Digital Strategy Insights Marie Poulin

2015 Year End Annual Review


Every year in December I write a review of my year. They’re long, and they’re personal.  I take a look at the highs and lows, successes and failures, projects launched, and lessons learned. (You can read my 2014 and 2013 here).

From last year’s intentions:

2015 will be the year of: connection, flow + ease.

I spent so much of 2014 really focusing on business and marketing tactics; this next year is really about leveraging what I’ve already created, and finding more flow and ease within my business.

I will let go of and stop doing: rush work, favour work, working on weekends + evenings (unless it’s my own work of course!), scope creep and unnecessary stress.

I will feel: joyful, connected, loving, creative, energized, free, “in my element.”

This year I will achieve more balance with my work and free time. I will continue to evolve Digital Strategy School, and will reinvent how I work with clients by scaling up my impact and offerings. I will create with ruthless intentionality, and nurture strategic and supportive collaborations. I will help as many people as I can grow their businesses strategically, and do work they love.

Yep. I would say 90% of that was achieved.

To describe 2015 in a nutshell
I’d compare it to leaping off a cliff with a big gust of wind keeping me soaring. I took some major risks, pushed through some major fears, and played a way bigger “role” (aka, majorly came out of my shell).

It was an all around epic year.

I had my first speaking gig, successfully launched my signature program, and Ben and I are close to launching the first beta of our web application Doki!

This year’s review is a little less structured than in the past, and focuses on what happened each quarter, with some key learnings and take-aways.

TL;DR Highlights:  

(In mostly chronological order)

  • Launching Digital Strategy School
  • Visiting Portland with Amanda
  • Working with Tanya Geisler, Leadership Coach
  • That blog post going viral
  • Traveling to Mexico for a wedding  
  • Photoshoot with Makito
  • Quiet power summit in Portland
  • Launching my first ebook: Think like a digital strategist
  • Visits from out of town friends
  • Attending Creative Live in San Francisco: Tara Gentile + Natasha Vorompiova
  • The Rainmaker conference with Michelle Martello
  • The Digital Strategy Retreat with Michelle Martello
  • Call to Action Conference in Vancouver
  • Creative Live + friends in San Francisco
  • Spending time with family and Ontario
  • Collaborating with Shannon, Maureen, Tanya, Natalie, Natasha, Constance
  • Speaking at Gather North
  • Board game nights with Amanda
  • Masterminds with Breanne, Cory, Melissa, Natasha and Constance
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • Podcast interviews with awesome people


Let’s dive right in!


Digital Strategy School


In January 2016 I launched the first official version of Digital Strategy school.
I wrote a little more about it here and here.

This is the part of my business that gives me the most joy. Through launching this program and working so closely with the students, I really came alive and realized just how important connection is to me.

Succeeding with DSS required a complete mindset shift.

I had not previously considered myself a “leader,” and suddenly I found myself in a position of authority and leadership. I was really not emotionally prepared for the success of DSS, as crazy as that might sound. I started getting a lot more attention; requests for interviews, speaking, emails, fan-mail, and even nasty criticism on my popular blog posts.

AH, I remembered hearing about this, but never considered for a moment that it was something I might experience!

I had been so swept up in the anxiety of whether or not anyone would sign up for my program, that I hadn’t considered for a moment how I would feel when tons of super talented people signed up to go through the program! I was not used to being noticed, and now the success of my business required me to be comfortable with being seen, recognized and noticed as an authority. This was definitely one of the most emotionally challenging business experiences I’ve ever had.

I won’t get into all the details here as you can read about them in my behind the scenes posts, but I will say that creating Digital Strategy School has transformed my business, and transformed me as a person. It pushed and pulled me in ways I didn’t expect, it flipped my business model on its head, and it fostered the most incredible, kind and supportive community. I’m proud of what it’s become, and it’s only going to get better in 2016.

I absolutely LOVE mentorship, and it’s a such a hugely rewarding part of my business and life.

The people. The people. The people.
I cannot say enough about the people who have been a part of it. Thank you with all my heart for trusting in me to be your guide!

Key Learning:

Do it your own damn way. I have been told by many that I potentially blur the lines, and don’t set enough boundaries. That I’m too friendly with clients, or I spend too much time (uncompensated) with people that ask for my time. This may or may not be true, but the beauty of running your own business is that you get to create the rules, and you get to break themYou can do business in a way that leverages your strengths and desires; you don’t have to follow other peoples’ rules.

Get support. Taking risks and being vulnerable requires a support network. Make sure you have trusted friends and mentors to help you keep perspective.

Tanya Geisler


Yes, this woman gets a tribute all of her own in this year’s review.

I hired Tanya in the early spring to help me wrap my head around the Imposter Complex I was feeling once DSS took off. Shouldn’t I be happy, proud, and excited? Instead I felt anxious, terrified, and full of self-doubt.

Tanya was launching her Step Into Your Starring Role Program, and I signed up immediately. I had seen her work many times before, but I wasn’t in a place where I was ready or even looking for it. Now it was exactly what I was looking for, at exactly the time that I needed it.

Tanya and I worked 1:1 through the 8 week program, and if you and I have met in person, you’ve probably heard me tell you about Tanya. I can’t help it; she really has changed my life in the most positive way.

Here’s some of what I learned about myself through our work together.

My brand of joy is Connection. 

It’s what I seek in everything that I do, both in business and life.
Believe it or not, I hadn’t realized this before our work together. It seems so simple, and yet, once I discovered that this was in fact true, it suddenly gave me all kinds of permission. I suddenly understood my own decisions and behaviours in a way I never did before. It was like… she found the thread that tied my entire life together. 

I nearly cried with joy when I realized this. At several points I was speechless and needed time to process what she was helping me discover. What if my own disconnection with my mother… has led me to seek such deep connections… with other people? Woah. 

Incredibly powerful, challenging, and rewarding work.

I was able to finally embrace (unapologetically) the way I do business. For example, I kept hearing “mentorship doesn’t scale,” and that I should be growing, scaling, certifying coaches with my method, etc., etc.

Well, two things come to mind here.

What if I can scale mentorship? 
And what if mentorship and connecting with others in a genuine way really fuels me?

What if it can be profitable and personally fulfilling?

I’m less interested in scaling for the sake of scaling as I am in finding joy and love in my work.

The way in which I connect or even offer mentorship may shift and change over time, but for now, I’m exactly where I need to be: connecting with incredible humans while earning a good living and doing work I love.

My core values are intimacy, generosity and innovation.

Knowing that these are my core values, I can use them as a filter for how I make decisions. Again, instead of getting caught up in how I’m supposed to do business, I can check in with whether or not my decisions align with these values.

I would never have thought that “innovation” was a core value of mine, and Tanya challenged me on this. It hadn’t occurred to me that what I did with DSS was innovative, and that my curiosity and interest in going deeper, and going beyond the surface is actually a value for innovation. This clarity has been seriously transformational for me.

I was playing small

I don’t think I realized to what extent I shrinking at own my successes. I struggled to fill out the worksheet that listed all of the bad-ass things I’ve done in my life. I thought of 4 and left the other 20 or so lines blank because… I just couldn’t think of what to say. Tanya zeroed in on this quickly and called me on it in the most loving way. Oh boy, we dug up some good stuff here. It was powerful for me to see how my fear of being perceived as “cocky” was holding me back from confidence and celebration. As Tanya would say, “girl, it’s not in your DNA.”

In the end, through my work with Tanya, I am able to stand taller, accept compliments with gratitude (and without shrinking), step into whatever role I set out for myself, and see myself as a leader and authority.

I’ve never felt so powerfully “seen” by another person; this is Tanya’s rare gift. She sees your strengths and refuses to let you play small. I’m so grateful that I was able to experience the gift of her coaching. She is truly a rare gem, and I am a different (better) person than I was when I hired her almost a year ago.

Tanya is launching a digital self-study version of her program which will be hosted on our platform, which leads me to…

Oki Doki

In late 2014 Ben and I decided that if we were going to launch our application, Doki, that we were going to have seriously commit the time, and that meant that Ben would not take on any client work in 2015.

Doki is an online platform geared at those that have online programs with a mentorship or coaching component. You can create courses and programs with complex drip functionality, auto-generated sales pages, payment and email integration. We’re building what we wish existing in the market, and we’ll be putting our first clients on it in late January!

Go Big or Go Home

It’s been a crazy ambitious project that has grown far beyond what we had initially anticipated. Self funding this project is definitely one of the biggest risks we’ve ever taken, with Ben dipping into his savings, me stepping up my business up with DSS and consulting, and both of us living lean to make it feasible.

Ben has been working full-time on the application for nearly a year, while I’ve participated at both a strategic level, as well as front-end design direction and user experience. It’s been really fun to collaborate on our own project.

People often ask what it’s like to work with your partner, and honestly, the answer is: it’s awesome. Really awesome.

Ben and I work exceptionally well together; our skills are complementary, and we both have a huge respect for what each of us brings to the table. We’re both really honest and great communicators, so there’s no ego or power struggle here; simply a common goal and a desire to collaborate to make something greater than we could do on our own.


Ben and I had a photoshoot for Oki Doki (photography:

We did a fun photoshoot with our talented friend Makito and had a few laughs along the way.  (He also did the photograph at the top of this post with Constance and I at the juice bar!)

Ben’s emotional support through my launch of Digital Strategy School has been crucial to my sanity and confidence.

Key Learning:

We definitely let Doki grow in scope well beyond what should be in an minimum viable product (MVP).
I sometimes wish we’d shipped an earlier, rougher version!

Weekly check-ins are key with collaborative product development. Too often we put meeting about Doki on the backburner, and Ben would be building out functionality that through a few quick conversations we realized was unnecessary.



That post that went viral

In March 2014 I wrote a post about designing my ideal week, and touched upon an issue that I noticed both for myself, and with most of the designers I was observing through Digital Strategy School: nobody is leaving enough margin in their schedule!

The article was titled The Big Mistake Nearly Every Designer Makes, and I posted it on Medium. Though I think it’s a mistake we all make, designers are my primary audience, so I experimented with a title that was hard to ignore (wouldn’t you want to know what the mistake is?).

The post went viral and has since ended up on a number of popular round up posts. Within a few weeks of posting I was asked for an in-person interview for a book on design leadership!


I didn’t think twice about this post as I was writing it; I wrote it rather quickly and hit publish. Heck, I’m certainly no time management expert, so the fact that *this* post resonated with people was fascinating to me.

Key Learning:

You honestly never know who is going to see your work (if you put yourself out there!). Posting on Medium allowed me to get featured by the Medium Staff which in turn ended up sending me a ton of traffic, shares, and likes.

You can’t get traction if you don’t get up the courage to put your ideas out there.
What are you waiting for? 😀

Haters gonna hate.
Screenshot 2015-12-31 11.20.53

Thank you, Julien, for keeping me humble 😉

Vacation in Mexico


In April Ben and I attended a friend’s wedding in Akumal, Mexico. I’d never been to Mexico before; it was beautiful and HOLY it was hot! It was lovely to disconnect for 10 days, and do some sight-seeing. We snorkelled, explored sonotes, and visited the ruins in Tulum; it was perfect!

Authority Rainmaker


In May I attended the Authority Rainmaker conference by Copyblogger, and it was the first time I got to meet Michelle Martello in person! I brought Michelle on as a co-mentor for the September 2015 round of DSS. We had such a blast; the conference was stellar, they had an awesomely diverse speaker line-up, and they finished with an epic keynote by Henry Rollins which was by far the highlight of the whole experience.

I’d read many of the speakers books and followed their work for years, so it was such a joy to watch Sally Hogshead, Daniel Pink, Sonia Simone, Bernadette Jiwa, Joanna Lorde, and Chris Brogan among others.

I also got to meet the awesome folks at Spyr Media who took that photo top right. I hope we run into each other again in person one of these days! 🙂

Dr Maureen Borghoff

Dr. Maureen and I created a new brand and  “Minimum Viable Website” for her to use to grow her personal brand while creating her own suite of online products and services. It’s still under construction, but I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do so far.



We also finally got the chance to meet in person, along with her husband Brian; both incredible people who I adore. Working with Maureen has definitely been a highlight of my year. Maureen is a chiropractor who wants to change the conversations happening around health care, particularly breast health and disease prevention. She offers thermography sessions in her Toronto office, which I had the pleasure of experiencing for myself.

If you have a chance to get a thermography session done, I highly, highly recommend it. It is a alternative (of sorts) to mammography that measures your body’s stress response, and can be a key indicator of health issues to be aware of. The beauty of it is that it can show strain/stress in a very visible way, but it also empowers you to take action before more serious signs show in your body.

Screenshot 2015-12-31 12.26.29 Screenshot 2015-12-31 12.26.41

I learned that my adrenal glands were taxed (ha, no sh*t, launching is terrifying), but also given my health history, Maureen explained that it is entirely possible that I was actually born with taxed adrenals.

I saw the impact that my poor posture was having on my neck muscles, and how my late nights and launch stress was affecting my skin.

Thermography is a powerful way to see how your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly decisions affect your physical body, which empowers you to create change, because you’re able to visually see the effects of your decisions firsthand.

Maureen and I are working on a suite of educational resources for her clients and as a way to leverage her one on one work, and to help people sustain healthy habits beyond their office visits.


Family Visit + Come Draw With Me

Ben’s mom Janet came to visit us from Kentucky in late May, and of course, we took her to one of our favourite Vancouver events: Come Draw With Me, along with friends Heather + Stu, and their new baby, Sage! This week we had to draw our favourite animal in outer space. I drew a sloth on a Stark Industries Rocket.


While we don’t get to see Janet terribly often, I cherish the time that we do get to spend with her. I loved the meaningful discussions we would have in the morning over coffee.

Slow mornings with good coffee and great conversations is pure joy for me.

Tim Huff

I’ve known Tim since way back in my Thinkhouse days, when we would handle the design for his various projects, mostly centered around social justice causes; in particular, homeless youth. We worked on conference materials, vehicle wraps, brand identities, websites and beyond.


Tim has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known. He’s a social justice advocate who speaks, lectures, builds community and serves to build compassionate responses to issues related to poor, misunderstood, and marginalized people. His most recent book is The Yuletide Factor, a book that aims to create “Christmas people all year round” (aka, not only being on our best behaviour around the Christmas season!)

Looking back, I had no idea how much Tim’s approach to the world would influence me today, but this year I got the chance to meet up with Tim 3 times: once in Vancouver, and twice in Toronto. (Previously I hadn’t seem Tim in nearly 4 years!)

In 2016 as I focus more on socially conscious projects, and ways that I can have more positive impact through my work, I’ve looked to Tim as an example of what is possible.



Summer brought visits from friends, ridiculous amounts of sunshine, lattes and board games.

I was finally feeling more at ease with what I had created with DSS, and I was getting a lot of positive reactions to the course material. The stress of the spring was starting to wear off, and for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was finally exhaling.

Summer was filled with: simplicity (Marie Kondo), Car Free Day, Summers with the Pup, Swedish Midsummer, Board Games

Summer was filled with: simplicity (Marie Kondo), Car Free Day, Summers with the Pup, Swedish Midsummer, Board Games

I really simplified things after reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I cleaned out all the old clutter and clothing that was taking up unnecessary space and donated it. I did a huge purge and got rid of everything that didn’t bring me joy.

I still need to go through this process with my receipts and office paperwork, but hey, baby steps.

Gloria + Ricardo

Gloria and Ricardo from Wedge 15 came to visit us in the summer and it was such a blast to finally shift our 3 hour Strategy Skype calls to an in-person setting! These two have inspired and supported me whole-heartedly over the last 3 years, and in November I got to be their +1 at their first Tedx talk in Waterloo. I’m so proud of these two, and cherish all the in-person time we got to spend this year.



Call to Action Conference

The CTA Conf was excellent. I was really impressed with the content, the speakers, and again, the diversity of the speaker line-up. I’ve already purchased my ticket for June’s event here in Vancouver!



By the third quarter of the year, I was beginning a new round of Digital Strategy School with Michelle Martello as a co-mentor.

Think Like A Strategist // Ebook

In August I participated in Gumroad’s 10-Day Small Product Lab challenge and created my first ebook, Think Like a Digital Strategist. The idea was the keep it simple, and work from existing ideas or assets. I took content from case studies, notes, ideas, and my existing program, Digital Strategy School, and repurposed some of it for a more general audience.

This was certainly one of the most stressful projects I’ve ever taken on, as I completed it while traveling to both San Francisco for Creative Live and Richmond VA to meet with Michelle Martello. Creating a product (that you’re proud of) in 10 days is a serious challenge, but so rewarding. I highly recommend checking out gumroad’s challenge. I wrote a bit about it here.

In the end, it won an honourable mention! Use code stoked for $10 off.



Key Learning

Keep it simple. I stressed out about this way more than I needed to! Work with what you’ve got. Simplify.
This was my first attempt at a small product, and I shouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself. There will be more in the future 🙂

Just F*cking Ship It.

Creative Live, San Francisco

In both August and October I got to attend Creative Live as a live audience member, first for Natasha Vorompiova’s Evernote for Mac course, and secondly for Tara Gentile’s Turn Your Service Into a Product course as a case study student. I had such a blast meeting so many of my internet friends in person (including my fellow masterminders, Breanne, Cory and Melissa!), and meeting new friends as well!

These events always solidify for me how much I love in-person connection. It’s so hilarious to think back on how terrified I used to be at in-person events and conferences. Now I look forward to them every year!



This trip I also got to meet up with my good friend Brigitte Theriault and friends, as well as Ellen Ercolini on a short trip to Oakland! It was brief, but I loved every minute.

In August I got to meet up with a number of business friends, DSS students, and colleagues in person in Toronto!


Vivian Hui, Dara Skolnick, Gloria McRae, Marg Reffell, Tammy Martin, Shannon Lee Simmons, Me, Rebecca Tracey, Allie Kosela

Digital Strategy School Retreat

In October Michelle and I co-ran the first Digital Strategy School Retreat in Vancouver; an intimate business building experience for designers looking to up their strategic game, both in their own businesses and for their clients. We did some planning exercises, hot seats, and guest presentations for a small group of 6. I hope to run another in 2016!


Key Learning

This was my first time running/leading in-person event, and I was glad that Michelle was comfortable and experienced with facilitation. It was also good practice for me since my very first professional speaking gig was about to take place in 2 weeks, and I had very little experience teaching in front of a group (even a small group!)

Small is good. Intimacy being a core value of mine, I enjoy and appreciate the connection and experience that a really small group allows.

Energy. I realized (no surprise) that I’m really, really damn sensitive to people’s energy. I take on people’s stress and pain as if it were my own. I feel what is happening in a room, I notice people’s expressions, and I feel tension wherever it lies. This doesn’t always mean I know how to handle difficult scenarios, but I do notice all the things, which can be simultaneously beautiful and heavy.

I also became aware of how my approach to solving business problems tends to lean toward personal development and coaching, vs say, a more pragmatic or logical approach.

It was interesting to feel the energy of our different styles and approaches to solving business challenges. In the end, I felt that it would have made sense for us to have had clearer roles around which sessions we wanted to lead, and how. It was actually a great learning experience all around, and I’m grateful that Michelle was willing to run it with me!

Leave more open time. I had heard that activities always take much longer than you expect, and even knowing this I feel like we tried to squeeze too much into the time we had available. I think we should have left more time between sessions, or even time for dialogue and discussion, as often discussions would cut into exercises or hot-seats, which meant that take-aways were sometimes squeezed.



Constance has been an incredible support to me this year. She’s my launch buddy, work friend, accountability partner, Masterminder, collaborator and confidante. Together we inspire and support each other, and her support has been pivotal to my success this year. It also doesn’t hurt to have a therapist friend 😉

Immense gratitude for having this kind of friend in my life. We’ve gone through so many experiences this year, I can’t wait to see what we both achieve in 2016.


Heads Up Book

I designed a book cover and interior for Constance and Teesha’s upcoming book, Heads Up. Yes, it’s a book about de-stigmatizing oral sex.


Key Learning

Books design always takes longer than you think it will 🙂


The fourth quarter of the year was filled with launches!

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, my schedule was maxed. I had so much client work, and a new round of students to work with! New opportunities were buzzing (my first speaking gig), and I was starting to feel stretched. How was I going to make it all work?

Well, I made the decision to hire an operations person. Of sorts.

At first I was looking for a VA, and through a friend of a friend, someone recommended Justine. We met via Skype, and I knew immediately I needed her help.

She quickly started helping me beat my schedule into place, and held me accountable to my big goals. I’ve been working with her since October, and while we’re not sure what her “role” is necessarily, she’s been holding me accountable, helping me find work/life balance, and helping me get more pro-active in my business.


My current ideal week

She’s part operations strategist, part accountability partner, part work/life coach, part cheerleader…

One of my biggest take-aways through working with Justine had been the power of the time-tracking and super-charging my calendar. My ideal week was just the beginning; since working with Justine, I now track my time + activities through my calendar, and at any point in time I can see where my time is really going, not just a list of appointments and meetings (which is how I was previously using it). This is helping me transition into being way more pro-active.


Justine was a guest for our Digital Strategy School Year End wrap up + planning party

Justine’s background in massage therapy also means that she brings to the table an element of self care and stress management. I am super grateful to have her on my team, and we’re already scheming of ways to collaborate in 2016!

Conquer Kit

Natalie and I collaborated to bring many pieces of her launches together, from her book (and microsite), her pre-launch, to her signature program itself: I designed the interior of Natalie MacNeil’s Conquer Kit book, a creative business planner for women entrepreneurs, as well as the accompanying website.


Conquer Camp

I provided branded materials (identity, design, development) for Natalie MacNeil’s Conquer Camp, a free entrepreneurial training series that was a pre-cursor and build-up to her yearly launch of The Conquer Club. The response was huge, and we had thousands (yes, thousands!) of excited participants watching each week and participating in the Facebook group in the lead up to the launch.

conquercamp-emailWe created a simple one-pager sign-up for the launch with branded videos and a sneak peek of the workbooks:


The lessons unlocked every few days over the course of a week in the lead-up before The Conquer Club opened for enrollment, and encouraged the participants to share and post in the Facebook group. The imagery was fun and playful, and the participants loved it. I’m proud of what we were able to do here for Natalie!


Working closely with Natalie over the years has been such a joy. She’s such a powerhouse and a huge inspiration to me personally.

This year, while handling so many of her launch components, I reached a state of burnout. Realistically I was doing the work of a small team, while also trying to grow my own business, and it became too much. It meant late nights and weekends, last minute work, and not enough time for testing!

With the launch of Doki imminent in the new year, and uncertainties of what that would mean in the new year, I had to make the super difficult decision to take a step back from this work, and help her transition the hand-off of the work to various team-members. My work is continuing to evolve toward more and more strategy work and product development, and Natalie needs a design team! It was really tough to make this decision because we’ve worked together so well for so many years, but in the end, it made sense for us both to find her more available designers for her team.

This girl is the real deal. She really cares about changing the world for underserved communities and beyond. I’ve been so grateful to be a part of helping Natalie grow her empire, and I know she’ll continue to do amazing things in the world!

Divi Nation Interview

I had so much fun chatting with Nathan from the Divi Nation Podcast about the transition from designer to digital strategist. This one interview was been responsible for a solid number of Digital Strategy School students. It was so great to see how many designers resonated with the journey, and to know that DSS really is providing something of value for a very specific audience. The episode got a lot of great feedback and sent quite a bit of traffic my way. Elegant Themes is doing great things for the design community, and their Divi theme is one of my personal faves.

New School of Finance

Shannon and I working in both Vancouver and Toronto on her new program/school: New School of Finance

Shannon and I working in both Vancouver and Toronto on her new program/school: New School of Finance

Shannon and I worked tirelessly throughout the year, from crafting her beta, to launching the real deal; her online personal finance school for Canadians. I cannot recommend her Sole Prop School enough!! She’s seriously changing the game for small Canadian business owners to take control of their finances, and understand all that CRA grey area!


I designed her new brand identity and website, including the full suite of online courses.

Speaking of Shannon Lee Simmons…

Gather North

Avery Swartz and Sarah Hunter organized an event called Gather North, a mini conference at the Drake Devonshire for women who create the web, and invited both Shannon and I to speak.

I’d never spoken professionally before, but you bet your boots that I was up for this challenge!


This event was on another level. The people and the community were incredible. Avery and Sarah created a seriously unforgettable experience for the participants.


The location (Drake Devonshire) was unreal.

I made real friendships that day, and am so grateful that this event was my introduction to speaking. I could not have asked for a more supportive group, and it helped that a few of my DSS participants and friends were in the audience!

It was a HUGE honour to present alongside Shannon and Erin Anacker.

I spoke about Creating Space for Great: Designing an Intentionally Awesome Career.

I was absolutely terrified about the idea of speaking, so I started studying all things public speaking and presenting. I hired a speech coach (Michelle Mazur who helped me structure my talk and find the nuggets of wisdom), read Michael Port’s Steal the Show, and listened to tons of podcasts on speaking and presenting. Shannon laughed when I told her this, and I realized that I had maybe overdone it.

I was more ready than I realized, but wanted to do my due diligence.

Key Learning

No matter where you are in your journey, you have something to teach.

You’re probably more ready than you think you are. Avery apparently had no idea I hadn’t spoken before, and joked that if that was my first talk, what was my next one, a Ted talk?? It was a relief to hear that my first talk was a good one 🙂

We all struggle with the same things. Deep down we all really want to be seen, loved, validated, respected. Imposter Syndrome affects us all, and we tend to believe the worst about ourselves because we see the mess that happens behind the scenes. Imagine if you saw yourself the way your biggest supporters saw you? Well that’s something I’m consciously practicing.



While the new SystemsRock is still underway, I wanted to give a sneak peek at what we’re working on for Natasha in bringing her new brand to life:



Step Into Your Starring Role

stepintoThis event was another highlight of the year. Getting to see Tanya in person, in her element, doing her signature work in a group format, while meeting a number of my business friends, colleagues and DSS students was pure joy.

It was also so wonderful that Ben was able to join me for this event. I was excited for him to meet the woman who has had such a profound effect on my confidence this year.

Tanya had everybody’s headshots mounted on a wall, and people were encouraged to leave notes of things they noticed on sticky notes.

On my image were these words/notes:

  • Independent
  • The Change Maker
  • Rock Solid Friend
  • Legendary
  • Presence:

We haven’t spoken all day but I’m drawn to you whenever you into the room. You are magnetic.

Well, holy sh*t. That was one hell of a compliment. Thank you, whoever you are for seeing that, and for saying it. That’s definitely going down as one of my favourite compliments ever. You win. <3

It was a powerful day for being seen, and allowing others to be seen. It was vulnerable and powerful and beautiful, and if you EVER get a chance to attend this event, do not hesitate.


My biggest supporter


Thank you Ben for continuing to support me and help me grow as a business owner and human 🙂


Financial Goals

For the last 3 years of my business, I have set a specific financial goal, and have hit those targets within a few thousand dollars, every year. In December I come up with a number, and sure enough one year later, I earn that amount. Last year I set what I originally thought was a “ridiculous” financial goal, but went along with it anyway. Shoot for the moon, land among the stars, right?

Well I sh*t you not, once again I hit the target almost exactly.
We’re talking over 98% accuracy!


Well, as my income increased, so did my expenses.

Between bringing on a co-mentor, making a few new hires (which I’ll elaborate on), and hiring a few coaches, it didn’t feel like it was raining cash (I remember thinking that’s what it would feel like, ha!). Not to mention, with Ben not drawing any income, that meant that I was really stepping things up to cover additional expenses with the business and around the house.

Key Learning

Set financial goals. This one action—setting a specific financial goal each year—has had a major impact on my business.  It’s so much easier to reverse-engineer your business when you know how much you want to earn. It also makes decision making easier, as you need to be realistic about whether or not the projects you take on support your goal. This means is I make room for passion projects, I need to make sure that my income is supporting that.

Invest in yourself. It’s no coincidence that my revenue increase also correlates with money I’ve invested in myself and in my business. Taking time to attend conference, connect with people in person, and hiring business and leadership coaches has has a massive impact on my business. Do not try to do it all by yourself; hire the help you need!


Final Takeaways

Yes, this was a year of big growth and amazing opportunities.

I overcame a lot of fear and anxiety this year as I worked through my own insecurities around leadership, and battled my worst critics (the ones inside my head).

I learned how to be a better leader for my community (an ongoing process), and levelled up my speaking + interviewing skills. (One podcast interview I did had me so nervous I burst into tears immediately afterward. I’ve come a long way…)

I had to be reminded to take my own advice and leave more margin in my schedule.

I was also reminded that above all else… I’ve got this. There isn’t “another course,” another ebook, another skill, or another thing to “learn before I’ll be ready!” I am already ready, and the real shift is merely deciding to step into that authority.


Looking Ahead

SO yeah, it was a heck of a big year for my business, my relationships, and my personal development.

I’ve been reading and really enjoying the 12 Week Year which takes a different approach to “year planning.” So this year I’m trying out the 12 Week Year method of planning, and I’m focusing on planning 12 weeks at a time.

My words for 2016:

Intention + Collaboration + Impact

What I’m looking forward to in 2016:

What are you most looking forward to? 🙂

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