Michèle Foster is CEO of M19 Incorporated, a digital marketing agency that helps SMBs in the high-tech industry generate leads and grow sales. She is also the founder of the M19 Foundation, a mentoring platform for people who want to experience more of God’s power in their lives. Michèle is the author of the book, Prosperity in the Kingdom of God, available in English and French. As a U.S. citizen residing in France, she is a wine enthusiast and exports Provence rosé to the United States.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

When I was in the third grade, they had a contest whereby you could draw a scene from a children’s book and win the opportunity to have lunch with the author. I didn’t enter the contest because I didn’t think there was any way I could win. But another girl did enter and she asked me to draw her picture for her. And she won! She had lunch with the author based on my drawing! That taught me never to underestimate myself and to always try because I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

That not everyone is as honest as I am and to be careful about whom I trust.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

I have a digital marketing agency and there are so many people out there peddling templates and “proven methods” for marketing and selling products online. Most of them don’t work simply because what works with one product and target audience is not what works for others. Each product has a unique selling proposition and the process of finding out the magic formula for selling it is one of trials and tweaks: move forward with a plan based on your best understanding, knowing that you will need to keep tweaking it to improve it and keep it relevant. There are no cookie-cutter solutions!

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I wouldn’t characterize my example as “dark,” but it was difficult for me at the time. Early in my career, I was transferred to another country where I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know it at the time, but the managing director of that office was embezzling funds. He was afraid I might find out and tell his boss, so he did everything he could to discredit me to his superiors, discourage me, and create a hostile environment so I would quit. Because of the foreign environment, my lack of a support network, and my relatively young age, it was a very trying time for me. Something inside me told me to just stick it out and continue to do my work to the best of my abilities. Eventually, his higher-ups figured out what he was doing and fired him while promoting me. One of the things they told me was how much they admired the maturity I showed while I was enduring that situation. I stuck it out and never complained or tried to take my problems out on other people. That ended up benefitting me. One thing to remember is that sooner or later, people will pay the consequences of their own actions, whether good or bad.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Eating the frog. This is an expression from Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog! Basically, eating the frog is doing important tasks first, even if they are unpleasant, and not procrastinating. Another way of saying it is, “Just do it.”

What is your morning routine?

I live in France but work in the U.S., so I keep U.S. work hours. This means I work afternoons and evenings, often until 10 or 11 p.m. Since I rarely get to bed before midnight or 1 a.m. and I like to get a full 8 hours of sleep, I normally don’t wake up before 9 a.m. I use my mornings for personal time and normally begin work after lunch.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Listening. First and foremost, listening to God. Most people think of prayer as rattling off a list of requests to God. But I find that if I use prayer more as an opportunity to listen to Him, I get great ideas and inspiration, and I spare myself a lot of wasted time and energy. Probably most people would call this meditation. Secondly, listening to others. As the Dalai Lama said, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Maximize the amount of work not done – this is a principle of the Agile Manifesto. If you want to be productive, you have to maximize the amount of work not done and avoid overcomplicating things. It’s important to keep things simple and know how to distinguish between what is “important” and what is “purposeful” – does this contribute to fulfilling my purpose (or in business, does it contribute to our end goal)? If not, then it’s an expendable (or delegable!) activity. Jesus changed the course of human history in just three years simply by doing what God told him to do, and nothing more (see John 5:19).

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The Bible. The more I apply its principles to my life, the more successful and fulfilled I am.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

I have this on a post-it note on my computer monitor: Let all that you do be done with love. (1 Corinthians 16:14). Love is the most powerful force in the universe. If we would all love ourselves and love each other, a lot of the world’s problems would disappear.