road, fuming at the person who cut in front of you. 

Recently I worked with author and speaker Byron Katie, the closest thing to Enlightened I’ve ever seen. Since she seems to experience no dirty pain whatsoever, I was fascinated to hear her tell the story of grieving her mother’s death. 

Katie was standing in the kitchen with her adult children when a sound erupted from her mouth. She didn’t consciously cause it, nor did she fully understand it. But she allowed it. The moaning, weeping, whatever it was, traveled through her body. Someone held her. Then, in no more than a minute or two, her body calmed again. She smiled and carried on with getting a plate of food.

So, dirty pain is completely optional. I’m not pretending it’s easy, but it is a damn good ideal to pursue.

Anxiety almost ended my business

It’s early 2018. I lead a department at the fastest growing company in Nebraska. I love my kind and creative coworkers, but I’m not jazzed about the work itself. Meanwhile, I adore the coaching I’m doing on the weekends. But I push the idea of major change away for “some day.”

At work, we start a 100-day challenge to help each other build new daily habits. I choose to do The Work of Byron Katie, a meditative practice of questioning painful thoughts, once each day.

On day 62, I quit my job.

Let’s back up a few days. 

I’m on the phone doing The Work with a friend and fellow Martha Beck coach.

I tell her I feel restless to express my creativity. I have endless ideas in me that want out! Sure I’ve thought about quitting my lucrative software career. I could see myself writing and coaching some day…

“But,” I say, “my husband would be uncomfortable if we didn’t have my salary. I have to make people comfortable.” 

Whoa, didn’t know that was there!

My chest is tight, my breath shallow. My shoulders hunch forward like my whole body is subtly shriveling up. I notice I’ve been scared to talk to my husband about quitting my job. 

My anxiety, transformed

Next, we turn the thought around. How might it be true that I don’t have to make people comfortable? In what ways do I have to make people uncomfortable?

Here’s my lightbulb moment. 

Making people uncomfortable is kinda my thing!

I remember a business lunch, years ago. My colleagues are talking sports at one end of the table, and I’m at the other end crying with our client who recently lost her sister.

Having uncomfortable conversations is part of who I am, and it’s always made my life better. 

This new perspective feels way more empowering. And less than a week later, after an easy conversation with my husband, I’m giving my boss my two weeks notice. 

I’m a little obsessed

It’s true. I am a little obsessed with the power of our thoughts. They can make us miserable, and they can fill us with joy.

It’s our thoughts that turn us into short-tempered bosses, nagging spouses, and employees with anxiety and imposter syndrome.

When we can drop the dirty pain, we become patient, loving, peaceful, and confident. 

So, practice noticing your thoughts, questioning the painful ones, and playing around with alternatives that feel better. It’s relatively simple, and not easy. I am constantly learning about myself as I continue my own self-inquiry practice.

More resources

See Byron Katie’s website to learn her framework for self-inquiry. It has everything you need to DIY for free. 

Are you ready to trade in your anxiety for clarity, confidence, and meaning? My clients have fun making money, and go home energized to love on their favorite people. If you want this too, I can help. Let’s chat!

Photo by energepic.