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Nicole Hensley

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January 6, 2020

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My 2019 Year in Review

Although I believe that setting goals is an incredibly important annual task, Reflecting back and recognizing all that you’ve accomplished, is an even greater duty that you owe to yourself. 

I will admit. I’m not the best at recognizing and sharing my accomplishments. I really dislike the feeling of “bragging” and although I know that that’s not my intention, I avoid situations where people may think I’m showing off.  

But I have realized over the years that I have so much to be proud of myself for and I want to share those feelings. Primarily because I want each and every one of you to recognize yourself and share your proud moments with the world too. 

The world moves quickly around us. It isn’t often that we choose to slow down and appreciate everything that we have and what we’ve worked so hard for. Checking things off the list and swiftly moving on to the next goal shouldn’t be the only thing that satisfies us. Because as I’ve learned, appreciating and congratulating yourself on everything that needed to happen to get to completing your goal is just an amazing as the goal you set in the first place. 

IN SUMMARY: 2019 WAS HARD.

It was so hard and to be quite honest, I already see a similar pattern going into 2020. 

Before I get into more detail, I want to make sure you understand that hard does not equate to negative in my mind. It means that it will be challenging, it will force me to live with determination, I will have falls and I will get back up again. Each year that I encounter a hard year, I walk out of it with so much more peace for the years to come, because I see how much stronger it has made me. 

2019 was one of the hardest years I’ve ever had in business. Storybook’s in that really weird stage of growth where at times the team seems too big for the business we currently have and then in the next moment, it’s definitely not big enough. Small business is a challenging thing. Each year, there’s a new overwhelming lesson we have to learn.

I’ll get more into the details later, but damn universe…you came at me hard this year. Happy to say, I feel live I’ve won! 

Life this past year was a whirlwind. It had its incredibly beautiful moments and it had its sad and scary moments. There were days filled with tears and times filled with laughter. It was definitely up and down. But then again, isn’t that the meaning of life?

Aiden, a few days old

Before I dive into my year in more specific detail, I do want to share that the most joyous part of my year was bringing my newest babe into the world. Aiden is the happiest little baby and to watch him fall so in love with his older brother makes my heart melt. – more on him later too. 

okay, so let’s get to it. 

I’m going to begin with revisiting my word of the year and then I’m going to share my experiences in each of my aspects of life. 

WORD OF THE YEAR: DISCOVERY

I chose the word discovery for 2019 after a very busy 2018. That year, Storybook was a team of two, including myself. We executed about 50 weddings or so with me completing about 30 on my own. I was working multiple weddings a weekend and the burnout was so intense. But, I had no other option but to charge through.

I learned that I never wanted to work that many weddings in one year again, especially being a mother. I went into business hoping for more control of my time and a majority of that time spent with my kids, but in reality… that was not happening. 

So in 2019, I chose the word discovery to help me figure out what I wanted next in life and business and I’m happy to say that I think figured it out! I’ll share more on my discovery moments in my breakdown below. 

PERSONAL GROWTH AND HOBBIES:

Hobbies? What hobbies? I wish I could classify ‘working on business’ in the hobby category because I really do love to work. When I have free time, I usually take out my computer and work on something. It fuels me. 

Discovery Moment: I want to continue to define the line between business and work. Set boundaries around those actions. Continue to discover who Nicole is on a personal level and who Nicole is as a business woman. Because right now, the lines are blurred. 

Once I define my time better, I want to learn how to speak Spanish.

This summer, I reflected on my childhood and how I wished I could speak to my Nani and Papi (my maternal grandparents) in Spanish. They do speak English, but I wanted to dive deeper into my Mexican heritage and speak to them in Spanish rather than them always speaking to us in English. I thought those moments would make for some beautiful conversation and memories between the three of us. 

My Nani and Papi with my younger brother and I when we lived in Texas

Although I took Spanish throughout my elementary and high school years, I never actually “learned” it. I still find it frustrating that I spent so much time on something and didn’t accomplish the goal, but rather than harping on what I didn’t finish, I want to focus on how to start again. 

The urgency of “loss of time” is what’s most motivating me to get started on this goal. My Papi’s getting increasingly more sick, and most recently, he broke his hip this past November. Seeing his health continue to get worse tells me more and more every day that I’ve basically run out of time. 

Ugh. See, this is the stuff that continues to drive me to work towards my goals NOW rather than putting things off and waiting. At some point you realize that you’ve run out of time and those things you never did, become regrets. Time doesn’t stop for you. Before you know it, you actually take a moment to breath and you realize all that has passed you by.

I’m making it a point to find it in my budget this year to allocate the monthly fee for Rosetta Stone and the space on my calendar for at least 1 hour a week to practice. (I know it’s not a lot, but its a start). 

Also, I want to continue reading more.  Back in 2017, I decided that I wanted to read more books. I always felt jealous of those that could sit down with a book and finish it in a matter of hours. I loved the movie Matilda growing up and understanding the meaning behind the power she obtained from reading and learning. So in 2018 I began a reading challenge. I wanted to read/listen to 13 books in 2018 and finished with 24. In 2019 I wanted to read 20 books and achieved it at 20.5 books! 

Now I can’t imagine not reading/listening to less than that each year. It’s become a favorite part of my drive into work and reading before bed has become part of the routine. 

SELF CARE AND HEALTH:

This year, my health wasn’t as wonderful as in years past.

I had an incredibly healthy pregnancy but my baby boy did come three and a half weeks early, due to concerns near the end of my third trimester and by doctors orders. Aiden Daniel Mesa Hensley was born happy and healthy on July 11th. 

A few weeks after my c-section, I developed a slight infection. I was given an antibiotic for it and that antibiotic launched me into a terrible intestinal infection that I had caught in 2016 after my first son was born. In 2016 this infection nearly killed me twice and doctors said it was a miracle that I had made it into the hospital when I did. Because I’d experienced these symptoms in the past, I instantly knew that I was developing the infection again and reached out to a gastro doctor that my mom had referred me.

In the midst of waiting for that appointment, I spiraled into a dark dark hole thinking that I was going to not recover from this infection again, that the death rates get worse with the more reoccurrences and how I was going to be leaving my two kids without a mom. It was the worst state of fear and sadness that I ever experienced, I couldn’t stop crying and literally had a cloud of despair hanging over my head. I am a naturally positive and optimistic person. When it comes to my negative or sad feelings, I’m usually able to keep myself level headed and walk myself out of a hole. But this time was different and I knew that I needed someone to talk to. 

So I decided to invest in talkspace because I needed to talk to a professional immediately – and that slightly helped me. Yes… I say slightly, but long story. 

If anyone has questions about talk space or therapy in general, feel free to reach out to me. 

One of the many green smoothies I drank during my detox.

After seeing the gastro doctor, I was placed on another antibiotic and a TON of probiotics all while working on his recommended diet of eating clean to allow my body to naturally fix itself. For a good two months I was on the strictest, healthiest diet of my life, taking so many probiotics, drinking kefir, yogurt shots and anything to improve the function of my body. And you know what? It worked! 

I’m happy to say that I’m healthy again and have been rid of that infection for three and a half months!

Discovery Moment: Never underestimate the power of eating real and unprocessed food. 

I did walk away with some frustration from my first doctor, wondering why he would prescribe me a medication that was known to encourage the reoccurrence of my deadly infection but like always, I take my frustrations and try to find something good out of them. What I took from this is that I personally learned what certain antibiotics do to my system. I now have the knowledge that if I have to take an antibiotic in the future, (and possibly when I’m a lot older and my body is less resilient) I’m aware of what effects certain antibiotics will have on me and can better avoid another reoccurrence of the infection. 

WORK AND CAREER:

This category is where I really used “Discovery’ the most. To be honest, work and career was the reason behind my word of the year. 

Like I had mentioned earlier, I learned from overworking myself in 2018 that I needed to change something in order stop my future from repeating itself.

Working 30something weddings a year with two kids was not doable. Without kids, possibly… But then again, did I even WANT to do that? Along with the over abundance of client work a few other things began forcing me to rethink the work (and the amount of work) I was doing:

  • Storybook was growing quickly and was becoming too much for me to be handling both the clients AND the actual functioning and behind the scenes of the business. Because of all my client work, it began taking me away from what I did best. Growing the business, developing ideas and strategy, working on social media, blogging and creating new interest and spending time developing relationships with our vendors.  
  • We were in desperate need to hire and we needed to hire quickly. I instantly had to develop myself into a Hiring Manager… with no previous experience. How come no one ever warned me how difficult this is?? Let’s just say that we had a few people funnel through the doors. 
  • After we hired employees, they had to be trained and with someone who had all the knowledge stored safely in their head, it meant it was time to create some handbooks and training manuals. – Seriously.. who has the time to do all this? – I didn’t.

Very early into the year I learned that my role as business owner and wedding planner was quickly expanding to include:

  • Hiring Manager
  • HR Manager
  • Employee Trainer
  • Team and Individual Employee Leader 
  • Business Growth Strategist
  • Training Manual and Employee Handbook Creator… lol it’s a real thing. 

All this on top of everything else that comes with being a business owner. You know, the accountant, the payroll manager, the report analyst, the social media manger… I can go on. But I won’t.

Back in 2018, when I hosted my first workshop for aspiring wedding planners. 

In addition to that, my passion for being a teacher and encourager to others wanting to open up their own business continued to grow. My heart is begging to get in front of more people to motivate them to go after what they want most in life. With that, I began a new company. I now own the role of Achievement Coach and cannot wait to continue to expand this new chapter. 

You’re probably wondering, because believe me… I was too, “Nicole, how in the hell are you planning on doing all of that when you already said you didn’t have enough time”

Well, I made a decision….. 

Discovery Moment: I am no longer booking and planning weddings.

I’ve decided to step out of the role of wedding planner and fully focus on the continued growth of Storybook and my goal achievement company. The feeling is amazing. I still have three more weddings to complete and I will officially hang my wedding planner hat in September 2020. 

In 2019, amongst all these changes, Storybook and my new brand accomplished the following:

  • We hired our first full time employee
  • We hired a part time employee
  • We completed a total of 55 Weddings
  • Passed along 23 inquired for dates that we were already fully booked 
  • Our Destination Planning Division executed 1 wedding in Mexico and 3 in Europe
  • Storybook celebrated our five year anniversary!
  • I launched my 1:1 Success Coaching program
The Storybook Team, which now feels so complete.

Overall, it was a very intense, but very rewarding year for our business. Although we had a slight dip in revenue this year, we understand that it was due to several uncommon factors like me being out on maternity leave for a good four months and not being able to book or take any weddings during that time. We also had to turn away business during our new hire’s training periods and when we didn’t have enough planners to accommodate the demand.

Over the summer I hired an HR company to help me hire better, more efficiently, and correctly through the laws of Illinois and I learned so much. Our business now has the structure and backing that we need to protect us and our employees. We have a hiring process, a training process, an employee handbook and everything else we need to be “legit”. 

I hired an accountant during this period as well to help me stay on top of my money and transactions for the business while I was out on maternity and to make sure that as we continue to grow, that all our documentation remains accurately accounted for. 

Needless to say, Storybook grew a lot differently in 2019 than in years past . This year we had a ton of internal growth and transformed what once seemed like the most intense “project” I ever started on to a fully functioning and system backed company.

When I look back at the year, I can see a complete transformation in the organization and legitimacy and professional structure of our company. It was hard, but we did it and we are in such a better place to move forward for 2020!

FINANCIAL:

This year, we invested in the following:

  • I hired an HR company. After making the rounds with hiring contractors in 2018 and failing hard, I knew that we needed actual Employees on the team. Being the strict rule follower that I am, I invested in HR to make sure that I did this right. The investment was large but I was not going to be playing around with legal and money when I had no knowledge at all. This was not a google search lesson.  
  • We invested over in a new brand (that is still in the works). We hope to be launching in the next few weeks. We chose to make the big investment this year and completely rebrand our company because we hit our 5 year anniversary! And with that we wanted to celebrate hard! So more on that in the coming weeks, but I am so excited! Branding was what launched us into the big time quickly the first go-around and we have all the positive vibes in the world that it’s going to happen again!
  • I joined a high level mastermind group, to work with a business coach and a small group of other business owners looking to take their biz to the next level.
  • We also hired our first employees. Meaning, we have salaries to pay for! It’s no longer commission.

Personally, I took a pay cut to make all of the above happen. But if there is one thing I know, when I take a big leap and and equally huge risk, big things happen. 

But also with big risk means planning ahead to make sure that if we ever experience something negatively drastic, we are able to glide through it as smoothly as possible and recover. 

Discovery Moment: Personally work on becoming debt free and for the business, make enough to cover all our annual expenses (like usual) but also hold some savings for a big next step goal we have for the business to accomplish by 2022.

I’ll also be sharing some of my debt savings strategies! You can download my savings and debt trackers soon!

So with all that, we’ve determined our personal and our business financial goals for the new year. 

Business Goal = Bring in 300k in revenue in 2020

Personal Goal = Begin our debt free journey. My hubby and I will be debt free (including our mortgage, by 2023!)

I will be sharing my debt free journey on olivestoneinteriors.com and @nicolemhensley on instagram, so follow along and help keep me accountable! 

FRIENDSHIPS:

I’m the girl who only has a few close friends. I can count them on one hand and the friend I see the most often, is my mom.

It was hard making friends in high school and equally the school years passed because I’m a really deep person, get personal super quickly, hate keeping it surface level (can you tell already by this super deep and personal blog???? Lol) and that makes some people uncomfortable. But when I meet someone, I really want to get to know them. Not just an acquaintance… I want to know them, know them. I’ve been called intense, and I am. 

To my small group of friends who are always there for me, thank you! 

This year in the friend arena, my group stretched a bit. 

  • The Storybook Team is now a team of five and let me just say… those girls can’t help but get to know me inside and out. They see my bad side, my good side, my excited side, my terrified side, my bossy side and my fun side and I am so excited to deepen each of those relationships. 
  • Outside of Storybook, someone that I used to mentor is now a dear friend. We’ve had kid playdates while momma’s talk business chat and how hard it is to be a working mom. 
  • We saw our friends get married 
  • I’ve also had a beautiful opportunity to see one of my closest friends become a mom. We used to talk about how much fun it would be to be pregnant at the same time… and we were and…..we barely saw each other. But we did a whole lot of complaining about how much we were hurting and how our memory was failing us via text…. 
Celebrating Sean and Amy Fitzgerald

And to the girl that I need to personally shout out. Because she really is my everything. Lisa. How could I go through this crazy life without you. I swear, we were born years apart and look nothing like sisters but something inside us is totally twinning. Haha

Doing what we do best. Being besties in business.. (and outside of biz too)

When I say the Storybook Team really knows me… I mean it. And Lisa had been around it for 5 years (and beyond – considering we were friends before I opened Storybook). I am so excited to celebrate our friendship next weekend on our vacation!! – You guys, this girl is surprising me with a vacation and I don’t know where we’re going. I’m showing up at the airport with a small idea of what to pack in my bags and we will be off!) Best friend alert? I think so.

Discovery Moment: Even though I had a baby in the middle of the year and have been super busy, I feel like I had a perfect example of my friend time this year. Time together was meaningful and intentional. I’ve learned to keep this balance going. 

FAMILY:

It’s amazing what can happen in a year. Especially when your kids are young. Time tends to pass so much quicker through them. 

It may take me years to learn a new strategy for business, but my baby can literally be born, learn to roll over, sit up and crawl all in the matter of months. 

My oldest son, Caleb is growing so fast. He’s going to be four next month! Honestly, where does the time go. Caleb has been learning so much and has been making huge strides in his development. For those that don’t know, Caleb has been seeing therapists since he was 18 months old because we were noticing delays in his speech. So for a year and a half he saw four different therapists a week. Now he goes to a school that helps with developmental delays 5 days a week and sees a speech therapist on top of that on Friday’s ( whew! Okay that was a lot, but see! This continues to make me grateful for my crazy decision to open up a business. I don’t have any idea how I’d manage my weekly schedule without being the boss of my calendar. )

Caleb

Caleb is now speaking so much more clear and is able to chain several words together. He notices when he says something “incorrectly” and tries to correct himself and does such a great job practicing his letter sounds. 

Caleb is also just super smart in general. He knows the alphabet, can spell his name and “cookies” – his favorite food on the planet. He has been taking swimming lessons for over a year now and has exceeded level after level. He is almost a pro! 

Our newest little Aiden is the sweetest and most emotional little baby. He loves being held, hates being put down, he’s at his most peaceful when around his brother. He wants to start moving and running around with Caleb but he is only 5 and half months old! He may just be the earliest walker in history with his persistence!  

Aiden is so in love with his big brother.

Aiden was born this July, three and half weeks early. If I could have changed only one thing, I’d have been that my parents wouldn’t have been out of the country. My mom and dad, were visiting my brother and sister in law in London and literally flew there the day before Aiden was born. 

This year our family went on two trips. In March we went on a 10 day vacation to Disney World. We’d booked the trip before we found out I was pregnant and thankfully, it was scheduled the week before my doctor had cut me off from traveling while pregnant. 

The vacation was so much fun, we visited with my husbands family who lives in Florida and Caleb got to catch up with his cousin, Liam, who he only gets to see every so often. But going to Disney World while 20 weeks pregnant was a challenge!!! 

Our family of three…with one in my tummy and my parents at Disney. 

(I’ll write a separate blog on this if you are interested – because yes… I do realize this is a long post).

The most fun part about this trip is that we had my mom and dad surprise Caleb for a few days during the middle of our trip. I have a video that I’ll share here that captured his excitement. 

Then, this past October we flew to my old home town of Harlingen,Texas to spend some time with my Nani and Papi. As I shared earlier, my Papi’s health has been getting more concerning from year to year and my husband encouraged us all to go and visit together while everything was still going well. (We hate when people say that it feels like families only get together for weddings and funerals – so we wanted to make more intentional time enjoying positive moments together)

Some pics from our trip to visit my grandparents.

The trip expanded from our little family and my parents, to include my cousins, Uncle and Aunt that live in Round Rock. Together we were able to celebrate my cousin’s daughter’s 4th bday and we had such a great time. 

It was only a few weeks later that my Papi fell and broke his hip and since then, things have been worrisome. It really does make me feel grateful that my husband encouraged us to to a “spontaneous” trip and that we followed through. (I say “follow through” because there are so many times people say they will plan get togethers – with good intentions of course – and then never make it happen).

That trip allowed us to walk away with so many happy memories.

The one part of my family reflection that I feel like I’m missing most is my siblings.

My youngest brother Aaron has been busy working away to help make a difference in this world by working on the campaign’s of Kristen Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and now Elizabeth Warren and I’m missing my middle brother and my sister in law just as much who moved to London in 2018 to further their careers and education. – As much as I miss all of them, I really can’t wait for all of us to be back together again. 

This December we received some devastating news that a new baby cousin of ours entered the world encountering complications at birth. It sent her into a completely life altering situation. This little girl is working so hard each and every day to make steps in her healing but things are just very unstable and unknown. 

It’s hard to talk about because it hits so close to home. We love this little girl’s parents and brother so much and to think of what they are going through every single day continues to break my heart. As a person who’s compelled to find a solution to everything…I can’t. All I can do is hope that this little girl continues her upward strides and hopefully, someday soon, they can bring her home from the hospital and start life as a family of four. 

It’s amazing how many emotions can be bottled up in to a single situation. There is so much beauty and joy and love that comes with bringing a life into the world but at that same time it can be terrifying, sad and difficult. 

2019 was all the emotions when it came to our family category. There was so much success and fun and relaxing and relationship growing and so much love, but at the same time, there was fear of the future and most definitely, the self judgement we put on ourselves as parents, the “am I doing this good enough”?

Discovery Moment: Reflecting allowed me to see in that I am good enough. We did have a lot of wonderful moments together as a family. I need to stop being so hard on myself as a mom. I am a great mom to my children and we’ve collectively worked really hard to make wonderful lasting memories with our family members. 

LOVE AND ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS

It’s a true statement when they say that as soon as a baby enters the world, you and your partner will simply start lacking “your” time. My husband and I have tried so hard to keep us just as much of a priority as the kids because without a strong foundation, the house can’t stand. 

We are so grateful that my parents live so close to us. They encourage us to take time away for ourselves, whether that be for a dinner, an afternoon movie or a whole long weekend! 

This year, once we got back from our trip to Disney, Nick and I were able to enjoy two incredible concerts. We saw Mumford and Sons (which was a bucket list item of mine) and the following day we say Amos Lee in concert again. – Amos is my favorite artist, aside from Damien Rice. 

Right now, Nick and I get a date night about one night a month. This tends to work with us because we are so busy during the weekdays growing our careers and taking care of the kids that we don’t seem to feel like we are “missing out” too much on lost opportunity for dates. 

We tend to be really intentional with our time together in general and like to focus on our goals. This drives us both and gets us energized on where we see ourselves in the future. 

This past December, Nick and I were able go on an actual vacation just the two of us. The last time that happened was 2017! This year we went to Napa, California and it was incredible. It was the honeymoon we never had. We stayed at Bardessono which was a spa resort in Yountville and it was the most adorable and “insta” worthy little town. 

We enjoyed a couples massage and tons and tons of wine. We also had so many great meals and dining experiences. It was such a fun four days and was filled with so many wonderful conversations. 

Discovery Moment: Vacations are needed. Nick and I were able to catch up on so many important conversations that we just needed to have and without interruption from the kids! This needs to continue to be a priority.  

MINDFULNESS AND SPIRITUALITY

Being a very fast moving person, someone with little patience and constantly working or doing something, mindfulness and spirituality is not something that I spend a lot of time on. 

In the earlier part of the year, I used the Calm app to try and meditate and relax my brain and mind, and although it was relaxing, there is something about filling my time with something more substantial that feels more worthwhile. – This may change because I hear from so many people how important and life changing meditation has been for them, but I just haven’t encountered that part of life yet, nor the need for it. So maybe the importance of meditation will come later. 

How I tend to focus on mindfulness and spirituality is through having deep and meaningful conversations with my friends and loved ones. The sense of discovery that I walk away with from difficult, political or challenging topics allows me to learn, see new perspectives and really energize who I am as a person. 

This is how I see and feel my spirituality. I am not a religious person and do not look to a “god” to help me through difficult times or for some uncontrolled force to make “things better” in my life. 

What I tend to do is dive deep into what is bothering me by trying to be mindful about why certain things are happening from a logical perspective and then coming up with solutions that are in my control and let the things that are not, be.

This year threw a lot of that at me. I have frustration with this world, with humans, with what we are doing to the planet, with who was elected as president, with how the country has its back against its poor and underprivileged. Inequality still prevails in this country, women do not have a right to make decisions about their own bodies. We do not provide much needed medications and health care to those who need it. I cannot send my kids to school without being terrified that a shooter will walk into it and I cannot go shopping with my whole family anymore in fear of thinking… if there is a shooting, I only need to worry about myself if it’s just me doing the shopping, instead of wondering where I could find protection for all four of us. 

Living in a state of fear that has heightened this year has taught me that I do need to focus on my mind and mental health. Earlier this year I did use a therapy program and although that wasn’t my preferred method of communication (text – It was just so impersonal) I do think professional help and talking about your fears and how we can manage them is so important to taking care of our entire being. 

Discovery Moment: The most impactful way of calming my mind, is by educating myself on what’s going on and finding ways to take action and make change. Developing my mind, seeing different perspectives, learning about how and what can be done about it and how we can move the current state of the world in to a better position is what I need as a person and that is driving my spirit and making me more whole.

So whatever that is for you, develop it. 

Overall, looking back over this last year, I can say that I am so proud of myself. In the moment and during specific times of the year, I was so doubtful of my capabilities. As a mom, as a business owner, as a wife, as a friend, as a daughter and granddaughter… it’s so easy to feel like we are not enough, or doing enough. 

Being able to focus on all these individual aspects of my life and take the time to actually see what I did in all those areas really makes me feel good. It was a tough year. But I am so proud of where we are. 

Our little family. 

I am proud of my children, my husband, my team, my friends and family and I recognize all of the things that they are doing every day to make it through their own challenges. 

Life is so amazing, it is so hard, but so worth it. 

Hope you all find some time to reflect like I did. And if you write it out and no one reads it, it won’t even matter. After reading it back yourself, you will realize that that was all you needed to get out of it. 

Be good to yourself, 

Nicole

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