This is The Goodness Squad podcast episode #45. And today I am here with my dear dear friend, Michelle from TheWaitingWarriors.com. I am really excited for you to learn from her today because she is an inspiring example of what can be done when you put your mind to it. So welcome, Michelle.
Michelle: Thanks. It’s good to be here. I like being with you.
Michelle from The Waiting Warriors
Misty: So how long have we known each other? It was probably about 12 years ago. I was her Laurel advisor. She’ll disagree with me because she’s gracious like that, but this was one of those situations where you learn more than you give. Michelle was an incredible person to interact with, even then, she’s just an incredible human.
Michelle: You say that, but I still have pages of quotes or stories from you and your lessons. I would write long ways in my scriptures, “lesson on this date” and then certain quotes. Or the lesson when we were in the dark room and you had the nail? If you need an amazing, life-changing lesson for young women’s or I even did it years later, when I was Relief Society president, for an enrichment activity – ask Misty for that, because that is an amazing lesson.
Misty: It’s a neat one, my mom did that for us. I think we were all in college. She’s the one who created it. Alright, so let’s move on and talk a little bit about you and The Waiting Warriors. Tell me how it started. What is your mission? Why do you love this topic so much?
Why Waiting Warriors exists
Michelle: So I have been an army wife for over eight years now. My husband, Austin, joined the army after we got married. We found out we were pregnant a month later, then he left for basic training just after I finished my first trimester. He got home a few weeks before our first daughter was born.
That was our first year of marriage and it just never slowed down after that. He had enlisted and then after coming back home decided he wanted to do ROTC, which means he’d be an officer, which is a much better life and pay. We didn’t know why, we just knew he was supposed to do military for some reason.
At the time we kind of thought, “well, it will help pay for school and be job security, and then we’ll figure it out” type of thing. But yeah, things never slowed down. I had another baby before I graduated, then he graduated, and then he went right into a super-intense Master’s program. Along the way he realized he was supposed to be a chaplain. So he’s a chaplain; it’s not a Bishop, but it’s not just a counselor. It’s a counselor and a spiritual guide together, which is really interesting in the LDS culture, he’s amazing at it. So he did a super intense Master’s program.
During that Master’s program, there was one summer when he had to be gone all summer long. I had three babies, all girls, and when he left Emma was 4, Mary was 3, and the youngest turned 1 while he was gone. I’ve always been the kind of person that thinks I can just muscle through anything. I was the little girl in third grade that didn’t do whatever the other girls were doing. At recess I was playing soccer because gosh darn it those boys are not going to run faster than me. That’s just been my attitude always and that was my attitude with military life. I can do this. We were literally called to this, both as a couple and personally.
There were so many times growing up where we had military families in our ward. When I was a Beehive, the Laurel advisor was a Marine wife. And then, a firefighter’s wife whose husband was gone all the time. And there were multiple instances where I got a distinct impression that I was going to have to do that too. I don’t normally share that. It’s only because it’s this group of women that I know can understand that.
I just felt like I’m supposed to do this and I can because he’s not going to give me anything I can’t handle. But that summer really broke me. Like really, really broke me. It was hard having a husband gone all the time; our whole marriage, my whole motherhood experience had been basically being a single mom. Even when we were going through our Bachelor’s programs, he was home but he was also gone all the time because he was working and in ROTC and going to school full time.
I was just really tired. And I was on the other side of the country from my husband with three little kids and I just broke. I didn’t know how I could do it.
Misty: Isn’t that interesting? You said God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle. But ultimately, I think he does give us things we can’t handle because we have to turn to him. And like you said, you were always that girl that was like, I can do it. And finally, he gave you something that forced you to turn to Him.
Michelle: Yeah. He took my pride down because I realized I can’t do it by myself. And I relied on Heavenly Father for things and really poured my heart and soul to him and knew that I couldn’t do it without him, but after that always came personal revelation.
There was a particular day where Emma just had the temper tantrum of all temper tantrums and everything went wrong. I was able to call Austin that day and he was like, “I wish I could say something to make you feel better, but I don’t have anything that I can say. But we do have a really good friend who is a few years ahead of us. She has kids too. Maybe you should call her and see what she says, because she’s walked this before you.”
And I was like, “you’re right. I probably should. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t.” I never did that day, but then she called me the next day and I was just like, okay, message received. We talked that day and I just realized that to go through military life, really any life, we just need each other. And I realized that if I was going to really thrive through military life, I needed to learn from other people.
So that’s where the idea came that I needed to talk to other people. Because at the time we were Reserve, so we weren’t in a military community and I wasn’t surrounded by other military wives. The idea for a podcast came up because I was listening to all these mom podcasts and like, “okay, that’s great. But my husband’s gone.” So I just decided to start reaching out to people that I knew, people that I found online, and I started a podcast.
It’s just kind of progressively grown from there to where now I really want to serve this military community and help them see that it is possible to thrive. Our families, our marriages, personally – we don’t have to suffer and be deprived because we’re in the military. You really can thrive through this lifestyle. I’m just trying to create as many resources as I can, to help teach them what I’ve learned and what has helped help me and our family do that.
The mompreneur’s journey
Misty: I love this story because I think that it’s true of so many entrepreneurs stories, especially Latter-day Saint women who want to help and give back and support each other. I hear you say that you were struggling, you have felt what others might be feeling, you have been in that place of I can’t do this. I thought I could, but I am broken.
You’ve been the one who needed to reach up and have somebody who was a few years ahead of you help you. And you’ve now gotten yourself on this firm footing, and not that you’re perfect, but that you have learned a lot over the last few years and have come to a place where you really feel like you’re thriving because you reached out and learned.
Just so you know, Michelle’s podcast has been a series of interviews where she interviews others in similar situations. She has learned from them and gleaned all this knowledge and gotten to the point where she really feels like she’s thriving. And I love that now you’re turning around and taking it and giving back and putting that out there to the person who is a couple of years behind you and wanting to feel like they can thrive.
A lot of us as entrepreneurs go through that same journey. I know I did. I’ve been down there with the tech and hating it and crying at three in the morning and wanting to give up and praying and going to the temple that I could just quit the stupid job and being told no. It was because I need to be able to use what I learned to not just help people, but it gives you that sense of compassion for them. I think that’s a neat part of your story.
So tell me, I want you to look backward to The Waiting Warrior 6-12 months ago. What were your goals for this podcast at that point?
Going from a Money making mindset to a Service mindset
Michelle: So the funny part is that for the past two years, nothing has been profitable. I haven’t figured out how to really do anything. I thought I was this awesome lady, I work from home and I do this cool thing and I bring in money, but I wasn’t really tracking finances that often. At the beginning of the year, my husband and I sat down and I had a hard realization of what actually was happening and that it wasn’t super profitable or anything.
So at the beginning of the year, I, actually had decided what if I just don’t focus on making money and I just focus on creating the best content and serving? Austin is very much in the mentality of 100% supporting me, if this didn’t make a dime, as long as I’m feeling as fulfilled as I have been, then it’s worth it to him. So I actually had decided I’m just not going to focus on the money. But then you posted something about how you can serve and make money and work from home.
Misty: In some ways, it really is easier to say play small, that feels like the wrong phrase, because I don’t think you were playing small. You really wanted to help people in a big way. I think as Latter-day Saint women we think, “maybe I should just be serving? And maybe the money gets in the way of me doing that. And I don’t want to.” So sometimes, it just feels easier to say I’m not in it for the money and I’m just going to serve. So how did you make that mindset change?
Michelle: I think seeing you, and some other LDS women, do it made me realize that I could. Not that I can’t have a full-time job, but I don’t want to have a full-time job. My husband is gone all the time. He’s been gone for the last month. What I realized is yes, serving is super important, but I was also playing it safe.
I realized that by not not having any products I could sell there was no true pressure there. I just thought I’ll just create the best podcast I can. But in the back of my mind I knew that it could be more, I knew that I could do more. And I knew that not only could I serve more, but I could create something for our family that would just be a blessing because money is not bad. It’s a good thing.
Misty: No, it’s not. It really isn’t. I love what you said there. And I feel this too, right? When somebody is going to pay you for something, there’s an obligation to make sure that it is really going to help them. And my podcast is similar. I still do some research and I think about what people need and I put effort into my podcast and I feel like it is a good quality podcast. But my products, I mean, you’re going to give me money for something then I’m going to blow your socks off because my integrity doesn’t allow me to do anything different.
Creating a business from a hobby
I love what I’ve seen you create and plan and just the changes over the past six months or so, it’s been really fun and exciting to watch. So tell me what you’re most proud of that you have accomplished or changed in the last six months or so.
Michelle: Well, everything’s changed. Getting The Good Start Game Plan helped me to go back and actually build a business instead of a podcast, which is just me talking. I don’t want to discredit all the work that I put in for years when I know it has helped people, but I recorded phone conversations with people and put them on the internet. That’s what I was doing. And while that’s cool and it wasn’t a resource that was available for my community, one that is not a business, but two, it’s not the impact that I was wanting.
Misty: So let me read you this quote I love. This is Maya Angelo. She says:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
That is one of the messages I want to scream from the rooftops to the people that I help. I don’t want you to look back over the last year and a half and think that was wasted time because it absolutely wasn’t. You wouldn’t have been ready for the things I was teaching. You wouldn’t have understood the need. There is so much goodness and change and learning that comes in struggling. I just love that quote and I think it applies perfectly here.
Michelle: I just finished creating a freemium. I knew that I needed a lead magnet. I’ve been learning about them for years. I just didn’t know what I knew to give to them until that pressure was applied. And I realized I’m playing it small and I’m not doing everything I can to serve the people, which made me really do the work to figure out what they really need. So now I have a freemium and everything’s changed because now it’s an actual business and there’s a plan.
Misty: I absolutely love that about content marketing. People who want to learn from you for free absolutely still can. You have not taken that away. All you have done is added an additional opportunity for them when, and if, they are ready to make an additional commitment and to go a little bit deeper and make deeper changes in their own life. That is exciting to me. That the perfect match for us as Latter-day Saint women, because we can still serve.
Michelle: Yeah. And I love creating that free content. I love talking to my fellow Waiting Warriors. I love being on Instagram and sharing things on stories or reels. I’m talking to people, and I have talked about things that happen in military life on Instagram that people normally just don’t talk about. It has brought people into my life and I have loved talking to people about that. And I’ll never stop that.
But I can also talk about the things that Austin and I have learned after being separated and then back together and separated then back together. We have learned how to reintegrate. We have learned how to do that and now I know how to actually teach that and I can give all this free stuff away and I can show what I’m making for my kids. I can show them how I’m changing my mindset to help me through things. But now I can also teach these people how to reintegrate because nobody seems to know how to do that.
Taking a business another step forward
Misty: So tell me what you’re going to do. What are your plans? I know that they’re not all completely solidified yet, but what are you digging deep on? What are you figuring out that you need to give to your people? What is it?
Michelle: While I’m super excited and I know I can do this, Every time I talk, I just want to go hide.
Misty: Thank you for being honest, because it’s so true. I’ve been doing this for years. It’s been a long time and I just launched Tech School and I felt sick to my stomach the whole day. It’s hard and scary. You’re putting yourself out there. Something that you really care about. And it’s one thing if people reject it because they just don’t want to listen to your podcast. It’s another if they think it’s bad. It is really hard. So thank you for being honest. Okay. What are your plans? What problems are you going to solve?
Michelle: My 10-year goal is to have a value ladder and funnel for each way that I feel like I can help people thrive through military life, but I’m going to start with deployment and reintegration. So my freemium is ‘3 ways that they can help set up their marriage for a successful deployment.’ It’s just three quick tips that people, either one just like don’t think about to do or are intentional about doing, because pre-deployment is nuts. So it’s just a good reminder to sit down and do these things.
Then I’m going to write a prompt book because the other big problem that couples have that I see all the time is staying connected during deployment. It’s going to break down why that happens, because I know why that happens because we’ve done it and I’ve seen it with our community.
Then, I actually think I’m going to do a Christian devotional one too, just because I can, and I think it’d be really fun to put in some spiritual leaders. Choose your love, love your choice. That quote should be in every Christian’s heart because Thomas Monson is just great.
I’ll be honest, it’s just fun. Then I’m going to funnel them into reintegration because there’s a ton of resources for deployment, but reintegration is just hard. With our deployment last year, we just realized there are principles that we do abide by. We do them each time and it really works.
Austin has talked people through it and I’ve shared it with people before. So I’m going to turn that into a course because people might need that, but then have a prompt book with it too. So if somebody just wants the prompts, they can do it before their spouse comes home. That is kind of how we like to do it because it’s a way to iron things out as much as you can before or after.
So there’s the cheaper option and then there’s the full course. It’s a hard thing to go through, and Austin and I know how to do this. I’m very honest, it’s not that we don’t have problems, we’ve just done it enough. And that’s what I want to teach people.
Misty: I look even at my own marriage, right? If we focus too much on the fact that there is a problem in our marriage, we don’t ever focus on the skills of how to work through that and manage it. And that can make you feel like a failure, right?
Michelle: If you just think that you’re not supposed to have any problems and this situation and this circumstance doomed us as we had to go through this circumstance, we bail because it’s hard and other people who don’t are just lucky when that’s not true. If you just will process through and stick to certain principles, then you can get through it.
It’s not luck. It’s strategy.
Misty: So tell us where people can find you. I’m sure there is somebody listening, probably many people listening who either are a Waiting Warrior or who know of one. My brother is military. I think we all are connected to somebody who serves us, our communities, our country in that way. And I think it’s our duty to do all that we can to support them. So where do people go to find you if they need what you have to offer?
Michelle: Well, I have the website, TheWaitingWarriors.com and then, Facebook and Instagram @thewaitingwarrior. And then there is a cool button on the top of the website that says 3 ways to set up your marriage for deployment.
Misty: Okay. Anything else that you would like someone to know? Someone who is where Michelle was 6-12 months ago?
Michelle: I know it’s so hard and you’re gonna just pull your hair and wonder what the heck you’re supposed to do. Keep on going and then go ask Misty what you’re supposed to do. I’m dead serious. My problem was, I didn’t know. I knew I was supposed to do more, but I had no idea what that was supposed to be.
The Good Start Game Plan, that course totally solved it when I actually sat down and did it and did the homework and did what you asked me to do and did that hard work, then the answers came.
Then I got Tech School and your super simple tutorials. I did [my website] in half the time and I did not want to poke out my eyeballs. Misty will solve all your problems.
Misty: I will not solve all your problems. Just those that have to do with content marketing. That’s it. Don’t come to me for anything else. If you want, go to a counselor, not me.
Well, thank you so much for being here, Michelle. I know that your time is precious. Austin is not around right now and she is home alone with all four of her girls. I really do appreciate you taking the time to be here. I know that your story can inspire many because you are right down there in the trenches with them and you are working so hard and doing what it takes and I cannot wait to see where you are with your business in 6 or 12 months, and the people that you have helped and the way in which you are impacting them. So thank you.
Michelle: Thank you. You gave me the tools that I just did not have before and helped it all click. So thank you.
Misty: You’re welcome.