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Transforming Childhood Dreams to Reality With Michelle Spalding


Michelle Spalding is a business alchemist - passionately working with entrepreneurs, helping them to identify and transform obstacles, allowing them to create the life and business of their dreams.

In this episode, we step into the inspiring world of Michelle Spalding, a feisty redhead who turned her childhood dreams into reality. Michelle shares her personal journey of leaving behind a 40 year long career, only to discover her true calling as a business owner. Through a heartfelt moment of realization and an ugly cry session, she found the courage to make transformative changes.

Join us as Michelle uncovers the magical twists and turns that led her to create a successful business and redefine her path. Discover how she embraced the power of writing down her desires and seized the opportunity to break free from the confines of a traditional office. To connect with Michelle, visit the website


Watch Michelle's Story



Jennifer: Welcome to the I Don’t Give a Should Show – a podcast exploring ALL the ways that women SHOULD all over themselves. How many times do you find yourself acting out of obligation or doing what everyone ELSE expects from you without stopping to consider why? Where do all those beliefs that are driving you come from? If you’re tired of feeling resentful, overwhelmed, stuck, exhausted or pissed off you’re in the right place.Shoulding all over yourself is a real thing, but it doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat.

I’m your host Jen Sherwood, and I spent waaaaay too many years trying to prove that I was good enough and worrying what other people thought while avoiding conflict at all costs. Today, I don’t give a should – well not as many anyway and neither should you. I’m talking to women like you who figured out how to stop shoulding and start LIVING.

I am so excited to bring you my friend Michelle Spalding today. As a feisty little redhead, Michelle enthusiastically told everyone she would be a writer, a teacher, and own her own business when she grew up. Then, in her 40s, she realized she was actually living her childhood dream.

Today as a business alchemist, she passionately works with entrepreneurs, helping them to identify and transform obstacles, allowing them to create the life and business of their dreams.

Michelle, welcome - I'm so thrilled to have you here today.


Thank you, it's an honor to share this space with you and all of those listening.


Michelle and I have been friends for years, and we've heard various aspects of each other's stories, but I've never heard her tell her story in the way that I think she's going to tell it today. One of the things I love is I really love to hear the story kind of at the same time as our listeners do because sometimes it just totally blows me away what's happening.

I think I'm as anxious to hear the story as anybody else might be. Without further ado, can we talk about what life was like when you were living under the shoulds?


Yeah, absolutely, and thank you so much for asking.

Before I dive into that, I have to pause for a moment because I do think that I've known you for the better part of 12ish years. In all that time, you're right, we should have a lot of stories, a lot of other great adventures, but I don't think that I have shared with you; you know what it was like when I was starting my business and the shoulds as those as they relate to being a business owner.

In 2005, I got this crazy idea to launch a business, and I was in a space where I worked for someone else. I worked a lot of hours to help build someone else's business. It was taking a toll on my family and my personal life. I actually went to ask that person if they would go into business with me; I didn't think that I could, you know, create this idea and run with this idea that I had and do it on my own. They thought it was silly, so I did it anyway, as there's the feisty little redhead - she's still alive.


I love this so much. There's some shoulding on yourself in life in general, but there's also the feisty redhead rebel.


Sometimes she takes the wheel and gets us in trouble.

Most of the time, you know, we're okay, but nevertheless, I created this business, and I’m running this business; we started off in my home. First, it was me and an assistant part-time, and then it was me an assistant part-time and a full-time person, and then another, and we're all working for my family room. And didn't you know what it's like to keep your house clean enough for your family?

Imagine having to keep it clean for the company every single day; with three children at home, a dog, and a couple of cats, it was a mess. To reduce a little stress, I thought the next thing my business should do is move into a commercial space.

I set out to find the perfect place and, you know, create this, you know, really nice office space in this office environment for us. And we moved into the office space. And in the very beginning, things were, you know, they felt good. It was like, Oh, cool. Look what I've done. Yeah, look what I've accomplished, right? This is a success, right? This is what I should be doing today, but it wasn't what I wanted. What I wanted was to be around more for my children. That's why I left my day job, and that was why I left my career at this law firm. Only to come and, you know, to then take my business and work it in an office and to figure out how to find out, you know, in the middle of all of this, like, I hated it. You know, it's one of those things like I had built it.

I had gotten it where I thought it should be on it; I hate it, every stinking bed of it. One night, you know, everybody had left the office, I'm still there working late, kids are home doing their thing. I'm trying to catch up on work. I just had one of those breakdown moments where, you know, it's the ugly cry. It's like the cries that we had when we were kids, when our boyfriends, you know, broke up with us in high school, right? It was that kind of an ugly cry, but what I did at that moment, you know after I got that out as I began to write down all the things I wanted to change. I didn't know how I was going to do any of them, but I knew that I had to make some changes.

Lo and behold, an opportunity came for me to get myself out of the lease that I was in. I won't go into that whole story here. It came to me in this sort of magical way, the answer to the quandary. And within about four months of having that breakdown. I sent everyone home and said, you know, we're gonna figure this out. I've no idea how to run a business with everyone working from their home office. But I can't keep my house clean enough for y'all every day and can't work in an office. So plan three, you know, this is the one that has to work, and you know, 15 years later, we were still doing it.


What year was this about you sending everybody to work from home?


That would have been 2006, and, you know, technology was so different back then.


This is what I love about this is why I'm asking because you're such an innovator.

So first of all, somebody tells you your business idea is silly, and you run with it, and then you create a success out of it. I can totally imagine how this idea of success means, oh, we've got an office space with a plaque on the door and desks, and we look legitimate, right?

Then and then, it's so incredible to me that you allowed yourself, and I really want to. I really want to emphasize this point for anybody listening, that you allowed yourself that ugly cry you so many times, and I'm sure you know this feeling. When that overwhelming feeling comes along, we want to push it away because we are so afraid sometimes that if we start to let something out that it's going to consume us, but you give yourself the space to cry and let all that out.

It allowed you to move past it, like get all that energy out, and then okay, what do we do now? I'm thinking about the people who worked for you and how much better their quality of life was to be able to work from home as well, which we know post-pandemic, right? People really like not having the commute. Most people, some people really want to go to the office.

But you know, just thinking about the quality of life that you created for yourself and then the boundaries around, I can't have you all in my house every day. I mean, just that, that innovative spirit. We didn't have Zoom back then. We probably didn't even have oh, shoot, the name just escaped me - whatever the old video calls were


Skype, but it was so janky. It was horrible.

Half the time, it didn't work. Yes, it would suck up all the bandwidth on your internet.


You make this change, and you're able to work from home, and your employees are all working from home, and you're now moving your business in a way that feels what for you, like, what does this do for you?


Yeah, you know, it felt empowering.

It was like, you know, for them, starting a business is stressful enough, but then starting a business and having a family to feed and a roof to keep over your head and all of those things, and a team to pay at that level of stress that comes from that.

This felt empowering - it was like for the first time. It felt like, not only was I doing the thing, you know, my way, I was helping others to be able to do that too and over time, you know, we grew this to two to 20 team members, many of them I never physically met in person. They all came up with the same idea.

Like they wanted to work from home, and they didn't know how to make it work. They came to work for me. We created a nice safe space for them to be able to do that. I had no idea that was what I wanted. When I started Jen, one of the things that I would say that I knew when I started was I wanted to have more freedom and flexibility. Then I got off track and went down the ship path, and then I got back on track and realized it doesn't matter what other people think your business should look like, right? It's what you want it to look like, and you know, that's the most important thing at the end of the day.

It's how you feel, doing the work that you're doing.



I really want to point out to those listening who aren't entrepreneurial, who aren't interested in entrepreneurship, this is so relevant to whatever your life looks like. This part is about following other people's ideas of how things should go versus lists turning to what you want.

I think that's the big message here. I'm actually really curious, Michelle; how did this play out in your personal life as well? Or did it?


It did, you know, we created a lot of different opportunities that I didn't even see going into business. You know, one of them was the ability to travel and to work from wherever I wanted to work. When I worked for the law firm, I took no vacation.

I worked for somebody who used to have this belief system about business, and it was, you know, family first, and what that really meant was his family, then the firm, and then go, here's a crumb for you, and I didn't take a vacation. Like, in the 10 years I worked there, I had one child who was in the hospital once. I just took time off for that, and another one I gave birth to and took time off for that. Beyond that, I think, you know, it was a day or two here. And that was it. So it allowed me to take the time that I never realized that I could take work from anywhere. Yeah, yeah.


I mean, I just literally had a client recently tell me that, that she was working through guilt for taking time off. Yeah, this is the insane thing about American culture, honestly, is that we just, we're here to hustle our way through.

Even though we're told we have the option for time off, it's not always really encouraged. So it's interesting, like, the only time you took off was when a child was sick or you had a baby. What does that do for our spirit? If all we're doing is working, working, working, working?

No wonder you were craving freedom and flexibility.



But you know what, Jen, that it did. It took a whole nother unlearning over time that's what I thought you did to be successful.


Oh, I'm so glad you said that, and I'm also glad that you just called it another unlearning.

I really want people to hear that sometimes we learn a lesson in one way, and then there are more ways that we need to learn that lesson. I mean, I kind of feel like the day I stop learning is the day I, you know, I leave this planet because that's us as humans as we're evolving.

Yeah, that's what success looks like.


Yeah, yeah, it was a whole other unlearning.

Those bad habits of working those long hours of, you know, making everything about the business that I learned from that person I worked for, I brought into my business. That was a whole nother, as I mentioned, unlearning, is okay, you know, sort of that pause that like, alright, line in the sand, we're not doing it this way anymore.

I think you know, it can be about business, it can be about family, it can be about career, anything. When we know what we don't want, it's a lot easier to figure out what we do want and how to make those changes.

As I mentioned earlier, I had this office space. I realized I didn't want it, I didn't know how I was gonna get out of it, but I knew I didn't want it. I knew if I just figured out what I didn't want and what I wanted, which was to be able to work from home. The way to create that would happen. But it wasn't until I got clear about what was the most important thing to me at that time.



It's beautiful what you just said, and I really keep, like, sort of imagining we're pinning things, picking up takeaway messages. It's the same for you, I would imagine, but when I get a new client coming in, they'll often say to me, I don't know what I want.

When you start saying, I don't want to work long hours. I don't want to be away from my kids. I don't want to work on the weekends or, or, you know, that can then lead to oh, yeah, well, wait, this is what I want. I want a supportive partner; I want that, you know, just you don't have to know what you want, and those thoughts evolve over time as well.

You know, what you want evolves as you're moving down the road, like, you thought you wanted an office, and then you realize, oh, no, that's what somebody else told me. I think you had to experience that to actually realize that when you think.


Oh, I think for sure, and I think that it also gave me a really powerful lesson on who I should be listening to. There's a lot of wisdom that we've acquired and we've amassed, and that we, you know, if we tune in and listen, like that can guide us.

I listened to someone else, and their advice was, at this point, your business shouldn't be in your home; why are you doing all of that to get an office space? If I'd have known what I know now would have been just, well, how can I figure out how to make them work from home and again, that was, you know, so long ago, it was almost a foreign concept.

I gotta admit, like when we first moved in there, he was kind of flattering, like, I look, you're successful. I had to really check my ego when I said this wasn't what I wanted and be okay with looking like it wasn't; you know that it was a step back? I knew it wasn't my family, it wasn't my team, but to the people that we work with, and you know, the people that were in our sphere of influence, it's like, oh, wait, I thought you guys made it to a place you had an office, and now you don't?


What's really amazing about that story, though, if you think about it, like once you were able to get out of the commitment to that space. You were doing it how you wanted to do it; you were no longer paying for all that overhead. smart business decision, as we think about it, you said something, I want to walk back to you for a second, and I won't take this down a total patriarchal beat the crap out of it.

What I was thinking when you said you were trusting other people's opinions. You know, and I know that that is part of a patriarchal society ,women are taught not to trust their own judgment and their own inner wisdom. That feels very counter to that, but I wanted to point that out because that really is where our wisdom is, is, is following our own. Knowing that doesn't mean don't educate yourself, but I really wanted to point that out.

We often second-guess ourselves as women really second-guess ourselves and go look for outside opinions. I think there's a place for learning from others. There is a place to marry that with what you know, to be true to yourself. That just felt really important to say that some of that stuff that goes on, and I'm pointing this out to say to anybody who resonates with this, there's no shame in this. This is the culture we were raised in. These are the beliefs that were ingrained in us. And then when you start unraveling it, you're kind of like, whoa, crap, really? That's what, that's what I've been believing in dealing with. I mean, I have a lot of those moments for myself and with clients where you suddenly go, okay, all right. Well, that idea was ingrained in me - I didn't create that one.



The funny thing about it, Jen, is that at the time, that was sort of like what happened next in a business. I had to go and flip it on its head and do something totally different, which is, you know, partly why nobody came up with that idea.


It's innovative.

It's risky, it's fresh, you know, it's much easier to follow the prescribed path in some ways. Not, you know, for you. It wasn't easy. Yeah, no, I agree. But, you know, we've got these business gurus out there who say, step one, step two, step three, boom, you'll be a huge success, which is just crap. If you're not doing your thing genuinely, what's the point? What's the point of doing something in a way that really isn't working for you?


Yeah, I can; I can talk on that one for days, but what I will say is that, again, back to society and the way that we're raised, we're not taught to look at it. I'm gonna ramble here for a second because I want to; I'm having a hard time particularly. To do it, I do think what I want to say is that we're not taught that what we want is as important as how it is, what others perceive us.

We may want to do our hair a certain way or dress in a certain, you know, way. But we're so conditioned to be like, worried about what other people might think that we don't take those risks, and we don't trust ourselves, and I think I really do think that that's, you know, how we end up in those kinds of situations. It does sometimes take a good old, ugly cry to put that line in the sand, so to speak, to really just alright, I don't know what I'm going to do, but it's not going to be this.

I will say this about what you were just saying. I read a book called Radical Awakening by Dr. Shefali, and it really blew my mind. I'll say it succinctly because I have it on a post-it note right here, and she says women are taught the toxic three are ready for this, to crave the need for validation, approval, and praise.


It absolutely speaks to what you just said!

I'm gonna worry more about what you think about what I'm doing because otherwise, you won't validate me. You want to prove what I'm doing, you know, and so that really is ingrained in us and it drives this. It was a very radical move for you to listen up to flip business on its head, and then it was very successful for you.


Yeah, it was, and you know, Jen, as you were saying with that, that author, which meant I have to get that book, which was that author said, you know, the first thing that popped into my head too, was as a woman, we're also taught to put other people's needs ahead of ours.

Like, that's sort of like the cherry on the sundae in what you were just saying, right?


Yeah, I can't remember where I read it, but one of the things I read that’s where women's worth comes from. This is what's taught to us who we can, who we can serve, and how we look. Yeah. I mean, that's really what we're talking about.

Michelle, now you and I could go down this road a lot further, but we'll, I'll bring him back around this way. Now that you have done this thing, now that you're no longer living from the shoulds, what does life look like now? And how does that influence the work that you're doing today?


It helps me to help people, the people that I work with, for instance, I once had a client who came to me, and we were talking about her business and her business growth and what was important to her. In her business, when she started, were these two precious little boys that were able to get off the bus and walk home, and she was there for them after school.

She liked me, had come from a corporate environment, and, you know, began to create this business at home. And then I asked her in the course of our discussion, well tell me what five years looks like for you? What does success look like to you in five years, and you know, much like me, she stepped into that, oh, have an office. It really just sort of let her go for a little while because I really wanted to see where it was going to take her. I paused after she paused for a moment. I leaned in and said, what about those little boys and Mama being there after school when they get off the bus, much like me? She had one of those ugly cries.

She's like, you know, oh, my gosh, I almost did what somebody else did, what I thought I was supposed to do, right? Like what somebody else tells us we should do, instead of really listening, but to her, you know, she thought that looks like success and growth.

I think growth and success are two different things. You can have a business that pays the bills, gives you freedom and flexibility and affords you the things that you want in life, and doesn't have to grow every year.

I would say that's definitely where it helped me because I was able to identify myself and her right and show her that. I think the other thing that it has really helped me with is being able to say no, and not really being afraid of saying no, it's not an easy one, I will tell you that one, you know, our inner people pleaser, you know, sometimes takes the wheel. Not only do we need to tell her to be quiet, we got to make her leave the car entirely. Yes, indeed, we get to ride in the back seat, but what I will say about her and all of that is that if I pause for a moment before I respond, I can respond from what I want, not from the validation and the acceptance that I think I need from someone else.


Oh, I love that so much - I talk to clients about that all the time.

It's in the pause when we get the chance to make a choice. Yeah, there's just that moment where when we're running on autopilot, we're not actually stopping to listen. Then we've missed that chance, as we're often just reacting. Actually, responding the way that we want to give ourselves a chance to pick a second and think about what's actually going on, what do I actually want? How do I actually want to handle this situation?

That's a huge part of my coaching is working on saying no, and as women people pleasers, typically, it is very difficult for us.

Michelle, I can imagine that women listening are like, oh, yeah, I need some more Michelle. She's kind of an awesome person to hang out with virtually and in person. I can vouch for both, so how could people stay in touch with you if they'd like to know more about you and just, you know, be in your sphere?



Well, there's a couple of things, one, you know, I do talk about my business journey in my book. You can definitely pick that up, you can find it on my website, or you can find it on Amazon.


What’s the name of your book friend?


This is my book: Glitter, Duct Tape, and Magic!

Yeah, because behind every successful business is a little bit of those three elements. Sometimes things just come together, and we're not even sure how, and that's the magic.


Seems like that would be behind every successful life - we just, you know, really believe it here and a little sprinkle of glitter and some magic.


Yeah, I think we all aspire to that glitter, right?

We want it to look like I call it the Instagram moments, you know, and it's got to be, you know, this certain way and be packaged in the certain, you know, aesthetic and all of the lighting, whatever. You know what I'm saying, but that's just a fraction of it. Yeah, you know, sometimes it's messy. That's okay; it doesn't mean you're doing it wrong; it means it's called life.



Unfortunately for us, in this world of social media, people face We only post Instagram moments, and so when we're when our life is messy, we think we're the only ones experiencing that. And that's, that can be really, really difficult. So we're here to tell you all that life is messy for all of us.


Yeah, absolutely.

Jen, I have to share with you. I don't know that I have shared this with you, so you get to hear this at the moment. Two years ago, you and I were at an event together, and I shared a story. I don't want to say much more bad because I don't want to give up the container we were in. No, well, no, not that punch line or whatever in the story. Nevertheless, this is my next book, and it's an adult storybook.


Oh my gosh, how exciting.

That's beautiful.


Thank you.

It is being released in November, and, you know, I think that it kind of goes back to what my bio said about being a writer and being a business owner. I used to tell people, though; it wasn't a business owner. It was I was gonna have a shop because I didn't know how to define the business.

A business was, to me, like a shop, but I knew I wanted to teach. I knew I wanted to help people, and I knew I wanted to be a writer. I didn't go to school to learn to write; I just wrote what came to me and surrounded myself with people who helped me tell better stories and challenged me to tell better stories.

I think what I want to say about that is that you know, you should say go to school and learn this, and you should do this before you do that. I'm here, so this is my third book; that'll be my third book; I'm here to save. Your heart wants you to write, just write just, you know, if your heart wants you to create art, just create art.

Don't worry about all the things that people tell you that you should do - just do it!


Oh my gosh, that is such a beautiful way to end this.

Michelle, thank you so much for being a guest today. It sounds like the landing place that will take everybody where they need to go. Thank you for being here and those of you joining us; thanks for being here and sharing the story with us.

Come back next time on another episode!

3 simple steps laid out in 3 bite-sized videos to go from overwhelm to ease (even if you think it's not possible!)



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