You Can Do Hard Things [2017 Recap + Reflection]

Woman sitting at desk with text overlay "You Can Do Hard Things 2017 Recap + Reflection"

Seriously, you can do hard things. You can do anything if you’re passionate enough about it and you have the drive to create a solid plan and strategy.

For me, 2017 has been the year of the mantra “you can do hard things” playing over and over in my head. As we close out 2017, I think it’s important to look back, reflect, and give yourself a pat on the back where it’s deserved.

You Can Do Hard Things

And I don’t just mean patting yourself on the back for things that have gone “well” or have been a “success.” Sometimes we need to take a moment to recognize how we got through something tough, how we navigated “failures” or things we didn’t love, or how we were there for other people, even when we couldn’t quite be there for ourselves.

There are little lessons in all of these, and they all deserve our recognition.

We spend a lot of time setting goals and thinking about what we want to do next. But what about what we’ve already accomplished? Good or bad, we need to look back and see what we’d like to repeat and change next year.

I thought I’d share some of the things I experienced personally and professionally this year and what I took away from it. I’m hoping you’ll do the same in the coming weeks : )

Switching Businesses

I started 2017 with a completely different, separate business: Hygge Wellness. Hygge was my health coaching company that I started straight away after leaving the law firm.

As you can hopefully tell, I love all things self-care, balance, and healthy living.  But as it turns out, health coaching itself wasn’t for me. I got WAY more excited about working with women who wanted to start their own business, too (or needed help with one they already had).

The more I thought about it and had time + space away from the law firm life, I got so frustrated that women didn’t have access to legal info and resources that:

  • Actually helped women with online businesses, let alone health/wellness coaching
  • Wasn’t super boring and inaccessible
  • Wasn’t based on fear
  • Showed them how to use contracts and website docs to actually help strengthen their businesses and client relationships

I knew I could help these women, and the more I worked with them, the more I realized how much joy it brought me, too.  I was so scared to start a second business, let alone close down my first. I couldn’t help but feel like it meant I failed as a health coach.

But now, I see it SO differently! It was far from a failure. I couldn’t have built this business had I not had a health coaching business (or similar) first.

Having a health coaching business introduced me to things like email lists, opt-ins, social media, online marketing, etc. I didn’t have a CLUE until I started Hygge! I also met so many wonderful people, had several clients who made real progress in their self-care, healthy eating, and movement, and made plenty of mistakes I avoided making in this business. It also gave me the opportunity to learn what it was like to run a coaching business, which I now help my clients do.  

So all around, it was definitely not a failure. Just a series of beautiful lessons and experiences that I carried with me into my business today.

Taking the Leap + Building Sam Vander Wielen LLC

I worked like a madwoman in April and May to get the structure of Sam Vander Wielen LLC up and running. The first thing I did was build my website myself (which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing – I had just gotten myself to a point where $8k on a custom site wasn’t an option). At the same time, I obviously got all the legal stuff taken care of (including writing all of the legal templates from scratch!) and started marketing it.

I officially launched this business in June. I can’t believe that was only a few months ago! I had my first sale from someone I didn’t know at all within 30 hours of making my website live. THAT’s something I’m super proud of. It wasn’t luck or coincidence. I worked super hard to make my website beautiful, the copy clear, and my message strong.

It worked.

I’m not writing any of this to brag or anything like that (I’m not highlighting all the crappy moments of me crying — there were plenty! — or wanting to throw my computer out the window). I’m only saying this because I work with so many women who are disconnected from their message or who feel like they’re not offering what they truly want to offer.

I totally get it. I was there, too. I wanted to sound or look like what everyone else was doing who I thought was “successful”. When we approach our businesses that way, it just doesn’t work.

When you get your message in alignment with your soul, it comes flowing out. Things are SO much easier and make much more sense both to you and your future clients.

Brain Surgery

This one’s definitely the big fat elephant in my 2017-room. In case you’re new here, I had brain surgery at UPenn in Philly on July 27th this year. Turns out the neck pain (later turned insane headaches and not being able to walk a straight line or close my eyes without falling over) I experienced for over a year was because I had a chiari malformation in my brain.


I feel like I could write a book about this one, and I could choose to focus on how hard and painful the entire experience was. Although the entire experience/summer is a bit fuzzy for me, I do remember feeling so blue for a while as I recovered.

But that’s not how I think about it. I actually feel incredibly grateful and lucky for…

  • the world-class (literally #1) brain surgeon (Dr. O’Rourke) I had in my backyard who’s a total miracle worker
  • my husband, Ryan, friends, and family who brought meals, company, and positive words of encouragement and support throughout the entire process.
  • how quickly and efficiently the UPenn team was when I had a seizure a few weeks after the surgery. I truly felt like we were part of a team that had my back 24/7.
  • the fact that the surgery worked. I felt better in the hospital (minus the other-world-level pain that I kinda sorta remember begging for drugs for).
  • how patient and understanding my clients were, including 1 who even came to my house so we could have a BizStorming session* (my brain was totally functioning, I just couldn’t move very well lol!)

Bouncing Back

I think the thing I’m the most proud of about having brain surgery this year was how I bounced back both physically and in business.

In terms of physical stuff, I was up and walking within 9 days of the surgery. I even posted this Instagram video of the first time I walked outside 9 days after surgery. Honestly, I haven’t really progressed much past walking yet. I walk a lot more and much faster, but I admittedly haven’t done enough to get back to weight training. #2018goals

In terms of business, I’ve set up my business in a way that doesn’t require 100% of a time-for-money trade. My DIY legal templates are instant-download, fill-in-the-blank documents that people can purchase anytime. I offer lots and lots of support to my clients, but I don’t necessarily have to be heavily involved in the purchase process itself.

I was fortunate that my business was able to keep running in the background while I recovered last summer. But what couldn’t keep running was my marketing and writing. I didn’t anticipate being out of commission for quite as long as I was (I had a little seizure setback incident).

I kept writing and posting, but it wasn’t consistent, and it wasn’t also as coherent as I wanted it to be. But as soon as I felt better, I setup a plan and a consistent posting strategy and got back to it.

As soon as I did, the business “machine” started up again and went back to normal. It was actually really helpful to learn through this experience that my marketing and social strategy is one that not only works for me, but for my business model, too.

That Nomad Life – Kind Of

Ryan and I have been living in France for the last month while he teaches a winter-interim semester course at a local university. What an amazing experience!

I am so, so grateful for the opportunity to live here and work on my business at the same time. It’s definitely not all sunshine and rainbows, though! Things work a little differently here: WiFi isn’t readily available or that strong, people don’t really work from laptops in cafes as much, and the time change has been a bit more of a challenge than anticipated.

But overall, I’ve been able to run my business smoothly while I’m here. I still have my free 20-minute Legal Checkups* Tuesdays-Thursdays, client appointments Tuesdays-Thursdays, and do my writing/content planning/administrative backend work on Monday and Fridays.

Most of all, I’m trying to be grateful for the experience and remember why I’m here. If I was still an attorney at a firm, I could never do something like this. I could barely even take a vacation without having to work overtime for the rest of the year to make up the billable hours.

This is something I try to remember and to encourage my clients to remember too: remember why you became an entrepreneur. Yes, we all want to help people and make the world a better place! But we need to ask ourselves something else:

  • When you thought about becoming an entrepreneur, what did you want your life to look like?
  • What freedoms did you want to have?
  • What did you want your day-to-day to look like?
  • Are you creating a business, or have you created a business, that helps support that lifestyle? For example, if you want to live a super nomad life and don’t want to have lots of 1-on-1 coaching, are you building out systems and funnels in your business so that it can run like a machine when you’re not feeding it? Or is your business too heavily dependent on your day-to-day nurturing to run on its own?

What’s Next + 2018

These are just a few of the things that came to mind when I reflected upon 2017. Over the next few weeks, I’m diving deeper and reflecting even more on my business and where I want it to go from here.

I have some big, big plans in the works for 2018. I’m working on a HUGE project for you to help ease any anxiety around the legal side of entrepreneurship. Basically, it’s going to be the class you wish you would’ve taken in college if you knew then you’d be an entrepreneur. I can’t wait for it ; ) And of course, I’m always designing new legal templates as the health coach, online marketing, and online entrepreneurship worlds expand!

But most importantly (at least to me) are my core business values — accessibility, coziness, ease, relaxed, fun, friendship, authenticity, and fearlessness — and they’re not going anywhere. Every time I sit down to design a new product, service, or program, I think, “How does this fit with my core business values? Are they in alignment? Does it feel good to me?”

I always want my business to be in alignment with my core business values (which can of course change over time!). Sometimes I have to just trust my gut that what I’m doing is right for me because it’s in alignment with me and the business I’ve designed in my head.

I’d love for you to share some of your reflections for 2017 below or by email. Tell me…

  • What are some things you loved in your business in 2017?
  • What are some things you’d like to do differently in 2018?
  • Is your business in alignment with your core business values? If not, what adjustments can you make so they are?

*BizStorming sessions are no longer active as of 2020
**Free Legal Checkup Calls are no longer active as of 2020

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