Episode 8 – Focusing on What You Have In Your Hands: Michelle McKinney

Michelle McKinney defines herself as a “Dream Architect.” She has dedicated her life to helping women design construct, and bring their dreams to life, building off her own experiences with insecurities and doubts and moving to confidence and assuredness of her calling. She encourages us to “not settle for the known,” but to be bold in our moves toward the “right things” for our lives—ready to embrace failures and learn from them.

Intro: I’m so excited to introduce you to today’s guest, Michelle McKinney. Michelle defines herself as a dream architect, and her goal is to help women design, construct and bring their dreams to life. She’s also a fellow adoptive mom. She recently adopted her daughter from Ethiopia a few years ago, and I loved getting to hear her family’s stories.

Michelle is all about helping people to push past fear and to see and create a bolder vision for themselves and their work by sparking ideas and lighting those inner fires that are simmered deep down. I learned a lot from our interview, and I think you’re gonna be encouraged to really define your dreams, write it down, and also find a dream defender — those people who can surround you when maybe other people don’t quite get why that’s a dream of yours. Her conversation today gave me a lot of courage. She’s right in the middle of Going Scared, so I can’t wait for you to dive in and hear our conversation.


What Am I Supposed to Do With My Life

Jessica: All right, Michelle. Welcome to today’s podcast.

Michelle: Thank you. I’m so excited.

Jessica: Okay, it’s hilarious because I feel like we get to know each other at conferences and doing podcasts together.

Michelle: If it works.

Jessica: Today I was like, "Oh, my gosh! I’m gonna get to catch up with Michelle today by doing a podcast with her for thousands of people to listen to."

Michelle: Yeah! I love it. I love it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Jessica: Okay, okay. So Michelle recently spoke at Noonday Collection’s annual sales conference (it’s basically like a global summit), and you brought the house down, girl.

Michelle: Oh, stop.

Jessica: You tied a bow. You landed the plane. It was so good. It was so good, but I realized today as I was getting ready for this interview that I actually haven’t heard your whole story.

Michelle: Oh, yeah.

Jessica: I don’t even know where you grew up. So I kinda wanted you to give the Reader’s Digest version of how you got to where you are right now.

Michelle: Absolutely. Just in terms of even childhood, if we just for a smidge go there. I was born in Southeast D.C., Washington D.C., and my mom passed away when I was turning five. She didn’t have a will. Never thought that at 30 that would be her situation, and so my brother and I ended up getting split up. We lived in two different households of family members, so for me, I just grew up, I think, a lot faster because I had this sense of independence for whatever reason. Nobody told me to take it, but I just felt like I had a sense of responsibility to be able to live a life where I didn’t have to be a burden to other people.

I think, throughout my childhood and going into high school, and then into college, it took me a while to find my path, and it was so frustrating because I remember being in my freshman year of school — actually, no, my second year of school. I was in New York with my girlfriends, and we were on the subway. One of my girlfriends — who I’m still really close with now — was like, "So what are you gonna do?" And I was like, "I don’t know. I think I’d love to try X, Y, Z.” And I was known for always trying something different .She was like, "You are just so wishy-washy." And when she said it, I took major offense to it. I was so hurt and so sad. That wasn’t her intention, but I just felt like, "Well, dang. I wanna be like one of these people that’s really certain about what they wanna do in life," but that just was not my path.

It’s interesting to see how the life that we live early on ends up catching up to what our path is. If I think about that 19 year old girl, young lady, me, who was in that subway that day feeling like, "Dang, it kinda sucks that I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life." And now, here I am, this is what I’m doing: helping women to discover what are you supposed to be doing with the life that you’ve been given. It’s just so freakin’ full circle, and I love it.

“It’s interesting to see how the life that we live early on ends up catching up to what our path is.” – Michelle McKinney

Jessica: That is so powerful.

Michelle: Thank you.

Jessica: In a moment when you were 19 and you’re feeling insecure about that comment…

Michelle: Majorly.


Building a Platform to Support Women

Jessica: Actually it was like a prophetic calling. It was almost calling you to what you’re supposed to do. So tell me, you are all about pouring into women. Was that a deficit in your life with your mom having passed away when you were so young?

Michelle: Yeah.

Jessica: Or did you have some other women that poured into you?

Michelle: Right. I don’t know. I had a lot of women that poured into me, and I think the initial place that it started was thinking about my grandmother. My grandmother, just like in a lot of families, my grandmother was the pillar of the family. She was taking care of everybody. The challenge that I saw — even after she passed away — was that she took care of everybody so well, but the one person she didn’t take care of was herself. She lived, I think, a very intentional life in terms of her faith, but in terms of her putting herself first, I just didn’t see her doing enough of that.

Then as I got older, I saw that same theme being brought forward by other women in my family and by friends who served so well. The one person that they forgot to serve or felt like they didn’t have permission to serve, because they felt guilty about it, was themselves. I was like, "Well, wait a minute. We have dreams too. We have desires. We have things that we want to do. It’s great to cheerlead everybody else, but who’s gonna be your cheerleader?" That’s where I think it started stirring up in me that, you know what? This is a problem that exists that I feel like I really have a strong burden for. I want to be able to take that passion, that burden, and the gifts that I have, and I wanna do something about it.

“I want to be able to take that passion, that burden, and the gifts that I have, and I wanna do something about it.” – Michelle McKinney

That’s, I think, the beginnings of that rumbling in my heart that something needs to shift, and I need to figure out some sort of platform or something to be able to support women.


A Heart for Adoption

Jessica: Okay. Now also what I know about you is that you have several children, one that you adopted from Ethiopia, which is a huge. I’m an adoptive mom as well, and it’s a huge part of our company DNA. So tell us a little bit more about your family life and your little girl from Ethiopia.

Michelle: Yeah! I think I am the person, probably like other people, who, I think, God — just in his own sense of humor — is just like, "You know what? I’m just gonna make… this is gonna be real funny to Me." Because growing up, I didn’t have that thing where it’s just like, you know, "I wanna have a family, and we’re gonna do this." That just was not what my personal dream was. I knew that I wanted to get married, and I knew I wanted to have a dog. Children were never in the equation for me, and honestly, I was thinking about this a few months back. I believe the reason why children weren’t in the equation was because there was so much fear tied into the death of my mom and all of the separation that happened with my brother and I that I just didn’t even allow that to be part of what my life could be.

When my husband and I got married, we initially talked about adoption. We’ve been married 20 years in April, and so we initially talked about adoption, but we had got to a place where our kids, they were at… I call it… at that age where they can make their own bowl of cereal. For me, on a Saturday morning, when your kids can get up and not like…

Jessica: That’s everything.

Michelle: Oh, my gosh. You know how major that is? So, the whole idea of adoption just went to the wayside. It wasn’t even in my thought process anymore because I’m like, "These kids can get up, and they can do their own thing." Eventually, my heart started stirring again. I think one of the first families that I saw was Carlos and Heather Whitaker, where they were sharing online, their journey to adopting their son–I think, from Korea. I think it was at that time.  I was like, "Oh, that’s so nice for the people." As I was watching them, then I saw Steve and Danae Leeman, I think, were the next couple that I saw.

They had actually adopted from Ethiopia. During that time, God was doing some working in my heart, and I was actually off from work. Crazy as it is, it seems like for me personally, whenever God has wanted to say something significant to me that’s gonna make me create some sort of major shift, I often get hurt at work. Do not ask why, other than that’s all I can think is because I’m so busy doing stuff, that I don’t create time to be still. It’s been crazy that during those seasons. There’s almost forced stillness where this shift comes.

During that same season, I remember hearing about their stories and thought: “That’s nice for them.” Then I had this peace in my heart. I was writing a blog post one day, and I know this is so not a bucket list thing, but this is just when it happened. I remember writing and typing on my keyboard, "One day I’d like to adopt a child internationally." As soon as I finished that ‘y’ on internationally, my fingers popped back off of the keyboard. I was like, "Where did that come from?" But then it was like, "You know, that’s not gonna happen because my husband and I, we are so resolved in our family and what we’re gonna do. If this is supposed to happen, God, you’re gonna do something with him because he’s already gonna say ‘No.’"

Well, of course for me, I felt like God went ahead of me, and by the time I presented to my husband, he was like, "Yeah, let’s go do it." It was sort of this moment, like, "I cannot believe this." The humor in it was that I went from this person that didn’t have a interest, or I didn’t feel like I was that, I guess, mother, so to speak. Again, it could have been because of my own brokenness. I went from that space to getting married to a person that already had a child, so we were going to be instantly a blended family. Then, having two sons biologically, and then also introducing adoption to our family. So that, to me, is the irony of it all that I am that person that who was like, "Not me. I’m not gonna be a mom," and to be able to be in this place and see motherhood in so many different ways has been just… it just blows me away.

Jessica: Wow. It’s so cool, too, that you are able to now connect that really you weren’t wanting to be a mom because of fear, because it brought up so much fear about your own experience.

Michelle: Absolutely.


Be Scared And Do It Anyway

Jessica: As you look back over your 20s and 30s, when you think about the times when you’ve really gone scared, when you realize, " I was afraid, but you know what? I’ve stood up, and I’ve gone anyway," What are some of those times that come to mind to you?

Michelle: Oh my gosh. I think there have been so many moments, but if I go right back to the whole adoption. When we think about going scared, I remember being at church, and one of the pastors that was there, he was like, "You just got to be scared and do it anyway." Because the fear for me was a lot of different things at the time. When we were going down the path of adoption, when we made the decision, I thought that when we shared it with our family, I thought they were gonna be really excited in the same way that they were excited when I said I was pregnant with my two sons. But it wasn’t that way, just because of miseducation, and their own fears also. We did not have the support of anybody. It was literally my husband and me, and that was it.

It wasn’t until I actually reached out to another couple, Daniel and Sarah Dubois, who are in Tennessee, because they had shared…  That’s the great thing about the internet. There are some not so great things, but then there are some amazing things where you can create these awesome pieces of community. I reached out to them because they had shared how they had fully funded their adoption. We needed that because we didn’t have a check to be able to just write out $28,000, which is what it was at the time. I reached out to them. They said, "Hey, give us your Skype information and let’s do a call." They did that with my husband and I, and they were able to share how their family had projected their own fears onto them, but how they pushed anyway, and they encouraged us to push anyway.

So down the road — I think it was like two weeks later — with no ask of our own, a letter popped up in the mail, and it was from their family, and it was a check on the inside of it. The check was literally the amount we were gonna need to be able to start our application process. Our community started out so doggone small. It was us and them, and the them was really just being able to have somebody to just be in the trenches with you, and it began to grow. The scary part of it was not having anybody to go with us. The scary part of it was not having the resources to make it happen, and the other scary part of it — and this may seem so odd because when you are a black family that’s adopting from Africa, it might seem that it’s an easier connection, right? But the challenge becomes that sometimes, in the African American culture, there has been some tension between Africa and African Americans on both sides in terms of misconceptions of one another. So, our family here in the States, they had their hangups; and I didn’t expect any of that, so it was scary because of some of the comments that we got at the time. That was a piece for us that was like, "You know what? If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna have to go scared." For us, scared didn’t mean that it was gonna be six months or eight months or a year. Our scared was going scared for four full years before we actually got matched with our daughter.

“Our scared was going scared for four full years before we actually got matched with our daughter.” – Michelle McKinney


Focus On What You Have

Jessica: How have you navigated that? You bring up this point about; you’re an African American with an African American family, obviously, and then you adopt an African child. Have you navigated that cultural difference differently? Tell me a little bit about that.

Michelle: This is the thing. The fear was on the other side of it. All of the fear that people were projecting onto us, it was on the other side of it. What I had to do during that time was I had to not focus on the people who were not gonna be on the journey with us and focus solely on the people that were like, "We are Team McKinney," during that time, right? What happened as Team McKinney began to grow and people saw that we were in it for the long haul, some of those exact same people, to this day, are people who love — I mean immensely love–my daughter, and who spend so much time and who do all those things. It’s been awesome, because it has also allowed us to be able to grow our education around the African culture. Not just for us, but for them also.

I think when you’re in that period, and you’re trying to navigate being scared and being afraid and all those kinds of things, you have to focus on what you have, not on who you don’t, and what you don’t have. If you feed the what you don’t have, then you’re gonna stay scared and not make any movement. If you focus instead on what you do have and who’s on your team — even if it’s one person; even if that one person is just you right now — that’s how you’re able to navigate that. As I said, as we pushed through that, now the openness of the hearts has been amazing that people are learning about culture. Not just about culture, but their culture. That has been really, really interesting and so phenomenal for all of us.

[insert quote]
“If you feed the what you don’t have, then you’re gonna stay scared and not make any movement. “ – Michelle McKinney
[quote time stamp in audio begins at 15:56]


Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Jessica: Wow. I mean I can’t think of something more courageous than sticking with a decision and staying true to it even when your family is not on board, even for four years. But that’s so powerful that you built a team around you. So let’s segue a little bit to that, because now you call yourself a “dream architect.” Your goal is to help women “design, construct and bring their dreams to life.”

Michelle: Yes!

Jessica: If you could apply that adoption journey to even how you teach women now, I just see so much connection there, because I think when women are starting something — especially with social media, which you and I have talked about this — we are surrounded now with images or with other women that it’s so easy just to constantly compare and therefore focus on what we don’t have.

Michelle: You said it perfectly. Literally, just before you said that, I just wrote on my little paper right here: “Focus on what do you have in your hand. What is it that you possess?” The thing is — I think this has been all over social media in different places — we do this comparison where we compare our “behind the scenes” to somebody else’s “highlight reel.” I think Steve Furtick said it. It’s so true. We forget that we’re in day one of something, and somebody else is in day 5,223. We get so afraid of one failure, which we have to understand that failure is really a passport to your journey. You have to get that failure stamp in your passport to success. It’s impossible.

“Focus on what do you have in your hand…” – Michelle McKinney

Every person that I know, every business owner, every community leader, anybody in my life that I have known or read about, they have had some sort of failure in their life. It’s interesting. I was literally just on a call with somebody before this one, and I was encouraging him to fail fast. It’s something that we hear often, right? The thing is, if you stop the process of failure–let’s say if after failure number six– that’s where the gold is, right? But if you never make failure one, two, three, four, you’ll never get to that. But the thing is, you cannot avoid it. So, unfortunately, what we do is we don’t see the other person’s failures, and all we see are the wins and the successes and all that. That’s the only part that they are choosing to show us, we start to think that something is wrong with us because the failures are happening. We know them because they’re ours. We have to be mindful of that.

Sometimes you gotta turn it off. I love social media, and I think it’s a great tool, but sometimes — I know that you’ve done this also —  you take a little break on the weekends. You have to unplug and disengage to tap back into the reality of your life.

Jessica: I think for those of us that are engaging on social, we need to rise up and show the messiness of the process.

Michelle: Yes! Yes! Yes!

Jessica: Because you know what? This was going on long before social. We got to take our kids to Italy this summer, and we were in Florence and our tour guide — we were standing in front of the statue of David — tells us that Michelangelo, on the week he died, asked all of his assistants to tear up everything of his that wasn’t a masterpiece.

Michelle: Whoah.

Jessica: … because he only wanted people to see what ended up landing in these museums.

Michelle: Wow.

Jessica: And imagine how much we’ve lost from not getting to have that history or seeing the process of Michelangelo. No one was able to grow from his process because of that.

Michelle: Wow. Wow.

Jessica: So it is our tendency, I think, to let perfectionism stay in the driver’s seat and not let other people into our mess. It’s turning off the comparison. It’s not comparing ourselves, but then it’s also for those of us that are engaging to say, “How can we show people the messiness in the middle of the process?”

“So it is our tendency, I think, to let perfectionism stay in the driver’s seat and not let other people into our mess.” – Jessica Honegger

Michelle: Oh my gosh.


Getting Unleashed

Jessica: Which brings me to my next question, Michelle, because you are at the beginning of something.

Michelle: Yes!

Jessica: You announced this at Shine.

Michelle: That’s right. You guys got it first.

Jessica: We did! I was like, "This girl’s got so much guts, and I love it." You left your corporate job at Starbucks to recently launch your own gig. Tell us about that.

Michelle: Yes. It was scary. That was my next going scared moment because the scary part about all of that is that, first of all, Starbucks was a dream job. Literally, a dream job. I’m not even saying it just kinda using the word. Starbucks was a dream job or me. One, you don’t easily get into Starbucks in terms of operations, and the opportunity that I had, I felt like it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I was the executive assistant for the regional vice president for the mid-Atlantic area. So we — and I say we, because she included me in the we — oversaw a portfolio of about 640 stores, and so there was a lot there.

I say that Starbucks was the job that grew me the most. It was hard. It was so challenging. I could tell, though, at the same time that I was nearing the end of my assignment. What I mean by that is that I often tell my clients that I don’t consider anything to be just a job. I feel like everything is something that we are called to. Called meaning, you’re supposed to do two things while you’re there, and until you complete both of those things, it’s not time for the next assignment. You can always leave early, but you won’t have completed the assignment, and you’re gonna have to learn it all over again in some capacity.

The two things are: (1) You are there to pour into other people. Sometimes, you can be sent just to pour into one person. Just one person that’s there. But you’re supposed to pour everything out into the organization. But then, (2) You are also there to be poured into and to be stretched and to learn and to be a sponge.  I could tell that my assignment was ending because I began to grow restless. In terms of the talent and the skill set that I had in that specific job, not in all the organization, but in the specific job that I had, I could tell that I was only using, I felt like, 15% or maybe 20% of where I was really gifted. For me, I knew I didn’t want to relocate to Seattle. I knew that I didn’t want to be a district manager, a store manager, or a regional director. I knew that was not my path. So I knew that it was time.

But the hard thing was that there are some times we can be very locked into the things that we have, and whenever you say… for me people say, "Well, where do you work?" You say, "At Starbucks in operations." It breeds a conversation of, "Oh my gosh. Tell me more" because the brand is so strong, right? So there was the association with that. There was the nice paycheck and having a paycheck every two weeks that I could count on. There were the incredible 401K options. There was the stock that we were given. There was the free Spotify. There’s the free pounds of coffee and tea every single week. There were a lineup of things that the company is just so generous with in terms of its partners, and so it was like, "I feel this unrest, and I feel that something greater is calling me, but I’m so tethered to this that’s here."

It literally was right at the point, and I am not exaggerating, when you invited me to be at Shine–that was when the light bulb really went off for me that said, "You can do this, Michelle. You can do this. It is time for you to leave what you’ve known, and I know that you’ve gotten out of the boat before and you’ve been in deep waters, but now it’s time to be in even deeper waters." It’s interesting, because one of my clients–I felt like God had been stirring my heart around it–one night, we were at a group coaching session that I facilitated, you know, you have those girlfriends, and she’s a girlfriend/client, you have those girlfriends who just say something that only they can say it and the way that they say it — and she said to me, "I’m saying, Michelle, if you wanna unleash other women, you need to get unleashed yourself.”

Jessica: Whoah. Woah. Bring it.

Michelle: I kinda looked at her, because it wasn’t a new word that I’d heard. It’s something I felt like God had been stirring in my heart, but I was just so afraid of it. And I was beginning to settle for the known. When she said it, of course, I gotta side-eye her first because she just kinda read me a little bit, and she’s so sweet. Her name is Mattie, and she’s so sweet with everything, but I knew that she was speaking truth, and that’s a thing. It’s so important that you don’t just have people around you that are just kind of like your “Amen” sort of corner. You need people in your life that will call you to higher ground and call you out when they know you are settling for less than what you are capable of.

“ You need people in your life that will call you to higher ground and call you out when they know you are settling for less than what you are capable of.” – Michelle McKinney

It was literally because the conference was happening, and I knew I had to take off work to do it. It was like, "You know what?" We had a major event happening, and I was gonna need to take off during this major event that I was leading. I knew that the only way for me not to be at this part of the meeting was for me to go ahead and put my resignation in. And so…

Jessica: Whoah!

Michelle: That’s the part that you did not know. It became a thing where I knew that I wanted to be at the conference Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but my meeting was gonna take place on Friday, and I needed to be present to lead my part. So I was like, "You know what?" I talked to my husband. I did talk to him. I think there was some questioning in the audience about whether I told my husband. I did tell my husband. We had talked about it, and he supported it. So I went in, talked to my boss, held my breath for a minute, and I shared it with her. The great thing was that it was bittersweet. We had been having some conversations before, and she’s an incredible leader. While it was hard for her to let go because she’s a dreamer and a doer also, she knew that it was my time. So, I had her support. I had my family’s support, but that didn’t mean that it was any less scary.

Jessica: Right. Well, and honestly, the part that spoke to me so much was the response of your boss because I have an EA. I know what I would do if she told me she was leaving. I mean, you don’t wanna let go. That’s been something that’s really hard for me being a CEO is when people walk in, and they’re like, "This isn’t my place anymore." It’s so hard, but you ended so well. And I think that a lot of young women — or just professionals in general — don’t think about endings. We think about beginnings and how important it is to begin, but you ended well.

Michelle: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that. I think there’s a book by, I think it might be Henry Cloud, that’s called Necessary Endings, and so if anybody ever has a challenge with when it’s time to make those endings, I think it gives you some great prep in there about when it’s time and how to do that.

Jessica: I just ordered it last week.

Michelle: You did?

Jessica: I did. I don’t like endings. I do not like endings. I think endings, they involve grief and letting go, and I’m not real like that. I’m just like, "Let’s just all just stay one happy party forever and ever."

Michelle: It’s tough. It’s tough. And in fact, just before Starbucks, that was where I had my biggest lesson about necessary endings. I was actually working at my church for five years, and it was where ministry and work were all together in one pot. And just like Starbucks, I could feel where the unrest was coming, but I loved the people so, so much. But I knew it was time. And I remember sitting in my office one day, and I was so frustrated. I knew it was time to make a decision, and I had this yellow pad — because I used to write on yellow pads all the time — and I simply wrote as if it was just God-inspired, "I am the dream-giver. I’ll give you a new dream." When I got that, that helped me so much, because just like you said, I thought working at my church, just like Starbucks, I said was a dream job. I was like, "This is the end all, be all of it all. I’m gonna be here forever."

And what I had to realize was that that was never the promise. The promise was never that I was supposed to be there forever. I was supposed to go there, pour in, get poured into, and then get ready for the next assignment and then move out of the way for the person that’s supposed to come after me because then that becomes their dream.


Taking That First Big Step

Jessica: I love that, and I love this idea of assignments because I think we hear this word “calling,” and it feels kind of narrow. It feels like, "Oh my gosh. I’m just supposed to find this one thing, and that’s what I do for the rest of my life." But really, calling is more kind of finding those internal stories, just like your subway moment, right? Your calling was to help other people unleash their dreams, and you’ve been able to do that while working at your church, while working at Starbucks, and now in a more global way by having your own company. Ultimately, that was the call, but the assignments can change.

Michelle: Oh, my gosh. That’s a thing. You know, in coaching, in clarity coaching sessions that I do, that’s one of the biggest things I’m having to help women to dismantle is because there’s this misnomer that you are here for one thing, and it’s not. It’s really a package of things, right? So, for a season of my life, for 20 years, I was on assignment, called to be an executive assistant to some incredible leaders along the way where the thing that I was really great at was helping them to figure out how to achieve what it was that they wanted and how to achieve their dreams within the business. But then also, how to properly balance — as much as you can balance because there really isn’t true balance — home and work.

So, if I did that for 20 years. Well, it came to a time that that season was over. This is the thing. It’s sort of like when you go into the grocery store. They always say the really good food is along the border, right? That’s where all the living stuff is. All the manufactured, processed stuff, while I really enjoy it, that’s the stuff that’s in the core. The things that are living, they have an expiration date. They are not going to last forever. And so, sometimes, we think we have all of our lives to do this thing that we have a burden for. No. It’s for a specific period of time because there is a period of time where people have this burning need, this burning desire, to have this problem fulfilled and to be resolved. You have the answer, so it’s your duty while the burden is there in you. It’s your duty to act now.

It’s sort of like a friend of mine. She’s in video production, and when the director says, "Cue," you gotta move at “Cue.” You can’t wait until you feel like it because if you wait until you feel like it, you mess everybody else up. So when life says, "Cue," it’s time to go. Which means that just like that actor or that actress, prior to cue, what did you have to do? You had to be preparing for the moment of your cue.

If right now your heart is stirring, and you don’t know what it is that you’re supposed to be doing, what is the next best thing that you can do? What one step can you make right now? What’s the one thing? You don’t have to think globally and make it bigger than what it is. No. If you have a desire to be able to help people, help young kids read. Go to the library. Volunteer. Go to the local school. You don’t have to create something huge and humongous. Whatever it is, just go do that thing, and then once you do that thing, then the doors will open for all the other things. But you have to just start. You gotta start.

Jessica: And you know what? You have to know you matter, because if you’re an actor who’s showing up, and the director says, "Cue." If you don’t show up, you’re messing everybody’s lines up. So you’ve got to know that you matter. And when women and men can understand, "My presence, it matters. My presence matters to read to little kids." Whatever it might be, we’ve gotta know that we matter, and that is what enables us to show up.

Michelle: And I’ll just say this last thing about it. I think what happens, Jessica, is that we look at women like you. You’re probably looking at somebody else, but let’s just still say somebody is looking at you, and it’s like, "Oh, my gosh. Jessica is running this incredible company, and she has all these things going on, and she’s being invited to speak. She’s got a book. She’s an author, and all these kinds of things.” And remember you were talking earlier about the whole comparison piece, and that woman begins to compare herself to you and feels like, "You know what? I’m not as great as her. I only have X, Y, Z."

But, yet again, you’re comparing where Jessica is now at day 10,233. You weren’t with Jessica at the beginning of this when she had a few pieces of jewelry and was trying to figure out how to pay for her adoption. She was in the same seat as you are right now. And the only difference is that you made a decision to just start, and you understood that what you were doing, it mattered. Exactly what you’re saying. And that you matter.


Getting Back to Foundational Things

Jessica: Okay, so have you had your last day at Starbucks?

Michelle: I did. I am actually in week two right now. I am.

Jessica: Week two. Okay. So tell us what it’s been like. Week two. Entrepreneur. How’s it going? New entrepreneur!

Michelle: Well, as you know, just so wonderful and sexy, right? Not!

Jessica: Yeah, exactly.

Michelle: I will say this, what I did do in week one that was not in my plan, and I posted about it today. I actually posted about the messiness of marriage. My husband and I have been on our journey the past 20 years. And last week, although I had a plan of what to do, I spent time with my husband. For all of these years, he has taken a supportive role and a lot of cheerleading things that I’ve done. It was such a great foundational piece to help me to remember as I’m walking through this journey, to keep pouring into the people who are right here with me because that was part of the reason why I needed to make this transition, because the space that I was in, it really didn’t allow for in the way that I desired it.

And so week two, now, has been back to foundational things. I did set my schedule in terms of creating some batching stuff and how it would work. So this week so far… like today, I was on the phone with my attorney and doing things like that, finishing up all my trademark stuff that I hadn’t done before. And so it’s been a lot of those foundational operational pieces. Then, the last piece was hiring my marketing and business coach because I needed one. I think we all need a coach in our life to help us when we’re trying to go to higher levels.

It’s been those kinds of things. Now I’m at the point where it’s like, "Okay, what is the profitability plan going to be? What are my projections gonna be for the next 30, 60, 90 days out?"

Jessica: That’s awesome. I mean you’re getting right to it. You can’t be a dreamer without having some sort of planning. You’ve gotta plan.

Michelle: You sure do. Otherwise, you’ll just be dreaming, you will not be unleashed. And we wanna be unleashed. God-unleashed.

Jessica: You gotta unleash.

Michelle: That’s right.

Jessica: Unleash the dreams.

“Unleash the dreams.” – Jessica Honegger

Michelle: That’s right.


Developing Your Vision

Jessica: That is the goal here. That’s the goal. So let’s just close out with what are some practical tools that we can all use to help us develop a vision for our lives and sort of discovering our assignments?

Michelle: Whenever I meet with clients, one of the things, if we start from the even very beginning, and I have a woman that’s kinda like, "I kinda don’t know what I wanna do." We go to this thing that I’ve created where if you could imagine three circles that kinda touch to create this one place where all three of them touch together. I forgot what it’s called, but just imagine those three circles. And one of those represents your gifts. And so the first question would be ask yourself, "What gifts do I have? What is it that I possess that I am exceptionally great at?"

This is not the time, as I tell people, to be Kendrick Lamar and humble. This is the time to be more of Sasha Fierce and pop your collar and be like, "You know what? I do this better than most people." And if you’re a person, and you can’t figure that out, I challenge my clients. They have to come back. They have to ask at least a minimum of 10 people in their circles, in their professional and personal spaces, to ask them, "What is it that I do exceptionally well and better than others?" The second question is, "What am I passionate about, whether it be a people, group, or a cause that I would give my time, my money in a sacrificial way? What is the thing that just kind of fires me up?" Whether it’s women, children, men, families, injustice, the justice system, politics. Whatever it is, what is the thing that you’re most passionate about? And then last question to ask yourself is, "What problems or needs exist in the world that I would love to be able to help solve using my gifts?" While those are three questions that you ask, what I challenge people to do is to get crafty with creating something that speaks to all three of those things.

For myself, for example, my vision — I think, even while I was an executive assistant — was to help people figure out strategies to get from here to there and prevent them from dying with their God-given dreams and goals still in their back pocket. That part of it has been added on since I started Dreams Unleashed. And the importance of the vision statement, the thing is, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not taking this and carving it out in stone for all to see. This is just to be your true North. This is to be your guiding principle to say, "This is why I’m getting up in this season of my life." So start out with two sentences. What is it that you desire? How is it you would like to imagine the world or how would you like to see a problem solved?

And maybe it has to even do with your family. What is your vision for your family? And just start there and create it. Don’t try to be perfect. Just write it down on paper.

Jessica: Write it down. Let’s close with that because I think a lot of us don’t take the time to just … It’s like we’re afraid.

Michelle: I know, yeah. Absolutely.

Jessica: Afraid to dream. Some of us are just afraid to dream. Kinda like how you were afraid to dream about being a mom because of your own life circumstance. So much  of it is being willing to be vulnerable and have that courage to go inward to understand what might be stopping you from just writing it down.

Michelle: Oh, that’s so good.

Jessica: Well, Michelle, you’re just so awesome!

Michelle: Well, Jessica, so are you!

Jessica: You make me wanna like… do you maybe wanna just do a podcast all the time? Like every time can be Michelle guest.

Michelle: I love it. I love talking to you. It can just be girlfriend time.

Jessica: Yeah. Okay, so tell us how we can find you?

Michelle: Yeah. Okay, so the website you can get me at www.dreams-unleashed.com. And where the real party happens is over on Instagram, which I love. You’ll find me sharing a whole lot and get transparent over at Michelle.McKinney.

Jessica: Awesome. So fun.

Michelle: Thank you.

Jessica: Well, thanks again for your time today.

Michelle: This has been great. Absolutely.

Jessica: See you on the other side.

Michelle: Absolutely. Thank you, Jessica. Bye-bye.

Jessica: Okay. Bye.


Personal Glimpses of Courage

I always say that courage is contagious, and I have to say this conversation gave me a lot of courage. She had to go scared so many times. When she made this decision to adopt, and yet her family didn’t understand, she found community and was intentional to surround herself with people who were gonna defend her dream. And it didn’t mean that she excluded her family or excommunicated her family. She even said that those are the very ones who love her daughter the most now. But she was aware that when you put a dream out there, you need to find a community that’s going to help fuel that dream so that your courage to keep going scared can continue to be contagious for you.

I recently asked on Instagram for you to put some of your dreams out there. And I know it was really vulnerable for quite a few of you because you said, "I can’t believe I’m saying this publicly." And now we’re gonna make those even a little more public because I’m gonna read a couple of those to you guys today. These are from Instagram, so all I have are your Instagram handles. So pardon me if some of your handles are a little cray.

@WLambert says, "My dream is to raise my daughters to be strong and confident young ladies. I want them to dream bigger and help them achieve those dreams."

@ACSS74 says, "My dream is finding the right property for a retreat house. I want to host business, ministry, and organization retreats for education and team building and use it to bring people to the table so we can hear each other’s stories."

@ElizabethBricknell said, "I am dreaming about being a writer and a speaker."

@AndreaBeckLundskow said, "My dream is to have my own podcast, and after thinking about it for years, I’m doing it. It’s called Taking the Middle Seat, and I do interviews with people to explore connection where we might not think that exists."

Y’all should go check out that Instagram post all about dreams. We need each other if we’re gonna dream. We need to surround ourselves with people that believe in us so that we can borrow belief when we ourselves are a little shaky.

Thanks so much for tuning in on today’s episode of Going Scared. I hope that you just got a little bit of dose of courage to keep going wherever you might be moving through a fear right now. See you next week.