Category: Personal

You Can Figure It Out

Ellen Fondiler | Go Get It!

You can figure it out.

A doctor, a marine biologist, and a lawyer walk into a bar… and decide to start a bakery together.

No, it’s not a joke, and there’s no punch line. It actually happened. (I was the lawyer!)

We were good friends, all with highly demanding careers. One of us was going through a rocky divorce. All of us were craving a “change of pace.” A new project, a new chapter, who knows, maybe even a whole new profession.

“Baking!” I said. “We could start a bakery together and do cookies, pies, and bread. We’re smart. How hard could it possibly be?”

Somehow this hare-brained idea became a reality. We had no culinary experience aside from baking at home, no business experience, no marketing experience, and basically no idea what we were getting ourselves into. But we were passionate, curious, and willing to research our butts off and figure it out.

It didn’t take long before we realized that running a bakery is a lot tougher than it appears. You’re not sitting around spooning chocolate frosting and cheesecake into your mouth all day long!

We had to get up at 4am to start baking, and sometimes we baked all night long in order to do early morning deliveries. Our oven and mixers broke down constantly, leading to quite a few panicked scrambles. When we weren’t kneading dough, we were pounding the pavement to spread the word about our new business. I personally marched into almost every single restaurant and hotel within a twenty-five mile radius to give them free samples and see if they’d start offering our products on their dessert menus.

It was a pretty crazy time in our lives, and by the end of each day, the three of us were coated in sweat, butter, and flour, completely exhausted, with aching backs and feet. And then—because why not make things even crazier?—we decided to open three additional retail locations. Crazy, definitely, but also deeply satisfying. We were doing it. Really doing it! Our bakery business was thriving.

When I reflect back on that time in my life, I have to chuckle. I was young, excitable, and occasionally a bit reckless. I took big risks and pursued my goals ferociously, often without really knowing what I was getting myself into. But I always trusted that I could figure it out along the way—and I always did!

I wound up starting 5 different businesses over the course of my career, each one in a completely different industry, and each time, I had to leap first and then figure things out in mid-flight.

In life, when we’re faced with a goal that’s big, daunting, or unfamiliar, we want to know “how it’s going to go” and “how it’s going to feel” and “what’s coming next.” But with certain types of goals, there’s just no way you can possibly collect “all of the answers” at the beginning of your journey. You’ve just got to leap—and trust yourself.

You’ve got to trust that you’re smart enough, that you’re strong enough, that you’re resourceful enough, and that you will be able to figure it out as you go along.

Because the truth is, you will. You are competent, and capable, and if all else fails, there’s always Google!

No matter how audacious your goal may be…

You can figure it out.


Ellen Fondiler | Go Get It!

If you’ve got a career, business, or income-related goal that you’d really like to achieve, don’t wait until you’ve got “all the answers” before moving forward—because you’ll probably be waiting forever! Clarity comes with action.

Check out GO GET IT!, an online coaching program that will push you to do things you’ve been putting off for way too long.

GO GET IT! graduates are lining up new jobs, launching and expanding their businesses, earning tons of extra money, and securing media attention for their work. (One just got featured in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine!)

It’s so exciting to watch what happens when you choose a goal and pursue it with one hundred percent commitment for six weeks in a row! The next session of the program begins on October 10th. You can see all the details and enroll HERE.

I love co-teaching this class—along with my amazing friend Susan Hyatt—and we’d both love to have you join in!

Top image: Willie Franklin

I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life


After running a successful nonprofit organization for 12 years, I decided it was time for a new career chapter to begin. I stepped down. My position was filled with a new person.

Friends asked me:

“What’s next? Are you going to retire? Are you looking for a new job? What’s the plan?”

I hated these questions because the truth was… there was no plan.

For the first time in many years, I didn’t have a big, exciting vision to sink my teeth into. I didn’t feel called in any particular direction. I knew I wasn’t ready to “retire” (I’m not sure I ever will be!) but in terms of a new career objective… Nope. I felt blank.

I gave myself a few months to rest, spend time with family, and softly contemplate my options, hoping that the path forward would become clear. But it didn’t.

Then I decided to attend an event where a personal hero of mine — the philanthropist Lynne Twist was scheduled to speak onstage. I was ready to be challenged, stimulated, and uplifted—and she did not disappoint. I felt invigorated by her speech, excited to rediscover my purpose and charge forward into…

What, exactly?

As her speech ended, I realized, “That was thrilling, but… I still have no idea what to do with my life.”

Panic set into my bones.

I noticed Lynne moving towards the exit and I dashed over, hoping to talk for a few minutes.

“Lynne, could I grab you for just one minute?” I asked.

She was gracious enough to stop and chat. One minute, of course, turned into about fifteen minutes. I confessed my confusion and paralysis. I told her about my past — as a successful attorney, a passionate entrepreneur, and a respected non-profit director — and I explained how I felt blank and uncertain about what I’m supposed to do next. Words tumbled out… and then I paused for breath.

Lynne responded:

“Pretend that it’s 20 years from now,” she said, “And The New York Times just did a huge article about you and your work. Because of this article, Oprah asks to interview you. She asks you the question: ‘Why did you decide to do this work?’ What would you say to her?”

I imagined myself sitting across the table from Oprah. My paralysis disappeared.

I told Lynne, “I want to help people find meaningful, exciting work. I want to help people do good work in the world.”

She smiled.

I realized, “That’s it. I found my next ‘thing’.”

A plan began to formulate in my mind.

I could start offering career coaching and consulting for people who want to find a new job, or start a new business, or complete an ambitious career-related project.

I could teach programs on goal-setting, network building, and negotiation.

I could… my brain whirled with excitement, filled with dozens of potential ideas.

“I know I can do this,” I told myself.

That small conversation with Lynne inspired me to go for it… and I haven’t looked back.

Today, I want to pose that same question to you.

Pretend that it’s 20 years from now. A major media luminary wants to interview you about your work. She asks: “Why did you decide to do this work?”

What would you say?

Don’t worry if you don’t have a clear “job title” or “plan” in mind right now. Try to answer that question anyway. Start talking aloud to yourself in your car—you can pretend you’re talking on your Bluetooth headset! Or start writing and see what comes out of your pen. It can be so powerful to project yourself into the future.

What is your future-self longing for you to pursue?



PS. Let’s talk about the immediate future for a moment. Before 2016 is over, would you like to… put an extra $5K into your savings account? Negotiate a raise at your job? Launch a new business offering and sell it out?

Right now, I invite you to choose 1 specific career, business, or income-related goal… write it down as specifically as you can… and let’s work on that goal for 6 weeks in a row! (Serious progress: guaranteed.)

Enroll now for GO GET IT!, a super-motivating coaching program that I co-teach along with my friend Susan Hyatt. The program begins on October 10th. Enroll right here. We’ll coach, nudge, push, and inspire you to meet—or exceed—your goal.

(Your future self will be so proud.)

Top image: Willie Franklin

Go Get It!


As a teenager, I was highly opinionated and, like most teens, I thought I was much smarter than most of the adults around me. I couldn’t WAIT to graduate from high school and begin my real, cool, grown-up life. Also, I wasn’t very into “school spirit.” Football games, dances, things like that? Snore. Really not my thing.

So I was pretty surprised when I was asked to help produce the senior prom.

“Why me?” I wondered. “I hate proms!”

But the folks in charge insisted that they needed me on the team. My first task: Selecting a band to perform at the dance.

I never do anything half-assed, so I decided to go after one of the hottest bands in the country: Gary Lewis & the Playboys. OK, maybe you’ve never heard of them, but back then? They were super popular with a #1 song at the top of the charts—not quite Kanye West or Kendrick Lamar-level famous, but pretty close!

I did some research, found the phone number of the band manager, and called him up.

(Looking back, I am sure he was pretty stunned to answer the phone and hear a teenage girl’s voice on the other end!)

I confidently introduced myself and explained that I wanted Gary Lewis & the Playboys to perform at my school’s prom. I told him our budget (basically nothing) and waited for his response.

There was a pause.

Then, he said “yes.”

Why did he say “yes” to my insane, unreasonable, totally unsolicited proposition? Honestly, to this day, I have no idea. Maybe he was just caught off guard and said “yes” in a moment of confusion. Maybe he was impressed by my courage and chutzpah. Maybe I just happened to catch him on a great day, when he was in a generous mood. Whatever the case: HE SAID YES!

The band came to my prom, the kids could not believe it, and I became the hero of my school.

It’s been a long time since I graduated from high school. I’ll refrain from saying exactly how many years—a lady is entitled to a bit of mystery! But I’ve never forgotten that experience.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked as an attorney, I’ve raised millions for causes I believed in, and I’ve launched 4 businesses—along with raising 2 amazing boys. I’ve had so many moments where my “goal” or “dream” seemed so unattainable. I’ve had moments where I literally felt paralyzed with fear. In those moments, though, I return back to this question:

“Yeah, but… what if I just call them up and ask?”

What’s the worst that could happen? Usually nothing that bad.

What’s the best that could happen? I could get everything I want. I could reach my goal. Or maybe even wind up with something better.

I’ve learned that no matter what you want—whether it’s a better office, a more flexible schedule, a bigger salary, or for your dream client to hire you—absolutely nothing happens if you take a passive approach. It’s easy to hide behind fears or excuses. But the kinds of people who consistently get what they want don’t make excuses—they make an effort, they make things happen, and sometimes, they even make history.

I’ve also learned that locked doors are an illusion—today, more so than ever. Everyone has an email address. Everyone has a phone number. Everyone (well, almost everyone!) has at three two or three social media profiles. Everyone is reachable.

With the right attitude and the right strategy, any door can be unlocked.

What could you unlock for yourself, this week, simply by asking for it?

A new opportunity? A business connection? More money? More respect?



Imagine if you chose one career, business, or income goal and you pursued that goal with 100 percent commitment for six weeks in a row. Imagine how much progress you would make! Even better: imagine if you had not one, but TWO coaches guiding you along, giving you tons guidance on all kinds of topics including negotiation, sales, marketing and email-writing to help you attain your goal and get exactly what you’re yearning for. (Or maybe: something better.)

If what I’ve just described sounds exciting to you, don’t miss my newest program: GO GET IT!

More opportunities. More money. More respect. Whatever you want? Name it and claim it inside this exciting coaching program, which I am co-teaching along with a fabulous friend of mine: master life coach and author Susan Hyatt.

Enrollment for GO GET IT! Is open and you’ll get a generous bundle of “thank you” gifts when you sign up.

Here’s all the info. See you inside!


Why I walked away from everything… to unlock a new door.

Ellen Fondiler | Why I walked away from everything... to unlock a new door.

Three and a half years ago, I walked away from everything I had fought to create.

I had an enviable position as the director of a non-profit. An organization doing tremendously good work in the world. An organization that I had personally founded — and one that I had nurtured for over twelve years.

I knew — in my heart — that my time at this particular organization was complete.
I knew that I had reached the end of one adventure and that “something else” was waiting for me just ahead.

Except… what?

The truth is, when I chose to leave my position at the non-profit, I was totally clueless about what my “next step” was going to be.

Friends and colleagues would ask me, “Now what?” and I would say, “I’ll get back to you on that.”

The path ahead of me seemed vast and unknown.

This wasn’t the first time I had been in this position. Over the course of my life, I have launched and sold four different businesses. I’ve worked in a wide range of industries — from practicing law to lawnscape design. “Starting over” is not a foreign concept for me. It’s actually something I’m quite good at.

I figured I’d have a brand new business or job rolling within a matter of months. Just like every time before.

But this time proved to be different.

For whatever reason, this time, I felt… murky. I tested out different business concepts and ideas and nothing felt right. I launched a website and then tore it down. I attended workshops and seminars trying to find my “next step.” It just wasn’t clear to me yet.

I began to grow frustrated. “Why can’t I just choose something already?” It was tough.

I had to learn how to be gentler and more patient with myself. I learned to be present and grateful for what I did have, instead of fretting about what I didn’t. I learned to “keep the faith” that whatever career I was meant to have, next, would reveal itself to me in time.

It was not easy.

There were moments when I felt lost, sad, and totally convinced that I would never have meaningful work — or a steady income — ever again.

I was wrong.

I can’t pin-point exactly when my breakthrough moment arrived, but I know that I found the clarity I was seeking once I allowed myself to get still, calm, and quiet — and once I answered two questions:

– What do I love to do?

I realized: what I love to do, more than anything else, is help people find exciting, meaningful work. (Land incredible jobs, make unbelievable connections, launch amazing businesses. It’s something I’ve always done, throughout my life, for hundreds of friends and colleagues. I’ve always been my community’s go-to “career mentor.”)

– What do I believe about the world — that I wished other people believed, too?

I realized: my core belief is that every door can be unlocked. Nothing is outside of your reach if you’ve got grit, courage and focus. Even a career that seems “too good to be true” can be yours if you’ve got the right attitude and approach. It’s all possible!

Once I found my answers to those two questions, everything became vibrantly clear:

I want to launch a new business that helps people find exciting, meaningful work.

I want to show people that every door can be unlocked.

With that: I found it. My next step.

My “next step” is what you are looking at today: a brand new website, blog and collection of services and resources for you — and for anyone who dreams of having a career that makes you want to leap out of bed in the morning!

This new business has been over a year in the making. Over the past twelve months, I’ve been hard at work producing The Unlocked Academy: a series of 12 workbooks to help you identify your strengths and talents… get through insecurity and resistance… write a résumé… get funding for your business concept… and unlock every door in your way. I’ve also rolled out a small collection of 1-on-1 services for people who need extra mentoring, strategy, editing and motivation.

They say it takes a village to make big things happen — and that is so true. I could not have brought this new business into the world without the help of so many people. Alexandra Franzen, Shauna Haider, my amazing boys, Lexy and Willie, my dear friends, and the hundreds of amazingly talented and creative people I have met along the way: they’ve all been part of the Unlocked story.

One of my favorite poets, John O’Donohoe, once wrote:

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm
For your soul senses the world that awaits you

I hope that my work helps you to “awaken your spirit” to the adventures that await you.

I believe that you deserve to have a career that you absolutely love. Quite honestly, anything less is a waste of your time.

Thank you for being on this journey with me. It’s all just the beginning…

Find great work. Do great work. Unlock every door in your way.


Image: Unlocked Academy. Grab your free workbook right here!