Tara Mohr is an expert on women’s leadership and well-being and helps women play bigger by sharing their voices and bringing forward their ideas in work and life. She’s the author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, which was named a Best Book of the Year by Apple’s iBooks. She’s also the creator of the Playing Big Leadership Program for women, which now has more than 1,500 graduates around the world and a facilitator’s training course for that same program.
In This Episode
Tara Mohr is an expert on women’s leadership and helps women play bigger by sharing their voices and bringing forward their ideas in work and life. In this episode, she discusses universal fear and self-doubt and how she’s created a business that works to defy both. Tara believes that by facing your inner critic, you can overcome vulnerabilities and instead focus on following your inner mentor.
1:11 Teaching What You Need to Learn
Tara went from one-on-one coaching to a group program by finding the problems she dealt with herself, recognizing them in others and then finding a way to move past them.
2:58 Universal Fears
People don’t like vulnerability; they like to stay in their comfort zones — and pursuing our dreams is really scary. How do we let go of that fear and societal conditioning? It starts with inner work.
4:19 The Playing Big Model: Inner Critic
On top of learning to drive and balance a checkbook, accepting and managing your negative, inner narratives is a basic life skill that everyone should learn.
5:23 The Playing Big Model: Inner Mentor
Once you’ve developed a better relationship with your inner critic, you can start accessing your inner mentor, which helps you develop a really clear vision of your older, wiser self.
6:48 Shifting Your Perspective
The culture you’re in, wherever you are, is not the whole picture. It’s a transformative experience to realize that you’re just looking at the world one way and to then discover all of the other ways from which you can look.
8:00 Gentle, Giving Language
There’s a whole vocabulary for how we talk about fear, how we talk about self doubt that has been very helpful to people. People often use the word gentle to describe her work and approach. She’s like the gentle hug nudging you in the right direction but in a powerful way and will get you there eventually.
9:03 Traditional Books – Are They Still Relevant?
Although Tara entered the blogging world in 2009, she feels her business wouldn’t be where it is today without her traditional, physical book. Books are still relevant — there’s no other way to really reach people in the same way.
11:23 Combining Power and Wisdom
Power and wisdom are not going together in the way they should in our society right now. The question is, how do we change that so that those with wisdom, sanity and compassion, have more power?
12:07 Everyone’s Unique Experience
Part of the excitement of being a modern entrepreneur today is the ability to take your passion, gifts and unique experiences and create something to give the world.
– Tara Mohr
LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. Today we have Tara Mohr, who’s an expert on women’s leadership and well being and helps women play bigger by sharing their voices and bringing forward their ideas in work and life. She’s the author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, which was named a Best Book of the Year by Apple’s iBooks. She’s also the creator of the Playing Big Leadership Program for women, which now has more than 1500 graduates around the world and a facilitator’s training course for that same program.
She is a Coach’s Training Institute Certified Coach with an MBA from Stanford and a degree in English Literature from Yale. She also has been featured on national media from The New York Times, the Today Show, and Harvard Business Review, and has captivated women from all walks of life. That’s quite a resume. Thank you so much for being here.
TM: Thank you for having me. This is a fun pleasure today.
LR: Good, tell me about this program that you’ve created and what it is that you take women through in this process that you developed.
TM: The program is developed out of the one-on-one work that I started doing as a coach with women, and I know for a lot of entrepreneurs, thinking about scaling, I’m always an advocate of that, start with the one-on-one work with people and see what’s happening in the trenches with your audience. So for me, when I started a coaching practice, I didn’t know what I would focus on, but I saw very quickly again and again, that all of my clients, for the most part, were these very capable brilliant women who I felt so inspired by, and I wanted them to be leading and bringing all of the ideas and innovations into the world that I was hearing about in our coaching sessions. But I was also hearing from them a lot of reticence and feelings of, “I’m not ready yet,” and self doubt and, “I need more education and training first,” and that just became so frustrating to me that I started to focus on how do we help people move beyond that in our sessions.
And then once I really learned what was powerful for my clients and what was powerful for diversity of my clients, I started to teach a group program. That was in 2010, so I’ve been doing this for a while now and continue to grow the program since then. I should also add, ’cause I think it’s important, that I think we teach what we need to learn and so I too at that point was coming into my career as a young woman, had this great education, had every reason to feel confident, but didn’t. So I was quite taken with what’s going on and how do I move beyond those blocks as well.
LR: Yeah, so what is going on?
TM: Well, I think a lot of things. I think there’s a universal level to this and then there’s a place where gender comes in, too. At a universal level, I think for all of us, men and women, we don’t like vulnerability, we don’t like emotional risk, we like to stay in our comfort zones, and sharing our gifts with the world, sharing our ideas, doing what really matters to us, pursuing our dreams is really scary, and a lot of us flee from it. Sometimes I think when that shows up in men it’s maybe not as obvious because when I talk to men it’s often, “I feel pressure to do the prestigious thing or the breadwinner thing, even though what I really want to do is over here.” But men can be playing small by running away from their own authentic dreams for their life in that way.
For women, all of that’s going on and there’s another piece of you’ve been socialized to be a good girl and a nice girl, you don’t see a lot of role models of women leading in the public sphere. All of that conditioning that causes us to not see ourselves as capable as we really are. And so there’s inner work we can do to let go of and moving beyond some of that conditioning.
LR: And what does that look like?
TM: In the Playing Big model, we start with the inner critic, that voice inside of our heads that has all kinds of chatter for all of us, all kinds of narratives, why you’re not good at this, you’re not ready for that, you could never be the one to do that, and we do what I think of as an Inner Critic 101 training. I think everybody, instead of just learning how to drive and learning how to balance a checkbook, if people still learn that or whatever those basic life skills are, one of them should be learning what is this voice in our heads that says negative things to us about ourselves, why does it exist, and what can we do about it.
In the Playing Big model, we do not try and get rid of having an inner critic, we don’t try and become confident, we look at the inner critic as it’s always going to be there if you’re on your edge in your work and in your life, like an edge of your comfort zone. And so it’s about learning how to live with it and know that it’s not the voice of truth, so we teach a lot of practices around that.
Then the next piece of that inner work is something we call the “Inner Mentor,” and that is all about getting a really clear vision of your older, wiser self. So you, like 20 or 30 years in the future, but we don’t just ask people, “So who do you want to be 30 years in the future?” But through like a guided visualization and meditation, really help people get in touch with a deeper wisdom about where do I really want to go? What really wants to come out from inside of me?
And what people find is just through like a 20 minute exercise, they can get a very clear sense of this older, wiser authentic version of themselves. Then you can begin to relate to that self like a mentor. That’s one of the best ways to Play Bigger because you don’t have to work harder or strive harder, it’s not about pushing yourself; it’s about being able to hold that vision and then in any situation say, “How would my inner mentor write this email?” “How would my inner mentor approach this job interview?” “How would my inner mentor move into this difficult conversation?” It’s really a beautiful way to step into your highest, bravest self.
So those are a few of the foundational pieces and then we go on with, there’s about 10 more, but that’s the foundation.
LR: If you’re your inner mentor for your career-starting self, 10 or however many years ago, what would be the piece of advice you would give yourself?
TM: For me what was very transformative and came later, and I wish I had known it earlier, was that that whole culture I was in in school, and even in the sort of prestigious academic environments that I was blessed to get to experience, that that was just one way of looking at the world and one culture. I think I took that way too seriously. That culture was marginalizing of women’s voices. When I was at Yale, 10% of the professors were women, and women had only been at the school for 30 years in its 300 year history. So to really get, this is not yet a place that really knows how to include women; this is not yet a place that’s really nurturing of creativity; this is a place that has really sidelined spirituality to kind of understand what the norms of that culture were and that there were other ways of being in the world and looking at the world.
When I reclaimed those other things for myself, then I was able to integrate all that good intellectual stuff, but in a holistic, healthy way, and I wish I had gotten that earlier.
LR: What do you feel like your unique skill set is?
TM: I love that question and I think we often don’t intuitively know that about ourselves. We have to do strengths finder or get a 360; it’s not obvious to a lot of us, but what I’ve heard from people is one, that I’m very good at giving language to things – that’s the English major side of me – and that in our Playing Big model, there’s a whole vocabulary for how we talk about fear, how we talk about self doubt that I think has been very helpful to people, so that articulation, giving language.
Another thing that people say that always surprises me a little, but people often use the word gentle to describe my work and my approach that sort of I’m not the rah rah go, kick ass of the personal growth world, I’m like the gentle hug nudging you in the right direction but in a powerful way and will get you there eventually. So that’s been interesting to hear as feedback from my tribe and my community and from my world, yeah.
LR: I can totally get that. Tell me about growing your business. You’ve got 1500 students now around the world, and presumably a bunch of facilitators too. What do you do that’s working today to grow that business?
TM: I started blogging in 2009, so I came up in the, “Write online content to let people find you,” and so I did that very diligently for many years, and that worked beautifully for growth. Now, interestingly, most people find me through the book, and so that’s been a huge shift in my business and I do always like to tell entrepreneurs who are thinking about maybe writing a book, there’s often a question, are books still relevant, are traditionally published books still relevant, and I just think there’s no other way that my work could have reached people in the same way, and I’ve really seen that. Now, actually the majority of people who come to us anew, come because they found the book.
LR: At the beginning you mentioned that I think it was our Inner Critic, that voice in our head that speaks up when we’re kind of at our edge, and pressing and learning new things. What is it that you’re learning right now? What is your edge today?
TM: For us, we’re really thinking about growth in some new ways ….
LR: In the business?
TM: … in the business. Just really I think our products are so honed at this point, and we know from the evaluation data how much they’re helping people, and we’re really looking very seriously at how do we move from incremental growth to something more significant and reach more people which might involve changing our products, we don’t know. We’re exploring and learning. My whole team has been finding the book Hacking Growth to be extremely helpful, Sean Ellis, as we explore that. And then for me, I’m always leaning a little bit more into my artist self, spiritual content, just moving more and more into that direction and that always feels a little scary for me when I do it, but I’m doing it anyway ’cause I feel called to do it.
LR: What is the legacy going to be?
TM: The fundamental mission for me is that power and wisdom are not going together in the way they should in our society right now, right?
LR: I can’t imagine what you’re talking about.
TM: Those who have the wisdom, don’t have the power, and I felt that 10 years ago and now I’m like, “If we were unclear on the matter, we could certainly all agree on it now, right?” How do we change that so that those with wisdom and sanity and compassion have more power?
TM: And all of this work for me is about playing some small part with many others working in other ways and making that change.
LR: What does it mean today to be an entrepreneur. What is unique about this moment for entrepreneurs do you think?
TM: All of us here are part of one organism, and that what entrepreneurship has allowed us to do is to sort of more finely and more precisely allow each cell in that organism, each person, to do what their unique genius is to do. That especially small business entrepreneurship and solo entrepreneurship allows one person to say, “What are my gifts? What’s my unique experience? What do I feel moved to bring into the world?” And then to create something to give to the world from that, and technology has made that possible in a whole new way.
TM: That’s what entrepreneurship means to me.
LR: Beautiful, well thank you so much for taking the time, it’s been a total pleasure.
TM: Thank you.
LR: Will you sign our wall?
TM: Yeah, of course!
LR: Great, thank you.
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Check out the previous episode featuring founder of Build Success, Joseph Hollak.