A Decade Of Lessons

Dec 29, 2019

In just a few days, this decade will end and a new one will begin.

And because of that, this year in review feels extra weighty. The last time we turned over a decade, it was 2009/2010. I don’t actually remember it all that well… most likely because I was in the THROES of motherhood with three small children – ages 2, 4, and 6. This time… I want to remember it. I want a snapshot in my memory of me…sitting here, writing a note to all my friends, with a cup of tea in hand and my leopard kitty asleep next to me.

What did this decade teach me about life, love, and business? Pull up a chair – this is going to be a bit of a long one. 

I’m pretty sure there is no decade in my life that’s been as full of change as this past one. Like I said above, when the decade hit last time, I was married to my high school sweetheart, living in a 1000 square foot house with my three small children. I was a piano teacher at nights and on the weekends, trying to make at least $500 a month to pay for groceries. I was 28 about to turn 29, and even though I didn’t really know it at the time… I was extremely unhappy.

Motherhood was rough on my psyche. I’d endured a traumatic event with Eden nearly dying at birth, had three kids in 3 1/2 years, and was on a high dose of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. Money and kids were my two achilles’ heels. I worried about them and it… constantly. ​Underneath all the day to day chaos… I was a young girl who never managed to grow up, find my own way, and establish herself. I got married and had kids so fast, I didn’t have time to sort any of that stuff out. And like other people who rebel in their teenage years, I did the opposite. Obedient, studious, and doing everything that everyone expected of me. I had no career, no true identity, and no faith in myself and my own judgment.

Added to the kids and no money elixir was a strong Christian background that I am extremely grateful for, even though I think a lot of the dogma and theology (or should I say opinion wrapped in “God said so”), set me up for the real humdinger that was about to hit my world. I felt utterly trapped in my life, despite the love I had for my kids, my husband, and my community.

That is really all I can remember about 2010. I think the biggest lesson of that particular year is… if you don’t deal with the internal work under the surface… it WILL COME OUT – somehow, some way, and probably in a more messy way than if you would just sit down and get your butt in therapy or with a coach.

​2011 will go down in history as the year that altered me forever. I’ve hinted about this, talked about it in a few settings… but never actually said the truth of what happened. Everything that happened in the years that followed — 2012, 2013, and 2014 — were a direct result of the trauma in my 30th year of life.

Long story short… I reunited with my birth father. And as it turned out, this man was not the charming, caring, protective, helpful parent I thought he was for the first several months of our relationship. No, in fact… he was an incredibly dangerous man. Narcissism is a word used a lot these days (it’s almost trendy now)… but I can assure you… being in a relationship with a narcissist is anything but trendy. It’s terrorizing.

It was the perfect storm. I was lost and trying to find my identity, and waiting with open arms to give me a new one? Was my father. Our reunion was the stuff Hallmark movies are made of. He had an amazing wife and kids, a family, tons of extra money to spend on vacations and grandkids, and most intoxicating of all? A promise to me that he would make up for the 30 years we’d lost and be the best dad and granddad he could be.

I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. And I honestly think my father believed himself too. It wasn’t that he was trying to pull the wool over my eyes. He genuinely thought he was God’s gift to me and my family. My husband and I went from broke to being able to go on vacations, go skiing, go to a lake house, go to Hawaii, etc. I gained two half-brothers. I gained a whole new life really.

The truth is that I also felt an incredible amount of pressure to keep my father interested in me. Despite the fact that he had given me up for adoption, relinquished his parental rights, and never even sent so much as a Birthday card, I conveniently ignored those facts on the outside. On the inside I knew the stakes were high. I’d have to make sure to be the BEST daughter EVER so he wouldn’t fade out of my life again.

As it turns out, according to my father, the definition of best daughter ever? Is the daughter willing to let her father sexually and psychologically abuse her.

Until you are in a toxic relationship like this, it’s nearly impossible to explain the psychological hooks that are used to keep you in the relationship, and even trick you into believing that you’re okay with it. Have you ever seen a woman suffering at the hands of an abusive husband and ask yourself, why doesn’t she just leave?

It’s because of a whole host of things in play – gaslighting is one of the tools narcissists use. Or you can research Stockholm Syndrome to understand trauma bonding. It’s incredibly complex, and I won’t bore you with the details… but suffice to say – once I finally got out from under this kind of abuse, I spent the next three years simply trying to cope with the trauma.

  • I rationalized.
  • I went to therapy.
  • I did EMDR.
  • I talked to my father about it in an attempt to forgive him and myself and move past it.
  • I let my father whisper half-truths in my ear about what really happened so I would parrot it back to him and convince the people around me that he wasn’t an abuser.
  • I spoke at conferences about it.
  • I wrote books about it.
  • I got angry and enraged.
  • I contacted other experts on the subject of adoptive reunions, psychological abuse, etc.
  • I got depressed and suicidal.

And eventually… I got tired of trying to fix myself and justify and deal with what had happened. The perfect A student, good Christian girl who’d married her high school sweetheart.. had her whole life upended because she was too weak to battle against a narcissistic long lost parent that basically threatened suicide and abandonment if she didn’t comply with his desires. The shame I felt was so intense – I had no idea what to do with it all.

I walked out of 2011, 2012, and 2013 – traumatized, partially healed from the little work I was able to do, humbled, but with my whole life in pieces. My marriage ended. My faith shattered. I cut my father out of my life entirely and for good…including his entire family, my siblings, everyone.

I can already tell you what these years of lessons were – Trauma is terrible. It will haunt you for years and years. Also? It will create such an astounding level of growth and maturity in you if you do the work. 

Most of you probably met me sometime in the next few years – 2014-2015 were a season of rebuilding.

My husband and I divorced, I was now in a crisis of career and finances, and also managed to get pregnant while on birth control… with a very handsome new boyfriend named Alex. It was a whirlwind romance, and just six weeks into dating, I had a positive pregnancy test in a public grocery store bathroom – with Eden waiting for me outside the door. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. I went white. This was the last thing I needed while trying to figure out how to be a single person after being with my first husband since the age of 16.

Living the story was a lot harder than telling it back. In a matter of two years – I dismantled my old life, had a 4th baby, worked to turn my freelance writing business into a full-blown agency, married Alex, started a new life, home, everything.

Business and life lessons here? You can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. There will always be a bad time to start something new. Not enough money, too many kids, too many complications. But they are all excuses, because when your back is up against the wall, you will be amazed at what you can do.

​2016 rolled along and after grinding hard for two years – I started to see significant momentum in my career. 

  • I launched my first course and made $10k, then $30k, then another $30k.
  • I launched my first funnel and hit $90k in monthly sales right at the end of 2016. 
  • Create Your Laptop Life was born.
  • My agency grew fast.

Guess what else happened in 2016? Alex and I started to struggle in our marriage. The honeymoon period of relationships had worn off, and left in its path was still a scared and hurting Julie, plus a husband trying to adapt to becoming a father, plus a step parent – in a country that is not his own. Our communication style was rocky. I was stuck in a cycle of people pleasing. Alex had a lot of his own stuff to work through.

This marriage struggle would continue for the next several years… getting more intense with each passing year.

So what did 2016 teach me? Very rarely will you see someone’s growth happen while everything else remains balanced. Don’t feel bad if your life feels wonky tonky when you’re growing something new. ​It’s somewhat normal, and temporary, but see lesson #1 – whatever gets off-kilter will always surface somewhere, some way. My ability to grieve my divorce and fully heal from the past…went dormant.

2017 marked a significant year from a financial perspective. I hit $1,000,000 in gross revenue, bought my dream house, and had my own six figure launch of my signature product – The Digital Gangsta. Despite all this success, I was still carrying a fear that maybe I wasn’t good enough. I needed external validation to remind me I was worth fighting for.

As business continued to explode, new opportunities opened up everywhere. This was the year I finally met Russell Brunson, and was hired at ClickFunnels.

I made the decision to work full-time and run my own business simultaneously. I don’t regret this decision as I learned so much — but it did come with consequences. Consequences I wouldn’t fully feel and realize until late into 2018/2019.

The big lesson of 2017 was that reaching all the financial goals you have – the things that you think will make you feel happy, safe, okay, loved, worthy – won’t make you feel that way if you’re not going to dig deep into why you do what you do. I felt tremendous accomplishment yes, but I still feared rejection, abandonment, and financial ruin.

It’s really hard to remember 2018. Which is funny because it was just two years ago. I think it’s because it was a total blur.

I spent more time in an airplane than at home. I managed my business and worked full-time at ClickFunnels. On the homefront, Alex and I had our hardest year yet – as two of my kids became teenagers, there was a ton of new parenting decisions to make that we weren’t prepared for. We had enormous struggles at home – some of you may remember my posts about my daughter Ellie struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. The cyclone of work and travel were somewhat of an escape from displaced grief, pain of the past, and fear that Alex and I wouldn’t make it.

By the end of 2018, I had the biggest financial success to date – with over $2M in gross revenue and $1M in profit. But it did come at a cost. I was exhausted and facing burnout, even while staring at the biggest opportunity offered to me in my whole life…

Would I (or should I) become a partner at ClickFunnels?

This would mean closing up shop with my own business, taking equity in CF, and becoming a full partner.

What most people don’t know is that this decision loomed over me for a solid four months – right in the thick of traveling back and forth to the Children’s Hospital to visit Ellie. I was definitely in a state of crisis as a mom, and even though I thought I could compartmentalize work and home – the fact is that my personal world was a huge part of my decision making.

I loved the people at ClickFunnels. I loved the mission and the movement. It was such a huge opportunity, and I knew there would be steady financial security as well. It seemed like a no brainer yes. I could finally stop running a business AND doing ClickFunnels, have plenty of $$, and create the stability I wanted to try to get my personal life back on track.

Here comes the lesson for 2018 – Even though I have NO regrets about any of my decisions, I realize now that my decision to partner at ClickFunnels was partially because I still didn’t believe in myself. Despite all the success and accolades and financial means…I still feared I wasn’t good enough to stand on my own two feet. That I couldn’t really be the shining leader I wanted to be – that I was better suited to joining a team. Mitigate risk, keep things safe and secure, and let someone else lead. Success rarely creates the internal strength you need for growth. It’s what happens in darkness and failure that produces strength.

​And now we come to this year. 2019. 

I really see the year in two halves. 

The first half felt very much like a spillover from 2018. A lot of the same whirlwind and stress. However underneath it all… a still small voice – God – was speaking to my heart. 

I started to feel emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time. Emotions I’d pushed down but now were demanding to be dealt with.

  • Grief.
  • Pain.
  • Unforgiveness.
  • Remorse.
  • Regret.

It was as if finally – after so many years of running – I realized “Hey look. It’s safe now. There’s no more crisis. You can actually stop and grieve.” And I did. I got an incredible therapist – if any of you would like his name or need a referral, just hit me up. 

I started talking to God again. 

I began focusing on my personal development, my kids, and my marriage. 

I faced the pain head on. I stopped running. 

And as the second half of the year hit – I made some big moves. 

  • I left ClickFunnels.
  • I realigned my priorities. 
  • I found my faith again.
  • I forgave myself.
  • I re-committed myself to my husband and my children.
  • I decided to take a risk and bet on me. I’m enough. 

​It also turned out to be an incredibly successful year in business as well. Funnel Gorgeous took OFF and blew up, my Digital Insiders mastermind grew from 30 people to 75, and best of all – it’s all happened in the midst of me working less, playing more, and letting my quirky self show up more and more.

There are so many lessons from this year – but I think one of the most profound things I take away from 2019? The simplest truths are the hardest to do, and yet we must do them. For me it was learning to let my head, my heart, and my actions stay in alignment. 

  • That means no more people pleasing.
  • No more saying yes just to make someone happy.
  • No more NOT saying the hard thing that needs to be said.
  • No more bending my boundaries.

I’m incredibly grateful for all the things I’ve learned in this past decade. Despite how hard it’s been for several seasons, I can also see the change and growth that’s happened as a result… empowering me to be a better leader, teacher, wife, and mom.

What will the next decade bring?

That’s the best part of all of this… life is one big giant surprise. 

Today might be hard. Tomorrow might be incredible. You just don’t know what’s coming around the bend, and it’s not your job to know. Just simply do the next right thing. The best you can do today.

I’ve been working on my goals and plans for 2020, and am doing a free workshop with Cathy tomorrow called – Reflections: Looking Back and Looking Ahead. Don’t worry.. .it’s not nearly as long as this email! LOL

If you’ve made it down to the bottom of this email, a few thoughts for you to take with you…

Our tendency is to brush off failure, rush past it, not look at it, shove it away, explain it away, justify it, avoid it, etc.  And be kind to yourself if you’re currently doing that. Sometimes life is so nuts there’s no space to go to the dark place to find your lessons.

But if you feel emotion bubbling up – anger, sadness, remorse, humiliation, regret – any of those emotions…

Let them come up to the surface. Write. Cry. Pray. Talk to a therapist or a coach. In fact, (side note) – it would have been impossible for me to heal alone… but I digress…NOTHING is wasted in this life if you take the time to see the lessons. No failure is a waste. Not one.

And also? God loves you. 🙂

Happy New Year Everyone!

xx Julie

Julie Chenell initials

Get in touch! I teach strategic business growth tacticss for everyday people.


  1. Rich

    WOW!!! Julie You are amazing, Alex is amazing! Most importantly GOD is Amazing ! HE will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you for sharing.❤️❤️

  2. jo

    Thank you for sharing this, I can relate on so many levels x

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