Kathi Lipp and her friend and cat whisperer, Michele Cushatt continue the conversation about being the communicator God created you to be. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a different season and discerning a need for change in our business/ministries.
Last week Kathi talked about changes she has made and what important questions to ask yourself in relation to making changes in your own ministry business. Now, Michele transparently shares with you some big changes she is making in her ministry business and the process of walking these decisions out.
In today’s episode, you will learn how to walk these decisions out and:
- Reconcile the fears of disappointing others with wise decisions
- Be empowered to own your own journey
- Be the communicator God has called you to be
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Transcript of this Episode
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Communicator Academy Podcast # 193
How to Make Big Changes in Your Ministry
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Communicator Academy. I am here with the cat whisperer, Michele Cushatt. Hey, Michele.
Michele – Hey, there, Kathi. I have got the lovely platinum silver cat, Ashley, here. If you hear a rumbling the background, it is not our sound system. She is purring up a storm. For whatever reason, she wants Michele time today.
Kathi – She has chosen Michele as her Red House companion. You guys, there’s a whole love fest going on here. She’s rubbing up against her. It’s pretty darn funny.
Michele – You know, I’ve been to your house. How many times have I been to your house in San Jose, or here at The Red House? Ashley will say ‘hi’ to me, but she has, for the last two days, been following me around.
Kathi – Well, you are giving her a full body massage.
Michele – Her eyes are closed. What you don’t know is, I am allergic to cats.
Kathi – So, she’ll pay for this later. So, when she starts drooling, that’s when you know.
Michele – That’s my goal by the end of the episode. Drooling.
Kathi – That’s something special.
Michele – There was some water over here, and I thought it was me, but it was her.
Kathi – It was her. She drooled for you. You’re in like Flynn.
Michele – I have arrived.
Kathi – Here’s the thing: Ashley has made great changes in her life. That’s what we’re talking about today. I hope you heard our episode last week where we talked about the big changes I’ve made since 2019 in my ministry. How do you determine what changes you need to make? So today, what we’re going to do, we’re going to talk about some of the big changes that Michele is making for her 2020 ministry, and then, how do you make those changes? Yeah. I think I got the easier question. What changes do you make?
Michele – At this particular moment, I would agree with you.
Kathi – Yeah, ‘cause I’m already done. So, Michele, 2019 was a good year, and a hard year for you.
Michele – Yeah. It was good in many ways. In 2019 I probably had the most successful year as a coach and consultant. I had more opportunities than I knew what to do with. I did some corporate coaching and consulting. I did a lot of executive coaching with different clients. On top of that, I released a book. Number three. From a launch standpoint, my team killed it. I’ve only launched three books now, but when I look at my three books, we did, with this particular launch, we did everything we set out to do. We were strategic. We were smart. We were very clear about what we wanted to accomplish, and we walked out everything we planned to walk out. From that standpoint, it feels like a huge success, right? But as you know, you can do everything right with a launch and the book may or may not sell. Right? So we’re still waiting to see how the book does. It’s too early. At the other side of all of that, I was exhausted. Physically. Spiritually. Emotionally exhausted. More exhausted than I’ve had in a long time. On top of that, because I didn’t hold anything back. If you haven’t read my book, Relentless, it was probably the most emotionally vulnerable I’ve ever been in my entire career.
Kathi – You were as transparent as you could possibly be.
Michele – Talk about open heart surgery. It was like somebody cut me from neck to navel and it was all there. Right? From that standpoint, I didn’t hold anything back. I just laid it all out there, which was necessary for the content of the book. However, the cost of that is that I was emotionally drained, and the way my body exhibits that kind of exhaustion is pain. So my pain levels were ridiculously high for about four or five weeks. We couldn’t get it under control. Then, aside from the professional side, we had some significant personal challenges at home. I’ll just leave it at that. They required an emotional toll too. So, the short of it, I found myself, professionally, living in a trauma space. So, I write about faith and suffering. So, what I was doing professionally, the conversations I was having, the podcasts I was recording, the blogposts I was writing, everything was centered around trauma. Then, at home, I have three kids that come from trauma, and I was living in a trauma space at home, too. So, 24 hours a day I was at a level of emotional intensity that was off the charts. Kathi is laughing.
Kathi – Because, I have been saying for years, “I don’t know how you do it.” Some of that, you have no choice in. But you do choose to write books and enter into deep, hard conversations with people. I can do some of that, then I need to go watch an episode of Friends. I can’t do that. I cannot go underwater, that deep, that long. I just can’t.
Michele – By the way, it’s been five years since the surgery that removed my tongue and all the treatment and almost dying. So, I’ve been talking about this subject, and sharing my cancer story for five years straight, now. Released two books in that time. Done hundreds and hundreds of podcast episodes, and interview, and things like that. While, it finally occurred to me that I could either professionally work in a trauma space, but not at home, or I could deal with trauma at home, but not professional. I cannot do both.
Kathi – I say, ‘AMEN’.
Michele – I cannot do both. So, it became abundantly clear to me, at the end of 2019, something needed to change. Now, before anybody panics, it doesn’t mean my books are going away, or my website’s going away. All of that is still there. The content is still there. The books are still there. But I knew I needed to make a change. Not just a minor change. We’re not just talking a two-week sabbatical.
Kathi – Quote unquote sabbatical.
Michele – We’re not talking about a tiny little vacation. It needed to be a radical change in my entire business, quite frankly.
Kathi – Systemic.
Michele – Systemic. A systemic change. Part of that’s because of the season I am in. I told you the other day, come March, my twins have a birthday, so come March, I will have three 13 year olds.
Kathi – Have mercy. What did I say last night? I am so glad I’m not raising teenagers in this day in age. You were like, “Thanks. Thanks a lot.”
Michele – Thanks so much. I’m there.
Kathi – I mean it.
Michele – I’m there for six more years.
Kathi – Just TikTok alone.
Michele – Yeah, we had a whole conversation about TikTok last night. I’m too old for this. But, come March, I have three thirteen year olds. Thirteen. Thirteen. Thirteen. That alone would be hard, but then when you add the whole age thing. My husband and I are not twenty anymore. Doing this again. My health challenges. Then, kids who have a hard story and trying to be available to them. So, I realized that this is a season where I need to be able to have some emotional margin to deal with children and adolescence who have emotions all over the board. I cannot stay grounded if I am spending my professional hours, 8-4pm in an emotionally charged environment.
Kathi – Right. One thing I know with kids, and especially kids with trauma, they cannot have your leftovers.
Michele – It doesn’t work.
Kathi – It doesn’t work.
Michele – If they walk in the door at 3:30pm and start to do their homework, and they’re triggered, if I’ve been in an emotionally triggered workspace for 8 hours, we’re both off the rails.
Kathi – So, what does 2020 look like for you?
Michele – So, go back to what you said. It needs to be a systemic change. Not just quitting a couple of things. I am taking a huge step back. I have not shared this publically yet, either. I’m taking a huge step back from writing and speaking about faith and suffering. Now, I have speaking engagements already set. I’m walking all of those out, but I am being very selective about any additional speaking engagements. In the last four weeks, I’ve turned down six speaking engagements.
Kathi – Whoo. Okay.
Michele – And if it isn’t the exact fit, the exact thing, I can’t, because I need to be home more. I need to not be constantly on the road. Being on the road and talking about trauma and coming home is just a recipe for disaster. So, I’m saying ‘no’ to just about everything. I’ve resigned from a lot of side hustles. So, those of us who are writers and speakers, we have lots of different things we do. No one can make a living just writing books. I have resigned on most of those things. My blog. I have developed a podcast to go along with Relentless. It will be releasing throughout this year, but that’s going to be the content I release, rather than me constantly coming up with new content. It’s already created. It will be released. I am outsourcing a lot of the work that I would normally do myself, just so I can get a mental break from that. What I am spending time doing is working in a leadership space more, because I can work in that space and not ever share my cancer story.
Kathi – Or your kids’ story. Or anything like that.
Michele – I can do a job.
Kathi – Sometimes there’s a beauty in punching in and punching out.
Michele – There is. This is new for me. This is totally fresh for me, because I have been in this self-employed writing/speaking space for a couple of decades. So, to do something different is a huge shift.
Kathi – We’re talking about ‘how do you actually make these changes?’ Here was the thing when I was making all the changes, I’m going to disappoint people. They are going to think I’m a huge failure. They’re going to say, “Suck it up, Kathi.”
Michele – I’ve even had people think I was a traitor.
Kathi – Or, “If you would pray, God would give you the strength to do all the things He has called you to do.”
Michele – “We’re supposed to operate in the strength of the Spirit. Not our own strength. So, you just need to tough it out. If you were more spiritual, Michele.”
Kathi – So, I had to make peace with, “I’m going to disappoint some people.” I need to be okay with that, ‘cause it may inconvenience them for a moment, but people can deal with inconvenience. They can even deal with disappointment. But I cannot continue going the way that I’m going. So, how are you making these changes? There are audience members who say, “You got me hooked onto Michele. You can’t take that away.” Right?
Michele – That’s part of the mindset. It’s not all or nothing. Thinking through. Website’s not going away. I’m still there. I’m still online. I’m not shutting down my accounts, whatever. I’m not doing any of that.
Kathi – You’re not ghosting people.
Michele – I’m not ghosting people. None of that. That’s all still there. I’m in ministry. It’s not all going away. I still have a fourth book to write in 2021, so that’s still there. Part of it has to begin with, “I need to make a wise, discerning decision that has to be grounded in my own awareness of my life.” We’ve talked about this. You can’t let anybody else make those decisions for you, because they don’t walk it out. I know my family. I know myself. I know my needs better than anybody else does. I need to make a decision from that source, because you’re right. There will be people who are disappointed. One of the things I’m doing, I’m going to take a huge step back from social media. I’ll still be on there, but rather than feeling this pressure to post five times a day, and do live videos and all this kind of stuff; scramble, I’m not going to bow down to that pressure anymore. Even if it’s self-imposed, I’m not going to react to that pressure. So, social media will be something I do when I feel like it.
Kathi – Okay, I’m going to press back, here. You have book contracts.
Michele – I know. I know.
Kathi – So, how do you not feel the pressure of, “I should be building all this. I should be expanding my platform. I should be posting.”? How do you reconcile that?
Michele – Some of it is, for the last couple of years leading up to Relentless, I was killing myself to “build a platform” do all of this. Not all of what I did worked. In fact, very little of it did. So, I’m spinning my wheels, trying to accomplish something that doesn’t always happen, so where is that pressure really coming from? Is that self-imposed or is that externally imposed?
Kathi – It’s both, actually.
Michele – It’s both, and I do have a responsibility, but some of that can happen without me having to be in control of it all the time.
Kathi – It’s so true.
Michele – So, I’m outsourcing some of those things. The reality is: If I don’t make some significant changes, there won’t be a person here to write another book.
Kathi – You know I’m only asking that because it’s my fear and every author’s fear.
Michele – Of course it is.
Kathi – I also know, if it’s not sustainable…
Michele – It’s not. Right now, with my life situation, it’s not. I’ve written about it in all my books. It’s not like I’ve hid anything. I’ve got a family situation, and a health situation that requires attention. What kind of credible resource, or authority would I be if I preached one thing and lived different? So, some of what I’m doing is walking out what I’ve talked about in my books and blogs.
Kathi – I love that we’re sharing this now, because the most faithful people we have in our ministries, both you and me, are Communicator Academy listeners. We love when we go someplace and you say you listen to us all the time and everything like that. So, I want you guys to hear the heart behind this. We’re sharing this because this has been painful for us.
Michele – You and I take the fact that publishers believe in us and are publishing our books, or clients hire us, or people buy and read our books, that’s such a humbling honor and we take that very seriously.
Kathi – We’re both scaling down in different ways. I’m going more to a small group mode. You’re saying, “What I’m doing is stripping away some of the things that drain me.”
Michele – Some of the unnecessary hustle.
Kathi – Right.
Michele – I’m stripping away some of the unnecessary hustle. I’m also making a bit of a shift. Not really a shift, ‘cause I’ve always been about leadership and developing leaders, but making a bit of a shift. Nobody can stay in the dark, dank cellar of trauma all the time. So, part of my way of leading is to say, “There comes a day when, we don’t leave it completely behind, but we live beyond it, and this is what it looks like.”
Kathi – Wow. Okay.
Michele – So, that’s some of it. Making very hard decisions. So, part of what I’m doing during the early months of 2020 is making really hard decisions about what I let go. You talked in the last episode about what you launched, what you leveraged, and what you let go. 2020 is going to be a year of letting go of a lot.
Kathi – Right. That provides some fertile ground for some new things when it’s time; when it’s in season.
Michele – That’s the other thing I keep reminding myself. My kids aren’t going to be 13, 13, and 13 forever. I’ve spend a number of years building up a ministry about this, so it’s not going away. I keep thinking of Luke 9:23-25, that verse that says, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his very self?” So, when it comes to building a platform, and this is what I really want the listeners to hear today. There is so much pressure out there on a writer/speaker to build platform and do this and build numbers and social media, but don’t forget: What would it profit you to gain the world and yet lose yourself in the process? We have enough of that. We have enough of people, in leadership spotlights, who are losing themselves, and their entire ministry is discredited because they’ve lost themselves. We need to stay grounded in who you are, and do what you need to do to make that happen.
Kathi – When your platform is growing, because you are authentically serving people, and they sense that and they feel that, that is a beautiful thing. It’s a beautiful thing. I would rather have one follower who says, “You’ve helped me.” Than ten bots. Ten people who are like, “Oh, she looks interesting.” Ten “Follow me so I’ll follow you back.” Any of the games that people play. Anything where I’m saying, “Here’s how I can get a bunch of followers, by offering this.” Any of that, you lose your soul.
Michele – One of the best compliments I’ve received in the last few years is, those who follow me for any length of time know, every summer I take 2-3 months off social media. Shut everything down. My blog, my social media, everything. I’ve done this for years. Well, over the last several years, I’ve had a number of people say, “Hey, I know that summer’s coming and you’re going to be off.” They just accept it as part of, “This is it. This is what we do.” But the best compliment, is, I can’t tell you how many people have started doing the same.
Kathi – I’ve done it, myself.
Michele – To me, that is platform. That’s leadership. This sounds so contrary to popular culture, but it’s the right thing. Then, people pick up on it and do it themselves.
Kathi – We’ve convinced ourselves, if we take two days off social media, the world will fall apart.
Michele – It will not.
Kathi – It will not. We can disappear.
Michele – There are plenty of other voices out there. There’s nothing wrong with me honoring my family during this season, and really getting to focus on that. So, those have been some of the changes. Walking it out is done a little bit at a time. Making sure you get really clear on your plan. You have to be radical. When it comes to this kind of systemic change that’s needed, I keep thinking of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Eustace becomes a dragon and Aslan tells him he has to take the scales off. He tries to do it superficially, and the scales keep coming back. So, Aslan has to dig, and cut him to the core. When it comes to this kind of important work, when you have to make adjustments, you gotta dig deep. That’s where health lies.
Kathi – That’s where pain lies, but, you know what? It’s good. Michele, thank you so much for this.
Michele – Oh, my pleasure. I hope, with both of us sharing some hard lessons we’re learning, some changes that we’re making, my hope for the Communicator Academy listeners is that they feel empowered to own their own journey as communicators. As you said in the opening, ‘to help men and women become the communicators God has made them to be’. That means that no matter how many people tell you the way you should do it, you get to own your own journey.
Kathi – And it’s a beautiful thing.
Michele – It is, and God is faithful. If He’s calling you to do it this way, even if a hundred experts tell you not to, you do it the way God tells you to do it.
Kathi – Trust is huge in all this.
Michele – So, thank you friends for listening and hanging out with us today. We always enjoy spending time with you. You’ve been listening to Communicator Academy. I’m Michele Cushatt.
Kathi – And I’m Kathi Lipp.
Michele – You’ve been given the best message in the world. Now, go live it.
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