Shutting Down and Opening Up: A Conversation with Marie Poulin, Creator of Notion Mastery

Notion expert Marie Poulin and Michele to talk about the decision to shut down Marie's first SaaS, Doki, running a course business, and what it's like to be a founder with ADHD.

 Pre-order Michele's book on talking to customers! 

Michele Hansen  00:00
Welcome back to Software Social. This episode is sponsored by Approximated.

If you need to connect custom user domains to your app, Approximated can help. It can route any domain or subdomain to any application, all easily managed with a simple API or web dashboard.

You can have unlimited connected domains automatically secured with SSL certificates for one flat rate.

Website builders, communities and marketplaces all happily use Approximated every day to manage thousands of custom domains for their users.

And it was built by an indie founder just like you, so every support request is handled by a developer who will personally help you out.

Head over to today and mention Software Social when you sign up to get an extra month for free. 

Michele Hansen
Hey, welcome back to Software Social. We have another guest with us this week. I am so excited to have my friend, Marie Poulin, here today. She is the creator of Notion Mastery, which is this amazing Notion course that has over 1200 students, averaging $45,000 MRR. Pretty amazing business that she has built up. Welcome to Software Social, Marie.
Marie Poulin  01:18
Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to chat. 
Michele Hansen  01:21
So um, people listening may know you from all of your YouTube videos and courses with Notion, which have been crazy successful, and only, only, since October 2019, since you launched it, but I actually want to talk about something else. So you had another business, a course business called Doki, and actually, the last time I spoke, like, like, like, actually spoke with you like, internet friend is so funny. Like, I feel like I talk to you all the time, but actually, like talk to you, talk to you, was you and your husband, Ben, were thinking about what to do with Doki and whether you should sell it or shut it down.
Marie Poulin  02:15
Yes, and you very kindly reached out with some suggestions on how we might handle that. And it, it sort of wasn't, I don't want to say it wasn't our passion anymore, but yeah, you know, Ben got offered a full time gig. So for anybody listening, my husband and I teamed up back in 2014 to, to run our company together. We built a software and we ran it for I mean, five-ish years or so, and I think neither one of us was, it was definitely our first software project. And it was that build a giant software project that does all of the things and, you know, kind of wishing that we had done something smaller when we learned about the whole software building all of the different pieces. And so when we first went to MicroCon, that was, it was just so eye opening how many things we had done wrong, and it was it was a really wonderful learning experience. But I think it kind of showed us that there were parts of that, that just, I don't know that either of us was super excited to go 100% all in on it. I liked the working with people side of online courses and actually shipping and working on their websites, and just all of, all the other pieces of it other than the software. And so the burden was really on Ben to build all the features and do customer support, and, you know, he was pretty much like the solo founder handling all of those parts of the software, and I was handling more of the consulting side of it. And it was a huge burden on him. It was huge. And so when he got offered a full time job, it was a chance for him to step into more of a leadership role, be challenged, be working with other people, and it just, he really flourished. And I think it was something he was missing. Like, when you're a solo founder, you're just, you know, you're wearing every single hat. You're making all the decisions. And if you're bumping up against stuff you've never seen, it's pretty tough. It's a tough life to be, to be solo founder. So I was really encouraging him to, to kind of explore this new venture, but it sort of meant that Doki got left in the dust a little bit. And so we kind of took our foot off the gas, and just in this year in January 2021 we decided what if we just kind of shut down signups and, and just kind of let it do its thing and just kind of keep supporting the clients that were still using it, more like our consulting clients and not really market at widely. And so we did and I was like, how do you feel about this? And he's like, oh, I feel I feel so relieved. And I think that was really important that it didn't feel sad. It didn't feel like oh no, we're shutting this thing down. Like he felt like no, this is a chapter of my life that was great. And now it's over. So it's been a journey.
Michele Hansen  04:54
So, I mean on, you know, on this podcast, you know, we talk a lot about like, getting a SaaS off of the ground, or I guess, in my case now, like, getting an info product off the ground, and then also running those companies. But there's this other phase of it, which is exiting, and sometimes exiting means selling a company, or, you know, being acquihired by someone, or it means shutting it down. And I'm wondering if you can kind of talk through that a little bit about how you guys decided to sunset it, rather than sell it.
Marie Poulin  05:37
Yeah, because we had gone through this conversation back and forth. And we even had, you know, several people who had made offers to buy, and it felt actually pretty close, like, that was something we were really seriously considering. And again, you're, it was just really, really valuable to get your, your insights on that, and to have somebody that, you know, not attached to it just kind of as an outsider giving us perspective on that. And so we, we had some meetings, and we definitely considered it, and I think the burden of what would have needed to happen to be able to make that handoff happen in a way, such that it could actually be successful for those who are taking it over, felt too big for Ben. I think it was, again, given that his attention was elsewhere, it there was just such a cognitive load associated with all of that cleanup work, and just, just kind of the whole process of that transition. And it's possible that it may not have actually been that much work. It's kind of hard to know, in hindsight, but I think the anticipation of that, and just, you know, when Ben does something, he wants to do it properly, and he wouldn't have felt good, I think to just kind of pass it off as is knowing how much legacy work needed to be rebuilt. And he, he just didn't feel comfortable with it. And I was like, you know, I don't know this stuff as well as you do. And if you feel really confident and happy to just kind of say, you know, what, we're totally cool to just, like, the, the amount just kind of doesn't match up with, with what it would be worth to do that work, and how much extra time it would have taken him outside of his full time job. It just, it didn't feel like it was quite worth it to do that investment of the work. So that was a decision I sort of felt it was kind of up to them to make as a burden was really on him, and I think he felt a huge relief, honestly, even just like taking the signup off of the site. And just realizing, like, our business has gone in such a different direction, and it's okay to say goodbye to this chapter, and so it felt good. And I think that was really important is can we stand behind this decision? Does it feel good? Does it release a certain, you know, energetic burden, and it really did, and so that we felt good at the end of the day, for us that, that was the right decision.
Michele Hansen  07:44
I'm struck by how much respect I hear in that. You know, there's the respect that you have for Ben, that this was something that he knew really well and what like, had, you know, that, that, that transition work would have been on on him and your respect for that. And then his and also sort of both of your respect for your emotions, and recognizing those as valid and worth prioritizing, and, because I think some people say, oh, well, I'll, you know, get a lot of money from this. So you know, screw my feelings, like, you know, just have to suck it up, suck it up and do it. Like, I mean, the the market for even small SaaS companies like Doki, like, like, just for content, like, how much was Doki, like, making when you decided to shut it down? I mean, Ben would certainly have a better sense of the numbers at that point that we made the decision. I mean, certainly the pandemic did have a big impact. And we'd already kind of stopped doing any new feature development, even maybe the year before the pandemic hit. So I would say, you know, at its height, maybe $50,000 in a year. So we had some months that were like 4k, maybe 5k, and so by the time we shut it down, it was like 2500 to 2000. Like, nothing to sneeze at in terms of it was very low maintenance and, you know, covers our mortgage and expensive, like, that's awesome. But there is that mental load that's required there that you're kind of always thinking about that uptime, or you're thinking about how long, how long can we go not adding any features and not doing anything to really kind of improve or support or even do any marketing. So in some ways, it sort of felt like there was a time limit on how long we could get away with just, just letting it kind of simmer in the, in the background and not give it its full attention, and so it didn't feel good in that way that it it did have this sort of energetic burdensome feeling, and so respect is is absolutely huge. Like, you know, both Ben and I are incredibly autonomous. Like, we have always kind of worked almost like two separate founders under the same brand umbrella. So even when we partnered up, we still very much had our own projects, our own clients, and there's a lot of trust there with like, Ben and I are very different people, very different types of projects, very different things that light us up. And so, you know, Ben has higher anxiety than I do, and when we first launched Doki, I know the feeling of always being on and having to answer those customer support questions, and I think it takes a bigger toll on him than, than it might other people. And so that has to be factored in, like, what's the point of building these, like, software and these businesses that support our lives when it's just adding to our daily stress? Like, that's, that's not the point, right? So I think for both of us, it does really matter. Like, what kind of life are we building for ourselves? And if, are we building something that just feels like another job, but we just kind of built our own jail? Like, that's, that's not really fun. So I think we have a lot of understanding and respect for, yeah, what kind of life are we building, and ideally reducing stress and not adding to it so that, that was really important to me that he felt really good about that enclosure and didn't feel like oh, this was a failure, or, you know, it didn't go the way we wanted. For me, I'm like, holy crap, we learned an epic crap ton. You know, we just, it was just absolute, you know, entrepreneurship school on steroids. Like, you know, you just learned so many different parts from your customer research and the technical capacity and all the decisions that once you've done it once, and then it's almost too late, like, the wheels are in motion, and you've already, there's already, like, technical debt as soon as you started. It's a wonderful learning opportunity, and part of us wishes we'd tried it on something small, but my gosh, the learning has been incredible. So I don't, I don't regret any of it, and I don't think he does, either. It's the reason he has the job that he does now. It, he's, he's just like, both of us, I think are just highly skilled people that are going to adapt whatever happens like okay, cool. That was an awesome chapter. Next. What's next, you know.  You guys are incredibly emotionally intelligent and atuned, and, I mean, yeah, I mean, that you take that kind of focus is really, I think, remarkable and really commendable. And, you know, so after we had we had talked last fall, I guess, you guys were still kind of, you were unclear on whether you were going to shut it down or you were going to sell it, and I just tweeted out if anybody was interested in buying a SaaS, I think I said it had like 2.4k MRR. And I got so many messages after that, but I actually just got another one last week, and I got one, like, three months ago, like, the market for really, like really tiny SaaS companies is just, just bonkers. And I think it's so amazing that you prioritized how, like, not just the money, but how you felt about it. Now, of course that the notion courses making 45,000 a month and Ben has a full time job, like, that sort of makes it a little bit easier to make decisions that are not just guided by the financials, I imagine.
Marie Poulin  13:16
Definitely. That's true. Yeah. Yeah, I'm sure that, that was a part of it was just, okay, we're not we don't have to make a purely financial decision right now, so what's going to feel, yeah, what's gonna feel the best? And I guess, yeah, I guess they didn't realize that maybe not everybody is as driven that way, but I'm definitely a very feelings driven person, and I know, we've talked about this a little bit with, with the sort of, you know, likely being an ADD or ADHD founder, and just, I didn't realize before, I think, how much of my decision making around how I've shaped my business has been, like, I've talked about it in terms of alignment and, you know, values-driven and that sort of thing. But I think part of it is I cannot muster up the energy to do stuff I'm not super freakin' stoked about. So I do kind of factor that into all my decisions. Like, I'm never going to design services that I'm going to be resentful of as soon as I'm designing them. It's like, if I already know I'm going to be resentful doing all these calls, like, I just cannot make that, that service available. So I do think I've gotten pretty tuned into like, alright, what's the stuff that lights me up, and how do I craft my offers so that I can be totally shining and excited about them? Because that, that's just, I guess, how I move through the world.
Michele Hansen  14:34
It seems like you combine this incredible self-awareness about what energizes you and prioritizing what energizes you with this huge sense of responsibility for the users of what you have created.
Marie Poulin  14:54
Yeah, I'd like, I'd like to think so. I mean, you know, one of the things that happened when we first launched Doki, was that people were signing up for it, and then they weren't shipping. Right? It's like anything now, like the time that it takes to actually launch a course, and I know you've had, you know, episodes with Colleen about this of just what it really takes to really grow an online course and actually make it a sustainable living. And so people would, would sign up thinking the tech was gonna solve that for them, and they're all, like, ready to go, and they they pick the technology well before they have their content created. And it didn't feel good that there were people paying us a monthly thing and they had never shipped a course yet. So, the first thing I did was like, well, we need to get people shipping faster, how do I do this? And I ended up creating a course that was run your learning launch that was trying to get people to like, get the shitty first draft of your course out as soon as possible, right. Like, co-create it with people. I'm a huge, huge believer, in co-creating products with your people. They are going to tell you what they want, they tell you what they need, and then the words that they use in those sessions, in those live calls that you're doing with people, that's exactly what shapes your, your sales pages and stuff. So I, I'm just a big fan of working with people on this stuff, and not just, you know, working in secret for six months building a thing, and then you know, putting it out into the world. Like, we know that it just it just doesn't work that way. So yeah, I think I do carry a huge, huge respect for, for the users that are signing up for my thing. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly. And so even right now with, with the course, I've been working for six months on the new curriculum. It's like, where can I look at all the places that people are stumbling, and maybe we overwhelm new, new people that are coming in like going, oh, my gosh, this course is so big, and then they get scared, and they run away and then they don't complete the course. Like, it does matter to me not just that they complete it, but they actually do experience some kind of transformation through that process. So like, how can I improve the learning outcomes? How can I design this better? I can't help myself, like maybe that's partly a bit of perfectionism. But it's like, I want this to be a really epic experience for them and be really memorable. And, in a way, that's my marketing, right? It's like other people sharing with other people, their experience of the course. To me that feels way better, and way easier than like, chucking a bunch of money into ads and just like getting it in front of people. It's like, no, I want the users to be so excited about it, that they are shouting it from the rooftops and getting people in the door. So yeah, that matters for sure.
Michele Hansen  17:20
It's so interesting, you're talking about like, building collaboratively with people, and, you know, I like I'm a huge advocate of talking to people and talking to customers, but I never really built in public, so to speak, until a couple of months ago, when I was writing my book. And you know, to what you said about, you know, getting early feedback from people and building it with them, that, that has been an incredibly, like, a transformative experience. And it's, it's really remarkable when you combine that combination of, as you said, something that you are super stoked about with other people who are stoked about it, like, you know, like to kind of, you know, talk a little bit about being like, you know, ADHD founder. So like, for so for, just to give us sort of a little bit of context. So like, I was diagnosed with ADD at 11, which I guess they don't diagnose people with anymore, because apparently, like, they were only diagnosing girls with it, or something. So now everything is all under ADHD. And you sort of are recently exploring, like, whether you're ADHD, and so but like, on this, this combination of, you know, working on something you're really passionate about, and then in the course of working on it in public, finding other people who are really passionate about it, who help you improve it, like, I feel like that puts my hyper focus in this insane overdrive.
Marie Poulin  18:54
Yeah. How do you how do you control that? I'm so, I'm so curious kind of what your,
Michele Hansen  18:58
I don't. I, yesterday, I was so annoyed that I had to stop working and make dinner. I was like, can't I just work for like, 48 hours straight, like, and, which is, like, not, like, I, like, my work life balance is a lot better than it used to be like, but I just like it's so, it's, like, painful when I'm really interested in something because it's like, yesterday, I was like, working on the book, like and it was just I was so, like, so fired up about what I was working on. And then I was like, okay, actually, like, we need to, we need to eat. Like, and I have you know, we have a family and like, my husband was mowing the lawn and like, you know, so I was like, okay, I need to like go to the grocery store like, I need to shift gears, but like, the whole time I was there like, you know, yes, I bought like lettuce and yogurt and whatever else we needed, but like, my brain was still like, writing. 
Marie Poulin  19:48
Somewhere else. 
Michele Hansen  19:49
Like, my brain like, was writing and I think, you know, to what you said about how you and Ben work very like, autonomously, like, Mathias and I work together for the most part, and I think this gets frustrating sometimes when I'm still thinking about something else, but I don't give any, like, outward signals of that. I'm just like, a little bit quiet. And like, he like, talks to me and like, I just don't know, 
Marie Poulin  20:12
You're nodding and say you're listening, but you're writing in your head. Yeah.
Michele Hansen  20:14
Yeah. Like, I don't even acknowledge it or, like, I seem like I'm listening. And then he asked me 10 minutes later, like about what he had told me about, and I'm like, what, like, this is new, and he's like, seriously. Like, the hyper focus can be amazing, but also kind of detrimental at the same time because if I have to do anything else, I'm just cranky.
Marie Poulin  20:40
I definitely, I definitely relate to this, and I think this was, this was one of the the signs like, I, I thought, well, I couldn't possibly have ADHD because like, I've been self-employed for 12 years, and I have a successful business and I get things done, and, you know, I sort of had a lot of misconceptions around what it meant to be or have ADHD because my sister has ADHD, too. And she is like, the poster child of what what you think of when you think of ADHD, and very hyperactive, super distracted, extremely extroverted, just like, a million thoughts, like, interrupting other thoughts. And, and I was like, okay, that's what ADHD looks like. It was very distinct. And so because I get things done, I sort of thought, I just had a different perception of it, and I realized that the hyper focus binges that I go on that were like, oh, that explains why like, it can be really hard to tear myself away from, from the screen, and it almost becomes borderline obsessive, and it can be really difficult to manage. So that is one of the signs I started to be like, oh. It always happens in these super inconsistent bursts, right? Very, very wildly inconsistent. And I always, yeah, like, frick, if you just have a dial, you could, you could, you could turn that on when you needed to, but oh my gosh, so I can relate to that. Just, it's inconvenient, and yeah, it's also the thing that helps us kind of push forward and get things done, and it's a wonderful thing when it's there, but it can happen at the detriment of other parts of our lives. So that's definitely something that I struggle with, for sure.
Michele Hansen  22:13
You know, I, like, I relate so hard to that, because I can't possibly, you know, have ADHD because you get so much done. Like, when I was in college, I think there was like, a running joke about how many jobs and side projects I had at any given time. Like, I think it was like, I had, it was like, six. Like, I had a part time job, I had an internship, I had like, volunteering, I had, like, all of these like, side projects with my own going on, like, um, and, but when I, so when I was diagnosed as a kid, like it was very much presented as I had this deficit of focus. And then I had to overcome that deficit of focus, and then like, that was it. And like, I, so I was never like, really in therapy or any sort of treatment. Like I was taught how to manage that, like calendars, and like, planners became a huge part of my life. But when I was, this was when I was in elementary school. So when I was in middle school, I was supposed to have like, you know, a tutor, and like somebody who like worked with me on it, and like, a plan, they call it a 504 plan in the US, but I never actually had it because my grades were too high. And, 
Marie Poulin  23:21
People always think you need the support, right? 
Michele Hansen  23:22
Right. Because it was like, oh, like if you you know, if you have those, like if you have this deficiency, like, she's overcome the deficiency if she's getting A's and B's, so there's no problem here. And I didn't, really for me, it wasn't only until the last like six months or a year that I started understanding all of these other facets of it that, like, it's not just that sometimes I have trouble focusing on tasks I don't want to do. Like, there's all of these other things like, you, you know, that, there's the hyper focus you mentioned, there's the like, the perfectionism that you touched on earlier, you know, there are those kind of, you know, everyone's experience of it is different. But like, I, there's just so many things that like, I thought were me things that were just kidn of weird about me. And then it turns out, there's all these other people who are weird, like me, and,
Marie Poulin  24:16
To read other people's descriptions, and you go, are you kidding me? Like, that's a, that's a thing? I'm not alone? Or like, I thought it was just a family quirk, and then you're like, oh, or is it that actually a good chunk of my family also, you know, like sister's diagnosed and when you look at the behaviors, you're like, oh, yeah, like, it would explain why our family kind of operates this way. And, you know, the more you start to meet people, you're like, oh, okay, there's, there's maybe a reason, too, that, and I don't know if you if you feel this too, but that for example, people with ADHD seem drawn to my work or drawn to my, my style, right? Because I think in some ways you get attracted to different people's communication styles, and I realized, like, in certain calls that I would I have with people that were very energizing, I didn't realize this at the time, it's almost like, you know, when you like, once you see it, you start to see it everywhere, of all the people that I connect with that had ADHD that I didn't know, I was like, oh my gosh, that explains why when we get on a call, neurons are firing, and we're all over the map, and we're just like changing gears, like, constantly, and it just feels like this creative spark is just like, going and going and it's incredible. It's a very different experience with someone whose brain doesn't work that way, and I, I started to clue in, I'm like, oh, maybe there's a reason. And then when you start to look at the behaviors, I'm like, okay, like, it would explain a lot. You know, and you start to kind of look backwards and be like, oh, yeah, all those behaviors start to kind of click into place. And you see, actually, things with a new lens. And when I look at past behaviors, and maybe ways I've really, really judged myself, and I was like, oh my gosh, like, I just, I didn't realize, you know, and I think for me, a big part of that is workaholism, in a way. Like I thought, I really judged myself for being like, oh, I'm like a workaholic, a workaholic. And I thought, yes, and like, it's not so black and white like that. I am very driven by the work that I do because I've so carefully crafted work that I don't hate, and so I've designed work that I love. I'm getting to connect with people and ideas get to form, and I'm always doing new things every day. So of course, like it's feeding that dopamine, I'm like, yeah, it's like, I love this. And so, it is really difficult to shut off work. And so I think I carried a lot of guilt that I work on weekends, but also take really long breaks in the middle of the day and go gardening. And so like, I have found my own ebb and flow, and I think I was really harsh on myself with some of that stuff. And then I was like, well, what if it's actually okay, that my brain is a little more activated than the average person or, or it just kind of feeds off information differently, and maybe I want to consume more courses at a time than the average person. And so it's just brought up a lot of interesting reflection that I'm seeing behaviors and maybe a different light, and that I actually find I'm being a little more compassionate with myself to be like, hey, is that Maria's personality is that ADHD? Is that me coping? Like, it's still very much learning for me. So I'm still kind of just keeping an open mind and just really trying to reflect and notice those behaviors now.
Michele Hansen  27:20
You know, the, we are, you know, what's called sort of neurodivergent people living in a neurotypical world. And I think, from, you touched on sort of that, that guilt about not having sort of, quote, unquote, like, normal patterns for things and ways of thinking about things. And I think unpacking that shame that we don't fit the neurotypical box is so important, because, I think in, you know, education and kind of maybe, and like, when you're not working for yourself, like neurotypical is the standard, and people who don't meet that are kind of just outside of that. And so, like, there's like this, like, we blame ourselves for that. But if instead, you know, we can, like find ways to work on the things that we are passionate about, and that do energize us, then these, like, amazing things can be unlocked. And I think, like, I have noticed that I tend to find a lot of neurodivergent people in the kind of, like, indie SaaS courses like, internet biz world, and I wonder if that's because a lot of us have just felt like we didn't, yeah, like, we didn't really belong and like, but like, the way to, like really bring out like, what we are capable of, like, like, I remember when I worked, you know, in bigger companies, like I always, I would describe myself, like a pin and a pinball machine. Like, I just always felt like I was just like, bouncing around constantly trying to show like, what I was capable of, and like, what I was good at, and like, what I could do and what I could contribute, and that was always, like, way more and different than whatever the role I was in was supposed to be doing. And it was so frustrating. Like, it was like, deeply frustrating, you know, versus now, like, you know, I can focus on the things that, you know, sort of with, I guess, with a little bit of business knowledge, right? Because you can't just focus on things that don't lead to an income. Um, you know, like, yeah, the things that really energize, and like you've said, how this, like, managing your own brain in a way, it's kind of like, maybe what attracted you to notion in the first place, and then kind of prompted you to go on this path of making this amazingly, like, I'm so amazed by all the things you build with Notion, like this tool that, like, helps you not only steer your brain, but like express it in the way that it wants to be expressed that maybe is not really reflected and other tools.
Marie Poulin  29:53
Yeah, it's a, it's a weird and wonderful thing, but it does feel like this bizarre culmination of all of my weird interests and strengths, and like even the fact that it's kind of like a No Code builder of sorts, right? It's like I have a web design background, and so I think naturally I'm inclined to build information architecture, but do it beautifully. Like, that's what I did for clients. And so, and then even like my design thinking background, and how I've studied systems, or how I've had to find these productivity systems for myself that worked. And the way certain tools, you know, are very opinionated, and they, they sort of force you into, like, like Asana, for example, everything is a task, like, it sort of forces you into one way of thinking, which is great, it's a great task manager. But I'm like, my strategic planning doesn't really fit in there, and how do I connect that to, to, and everything just kind of felt messy. And, you know, as someone with ADHD that already, already feels like I'm everywhere all the time, for me, Notion was this place where like, suddenly I could see everything that was on my plate in one place in a really easy way. So this ability to like, zoom out, zoom in very, very quickly and have it all integrated was just like, ah, everything like has come into place. And it just kind of clicked, and I think I was just so passionate, so excited about it, it felt like you know, I said life was a shit show before Notion. Like I had tried to get to, like you said, lean on calendars, we like find the systems to kind of lean on like a bit of a crutch. But there were still some systems pieces missing that Notion, in a way, forced me to build my own in a way that really worked for my brain. And I don't think it's a coincidence that just so many of the people that have joined the course or that seem really excited about it and get a lot out of it have also mentioned their own ADHD. Like, I literally just saw a message pop up in the forum, like 20 minutes ago that said how they think notion is just an ADHD friendly tool. I'm like, What an interesting thing that, again, it wasn't even on my radar a year ago or two years ago. I didn't even really think about it. I didn't, I certainly didn't even remotely suspect that I would have had it. And yet, now that I'm aware of it, and I'm seeing more conversations around neurodiversity, really just seeing how Notion gives neurodiverse folks a place to be themselves, as kind of cheesy as it sounds, like, the fact that you can just make it what you want it to be. It can be a personal growth engine, it can be a place where you organize your files, you know, daily journaling, like, you name it, whatever you want it to be, it can be a place that inspires you. And so I just, I love to show people like, well, here's how I'm using it for my garden tracking, I just love there's just endless possibilities with it. And I think if you only look at it as a productivity tool, you know, people kind of poopoo it or they're like, oh, procrastinate, procrastinating on building their setups, and let you know, people have all sorts of opinions about it. But I actually think it is, it's a tool for managing your emotions just as much it is as a tool for managing your information. So I find it quite fascinating from a tool for making you more mindful about how you work and what you need, and just noticing your energy. And I didn't, I didn't know all that stuff wasn't stuff that other people did. It's not till showing it to people, and they're like, holy crap, this is the most organized thing I've ever seen in my life. And I'm like, me, are you kidding me? Because like, I see the baseline the scenes, right? It's like, it's, it's funny to me the things that it's only once, you know, to bring it back to your conversation about sharing in public, working in public. When you make your thinking visible, and you share what you're doing out there, that's where I think you start to see what are those spiky points of view that you have? Or what are the interesting ways that you approach stuff that people are like, whoa, I didn't even think of it that way. So yeah, I'm curious, too, in you sharing your stuff publicly, and doing the writing publicly, like, has anything surprised you that you put out there and you're like, oh, wow, I didn't expect that to really land for people or, you know, what did you notice in your process of sharing your stuff publicly?
Michele Hansen  33:53
Yeah, I mean, so something that actually has surprised me in the last, I've had two people in the last week, tell me how the introduction of my book made them completely rethink how they approach other people. And, 
Marie Poulin  34:11
Michele Hansen  34:12
How they like, didn't even like, they didn't realize like, the extent of empathy and what it was and how they could use it and how it can help them be a better you know, coworker or person and, like, not just someone who's better at making landing pages or making product decisions. And I started out, like, I, so I, the the introduction, I actually originally didn't really have a very good introduction of the book. Like, I didn't define empathy very much or anything. And then one of my early readers was like, I think, I think you need to introduce this a little more. And so I did, and then like, it basically sounds like people are, some people like reading the first 10 pages and then being like, whoa, and then like, going on this other path. And then like, and then they're like, okay, well when I actually like, need to build something I'll come back here for the scripts. But like, having this, and, you know, like we've talked, like we've talked a lot about, like emotional intelligence here, and like, I've had my own journey with there and like, talking about, you know, workaholism, like, is that is that a trait? Or is that a trauma response? Like, it's kind of both, like, and like, so that has been a really important journey for me. By the way, if that resonates with anyone that's called the flight response, just Google that. And, and so that like, like, I have this kind of like, this, like, little dream that like, you know, like, people, nobody puts like, be more empathetic on their to daily to do list, maybe some, maybe you do. But like, nobody really doesn't. But they put like, you know, get more sales, like, write a new landing page, like, figure out which features I should build. Like, those are the things that come up on people's to do lists. And so I have this, like, kind of dream that like, in the process of helping people do those things they already want to do that they will become more empathetic in general and learn that this is a skill that they can apply not just to business, but to the rest of their life, because it's been such an important journey for me, because it's something that I really didn't really learn until my 20s. And, and, yeah, I mean, that's, I don't know. Yeah, it's been very, like, it's been very soul-nourishing for me. 
Marie Poulin  36:31
The process of writing and sharing? 
Michele Hansen  36:34
Yeah, I think like, in a very unexpected way, and, you know, kind of talking about ADHD, and so it sounds like what you're doing, like, you sound very much like a systems thinker. And you have built this sort of digital system that reflects your mental system, and in the process of doing so, you're helping people realize that, you know, they could build off of that to build something that reflects their mental system. And it's like, and you're helping them really like, blossom into, into expressing their thinking. And what I'm doing, like, I have, I have had feedback from people who have said, they are ADHD, or autistic, and they have said that, like, this is very, very different for them, for, I mean, for those two groups for very different reasons. But like, I've had people tell me, like, I don't think I'm capable of doing this because, you know, as you said, there's a kind of that stereotype of people who are ADHD that they, like, you know, talk over the people, like, can't stay on a topic, like, you know, just all of that, which, like, I mean, I think if we weren't doing a podcast right now, like, we would be excitedly talking over each other right now, like. 
Marie Poulin  37:53
I was wondering. 
Michele Hansen  37:54
I, like, am really holding back.
Marie Poulin  37:57
Which is exhausting, right? It's like, it takes a lot of energy to, like, tone it down, be normal, like,  
Michele Hansen  38:04
Oh, I'm gonna go jump on the trampoline after this. But, like, for me, it's like this weird thing, because, because I didn't learn, like, this either wasn't built into me, or I didn't learn it as a kid, like, I've had to really focus on learning how to like, listen to people.
Marie Poulin  38:23
You're so good at it.
Michele Hansen  38:25
It became a hyper focus thing for me, like, so I feel like when I'm listening to people, like learning, like, I have to like, I think it's why people are like, oh, this made me realize these things about empathy I didn't even realize, because I had to, like learn empathy and listening at a level that most people don't have to. Like, I had to really understand it. Like, I had to really dive deep into it. Because I just didn't have that, like, I didn't, I was not born with that feature built in. So, and then, but like, I think it kind of became this thing that, like, I hyper focus on. And so like, when I'm talking to someone, like, I'm just like, I'm like, completely submerging myself into them, and like exploring their brain, and I think, you know, talking about like, systems thinkers, like, that's something I love is like, getting to understand the system of somebody else's head and like getting to, like, poke around and all the little corners and be like, oh, why is, what's going on here? Like, we're like, what do we got going on here? Like, 
Marie Poulin  39:29
I compare it to like, looking at their underwear drawer. You're just like, you get to see like, it's very personal, right? And people are often like embarrassed or they feel a lot of shame because, like, their their space is really messy. But I love that, right. 
Michele Hansen  39:42
I love mess. 
Marie Poulin  39:42
It's so beautiful. It's, and I will say, like, in the call that we had with you like, I was so struck by how intently it felt like you were listening. I was like, I, it was like almost disarming. Like when I got off, I was like, I can't think of the last time that someone actually was just there to listen. Like, there was no agenda there. Like, you were you were really just there to be a helpful ear, and it was just quite impressive, I have to say, I was just like, holy crap, Michele is an incredible listener. I was really blown away. And so I love that you got nerdy about listening. So nerdy. I love it.
Michele Hansen  40:23
I mean, I grew up being, I think the thing, the number one thing I heard growing up was Michele, you never listened, like, you're not listening, you don't listen. Like and like, I have found complex, that I have found that the things that I'm really bad at, like, if I get over that, and then, like, I will, like intensely research it, and it will become a huge focus for me, like, I would like, so like in college, I studied international affairs and economics, and I remember in one of my first classes, one of the professors asked who knew what, like, Bretton Woods was, and, you know, I'm from New England, and I was like, I know, that's a ski resort, but like, I don't know anything else. And like, you know, it's it's the, the post-war monetary system that was set up after the war, basically, to prevent another war, economically. But I didn't like, know that, and I felt like really embarrassed. And I ended up like, really diving into the topic to the point where it was not only my thesis topic, but for like, two years, I wrote papers about related things in other classes, even when I wasn't required to. And now I have this, like, just all of this knowledge about, like, monetary relations in Europe, specifically focused on the US and Germany, like, between, like 1958, and like 1973, really intensely on the 71 to 73 period. And, like, I it's not particularly, like, for what I do, it's not really useful information, but like, kind of like, I feel like that's very similar to how I got into doing listening and interviews because, because I was so bad at it, because I didn't know what I was doing, because I was like, I felt embarrassed that I didn't know what was going on, or like, people had made me feel like I was deficient in that. Like, I think this is where that, like, that hyper focus comes in. It's like, once you like latch on to a topic, like, you can't get your teeth out of it, even if you, like, wanted to. 
Marie Poulin  42:28
Painfully relateable. I love that you brought this up to you because I think I've done this throughout my my career to where it's like, oh my gosh, like public speaking this is like, I'm terrible at this, I'm so afraid of it, it's like, must hire three different coaches and take five courses and like, read every book, you know. Like, just go down these crazy rabbit holes to go to such an extreme to work on a skill that you know, I was maybe like, not, not that great at it wasn't terrible, but just didn't feel like a strength. And I think I've often felt self conscious of is it a waste of time, when I should be like focusing on my real strengths. And so, I just think it's so funny. There's, there's obviously a trigger there around feeling incompetent, or like, I hate that feeling stupid or feeling like something I'm really bad at is preventing me from succeeding in business. And I, you know, I've shared before a little bit about, like, fear of being on video and fear of being on stage. And so these are all things I've obsessively worked on. And you know, I'll share like a super vulnerable moment from not, not that long ago, but there was ,there was someone who shared with me, they spoke with someone who had taken the course, and it was an older woman. I don't know when she took the course, but maybe she took it like, early on in the course building journey. It's definitely gone through a number of iterations. But she she was like, angry. She was like, oh my gosh, she goes so fast. She's all over the place. She needs to read about adult learning. Like, she's a terrible facilitator. And like, if I showed you my Notion goals page, it's like being a masterful facilitator is literally on my, my big visionary goals. And I was like, oh my God, am I, is this just like a skill I am, I am bad at? Like, it knocked me on my ass and I questioned everything. I was like, oh my god, what's going on? And in the same week, I literally had someone say that my sessions were the thing that they look forward to every week. And it was so weird to get this, like, the most negative criticism I've ever gotten, and the most positive, and it was in that same week that I had actually discovered, that I started to realize I probably had ADHD and I realized that my presentation style and my exploratory show you the possibilities, it's, it's quite different than say someone who might be a little more neurotypical, a little more instructional in style. I know that my vibe, it doesn't jive for everyone, but it really works well for people that have ADHD, and so that's where I was like, oh, crap. So, hiring a course coach, a curriculum designer, a learning advocate, like, I went all deep, and I was like, I'm going to learn about facilitation, I'm going to learn about teaching, I'm going to learn about learning design, like, how can I make this experience so good that, like, nobody could ever say anything like that? You know? And like, fair enough, if someone, like, it doesn't resonate with them, I totally get that. But it just, it just felt holy crap, like, is this is this like, a giant blind spot that I'm not seeing? And, you know, after talking to a number of students, a number of people, it was like, no, like, you know, this is someone who's not very comfortable with computers. This is someone that, like, it doesn't make sense for this type of person to be using Notion. Like, I don't think Notion is the right tool for everyone, and I don't think my instructional style is is for everyone, and I'm okay with that. I've made peace with that. And there's room to to improve that. So I definitely feel you on like, ooh, rabbit hole, here we go. Let's work on this scale. Because like, no one can criticize this again, like I would go all in, just watch me.
Michele Hansen  46:04
Have you come across the term rejection sensitive dysphoria? 
Marie Poulin  46:08
I have. 
Michele Hansen  46:11
So it's this term for how, I don't, I don't have a good way of explaining it. But like, it's for how painful, like, that kind of criticism can be, and how it can either, like, prevent people from wanting something in the first place, or when you get that criticism, it i, 
Marie Poulin  46:30
Highly motivating. 
Michele Hansen  46:32
Yeah, but like, it's all-encompassing. 
Marie Poulin  46:35
Michele Hansen  46:37
Like, it's, and then you said that somebody else that same week said how much they loved your course, yet, you're,  You keep ruminating on the bad, right? Ruminating and obsess over and then hyper focus on that, and then go into this mode of, like, wanting to make sure that never ever happens again. And it's like this kind of extreme version of loss aversion, where, you know, we're so afraid of losing something, like, of losing that, in this case, like, that person's, you know, like, their positive feedback on the course or their, their positive experience with it, rather than focusing on the people who already had a positive experience and making it better for the people who is, because like, it's like, do you actively, like, frame your course, or some of your courses as being for ADHD people, or, like, neurodiverse people?
Marie Poulin  47:33
I don't, again, part of this is I'm not officially diagnosed. And, and, you know, again, I'm still learning about this stuff. And so I partly feel like a little bit of imposter complex around this whole topic to know I want to be very careful, you know, like, just, just being mindful about how I talk about it. And, and,
Michele Hansen  47:53
Everyone's experience is different of it, like, yeah.
Marie Poulin  47:56
Totally, totally. And so I just want to be very careful about it, and it is something I've considered of like, maybe it would actually, like, the number of people that have watched the, I have a YouTube video where I'm teaching my sister who has ADHD how to use Notion, and the positive feedback, and the people being like, oh, my gosh, it was so nice to see normal people, like, normal people like me, you know, other people with ADHD, just, just going through this experience. And it did make me wonder like, well, hey, knowing that this is the case, and knowing that it seems to attract these people, should I go in that direction? So it's been on my mind to some, something to maybe mention, and even kind of tease out a little bit, like, in my welcome sequence. When I'm introducing myself, I'm starting to, like, try out using some of the language. And I will say, I've gotten an incredible response. Anytime I've talked about it, it's been really, really positive. So, I don't mention it, but it is something I'm like, maybe like, and should I get a diagnosis to be? Does it matter? I don't really know. I'm not really sure what the, what the protocol is there. But yeah.
Michele Hansen  49:01
I mean, like, I have a diagnosis, but like, I, I feel like I don't really understand it very well, like, because I just kind of accepted it as this thing that was just wrong with me that I had to control. And then like, that was kind of it. Um, and I like so in my book, actually, in the original newsletters, like I talked about having ADHD and how, you know, focusing on people and listening and like, all that, like, were really difficult for me because of that, and I got so much positive feedback on it, but then I got it into the book, and I, like, one of my reviewers was like, you know, your experience of ADHD is not a universal one. And there's like, and they were saying there's kind of a difference between like writing it in a newsletter, where people know you and they start from a point of kind of the sort of familiarity, like, that they they trust that you come from a good place, but like writing it in a book, people won't know me people won't know like and even if I say this is only my experience of it, like, someone who has had a different experience of the diagnosis or, or like, doesn't, like, that they have the diagnosis doesn't let you know they have made been made to feel less than because of it, or worse. I think both of us kind of tend to view it as this, like, this thing that we could steer and bring out, like, bring out our true selves, so to speak. Like, so I ended up taking it out, but it also feels so relevant, like it, like it feels like this piece of information that people need to know that it's like, Yes, I was known for not being able to listen to anything, so then I focused on it to the point of it being like, this obsessive skill. Almost necessary base information. 
Marie Poulin  50:46
Part of the story. 
Michele Hansen  50:47
Yes. And the same way that like, and so I found a way to like, kind of tell that story that I had to listen, like learn how to do this, but like without using the diagnosis, but like, part of me, really. So like, maybe it's like something I can do in a talk or something like that, right? Like, there's not every, like, there's different forums for things. 
Marie Poulin  51:04
Not every medium needs to, yeah.
Michele Hansen  51:05
And also where I can kind of explain, and if someone has like a question of like, well, that's not my experience of it, then we can talk about it afterwards. And they can know that I'm coming from a good, I don't, I don't know, I also feel conflicted, because I don't want to, like, I can only speak from my own experience. Like, I am, and again, maybe again this is maybe an ADHD thing, or it's like, I haven't hyper-focused on ADHD itself, so therefore I cannot speak about it. 
Marie Poulin  51:29
Totally. Oh, my gosh, the hyper-focusing of watching all the videos about ADHD and like, it's just, it's it's so funny looking at all the memes. I was so dismissive of ADHD, because I was like, oh, well, come on. That's all of us for every single meme. And at some point, I was like, wait a second, like, is that all of us? And yeah, it took some digging, and I was like, wait a second here.
Michele Hansen  51:52
There's some tweets about this that I find myself referencing, and it was either people with ADHD need to stop being so relatable, or I need to go to the doctor.
Marie Poulin  52:06
Michele Hansen  52:07
I think, you know, my, so this is super fun talking and relating to you and like, realizing, you know, that we're both not weird. We're weird together. But my, the reason I really wanted to talk to you about this here is because I think people who are neurodivergent, who don't fit the box, like, tend to feel like we're not as capable of things as other people, or we have been made to feel that we're not as capable. And I hear from people that are like, I don't know if I could run a business, like, I can't, you know, like, if I can't focus on one set thing, like, and I'm all over the place, like, I can't possibly run a business. And I think what I like to show and, like, what you show, amazingly, is that not only can you run a business if you have ADHD or any other like, because I noticed all these, like, people in the indie community, like, they're people, like people who just don't fit the box. Like they have, they have disabilities, they have chronic health conditions, they are autistic, like, whatever those things are, like, they have been able to find a home in this place, and like, you can run a business if you're ADHD like, you, like, like, I present myself as evidence and I feel like you are evidence of that, too.
Marie Poulin  53:35
Absolutely. I think a big part of it comes down to you have to know yourself really well. Like, you have to know your triggers. You have to know how you're incentivized, how you best operate, so that you can either get the support that you need, or again, you can design your products and services in a way that, even though, for example, I've been a generalist for a decade, and it's really only in the last year and a half, two years, that I was like, I'm going all in on Notion. Like, I see an opportunity here, like, let's, let's just try this, I'm going to see, like, what's the worst that could happen? I make, I make some money for for this chapter and I get known as the Notion person and then I can, like, flip the chapter and do the next thing. I've been in general so long, I was like, whatever, let's just give it a try. And what again, what I love about it is my days can be so freakin different. Like, I am not doing the same thing every day even though I'm doing one thing and so you know, it's about finding traction with that one thing but if you can design your business in such a way that you're still getting, you know that dopamine hit or whatever it is that you need, you got to know yourself well enough to know, hey, I really thrive with routine or I really thrive with days that look very different, and then getting someone to support you on your team, like, maybe you have a small team. For me hiring my direct my you know started with a virtual assistant, who is now my, mou know, Director of Operations and having her is no doubt a humongous part of why I've been able to do the kind of growth that I've done. Like, I would have been scrambling wearing all these different hats. So to have someone whose focus is entirely operations and all the nitty gritty, like, export of CSVs, any of the detail work, I'm like, let's just be honest, Marie is not the details person. I've accepted this. And now we have someone who is a details person who frickin loves that stuff. And the stuff that makes me cringe is the stuff that makes her day, and like, what better? Like, that's all you can ask for, I think. So, even if you're just getting support in a really, really tiny way, you know, again, there's just so many opportunities, I think, to get creative with the way you design your business, that it is supporting you. But you do have to, to know yourself really well, I think to know how to do that.
Michele Hansen  55:51
And what I, you know, ADHD, the first two words of it, or attention deficit, and I find that you show is that it's not a, like, it doesn't have to be this thing that's deficient about you. 
Marie Poulin  56:06
It's just a little inconsistent, that's all.
Michele Hansen  56:08
Like, it can be, if you sort of steer it and give it support, like, it can be this amazing thing that you bring to the world. Like, it's not a deficiency. Like, I feel like that's just kind of like, the message I can give to like 11 year old me, like, it's not a deficiency, like you just have to help it come out.
Marie Poulin  56:28
Well, hyperactivity like that, like you've said before, like the phrase, it just, it doesn't carry a whole lot of positive connotations. And so, 
Michele Hansen  56:36
No, the whole thing sounds very negative. 
Marie Poulin  56:38
It does, yeah, we're we're off. Like, there's something broken with us, versus hunter gatherer brain, like different types of brains, I think evolved for different purposes. And, you know, we all, we have our own incredible use cases, like I know, you mentioned in other episodes, the ability to form connections between really disparate stuff very, very quickly. Oh, my gosh, in companies to have that kind of strategic person who can really see those connections, there's no doubt that each of us kind of can plug in somewhere and we can really shine in different ways. But it's, it's tricky, like you said, if we are neurodivergent, in a neurotypical world, it might mean that we might have to take the initiative on that and, and take charge in different ways and kind of carve our own path.
Michele Hansen  57:25
But then when we do, like, other people seeing like, hey, like, it's not just me, like, you know, you mentioned the, like the Dani Donovan's ADHD comics. I don't know if you've seen those, like, I'm so appreciative that she's so open about it. 
Marie Poulin  57:37
Michele Hansen  57:39
It just, I think, because we have been made to feel deficient or different, like we, you know, I know I tended to like hold this in, and I realized that even like, most of my best friends didn't know I had been diagnosed as a kid until a couple of years ago, because I just never talked about it. I just, like, accepted it, this thing that was wrong with me, and like, whatever, like, we don't need to talk about it. But then we talk about it, and it doesn't actually, yeah, it doesn't have to be. Like, it can really bring whatever our uniquenesses into the world.
Marie Poulin  58:08
Yeah, I'm hoping it's sort of becoming a little bit more destigmatized, and on Twitter, and it just feels like I'm hearing more about it, and people maybe are getting a little more comfortable talking about it. And even it seems like things that therapists maybe wouldn't recognize before, like, it's starting to become a little bit more known. And so yeah, I'm hoping that, you know, by sharing some of my own honest insights that that it does help destigmatize it. I think the more people, you know, like you and I talking about it, I do think it just kind of opens up the doors a little bit. So, if we can be part of that then you know, yay. If it helps one other person even just kind of embrace their their inner weirdness a little bit, then we've done our, our duty.
Michele Hansen  58:52
Yes. Exactly. Or embrace the weirdness of, you know, their loved ones, too. 
Marie Poulin  58:58
Find your weirdos. Yeah.
Michele Hansen  58:59
Yeah, yeah. Well, I think that's probably a good note to end on today. It has been so fun talking to you, Marie. I feel like we've, we've gone on quite well, like, we normally run half an hour and we're quite over that, but I'm okay with it. I, this is so fun. I'm so grateful that you came on. And so, if people are curious about your courses, or about you, where can they find out more?
Marie Poulin  59:26
You can check out my website is You'll be able to find the course on there, too. That's, pretty active on Twitter. That's that's probably where do most of my chitchat about business and founder life and ADHD and all that sort of thing. So @MariePoulin on Twitter, and if you're curious about more of the, more personal behind the scenes stuff, and plants and gardening, you can check me out on Instagram, too, so.
Michele Hansen  59:51
Awesome. Thank you so much, Marie. 
Marie Poulin  59:54
Yeah, thanks for having me. Really fun.

Won't you join us?

Get an email when new episodes post. No spam, we promise!

checkmark Got it. You're on the list!
2021 Software Social