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Some (slow and powerful) Progress

By August 11, 2013Mack's Musings

I found myself all choked up today after dropping Ryan off at pre-school. She had her five year old checkup and had to get her Kindergarten shots. She was trying so hard to be brave but she couldn’t hold back the tears. I told her that sometimes when we get scared we cry because it’s a way of releasing the anxiety and frustration we feel about something.

A few minutes after getting her shots and regaining her composure she told me that she had been real brave. She just had a lot of ‘frustration’ and so she needed to cry a little.

Mack and Ry
When we finished up with the doctor, I brought Ryan back to pre-school and left her on the playground with all of her friends. All the kids gathered around to gawk at her Tweety Bird band-aid, wondering if it hurt. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s going to Kindergarten next week, or maybe it’s because there have been so many blessings pouring down on me these days, but the ‘frustration’ got the best of me and I needed to cry a little, too.

Letting go

Mack Web contracted with a business consultant back in June to facilitate StratOps. It’s a strategical operations exercise for your business that helps you take a hard look at where you’ve been, where you want to go, and what it’s going to take to get you there.

StratOps normally kicks off as a two-day, off-site retreat with select team members (because Mack Web is a small team, all six of us participated). Then, once you’ve had a couple months to work through all the stuff that came out of the initial retreat, the facilitator comes back to do a scrub. Progress is checked, challenges are discussed, new initiatives are set. And the process repeats.


After our first run of StratOps – two days of intense questioning and looking at the hard truths – the team agreed on four initiatives we were going to work on for the next three months. Team leaders were chosen and tasks were assigned. And for the first time ever, nothing was assigned to me.

I had no idea that’s how it was going to play out. And actually, I was really uncomfortable. I felt anxiety about whether they would be able to accomplish this very important stuff and guilt about the extra load the team would need to carry in order to get it done. Our facilitator assured me it would give the team a sense of ownership that would catapult them forward.

She was right.

StratOps was my first big girl lesson in letting go (which was, ironically, a challenge one of my mentors had given me just weeks before). I didn’t realize how much I was holding on to until I was away for a week at MozCon. It’s amazing how much clarity you get when you go away. In the months leading up to my trip, we had hired three people. They were new and their roles were new and I was working hard to train them at a level that was new to us, too.

I thought I was being thorough and leading by example. But in actuality I was holding them back. I had done the hard work of hiring well and it was time to get out of the way.

Letting go not only lightened my load, but there’s stuff happening right now. Better stuff. Stuff that I never could have put in place by myself. The team seems more in control. More willing to take initiative and try things out. It’s kind of amazing how it was just that little thing to start with and now it feels like a whole new company.

Learning (not) to react

When I went to Seattle, I took one of our new Strategists with me. Moz was generous enough to provide each speaker with a comp ticket, so I took Julie. She was the more seasoned of our three new hires and I was grooming her for leadership. I wanted her to experience first-hand the power of conferences in our industry and what better first one to take her to than MozCon?

A week after we got back she quit.

What’s amazing about Julie (and a big reason why I hired her) is that she gets people. She’s a gentle observer. She’s incredibly intelligent and she can read people and see things that sometimes I can’t.

When we were at MozCon, Julie told me she was amazed by how at home I seemed in that space. Those people were my people, she told me. She could see how happy I was and how much it energized me to be around everyone. Watching me at MozCon helped her to get me and it also helped her to get herself. She realized that it didn’t matter what role we moved her into at Mack Web. She had to find that for her and it wasn’t here.

I don’t think either of us have regrets. We joke about how Julie is Glinda our Good Witch and that she was meant to come to Mack Web to help us figure some shit out. And we did, and we still are, but her leaving brings clarity on roles that we would not have had this soon if Julie decided to stay. And that clarity will take a huge load off the team and really help our company this year.

And so it goes.

I was actually really surprised at my reaction to Julie’s news. I was calm. I didn’t get overly emotional about it. I realized that this is just part of the process of people. They will come and go. We will do good things together and I will learn a lot. And the less I choose to have a Jerry Maguire reaction, the better:


I do a lot of yoga and one of my favorite teachers says this a lot:

How you do anything is how you do everything.

So for now, I’m working constantly to figure out how to do things different. How to do things better. How to enjoy more. How to just leave things alone. Between growing Mack Web and raising a family, I’ve got a whole lot of opportunity to practice.

But the good thing is that I’ve figured a few things out:

  1. My kids are all that matters.
  2. None of the travel and speaking and exciting (but emotionally exhausting) Mack Web stuff that I get to do would ever be possible if I wasn’t married to a man like Jon.
  3. I’ll never get there. Just like raising my kids, this running a company thing is always going to be full of struggle (and I have to remind myself of this every. single. day.). There isn’t really a balance. But I do what I can with what I have and I know that there is going to be some really good stuff along the way.

There already is.


Author Mack Fogelson

More posts by Mack Fogelson

Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Ross Hudgens says:

    Elegant and powerfully written post, Mack. Thank you for writing it. Your journey is an exciting and inspiring one to watch.

    • Mack says:

      Thanks Ross. I appreciate you reading. I’m always torn when I publish these types of posts as I’m running a pretty small outfit here (and am no Rand Fishkin). But my intention is to hopefully help someone else in a similar situation feel like they’re not alone. This is tough stuff and there’s no easy way through it.

      Hope things are great for you.

  • Dan Leibson says:

    Thanks for sharing this post, I always find these personal insights to be incredibly helpful on forcing me to look inside and recognize my own hard truths and figure out a go forward plan.

    Also, Julie was awesome and am sorry to here that she left, but hope she finds nothing but success.

    • Mack says:

      My pleasure Dan. Thanks for reading. Sometimes I get tired of the self-aware voice that I’m always hearing but it really does help me to push forward and make changes. For me it’s a balance between not letting things slide and not being so hard on myself. Always a work in progress.

      Yes, Julie is leaving on great terms. I am proud of her for doing what’s right for her and her passions. She will always be a part of Mack Web.

  • Jeanie Walker says:

    Your brave post and humble transparency about your process, the events and your ability to be honest with yourself (and your audience) is so inspiring, Mack. Thank you so very much for this. It couldn’t be more timely. ~ Jeanie

  • Nothing to add here 🙂 I just loved this post. I especially love the yoga quote – that truly resonates and I think is something that is easy for people to forget when doing the small things, which ultimately do matter as much as the big things (often times, much more).

    • Mack says:

      Thanks Michelle. It sounds funny but yoga has helped me so much over the years. It’s like my counselor and personal trainer all wrapped into one 🙂

      I’m starting to realize that there really is no separation between the things in our work lives and personal lives. It’s all just living your life and it’s always a lot of work. But it also needs to be a lot of joy, too, or why do it? So I’m really working on that. I’ll let you know how that goes 🙂

  • Julie Sutter says:

    There is nothing that screams leadership more than letting go does. I am so lucky to have you in my life, Mack, and so awed by your ability to speak the truth and let others (me included, obviously) speak theirs. Looking forward to learning from you for many years to come. Thanks for continuing to remind me what the real deal looks like, and for pointing out how important it is for each of us to forge own path. Here’s to the Yellow Brick Road and what lies ahead for each of us (never mind the Winged Monkeys and those creepy trees). <3

  • Ronell Smith says:


    Talk about powerful. You are a wonderful, strong, giving, sincere person. No one doubts the success you enjoy and will continue to enjoy.

    Thanks for sharing such a touching moment.


  • This really resonates with a lot of what I’m going through right now. I find that accepting loss and letting go of perceived control are some of our biggest struggles, but the work that we do there is also some of the most meaningful.

    One of my favorite images lately is the one Olivia Wilde provides in this post (

    “Consider your baggage (bad boyfriends, job setbacks, body issues) lost by the airline of life, leaving you empty-handed at your new destination with only one choice: Go shopping.”

  • It is always nice to get some perspective on growing a business from someone like you. We’re a couple people behind – there are four of us – and many of the organizational challenges you face could be right around the corner for us.

    Thanks for sharing, Mack!

  • Cara says:

    Well said chica! We are going through the exact same things here, and I think you addressed perfectly what Dave and I both struggle with and “fight about” on a daily basis. You are doing an amazing job this year with all of the new growth. Keep up all of the good work and remember your inner Dory, “Just keep swimming!”

    • Mack says:

      Thanks Cara. And same to you and your awesome business. It’s the fighting with myself I’m trying to do less of. Makes a big difference when you just surrender to all of this stuff.

  • My favorite Mack post of all time. 🙂 Obviously going through something similar, we shadow each other in many ways, and this spoke to my core. Been drafting my “come back” post for awhile now with a similar tone, but frankly, it’s getting me too emotional to publish just yet. One day soon and I hope I’m able to convey my thoughts as succinctly and gracefully as you did here.

    • Mack says:

      Thanks so much Rhea. I know the feeling. I often tear up when I’m writing these things. That’s when I know they’re ready to be written. Those are the best ones and they often make the biggest impact.

      Isn’t it amazing to be a mom? I have so much passion for my business but I certainly wouldn’t trade that for what I have with my kids (which is often a really challenging position to be in).

      So good to hear from you. Glad to hear you’re back.

  • Love this Mack. I also struggle with letting go of things and relinquishing control over a given situation. And on a perhaps-less-related note, I really like the StratOps idea of taking time out from everyday work to focus on the ‘big stuff’. Made me think that maybe I need a personal StratOps day, haha!
    I’ve just finished The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and one of the things that really resonated with me in that book was the contrast between ‘important’ things and ‘urgent’ things. It’s so easy to get caught up reacting to urgent things and not take the time out to really think about where we’re trying to get to (even if we’ll never actually get ‘there’, as you say). But I guess that’s why being able to say ‘this is what’s really important to me’ is so crucial.
    Just my two cents. 🙂

    • Mack says:

      Hey Bridget. You’ll be happy to know that they do actually offer StratOps for your personal side. It’s called a Life Plan and for as much value as StratOps has brought our business, I’m sure it would do a number on your life 🙂

      We spend each Friday (we call it Innovation Friday) working on StratOps stuff. It surely has helped to keep us focusing on solving the right problems. Don’t get me wrong, we end up in the weeds a lot, but StratOps has helped us to keep focused on what is important to the company and taking the action required to help us get ahead.

      Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • Brett Snyder says:

    Love the candid and honest insights here Mack, there aren’t enough people sharing this type of content and it’s refreshing to learn from this new perspective. The hard part is it’s almost impossible (IMHO at least) to really understand this concept as intimately as you described without experiencing it yourself but you have to be receptive to it and learn to recognize these types of learning moments when they arrive. However, your last points about having clear priorities and an honest evaluation of who you (and your business) are and what you want will certainly stick with me. Cheers!

    • Mack says:

      Thanks for your kind comment Brett and thanks for reading. It’s wonderful that sharing this stuff resonates with people. I love writing it as it is quite cathartic. Helps me to realize that I have learned something in the process. Glad to know it helps other people as well.

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