Ep #240: Reimagining Goal Setting with Tara McMullin

When it comes to setting goals, we think that we should be striving for more, doing more, and consistently trying to get to the next level. We use our goals to get more of what we want and need, and we strive for them as though everything is on the line. But what if the way we’re currently setting goals doesn’t have to be the only way? What if there’s another way to create goals for ourselves in our lives?

Tara McMullin is a writer, podcaster, and producer who helps people navigate the 21st-century economy without losing humanity. Tara has been studying small business owners online for over 14 years and poses big questions about how to work better, take better care of ourselves and each other, and think about what that looks like within the economical, political, and cultural systems we live in on a daily basis. She joins me this week for an interesting conversation about how she has been reimagining the whole idea of goal-setting and how you can do the same.

In this episode, Tara and I are talking about deconstructing the ways we currently think about goals, where this way of thinking comes from, and how to start thinking differently. Tara shares some actionable steps to start detaching from this process and shares some great information to help you see how you can do things in a new way.

What You'll Learn From This Episode

  • What led to the process that has eventually become Tara’s book.
  • How to start setting goals in a different way.
  • Why I have developed an aversion to the term ‘goals’.
  • One of the ideas that has been really helpful for Tara in thinking about how our lives get to feel so frantic.
  • What is often the motivation behind the goals we set.

Featured On The Show

Full Episode Transcript

You are listening to The Design You Podcast with Tobi Fairley, episode number 240.

Welcome to The Design You Podcast. A show where interior designers and creatives learn to say no to busy and say yes to more health, wealth and joy, here’s your host, Tobi Fairley.

Hello my friends. We are rocking and rolling through this year in the fourth quarter, and a lot of us are thinking about next year. And I have loved the guests we’ve been bringing you because they have been such inspiring women. They’re doing amazing things and maybe, just maybe they’re going to inspire you to think differently about the impact you want to create in the world and in your business in the future. So today I have Tara McMullin. And I’ve been following Tara for a long time.

We didn’t really know each other before this interview. But I loved getting to know her. She has had several iterations of her business that I’ve followed over the years and now she is the author of a brand new book that I just got my hands on, I haven’t even gotten to read it yet, called What Works which is also the name of her podcast and her business. So, Tara has been studying small businessowners online for over 14 years. And besides being the host of her podcast, and the author of her brand new book she’s been featured in all sorts of amazing places including Fast Company, The Muse, Toastmasters Magazine, all kinds of places.

And today we have a really interesting conversation about how Tara’s really been reimagining the whole idea of goal setting. And this topic’s been on my mind too as you’ll hear. In fact, I’ve kind of sort of even developed an aversion to the term, goals because of the way we have weaponized the idea of goals with regard to how we define success in our lives. So, enjoy this episode, it might be a notetaker, you’re definitely going to want to get her book, but here is my interview with Tara McMullin.

Tobi: Hey, Tara, welcome to The Design You Podcast. I’m really excited you’re here today.

Tara: Well, I am excited to be here, thanks for having me.

Tobi: You’re welcome. So, we just met but I was telling you a minute ago that I’ve kind of been lurking and following for probably four or five years watching a lot of the iterations of you and your company which has been really exciting. But your most recent ideas, work, your new book that’s coming out any moment is really resonating with me, maybe more than anything that I’ve ever heard you talk about. So that’s when I reached out and was like, “Hey, I’m a stranger, but would you come on my podcast?”

So why don’t you tell people how you describe yourself at this point in your life and what you do. And then I want to get into some of these ideas that are coming out in your new book because I think it’s going to really blow some people’s brains up a little bit.

Tara: Awesome. Well, the way I describe myself now is as a writer, podcaster, and producer. Those are basically the three buckets of things that I do. But the main gist of what all of that work kind of circles around is thinking about navigating the 21st century economy without losing our humanity.

So really considering all of the different ways that we have to work now plus all of the many different ways that we might be working in the future, posing big questions about how we could work better, how we could take better care of each other. How we can take better care of ourselves. And really thinking about that within the economic, cultural, political systems that we live in on a daily basis that in many ways often make it hard to be human.

Tobi: Yeah, totally.

Tara: So that’s really the gist of my work now.

Tobi: Yeah, so good. One of the things that I’ve loved about you kind of always but I think probably sort of like myself, your more recent kind of work and voice is definitely not shying away from any of those touchy subjects around politics and all the socialization which is so inspiring to watch and to listen to. And one of the things I noticed about you, I don’t know you well yet, but one of the things I noticed about you that reminds me of kind of the way I like to work is you, it sounds like or it seems like you like information and you like to dig in.

You go down rabbit holes and dig in, and kind of want to break things apart and see, I think your book’s even called What Works, or part of your company is called What Works. So, it’s like you break things apart and dissect them and are like, “What are we dealing with here? What’s at the root of this? What’s happening here?” Would you say that’s true about you?

Tara: Yes. That is a 100% true. I would say one of my top interests/strengths is in sense making. So, taking lots of information like you said and looking at it from a sort of high level holistic view and saying, “Okay, what does this mean? How does this relate to me? How does this relate to others? What can we learn from this information that we can then apply on a practical level?” And the other thing that I’m really big into is just taking a multidisciplinary approach to everything. So, I have a liberal arts background, a humanities background.

It’s really important to me to be able to draw the whole web, the whole network of ways of knowing and different ways of asking questions to really create as nuanced a perspective on whatever it is that we’re examining. And I think that it’s a much more productive way of understanding the world, and allows for a lot more difference than trying to stick with one in particular information silo.

Tobi: Yeah, I love that. Yeah, because it allows you to see from so many different people’s perspectives, different lived experiences, different sense of data. And like you said, there is so much nuance all the time. And we’re coming out of a period, don’t you feel like, that people are like, “There’s one way to do things and do it this formula and then you’ll get the success?” And that’s exactly what doesn’t work for a lot of us. That is the dehumanizing piece for a lot of us.
So, I love that so much. Well, let’s talk a little bit or a lot about what your book is about.

So, it’s really interesting, when I was having you tell me before we got started recording just in your words what you would say the gist of the book was about. I was like, “Oh my gosh. “So onboard with you because for me personally I did all of the things that you probably did and so many people did of working ourselves to death, getting on the hustle bus, building my company for now 24 years, multiple bouts of burnout, all the things. And I am in a place in my life where just the word ‘goals’ kind of makes me, I don’t know, it gives the heebie-jeebies.

It’s just I’m not resonant with it anymore. I’m like, “The goals, that’s just another word for work. That’s just another word for get on the treadmill. Do I even want goals anymore?” Yet I’ve always been a super goal oriented person and I do like to achieve. But like so many other people, got all my gold stars for the achieving which is what kept us on that treadmill. So, what I’m sensing and I haven’t gotten to read your book yet, but I can’t wait to because I’m such a big reader.

What I’m sensing is that your book is really the answer, not the one answer, but it’s an alternative way, we’ll say that, to approach this whole goal setting process. So, can you tell us a little bit about that, were you also off the goals train, was that part of the problem for you too personally? Or is it just something you were noticing in the world that needed to be kind of reimagined?

Tara: Yeah. No, it is absolutely my story. And my story is really a big part of the books, just sharing from my own personal experience of just the process of recognizing, wait, these goals things that I’ve organized my entire life around, what if they’re the problem? What if it’s the goals that are making me so miserable? And not the specific goals themselves but what those goals represent. And so that’s a lot of the first half of the book is just looking at what do our goals represent? What do all those merit badges, and gold stars, and trophies represent?

And so often what they represent is shoulds and supposed to’s, they represent rungs on a ladder that is designed to keep certain people down and help certain people get up. They represent sort of this kind of accumulating pressure around capitalism and around neoliberalism, protestant worth ethic. And so, we have all of this kind of momentum behind us that is our culture, and our economy, and our politics.

And our goals tend to if we’re not careful and very few of us are, if we’re not careful we tend to set goals that keep us with that flow, keep us in that momentum of culture and economy, and work, and all of that. And there’s a good reason for that. It helps us survive in this system. But at the same time, we’re surviving that doesn’t mean we’re happy. It doesn’t mean we’re feeling satisfied or fulfilled.

And so, what I really started to notice for myself was just how much I had accomplished, how much I had achieved, and how much I was still feeling not good enough, unsatisfied, unfulfilled and feeling like I always had to be striving for more. And it felt like a personal deficit like what is wrong with me? Why am I so broken? And it wasn’t until I kind of started being willing to ask these really fundamental questions about maybe this isn’t the way I want to organize my life. Maybe goals aren’t all they’ve been purported to be, that I was able to start identifying, okay, no, maybe it’s not me that’s broken.

Maybe it’s all this other stuff that I’m trying to keep up with, that I’m trying to stay on top of. And so really kind of pulling back those layers is what led to the process that eventually has become this book. I think I’ve kind of lost track of your question at this point but that’s essentially the origin story of the book.

Tobi: Yeah. I had just said, was it your personal story? Was it just something you were noticing collectively, was it both? And it sounds like, yes, your personal story but both. And I mean every single word, I mean I’m hanging on every word. I can’t wait to read this. It’s so needed. And it is also my story. It’s a lot of people’s story. And then I’m sure I can tell from the words you’re using and some of the systems you discussed that you likely get into even things like privilege.

Because it’s so interesting where as you said, the system has helped some people succeed and keeps other people from succeeding. But when you look at ’succeed’, those that are succeeding aren’t really succeeding ultimately because we’re not happy, we’re burned out. We’re not even hitting our goals a lot of times and we’re feeling like failures. So, there’s not even a winner really in the system at all even though some people seem to be and are likely winning depending on how you define it, maybe financially or in other ways, more than other people in the system.

But it’s kind of a lose, lose when you really break it down based on white privilege, financial privilege and all of those things too.

Tara: Yeah, absolutely. And yes, I talk a lot about all of the intersecting systems that make life really difficult. In fact, one of the things – I don’t think I’ve talked about this in an interview yet. But one of the ideas that has been really helpful to me in thinking about how our lives get to be so frantic and feel so like everything is on the line all the time. Is a concept that was kind of created by an economist named Guy Standing, that’s his actual name, Guy Standing.

Tobi: Okay, I have a visual of him now.

Tara: Yes. Well, and just really quick, there’s also this really funny profile pic battle on his Wikipedia page where this one contingent of people really wants to put a picture of Guy Standing, sitting. It’s his profile picture. And then another group wants to replace it. Anyhow, there’s [inaudible]. And he identifies this class that he refers to as the precariat. So no longer the proletariat but now the precariat. And the precariat is sort of contrasted with the salariat which are the salaried class.

But even people who are making salaries can find themselves in the precariat at this point because so few jobs or more and more jobs are not providing benefits of any kind, paid time off of any meaningful way. They’re not providing stability. More and more of our workforce is contingent, contract, freelance. And so even those that are in maybe full-time employment positions are often right on the edge of being contracted out or freelanced out. So, this idea of the precariat is I think really instructive for thinking about even as businessowners or freelancers the reality of our lives.

Because even if you have a very successful, fairly high revenue small or microbusiness you can find yourself feeling precarious on a day-to-day basis simply because the systems of support that we have around us are non-existent. We don’t have reliable access to healthcare. We don’t have reliable paid time off. We don’t have reliable this, that or the other thing. There’s a certain amount of ‘freedom’ that we can buy but in terms of actual stability, actual sustainability, actual long term certainty or near certainty, we don’t have it. And that’s what gives us that feeling of being precarious.

And so, within that precariousness, within that precarity rules that we think are going to help us feel less precarious, help us feel more stable, help us feel like we’ve made it. And so that’s where a lot of this sort of angst and anxiety around the goals that we set and then the behaviors that we use to try and achieve those goals. That’s where a lot of that comes from, is just that sort of underlying sense of instability that’s with us on a day-to-day basis because of the cultural, economic and political systems in which we live.

Tobi: That makes so much sense, yeah. And just even hearing that, that description of that day-to-day instability, like you said, those of us even who run six or seven figure businesses, you still unless you’re hustling or someone is, or you really have a lot of – well, I mean it just takes a lot of legwork, and a lot of hours, and a lot of capacity to keep that business funded all the time. And often there’s not that much profit like you said to even afford a lot of the support, even the support you could buy which is so interesting.

Yeah, that’s really fascinating. So yeah, so I think this is really interesting. And another word that you used earlier, because I can resonate with everything you’re saying. But I’m at this moment kind of feeling it from an individualist standpoint but that’s also part of the problem. And I heard you earlier in the kind of some of your description of your work and the book, talk about more of this idea of collective care. I don’t know if you used that word but that was what I would call it or what came to mind because we’re all bootstrapping.

We’re all following the rugged individualist rules that we’ve been taught like good Americans do and some people outside of America do. And yet we have really lost our connection to each other. And the kind of world that I know my grandparents grew up in where everybody rallied around each other, and supported each other. We don’t really see that anymore. We don’t see that sort of collective care. So, when you think about that piece of this puzzle, where does that play into this process? Because goals do usually feel very individualistic and very personal and is that part of the problem?

Tara: Yeah. Okay, so this is all of chapter two. Yeah, so chapter two is really unpacking some of these main kind of cultural forces that shape the moment in which we are right now. And so, I start with looking at the big shift toward kind of the personal responsibility doctrine that we got with Thatcher and Raegan and even continued with Clinton and the first Bush as well where essentially we’re told if we’re not making it, it’s our fault. And on the flipside of that of course anyone can make it if you just work hard enough. It’s a super individualistic way of being.

And that’s typically what we call neoliberalism today. So, if you hear that word in the news, think personal responsibility, think pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, it’s all up to you, plus complete market chaos. So that’s neoliberalism. So that’s where it starts. And then back before that then we can look at rugged individualism as Herbert Hoover coined. And thinking about what that meant to Hoover and why it was something that needed to be said at that moment.

What he saw was a problem happening in Europe which was that the states, the European states were starting to create more collective care systems. Now, sometimes that [inaudible] towards those things in negative ways of course, we know this. But we’re also talking about the foundation of the social democracies that exist in Europe today with really robust support systems for taking care of the population, taking care of anyone who lives within the boundaries of that nation.

So, Hoover was essentially saying, “We don’t want that here in the United States. We’re a nation of rugged individualists.” Yes. And so, if you back up from there then we can start to look at the rise of the protestant work ethic which Max Weber talked about in terms of how it set up the system of capitalism that we have today. And that feeling of constantly having to work, work, work, work.

Tobi: Assembly line.

Tara: Yeah, as proof of our salvation. It’s really grounded in a theological concept, predestination for any of the other religion nerds out there. And then before that of course we have supremacy culture. So, the foundation of all of this is the idea that some are better than others. And so, a lot of our goal setting, well, obviously it’s not explicit, our goal setting tends to be a way that we can demonstrate to ourselves that we are better than others. And obviously I don’t think that there is many people out there doing this intentionally of course.

But when you start to see the cultural thrust from supremacy, from that very most basic structure of supremacy culture all the way through the personal responsibility doctrine, and positive thinking, and all of the things that rotate around that nexus. We can start to see how the philosophy that we have behind goal setting today isn’t so much about personal exploration. It’s not about knowledge. It’s not about creativity. It’s really about making sure that you’re a few steps higher up the ladder and stepping over other people. And that’s a harsh thing to say.

It might be a destabilizing thing to kind of reckon with as an idea. But all of the research I’ve done, all of the putting the pieces together, all of the personal work that I’ve done supports that thesis. And so, once you realize that, then you can open up to a different way of doing things and a different consciousness around the targets that you set in your life.

Tobi: Well, and I think it starts to make it make so much more sense for those of us who like me, it was really embedded in us that you’ve got to work really hard to make a lot of money and the goal is to make a lot of money which is what you’re saying. And I can look back multiple generations and I do see some of my ancestors that were very religious and working all the time, and working on the farm and all of that part.

And then some of them moved into the more industrial work like we were saying and had more jobs for other people that were not necessarily taking care of their own home. But they were starting to work long hours outside the house. And then I see my dad who runs a company that has been really more affluent. But it was more of that starting to get into the CEO mindset and that a lot of how a white affluent dude manages a company.

And so, I can see the progression of all of that and how you think you’re winning because you’re like, “We’re no longer working the farm and we’re no longer working for other people now, we’re working for ourselves.” It seems like that’s the goal but that whole process when I look back about then what I learned from it, taking in all of that, remembering my mom saying how hard her parents worked on the farm or for other people, watching what my dad has done. And then trying to implement it myself.

Those were the very things that have led me to burnout multiple times because that system does not work for you as a human being, like you said. It does not take into consideration anything really but money and capitalism. It doesn’t care about your health, your wellbeing, your rest. How many of us know ourselves or others for years, our parents that had vacation but weren’t really encouraged to take it? You had it, it was part of the package but everybody had another gold star trophy for I didn’t take any of my vacation days in the last four years or whatever, or I only took two. That was what was rewarded and revered.

And it’s so interesting, I love your history because I can look back and see all of those different stages and it makes sense to me. And at the same time, it can help us start to, I think, deconstruct as you said, your book does, why we think this way, where it came from. Maybe originally it wasn’t a bad intention from some of the people that created it originally but yet it has done so much damage. It has created a wider wealth gap. It has put us on the treadmill, all the things, yeah.

Tara: Yeah. And to your point, earlier you had said about collective care which is a huge value for me and something that I do speak to in the book. But your example of your family, well, first they were farmers and then they moved into more industrial jobs, and then started a business, became a CEO. The question I think there has to be why did they move off the farm? Why did they move away out of the assembly line? Why did they start the business? And I think that there are probably tons of reasons, and I’m not trying to oversimplify things.

But one of the reasons I’m sure is that farmers in this country are by and large not treated very well, who work the assembly line are not treated very well, or who are middle managers are not treated very well. And then we have to just ask, well, why? Why are these perfectly valid reasonable careers that people have for themselves, jobs that they use to hopefully provide for themselves, why do we treat these people so poorly? Why do we talk about them in the ways that we do?

And what does that do to us on the other side of that, the people who aren’t working in the fields, the people who aren’t on the assembly line? How does that mess with our own idea of what we want out of life? But it is constantly contrasted against people who are not measuring up. I mean how many times have we heard stories about – I don’t know – suburban moms, or Karen’s or whatever, telling their kid in the Starbucks line, “Well, you’d better get good grades, do your homework, go to college or else you’re going to end up like this girl here.”

Well, here’s the thing, that girl probably has a college degree and she is probably very smart, got very good grades because that’s who Starbucks tends to hire. Hello. But we have this idea that if we don’t keep pressing forward, if we don’t keep moving up the ladder then the result of that, the consequence of that is falling into this layer of society that we turn our noses down on, that the government turns its noses down on, that the media turns its noses down on. And that’s not a place that we want to be.

So, what do we do? We set higher goals. We work harder. We strive. And it feels like everything is on the line because it is.

Tobi: Yeah, that’s so fascinating. I’ve never thought about it in those exact terms. That is so fascinating. And how everybody is thinking when they’re setting their goals about either how to be at the top or how to get one step closer to the top knowing that in the future their next set of goals will be taking them further. So, everybody’s looking at that top spot, the boss or that guy with all the money or that lady that gets to do what she wants to do all the time. But the reality is a lot of those things aren’t what they seem either. And the few people that maybe are doing that, what was their story?

How much family wealth did they come from? How much support did they have? That kind of thing. I used to make that mistake a lot when I was coaching businesses earlier in my career and hadn’t really done this work. And so, I was basically saying, “Here’s how to create a business if you are a privileged white woman with a lot of money to start with.” But I didn’t even know that that’s what I was coaching or teaching on. And then over time when I did more and more work I’m like, “Oh, yeah, so fascinating that it’s not what it looks like.”

Tara: Yeah. The way I put it in the book is that our goals as we typically think of them represents a chance at an easier life where things feel a little more stable, where we feel like we have access to a little bit more of what we need. And I think that’s true whether you are the kind of person who’s setting goals to be the CEO, to get the corner office, really what we think of as traditionally ambitious goals. But I think it’s also really true for people who are thinking about buying their first home, or having a family, or just getting a promotion, or taking that vacation.

All of those even much smaller, much less ambitious goals so to speak, those goals represent a chance at an easier life as well. And I think that that’s often the motivation behind the goals that we set, much more than ambition. And I think it’s necessary in that we live in a world where we have to take care of ourselves. And I think it’s really harmful in that it does reinforce individualism. It turns us away from collective care options. And it keeps us chasing after things we might not actually want just because they represent what we hope, what we think might be an easier life.

Tobi: Yeah. So interesting. So, this is just fascinating. I could talk about this forever. Can’t wait to read the book. Maybe we’ll have you back once all of us get to read it and then we have the next set of questions and we’re all like, “Okay, now.” But if people are listening and they’re starting to resonate with this idea and they get that, and a lot of my audience is almost all creatives, many of whom own their own business. A lot of whom struggle to create that stable income on a regular basis.

And a lot of them just constantly are frustrated that we’re killing our creativity because that kind of work process, or ethic, or schedule is really antithetical. It kills creativity. It’s not a creativity booster. It doesn’t give you space to create. You’re working overcapacity a lot of times just hitting the next thing on your to-do list. And so how do we start to, if we’re going to leave people with an actionable step until they can get their hands on the book, how do they start to, I guess, detach from, unlearn this process? And it’s scary.

It’s also scary to unlearn because you’re like, “Am I the one person who’s going to get off that treadmill or that street and take a risk and hope that I can care for myself or be cared for?

Tara: So, the very first thing I encourage people to do is to just start noticing the shoulds and supposed to’s, that hang over our day-to-day activities especially for businessowners.
Businessowners are so good at shoulding all over themselves and thinking, I’m supposed to be doing this, I’m supposed to be doing more of that. And so, my suggestion is to get out a notebook or start a document on your computer where you can simply take note of every time that any should or supposed to comes into your mind.

And then either in the moment or when you have the time, ask yourself why, why should I do that? Why am I supposed to be doing this more? And look for the outside influences, the systems, the cultural messages, the media messages, the political messages, that might be at play underneath those shoulds and supposed to’s. So just as an example, one I hear all the time from podcasters is, “I should be on social media more. I should be posting to Instagram more.”

And so, I ask, “Why? Why is that something you should be doing more of? Do you get sales from there? Do you get listeners from that activity? How much time are you putting in for whatever results you might be getting?” And it’s like, “No, I don’t get results from there. I don’t get listeners from there. No one engages with my posts but I really should be creating more content for Instagram.” “Now, did you just hear what you just said?”

Tobi: Right. And I guess when they’re thinking that it I did it more I would get all those things but a lot of those are empty promises too at the end of our goals. We think if I do this then this will happen and it’s not always cause and effect like that, yeah.

Tara: Absolutely. But there’s a very specific reason why we feel like we should be posting there. And it’s because those companies have designed those systems to make us think we should be posting there because it’s in their best economic interest to do free labor for them. And so, a lot of what I talk about can often sound conceptual. But it has very practical applications and so that’s the kind of practical application that I would encourage everyone to kind of work through for themselves if you can on a daily basis.

Even just pick one should or supposed to that you’ve noticed from that day and work through, why do I feel this way? What systems are at play? What processes have been designed to insert that should or supposed to into the way that I think and how do I want to respond to that knowing it? What do I want to do as opposed to what should I be doing knowing what I know now? And so that’s the concrete action that I would encourage everyone to do.

Tobi: I love it so much and you just had my brain turning because like I said, I’m I think a lot like you like I said earlier. And I love to really think about even how these things apply to me. And so, as a businessowner the thing that probably makes me follow or listen to my shoulds more than anything else these days is not so much for myself, it used to be. But after being in business for 25 years things are a little more stable than back in the earlier years. But I’m always thinking about my team. And so now this is really interesting.

I’m going to go spend some time thinking about, yeah, because I’m thinking, well, if it were just me, if I was only trying to take care of me I would rest right now but I want to do my part because I’ve got six people also whose livelihoods, six amazing women whose livelihoods also depend on our company. And we’ve done a lot to go from the me to we kind of approach in our business over the last two and a half years which has been amazing. And really allow so many other people to step up and shine and do all kinds of interesting things.

But I’m going to go back and think about just this whole approach of the fact that we don’t, that all of those people, myself included don’t have healthcare, don’t have all of these things. We’re trying to give it to them, our goal is to have every single person in our company make at least $100,000 and have six weeks of vacation by 2025. And so, I know we’re doing our part but we’re also still having to operate inside the system that still has us as a company having to combat hustle and try to make the money to fund, to be the people who care collectively for our people which is so fascinating.

So, we’re like a little microcosm still inside the bigger system which is a start, I’m sure, but you’re still up against all of these things, these obstacles which is really fascinating to think about.

Tara: Yeah. I have a guest post coming out on the Productive Flourishing blog in the next couple of weeks where I talk about goals as a cultural medium. So, the goals that we set in our businesses create the culture in our workplace. And they say what’s really important to us. And so, I love a goal of paying everyone at least a $100,000 a year, giving them six weeks paid vacation, love it. And how is that goal being conceived in terms of what it means for the company, what it means for your employees, and what it means for you?

What values does that goal signal to the rest of the team? And I do think, obviously inherently in a goal like that there’s going to be values around care. But I also wonder if there’s maybe some unanswered kind of more culture or more values based questions around what the role of employee is versus what the role of employer is. And I think those are things that especially in the 21st century we really need to be rethinking these kinds of core economic relationships, like employer to employee.

And how our goals, how our targets, how our strategy kind of interplays with that relationship in a way that if not balances the scales and eliminates sort of the surplus labor model, it at least addresses it in a way that’s beneficial to everyone. And so that everyone doesn’t feel, including the employer, doesn’t feel like they’re on the hook for taking care of things.

Tobi: Yeah. There’s so much to think about because on one hand you’re like, I don’t want to be, and we’re not of course because we’re not huge billion dollar corporations but I definitely don’t want to follow the model of the CEO who makes 800 times more than the other people working there. Which is for sure not happening. But then you’re right, what is that? And I’d say that’s right where we are exploring, what is that? We’ve balanced a lot of the me to we and thinking of it as our company instead of just my company which changed a lot.

And trying to get people’s benefits and pay up to a place where they feel like it’s serving them to think of it as their company as well. And have done a lot of culture work. It’s been really interesting but yeah, that’s just something, I would say we’ve been building this for about two years, two and a half years. And we’re just at the kind of okay, let’s see what we’ve done, and let’s see how it’s working, and let’s put it under the microscope and see what we see now which is so fascinating. So yeah, I can’t wait to follow along with all the new things you have coming out.
I know this book is going to be very, very helpful to me and so many of our listeners. And thanks for nerding out with me today.

Tara: You can always count on me to nerd out. I mean that is one thing I guarantee.

Tobi: It was so fun. I love it. These are my favorite kind of episodes because they just are indulgent for me personally and so much more for me to think about and dig into. But I know it’s going to inspire so many other people too. And I think in an industry like interior design or the creatives that I work with kind of across the creative industries, it’s definitely something at the heart of the people that are in this industry are definitely more aligned with the care of other people, the work we do is really caring for other people.

Yet I think we keep finding ourselves in this place of being called to be this CEO and this individualist. And so, I think this is going to spark some really cool conversation in our community. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while but such good, I don’t know, material, I think your book maybe. Maybe we’ll probably have to have your book as one of our bool club selections in my communities. But yeah, such good information to help us see how we could do it differently because I think that’s the hardest part, that there’s not a roadmap yet for how to do it a new way. And so, it gets really scary to try to do that work.

So, thanks for giving us some ideas, some roadmaps. And if everybody wants to follow along now because they’re like “I’m going to want to see that blog post or I’m going to want to hear more about the book.” How do they find you? What’s the best place to get information nuggets from you, all the things?

Tara: Yeah. So, best place to follow me is on my podcast, so if you love listening to this podcast, my podcasts will probably fit right in. So that’s called What Works. You can find it at And then the book is also called What Works: A Comprehensive Framework to Change the Way We Approach Goal Setting. That’s at And then the other place that people often find me is on Instagram where I’m @tara_mcmullin.

Tobi: Yeah, I love to follow you on Instagram. That was the reason that I reached out most recently. I was like, “This is gold right here.” So, thank you so much for being here. It was so nice to get to know you a little bit more personally to say hello and to say thank you for all the amazing work you’re doing in the world. And it was just such a pleasure.

Tara: Well, thank you for the great questions and the great conversation.

Okay friends, so I hope you loved that episode. I could geek out on this stuff forever with Tara. And I’m really excited to read her book, I know you’ll love it too. And like she said, if you haven’t already, head over and follow her on Instagram. She puts some amazing truth bombs, and critical thinking, concepts, and ideas, and questions out for you there. And also check out her new book. It is on the market now. You should be able to find it wherever books are sold.

And let us know what you think, we can’t wait to hear from you and if you want to think differently about your goals for next year. Okay, that’s what we have for you today, friends. I’ll see you again here next week with another great episode of The Design You Podcast, bye for now.

Thank you so much for listening to The Design You Podcast, and if you are ready to dig deep and do the important work we talk about here on the podcast of transforming your mindset and creating a scalable online business model, there has never been a more important time than right now. So, join me and the incredible creative entrepreneurs in my Design You coaching program today. You can get all the details at

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Hi! I'm Tobi

I help creative women (and a few really progressive dudes) design profit-generating, soul-fulfilling businesses that let them own their schedule, upgrade their life and feel more alive than ever!

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