EP79 Part I – Co Creating a Dream Life with Michael and Liz Hartke

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In today’s episode I catch up with two dear friends Michael and Liz Hartke.  Most of what we talk about revolves around how they are adjusting and creating their ideal life in the midst of all the blessings that are coming their way.

Show Transcript

BOL 79


Episode 79


[0:00:12.9] KC: Welcome to the Business of Life Podcast. My name is Keith Callahan, your host and excited for today’s guest to share with you, Elizabeth and Michael Hartke. So we just dive into what’s going on in their lives, the changes that they’re making, the structure that they’re putting around their lives and really they’re two close and dear friends of mine.

So it’s one of those conversations where it’s the three of us catching up and me asking them a few things that I am curious about what they’re doing and the changes that they’re making in their lives. So I hope you enjoy this episode as much I did. We broke it into a two part series, so this is part one and next Wednesday, we’ll be releasing part two.

So let’s go ahead and get Michael and Liz on.


[00:01:17.3] KC: Welcome to the Business of Life Podcast. This is Keith Callahan, your host and excited for today’s show. Today we have two firsts, we have on Elizabeth and Michael Hartke and Elizabeth is the first ever repeat guest and then Elizabeth and Michael are the first ever husband and wife, or not even just husband and wife, the first time I’ve ever talked with two people at one time. So excited to have you guys on and very, very dear close friends and looking forward to catching up with this podcast.

[00:01:57.3] EH: Us too.

[00:01:57.8] MH: Yeah, we’re thrilled. Listened to you for a while and always looking forward to talking with you.

[00:02:04.2] KC: So I guess I get to start by firing questions away. It’s funny, just for everybody listening, prior to us jumping on here, Liz and Michael and I are friends and I sent them a video saying that I was preparing for the call tonight and it was a video of our kids playing the game, I think it’s called “pie in face”. So if you have it, if you haven’t seen that game yet, check it out especially if you have kids, you’ll have to get it.

So anyways, going on a little tangent there but I think the first question I want to start with is you guys went away, you did a yearlong training with Chalene Johnson and then you went away to an event with her and I’m not sure of all the names but you can jump in on all that. So loaded question here, you did that, you went away on an event but then you came back and you have this woman in your house ripping your house apart and doing all these stuff and I was wondering if you could share about the organizer that you’re working with and it has me super curious and saying, “Do I need that myself?”

[00:03:27.2] EH: Yeah, so we went to Smart Success with Chalene Johnson and it was something that we scheduled into our week to go through the modules for about a year every Monday night. That was our date night after the baby went to bed and a lot of the things that you focus on are the different areas of your life that you prioritize. So your family, your faith, your health, your environment and so we went to this event out in California, one of the main things that Chalene focused on is the concept of your environment and you have to get that right before you take the next steps.

You have to declutter your life and declutter your business and declutter your relationships and all of that kind of to this ground zero where you feel really good about the space you’re working in, or the space you’re living in or the space that you’re sleeping in or whatever it is. So yeah we hired, by Chalene’s advice, we hired a personal organizer who we found online, who’s local and it’s been absolutely amazing. That’s basically what we’ve done for the last two weeks.

[00:04:33.8] MH: Yeah, I loved it too because I don’t know if any of you are like me but if something is messy or unorganized, I can’t really think or focus on the things that I want to be doing or need to be doing. Instead, I’ll divert my energy to try to pick up or do things like that. So having an organizer come in and just give us some really good systems is just amazing.

There’s just such a piece and a calmness in our house too and in all different rooms. Just picture going into your bedroom at the end of the night or at the end of the day and just having this calmness come over you. It’s just so awesome.

[00:05:19.9] KC: Michael, you have this calm voice. Just listening to you talk, I’m calming down.

[00:05:26.2] MH: Nice.

[00:05:27.0] EM: It is, it’s funny because my poor husband, I am the least organized person on the planet and Michael is the opposite. He’s really regimented and organized and good at keeping things in their place and I’m the cyclone going through the house but as much as I am like that naturally, I desperately want to be organized.

It’s been a battle for me my whole life so having Sarah come in, so what you do is you buy a package from her for X amount of hours and you lay out what you’re looking for and typically, people do it over the course of several months or a year. We were like, “We want 25 hours and we want it done in two weeks.”

Like, “Come in, we are power hitting this house,” and we started in the basement and literary, everything has a shelf, it’s labeled, Christmas decorations, summer clothes, winter clothes and we worked our way up every floor. Our pantry, our bathroom, everything and we got rid of the crap that we don’t need. We donated a ton of stuff and we know where everything goes now.

You don’t walk into the kitchen with a stack of mail in the counter and all this other stuff. You just feel really good about the fact that your environment is settled and it’s the way it should be and we’re not always perfect and I’m still mentally disorganized but now, I’m learning these systems so that I don’t keep falling into that trap of feeling stressed about the house.

[00:06:54.5] KC: So what’s the maintenance plan for the systems? Like she comes in, she organizes everything and she did more than just the physical stuff, right? Didn’t she — you had mentioned she was going to be doing some stuff with the business too?

[00:07:06.9] EH: Yeah, she did. We went through all our files. We created even separate like when you run your own business, as you know, you need a system for your receipts, for taxes and she even came in with a mindset of like, “Okay, this is how you’re going to systemize your receipts or your taxes so it’s easy for you.”

She is also realistic. She knows that every time I get a receipt, I’m not running up to the third floor to the office to file it. So there is a dumping ground and then schedule a date once a month where you put it in this binder in the right order and what I like is she’s coming back in a month. So today was our last day with her and she’s coming back in a month to tie up some lose ends and do a few little projects but over the next month — Michael is laughing because I am talking with my hands.

[00:07:54.2] MH: Yeah, they can’t see those hands.

[00:07:56.7] KC: That’s all right, I like it. I can see them.

[00:07:59.8] EH: I’m telling you, I don’t know how to not talk with my hands but anyway, she comes back in a month.

[00:08:04.2] KC: I have to snap a screen shot so we can use that as the picture.

[00:08:09.9] EH: No, that was not part of the deal. We can kind of let her know, “Okay, these systems have been working and we find that mail keeps ending up on the counter. So can we find a new system for that?” Or something like that. So it’s really nice because she really works with you and your personality and what you’re looking for.

[00:08:28.1] MH: That’s part of it too. So we’ve had four or five different sessions where she’s come to our house for five hours, but now we’ve got the whole house done, kind of, and the next time we’re going to see her is in three weeks. So that’s kind of the first step of the maintenance. She’s going to come back after three weeks of being gone and we’re going to see what we were able to stick with or what didn’t work.

So she’ll maybe be able to tweak some of those systems and take a new look at things like that but really, a lot of it is on us too to try to stick to this and hold each other accountable. So I think that won’t be that difficult.

[00:09:13.6] KC: She outlined it for you but now you’ve got to do it right?

[00:09:16.4] EH: Yeah and I think one of the biggest things we learned at Smart Success was learning what to delegate and learning where you need help and understanding that those might not be strengths for you but they’re not areas where you should just chop it up to a loss. I am really naturally disorganized and I don’t know, that’s just how I’ve always been.

Michael is always naturally been organized so it’s easy for me to be like, “Well, my desk is always going to be a disaster. I’m always going to feel like I’m in disarray when it comes to organizing things,” but when you reach out for help in the right areas and you get systemized and stuff and then you just learn to make it a habit.

That level of stress that I have everyday where I’m like, “Ugh I wish I was more like this, or I was more organized, or I wish I could be better for Michael so that he didn’t feel stressed in his environment because it really affects him.” We’re working on that. We’re finding ways to get the help we need to get it done correctly.

[00:10:21.2] KC: Cool, what was her name, Sarah?

[00:10:24.1] EH: Sarah, yeah.

[00:10:24.9] KC: Can we plug Sarah? Like how can people get in touch with her?

[00:10:28.5] EH: Her business is called Minimize Organize Simplify and she’s local to the greater Boston area. I think she travels around the general area and she’s amazing. So for someone who it’s so unnatural to be organized, I was dreading this process like you wouldn’t believe. I’m thinking in my head, “This is going to be so painful. I think every day is going to be pulling teeth.”

She made the process fun and quick. The girl is a machine. I’ve never seen anything like it. I asked her if she did crack because she runs around like you wouldn’t believe but she’s pleasant and she works with your personality and she works with your needs. She doesn’t make you get rid of stuff but she helps you purge the things that you don’t need.

She donates the things for you. She’ll bring them to donation centers, the whole experience was tremendous. She left today and I gave her a big hug and I was like, “You’re leaving? Like now? We won’t see you for a month?” We just really got to know her well and couldn’t be more excited to give a plug to her and business. She’s really deserving because she’s just amazing.

[00:11:39.8] KC: So I have a question for you guys because this is something that I personally haven’t fully figured out. With the industry that we’re in, there’s a lot of personal expenses that become business expenses and what I mean by that is, if the three of us go out to dinner, that’s a business expense because we’re always talking about business stuff right?

So I’ve had other businesses, it was very separate and I would have my finances, I would have my business account and then I would have my personal account and we still have that and that part is clear but I like to simplify finances and I’ve always had it simplified. I would know how much money was being spent. I would know how much money was coming in.

But now, there’s paying quarterly taxes. We have the kids in private schools so there’s big chunk of money that go to that. There’s paying yourself, so you pay yourself and when you pay yourself there’s taxes that come out of that. There is debiting one account and crediting the other account. So it’s not as clear, right?

So I was wondering from a monthly basis if you guys actually have figured out a financial system that makes you feel the way that you just talked about with your house because I feel that way with our house with the financial system. I’m like, “Thank God we’re making a lot of money because this thing is just all over the place right now.”

[00:13:36.9] MH: Yeah, one thing that really helps I guess right off the bat is the fact that we have very close friends that are a financial planner and an accountant and by that, Liz’s mom is an accountant. So she helps us identify the things that we should be keeping track of like the expenses and receipts.

Our financial planner is able to help us set up different and right accounts and so far, what we’ve done is we have a website that keeps track of all of our spending, our income, our investments. It’s kind of like, something like a Mint.com I’ve seen and every month, we’ve had it on our calendar and we’re working hard to try to do this.

We schedule a time, it’s the first Monday of every month or something and we’ll sit down and we’ll review our expenses together just to be able to say, “Okay, do you recognize this expense? What was this for?” And we’ll just kind of categorize everything that we can take a look and see what we’re spending on our business, what we’re spending on groceries, what we’re spending on gas, and all those different types of categories.

[00:14:59.0] KC: Do you do it together? Like is it one sit — is it separate or is it all together when you’re going through the expenses?

[00:15:09.7] EH: Like business and personal you mean?

[00:15:11.6] KC: Yeah. So let me ask the more direct question. I used to always work off a budget and I can’t figure out how to do a budget like the kid’s bills are due quarterly. I have quarterly bills, the way that our taxes and investments are set up I do at the end of the year. I write a big check for all the tax deferred investments that we’re doing and retirement accounts and stuff like that.

So here’s the way that it used to be even with the business, I would have the business expenses and they were just business expenses. I would get a paycheck from my other business and then I would have my personal expenses. But as life got more complicated with kids, with health insurance, with all these business expenses as well, I feel lost and naked without a budget and out of control.

We’re not like things are going the right way and maybe it is something that we have to let go of. Here’s a perfect example, we were paying — I don’t think I can say that on recording. Yeah, I’m gonna not use that example. There are certain things that became like when you are looking at a budget, things will pop up.

Here’s one of them: when I was looking at the budget, I was like, “Wow, if we lived in New Hampshire, we would have saved a lot of money,” because I am looking at this is what we spend on an annual basis for state taxes, things like that. You know what I mean? So do you guys feel like you have control over that?

[00:17:10.4] EH: I don’t. I think Michael does. I feel out of control with it probably because I am more disconnected from it than he is.

[00:17:17.8] MH: Right, I mean we work as a team like that. So I keep an eye on those types of things and I frequently bring Liz into it and ask her when something doesn’t look right but I think it’s difficult especially when you’re having kids like you and we are. It’s tough because your life is changing.

So I guess I look at our budget and our expenses and I’m able to see maybe one month to the other if something doesn’t look right but it’s tough to budget and compare especially with a growing business, a growing family everything is changing. So it’s hard to have a set budget.

[00:18:07.8] EH: Yeah and it’s tough, like you said Keith, with the business side of it. So much is intertwined between personal and business. We have a card that’s strictly for our business, an account that’s strictly for our business but then there are those purchases or those things that we might not have used that card for it because it was personal and then you’re like, “Well really that’s a business expense because we traveled and we saw members of our team and it really ended up being a business trip. So that falls into that.”

So they mesh and I agree with you. I feel like it’s a combination of being in as much control as you can be by doing the right things. Working with a financial adviser, using a site like Michael talked about or Mint.com, paying attention to your spending and what’s coming and all of that, the common sense stuff but also being willing to let go a little bit because it’s not conventional — it’s not like you work in corporate and you have those structured, you know?

[00:19:08.4] KC: Yeah and I think also one of the things that’s been hard for me too — so I grew up without money and we spend a lot of money right now and it’s something that we’ve intentionally done. The kids go on a private school and that’s a lot of money or health insurance when you’re self-employed is a lot of money.

So I was thinking about it and I was like, “Six or seven years ago our monthly bills were $4,000 a month,” and now I am looking at at them and I’m like, “They’re not $4,000 a month.” And sometimes I think it’s also one of those things that it’s my own subconscious that’s pulling me down. Sometimes it feels like the expenses are out of control.

But when I go through them all, they’re way more than — if you ask me seven or eight years ago if our expenses would be this high, I would say no way. It’s totally extravagant. But there’s nothing in there like we’re not going on these crazy trips, we’re not buying luxury vehicles, we’re not doing any of that. So I think the piece for me is, with having children and I guess that’s the main thing in having a massive increase in expenses. Yeah, I think I have to let go of that.

So anyway sharing that and I wanted to ask one more question on the finances before we switch gears. With the way you guys are set up, do you have separate accounts that you allocate money to? Meaning you pay quarterly taxes, right? Do you have money that goes into a separate savings account for that or do you just one account and everything is dumped into there for the most part or a business and personal account?

[00:21:11.0] MH: Yeah so all of our business income comes into the business account and from that account, we pay ourselves a monthly or weekly salary and then we will also pay business expenses out of that same account and we’ll also take off excess because we don’t want that account to just continue to grow and grow and grow.

So we’ll put away money for investments or we work closely with our accountant and our financial planner and so we’re kind of able to somewhat guess or estimate how much money we’ll be paying in this next quarter. So yeah, I do move it. We have a second account at that same bank that you can literally just transfer between a checking account and a money market account. So I kind of shuffle money over to set aside for taxes and investments and things like that.

[00:22:18.3] KC: That’s the money market account?

[00:22:20.2] MH: Uh-hmm.

[00:22:20.7] KC: And then for the money market account you’d pay your taxes and then that’s where your investments go too?

[00:22:28.2] MH: Yep.

[00:22:28.6] KC: Do you guys have a SEP or a 401(k) like how are you set up with that?

[00:22:33.7] MH: Yep, we have a SEP and a 401(k). So different accounts for retirement planning.

[00:22:42.9] KC: So how are you funding those? Are you funding it monthly or annually?

[00:22:48.4] MH: Those are monthly. I believe the SEP and the 401(k) are monthly deductions. I think there’s also a defined benefit plan. See, this is where the financial planner comes in and a huge help because he helps us strategize for all of this and set all of these up too, but I’m sure it’s different for all types of businesses. But I think the Defined Benefit Plan is an annual contribution after you know how much you’ve made throughout the year.

[00:23:21.8] KC: I’ve got to talk to him because I am doing all of these but I’m trying to do it myself.

[00:23:30.5] MH: There’s people, no offense Keith.

[00:23:31.6] KC: I’m not the person who outsources everything but I don’t know why I’m not outsourcing this.

[00:23:35.5] MH: Yeah that’s the part of the things that we learned like in Smart Successes, that there are people that can do things better than you and not that you shouldn’t understand it or have a hand in it, but you can take guidance from other people and kind of learn to kind of let go of different things a little bit.

[00:23:55.9] EH: Yeah.

[00:23:56.8] MH: At least that’s what we do.

[00:24:00.6] KC: Okay, I have this other thought popping in and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to share the story, Liz might come in and help me. The orange dot story came up.

[00:24:11.5] EH: Oh yeah.

[00:24:12.8] KC: Popping into my head. I don’t even know how to explain that to people but yeah. So Liz did a retreat — Liz and Michael did a retreat for their team right near Mt. Washington in New Hampshire and part of that, we were going through and we were looking at graphs that predict growth of the business. It was just so funny because Michael’s so analytical and Liz is…

[00:24:43.5] EH: Big picture.

[00:24:45.6] KC: Let’s say the opposite of analytical, yeah big picture — visionary.

[00:24:48.3] MH: Liz is a dreamer and she is excited. Yeah a visionary and I’m very conservative and analytical and cautious.

[00:25:00.4] KC: So anyway, we’re looking at this graph and there is this one big spike in the graph or there is always a big spikes but then after the big spike, it returns to the mean, is that the right word Michael?

[00:25:12.7] MH: Yeah maybe even less than the mean, yeah.

[00:25:15.7] KC: And it was the orange dot. So anyways, all of us dreamers were excited about that big spike and Michael’s like, “The orange dot’s coming up.

[00:25:27.5] MH: Yeah, yeah.

[00:25:27.8] EH: He’s like, “Don’t get excited about the green dot spikes, all that really matters is that it’s always going to come back to an orange dot.” So it was so sad and depressing.

[00:25:38.9] MH: No, everyone gets excited about this massive spike in income and I get excited when those dips in income are increasing. When you’re lowest week in income is increasing from time to time. So I look at the low end and get excited.

[00:25:55.5] EH: A little bit of a buzz kill for the dreamers.

[00:26:00.9] KC: So now, moving forward, so you guys have a ton of success obviously. With that success, you have options like you guys have started to bring in help, right? Was that a difficult transition and have you guys fully landed with it now like bringing in help and bringing in? Because at first a lot of people clasp onto or grasp onto like everything and they don’t want to let go.

[00:26:36.5] EH: Yeah, I think it was a really tough thing but we came back from Smart Success like new people. We were like guns blazing, personal organizer hired, house manager hired, nanny hired.

[00:26:50.1] KC: Whoa, what’s a house manager?

[00:26:52.0] EH: Oh just wait. Like these are all really tough things, prior to Smart Success, for us to really wrap around because there are things that we can most definitely do ourselves and especially for me being the wife, I felt like there was this level of responsibility like this is my job. I work from home, I don’t work a ton of hours because I’ve built my business in a way that I don’t need to work a ton of hours and I have the time to do these things.

However my time is not best spent doing a lot of those things because my time is best spent focusing on my priorities, which are my family, my faith, and then third to those things probably outside of friends and the connections I make, my business. So the thought of hiring someone to food prep for us seemed crazy. After Smart Success, we couldn’t find someone fast enough and it feels amazing.

We’re in what? This is the third week now? We’re starting to feel a little bit more like a well-oiled machine. Our house is like Grand Central Station right now because people are coming in and out and learning what’s what.

[00:28:07.4] KC: Hold on, who are these people?

[00:28:10.1] EH: Oh you know, random schmoes off the street.

[00:28:13.0] KC: No, no so you’ve got the organizer.

[00:28:16.7] EH: Yep.

[00:28:17.2] KC: And then what’s the house manager do?

[00:28:20.4] MH: So a house manager does a lot of the busy work that just takes time and what it takes to run a house. For example, laundry. So she collects the dirty laundry from our hampers, does the laundry, folds the laundry, puts it away in all of our dressers. If we had something to be ironed, she could iron that.

She just took our dry cleaning to a dry cleaners and she’ll pick them up when it’s ready. She grocery shops for us every week and when she brings that home, she cuts it up and washes it and has some meals prepared for us and the snacks also. If we have anything mailed out she does that. So once again, all these stuff is stuff that we can definitely do. At first we felt obligated to do.

That’s our stuff, we’re proud, we can do this, we can handle that, but if we are doing all of that stuff that takes a lot of time and it takes time away from what you want to be doing or what you should be doing like what your God given purpose is in the world. So Smart Success really helped us to figure that out, that we don’t want to be spending our time doing the normal tasks of life. We want to get together and spend time doing what we love and live that life that we’ve always dreamed of.


[00:29:56.5] KC: All right so we’re going to cut out right there. Liz is actually jumping in, she’s going to give her answers to that question but that is for next week’s episode. So hope you’re enjoying this. Hope you are enjoying the little visit, the little time that I had with Liz and Michael. They’re such an amazing couple and family.

So next week, we will continue this conversation. See you there.


[00:30:24.0] KC: Hey, Keith here, and today I have a free gift for you. Listen this free gift is a list of the 12 most influential books that I’ve ever read. These are the books that have helped me to create the mindset, learn the philosophies, learn the skills to really create this big, beautiful, life that we’re living now.

I read a crazy amount of books, I really do. I’ve probably read thousands of books and these are the top 12 books that – they’re the ones that I go to, they’re the ones that I work with over, and over, and over again. They are highlighted, outlined, dog-eared. And I put this list together for you because I want it to be a shortcut.

I don’t want you to have to – you don’t have to go out and read the thousands and thousands of books. These are the 12 that I highly recommend. I have a detailed review for each book, explaining why I recommend them, why I like them, when I worked with them in my life, what part of my life they helped me to improve.

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[00:32:27] KC: Today’s episode is brought to you by our sister podcast, All About Beachbody Coaching. So All About Beachbody Coaching really allows us to do this podcast without having all those annoying commercials in the beginning for you. So All About Beachbody Coaching, the Beachbody business that Amy and I run, actually funds this podcast.

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Alright, much love guys. Again, that is the All About Beachbody Coaching Podcast, our sister podcast.

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