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Speaking Human-First with Mary Knox Miller

EP 1.3 Tara McMullin

Capitalism, Curiosity, and Making the Hidden Visible

Original Air Date

June 22, 2023

Why is it that when we introduce ourselves we lead with what we DO instead of who we are?

I dig into that question and others with Tara McMullin – a writer, podcaster, and business owner who is also a wife, mother, feminist, and so much more.

In her book and on her podcast, both titled What Works, Tara regularly delves into the hidden systems and structures at play in our daily lives with uncanny insight.

The result? An opportunity to move through life with eyes wide open.

Today, we’re peeling back the layers of capitalism and how it informs every part of our 21st-century lives.

We also talk about how recognition for her ideas has built slowly, why she's changed communication tactics over the years, and why it’s critical to choose a medium that fuels your creativity.

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • The fundamental questions that drive Tara’s work and how she’s come to contextualize that motivating force with learning she is autistic

  • How neoliberal capitalism has become the “air we breathe” economically, politically, socially, and culturally

  • How our relationship to the market and labor informs how we see ourselves and why it’s so important to expand our identities beyond work

  • Why a healthier, more whole life is not an end point, but a constant process of noticing and making more intentional choices

  • The power of iteration and cumulative recognition in Tara’s career

  • How What Works has evolved over the years and why Tara made the shift to a narrative format

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Learn more about Mary Knox Miller:



EP 1.3 Tara McMullin

Author & Host of What Works


Mary Knox Miller:

I am Mary Knox Miller, and you're listening to Speaking Human First, the show that explores the art and science of communicating world-changing ideas.

I'm thrilled to introduce you today to Tara McMullin, a writer, podcaster, and business owner. But wait, she's also a wife, a mother, a paddleboarder, a feminist, and so much more.

Why is it that when we introduce ourselves, we lead with what we do instead of who we are? Tara explores this question and so many others in her book and podcast, What Works.

She has an uncanny ability to see invisible systems and structures at play. Then, she takes ideas from across disciplines to describe our unconscious tethering. The result: an opportunity to move through life with eyes wide open.

In this episode, Tara uncovers the many layers of capitalism, or as she calls it, the air we breathe in the 21st century. We also talk about how recognition for her ideas has built slowly, why she's changed communication tactics over the years, and why it's critical to choose a medium that fuels your creativity.


Tara, I'm so excited that you're here and I'm so excited to be speaking with you about your work and how your mind works and all of the things that you have done up until this point as a thought leader.

Tara McMullin:

McMullin:Well, thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.


Alright. So Tara, I have been following your work for a little while now, and anytime I tell people about you, I say, "She makes the invisible visible." It's like we're all characters in that movie, The Truman Show, and you're pulling back the curtain on systems and structures that we're tethered to without even knowing it.

And one system that you've explored at length is capitalism, and how it alters our sense of self. And we'll get to that in a moment.

But first, if it's okay with you, I'd like to start all the way at the beginning. Where does this fire in your belly to understand systems and structures come from?


So it starts really, really early. And it wasn't until the last few years that I really could recognize why and put a story behind it. So first, I'll say that the thing that has really kind of galvanized all of the intellectual work that I've done for a long time has been this sort of question of why do people do what they do, and why do people believe what they believe. And that question is what led me to studying religion in college. It's what led me to thinking more about marketing and sales and entrepreneurship. And today, it really animates my work in terms of thinking about the stories that we tell each other and the cultural narratives that we wade through on a day-to-day basis, and how those things really act as collective beliefs that shape who we are and what we do. So that question has really been a defining one, or that quest really to understand those things has been a defining one.

But I'll tell you, that in the last couple of years, I have been able to give more shape to that question and why it's so intriguing to me. And that's because two years ago, right... Well, it's been about exactly two years ago now. I learned at the age of 38 that I am an autistic person. And that this quest to understand not only why people believe the things they do and do the things that they do, but really, the underlying structures of the world and our communities really comes down to having to put conscious effort into understanding sociality, how we socialize with each other, how we communicate with each other.

There's an autism activist named Jim Sinclair who talks about how we, that autistic people feel like foreigners in any society. So if you imagine going to France. I don't speak French. French is very intimidating. I would feel completely out of place, trying to suss out what the signs say and what people are talking about and what words I should be using. And not just the language, but the culture and the social expectations.

And I love this idea that that's sort of a metaphor for how autistic people experience the world, because it's so true to my experience. I'm always trying to parse, "Okay, what's really going on here? What is my relationship to this person? What is my relationship to this organization? What is my relationship with gestures wildly?" And so, for me, that's really central to, I think, how I make the hidden visible, it's because I have to, it's because it's what I've always done, and I've found that it's really valuable for people.

And so, it's also been fun to be able to make use of what I consider sort of both a superpower of mine and also this sort of albatross around my neck all the time, this burden that I'm kind of constantly caring with me. It's been fun to use that in a way that really benefits other people.


That's incredible. And I do commend you, because you have been very open and honest in all of your writings about this journey for you, realizing that you have autism, but also lots of other personal growth and development, which we're going to get to all that in just a little bit. But how amazing to be able to say, "The thing that actually might differentiate me is actually what differentiates me."


Yeah, exactly.


"It's actually what gives me my superpower." That's incredible.




So good. Okay, so let's dive into capitalism, because I feel like we are entrenched in it. We don't always realize it. And it would be really helpful to understand, first, what is it, and how does it show up in obvious and non-obvious ways in our world.


Yes. So I love the, "Let's dive into capitalism," because immediately, my head goes to, "Well, we're already there. We've been there this whole time."

But all joking aside, capitalism is not just an economic system, although it is that. It is also a political and a social or cultural system as well. And it really is the air that we breathe in the 21st century. It informs every social interaction that we have. It informs every sort of political action that we take or don't take. And absolutely, it informs our sort of economic relationships between each other, with the government, with the economy as a whole.

So if we're talking about the textbook economic system definition of capitalism, what we're talking about is the private ownership of the means of production, which essentially means that a capitalist owns intellectual property, financial property, a factory, real estate. They own these things that allow them to produce additional capital, and they produce additional capital by employing labor, and then extracting surplus labor or surplus value from that labor, which essentially means they pay people less than the cost of what they can get on the market for those goods. And that's whatever, fine. That's the sort of underlying economic system.

But what we have in America now is neoliberal capitalism. And this is really something that has come out of the Chicago School of Economics. It's very much like Milton Friedman, very much... It's funny because it's very much Ronald Reagan, but it's also very much Bill Clinton. And so, for me, as an elder millennial, growing up in the '80s and '90s, neoliberal capitalism was literally how I learned to think and act and behave as an American person.

And what's unique about the neoliberal version of capitalism is that it's really focused on the free market. So what can we do to unleash the power of the market to produce better jobs, better goods, better everything for the country. And that neoliberal piece is not just the free market in terms of what we buy and sell on the stock market, or what we buy and sell at Target, but it also is how can we apply the logic of the market to more and more areas of our lives.

And this is where we can start to really understand how capitalism impacts us on social levels as well, or cultural levels as well. Because we can start to think about how productivity, efficiency, profitability, effectiveness in all of those terms informs how we think. It informs how we know ourselves. It informs how we value ourselves. It informs how we value our relationships. Because the more and more the free market expands, the more areas of life are dominated by the logic of capitalism.

And so, just as an example, healthcare is a perfect example. Healthcare didn't used to be a market good. It was was never, in this country, a public good, but it didn't operate on market principles. Now, it operates on market principles, and we know how crappy our healthcare system is, from private health insurance to for-profit hospitals, to the way that our relationships with our care providers are managed for profitability. That influence on that particular system is capitalism, but it's not just economic capitalism. It's also this cultural capitalism piece and the political capitalism piece that puts us in this place of being, as human beings, subject to the logic of the market, not just businesses or marketplaces.

So I'll stop there, because I could just keep going, but I want to make sure that I'm going where you want me to go.


Absolutely. So in your book, What Works, you categorize this way, and you say that, "It's hard to separate who I am from what I do." So I'm curious about, let's take the structure of capitalism and let's continue on this path of talking about how it influences our sense of self and our identities. You were getting there anyway, so.


Yeah. So, in the book specifically, I'm talking about this sort of... I think it's almost cliche at this point, but in America, when we say, "Introduce yourself," what do we do? I say, "Hi, I'm Tara McMullin. I'm a writer. I'm a podcaster. I'm a podcast producer." Those are the things that I do to earn a living. I can also say, "I'm a wife. I'm a mother." I can say, "I'm left-handed." I can say, "I'm a radical feminist." I can say that, "I'm a runner. I'm a hiker. I am a paddleboarder." There's all these things that I can also say about myself, but we lead with what we do to earn a living, nine times out of 10, probably more like 99 times out of 100.

And that's because we learn to know ourselves, or we learn to identify most closely with our occupations, with our work and what we contribute to the marketplace. We learn to identify with the parts of ourselves, with our identities as they relate to the market, as they relate to our value, to our economic system. And the identities that bring less value to the economic system, we learn to, if not suppress, we learn that they're just not that important. They're not what we are going to talk about in public most of the time. And that really shapes how we interact with the world. It shapes the goals that we set. It shapes our aspirations of who we're becoming.

And so, a big part of my work is helping people think through, not erasing their work, because work is important and meaningful to many of us, but how can we also bring out from the shadows these identities and these ways of knowing ourselves and our relationship to the world that are not subject to market forces, that are not part of this calculation of value that we do about ourselves on a daily basis, on an hourly basis even. How can we bring those out and how can we see them as equally part of ourselves as the work that we do.

And just to the idea of how capitalism shapes ourselves, we also get it the other way too. It's not just me saying, "Well, I'm a writer. I'm a podcaster. That's what I do for a living." It's also how other people see me as well. It's also, I'm reflecting back what they've reflected to me. So for as much work as I do, thinking through, "How do I amplify these other identities? How do I show up as a whole person as appropriate?" Other people are constantly reflecting back to me my own economic value, my own occupation, my own place in sort of our economy at large. So that's some of how capitalism shapes our relationship to ourselves.


I'm wondering how many people that are listening right now are scratching their heads and thinking, "Oh, my goodness. Oh, Lordy."


So we've got the system of neocapitalism around us. We have our identities hooked to it, because when you introduce yourself, you say your profession, nine times out of 10. We think about projecting images of ourselves, literally and figuratively, like this profile of who we are by what we do. Our sense of self and where worthiness is coming from what can we produce, what can we create that would have a market value. And for all of us anxious overachievers, we are working really hard to realize that there are many identities within us, and that they don't all have to have a dollar sign attached to them.


So, Tara, what's a girl to do? How can we exist in this system in a healthy way?


So, I love this question because the answer is, we can't. I don't believe that there is a path toward living a healthy whole life within capitalism, which is not to say that I don't think we can live a healthier whole life. It's to say that it's a process. It is not an end. It is not an end in itself. It is a constant process of picking apart, unraveling, disconnecting, and noticing those market forces as they stretch and try and grab us back into the rest of the fold.

And so, what I mean by that is that because neoliberal capitalism has started to really... There's no aspect of our lives anymore that isn't in one way or another subject to the market. Our goal is to notice that happening, so that we can make more conscious decisions about it. We're never going to be able to completely disconnect, because hello, we need a roof over our head, we need food to eat. Even going off the grid, you're still going to be interacting with these systems, but we can make more intentional choices.

So I'm thinking about things like meditation, yoga practice. These are things that we think, "Oh, that's not capitalist," or, "That's not market forces." But what are some of the hottest startups right now? Where are companies investing millions of dollars? Well, it's in meditation companies. It's in apps for workplace wellness. It's these ideas that, "Well, if I meditate 20 hours a day," or more likely, "If I can get my employees to meditate 20 minutes a day, they'll be more productive." Or even if that's not the motivation, "If I can get my employees to meditate for 20 minutes a day, they'll feel better." Well, why are they feeling bad? Is it possible that the workplace that you've created is bad for their mental health? That maybe they're not making enough money, that they don't have enough time off that their job is not as secure as it could be? Well, those are maybe some things to think about, but that's one way that even these things that seem to resist capitalism, end up pulling us back in.

And I think that for those of us who are very mindful about resisting these forces, it's still really easy to get sucked back in. I work out for about two hours every morning, a good portion of that is spent listening to podcasts, which, guess what? Is my work. Part of that is allowing me to get an extra hour and a half of work done every morning because part of my work is research and listening to podcasts. So there's all these little things that just suck us back into the system.

But when we're more aware of how market forces act on us, when we're more aware of how these aspects of our lives that seem outside of the market are still controlled by the forces of capital, then we can start to at least be conscious and intentional about the choices that we make. Any amount of engaging with the system is going to be unhealthy, it's going to bring me back from being a whole human being, but the process of excavating it and the process of making different decisions, or even just being aware of the decisions that I make, is a way of reclaiming part of that. And I've found that, for me, to be sort of the homeostasis in existing in capitalism.


Alright, Tara, I want to do a lightning round of questions. Does that sound okay to you?


Sure. Yes.


To help us transition. We're going to transition from all of this brilliance that you have in your mind that you've just been explaining to us over to what this journey has been like for you to become a public persona.

So, lightning round of questions first. Who is someone, past or present, and from any discipline, who's inspiring you right now?


The first person that comes to mind is Katie Porter, who's a representative from California. And she's a protege of Elizabeth Warren, who... I have an Elizabeth Warren action figure on my shelf, that I see on a regular basis. And both of them, to me, are not only working for such positive change, but are master communicators of big ideas and big problems in a way that inspires people to make change for good.


What is your go-to activity to relax and not think?


I don't have one of those.


Oh, come on. It can't all be thinking. It can't all be work.


Well, no, it's not all work.


Isn't that just eerie, considering what we've just been talking about?


Yeah. Well, it is all work. I literally, on my, it says, "Hi, I'm Tara, and I think about work all the time." And then it says, "Trust me, that's not as boring or neurotic as it sounds." I really do think about work all the time. However, sometimes I think about politics. No.

In the evening, I have developed a habit of drawing on my iPad. I have never been a visual artist. I still am not. I have zero visual imagination, but I really enjoy taking someone else's drawing and copying it and getting better at copying it. And that, I have found is something that, because I'm bad at it, it's really helpful for shutting down my brain for a little bit, because I have to concentrate so hard on the thing, that I can shut down a little bit.


Who knows, maybe you're a Picasso in the making. You never know, Tara.


I really am not.


You never know.

Alright, last question. What do you wish someone had told you before you became a public figure?


"Go to therapy." There are all sorts of reasons why I was not in therapy, but I think that probably would have been the most helpful thing before putting yourself out in public with your ideas and your writing and your mistakes and your being a woman. Going to therapy would have been helpful.


I second that. Let's just all go to therapy. Sometimes I say, "If you haven't been in therapy or don't believe in it, then I don't want to be your friend."

All right, so on that note, Tara, to help everybody who's listening, who's trying to get their ideas out into the world, who feels like they just keep doing one step forward, three steps back, I want to talk about experiences that have led you up until, to this point. Does that okay?




Alright. So, hindsight is always 20/20 and paths are rarely straight. What did you try and fail before your idea started gaining traction?


What haven't I tried and failed at? I still don't know that any particular idea of mine has gained traction. There have been a number of ideas that have done well and that I feel like I can return to and people get excited about them, but I very much have sort of a portfolio career over the last 15 or so years. Web design, business coach, business community builder, business educator, marketing expert, all of these different things, and all of them were successful to one degree or another. I can't look back at any of them and been like, "Oh, that was a problem."

But for me, I think the success of my ideas is more cumulative than suddenly some big act of traction, some breakthrough, some big spotlight moment, and I think that's true for a lot of people. I don't think that's anything special or not special about me. But I will say that I'm a very iterative person, just in... I'm an iterative thinker. I'm an iterative creative. I work in terms of iteration.

And so, what I talk about today is for me, just an iteration of the same stuff that I've been working through for the last, many more than 15 years. But my career this way is just about 15 years.

I mean, that doesn't really answer your question. That's kind of a cop out, but that's really what comes to mind for me.


No, I love it, because I think we often underestimate the cumulative worth of all of our experiences. We realize when we look back in hindsight, that's where that 20/20 vision comes out, "Oh, now I see the through line," or, "Now, I can make the connection." But yes, everything that you've done comes with you.

And many folks that I've spoken with in this world, they say it's definitely the tortoise, not the hare. It's slow and steady. It's building over time. It's gaining traction slowly. It's earning trust. All of those things. That there really isn't such a thing as overnight success.


Yeah. And I'll add to that, that as someone who not only is a public person, but someone who works with public people and has observed public people very, very closely and really gotten to see the backend of things, when someone has that kind of overnight success, or when they land on an idea and it goes viral really fast, those people either burn out really quickly or they get just sick and tired of talking about what other people want to talk about. And the people who have longevity, and I think also who really learn to not just communicate what they do, but to deepen what they do and to deepen their mode of communication are the people who kind of embrace that cumulative nature of success or recognition.


You just said the phrase, "Mode of communication," so how did you know that's where I wanted to go next? So you have this incredible podcast called What Works, it's the same name as your book, and you explore all of these ideas. And it used to be an interview style, back and forth, like what we're doing now. But then a little bit more than a year ago, maybe even more, you switched from interviews to narrative storytelling. What brought about that change? And why is podcasting an ideal medium for you?


Such a good question. So, I very much still believe in interview podcasts. I love listening to interview podcasts. I love doing interviews. Not just on this side, I love interviewing people too.

For me, the switch to a more narrative style came from recognizing that I had more to say than I was currently giving myself room for.

So when I first started the podcast almost eight years ago, it was very interview centric. There was a prerecorded intro, then the interview, and then a prerecorded outro. And it was just very much focused on like, "Okay, we'll do the best interview that we can do," and that's it. That was my voice, was as the interviewer.

Over time, I learned that I could inject more of myself and sort of tee things up for listeners with a lengthier intro. As I mentioned, I am a big podcast listener too. So it's not just that I love to podcast, it's that I love podcasts. And my favorite podcasts, even though I do listen to a lot of interview shows, are narrative shows. They're not all sort of this American lifestyle narrative shows. Some are science-y, I love Radiolab. Some of them are very political, but still in this narrative style. And I just wanted to try it. And I thought, "I am going to make the time to try it. And if I don't like it, or it's not working, or I don't get good feedback, or I just get tired of it, I'll go back."

And I can remember, I started experimenting with it at the end of 2021, partially because I was in a really bad head space, super depressed, totally burnt out on a lot of different things. And it was a creative outlet that I could put the headphones on and just disappear into a podcast episode for a while, into making one that is. Context is a big value for me. Thinking about context, providing context, asking for context. I am all about it all the time.

And so, then the next one I did, well, that one was a solo one, so that was fine. I kept sort of with that narrative style. And then I did another interview. And this interview, again, was really good, but the story I wanted to tell, the idea that I wanted to flesh out wasn't the interview. It was in there, but there was a lot more to it than that. I was like, "This is going to get lost if I publish this whole interview." So again, I started pulling things out, writing around it, editing things together. And it's like, "Okay, I'm starting to get a handle for this."

So I wouldn't say that I ever committed, "I'm not going back, this is just what I'm doing from now on." But it just sort of happened, that I kept knowing what I wanted to create an episode about, and I knew who I could talk to, to get that kind of story, if I wanted to talk to someone. And I started to see my interviewing more as reporting than as a talk show kind of format.

And then, in terms of why podcasting is the best medium for me, I wouldn't... That's hard because I would say that essays and podcasts equally are the best medium for me. And I think of it as written essays and audio essays. But there are some things that you can do with an audio essay that you can't do in writing. All media are like that. Each medium has its own strengths, the things that you can do with it that you can't do in any other medium. And podcasting has this really rich set of creative tools to it. And for me, whether I'm writing an audio essay or I'm writing a written essay, which they're basically both, I'm always thinking about, "What are the elements that I can add to this that are going to make this come to life?"

Becoming a podcaster has also just, not only is it a medium that I like to consume, but it is a medium that I feel really excited about creating in.


So, you are an incredibly strong writer. Let's just start with the fact that you have an amazing foundation of being able to write and synthesize ideas and bring things together from different disciplines. But then, by adding in the audio, by adding in sound effects, by adding in clips, all of these other things, it's like you're bringing it to life. It's like it becomes an experience to absorb the information, instead of just a passive reading through words on a page.

And I think that's why it just comes to life. And what you're talking about, it's pretty dense. It can be some really heavy, dense stuff that some people would just be like, "Oh, I'd glaze my eyes over if I saw an article with that at the top of a header, the subject matter." But you make it interesting and you bring it to life. It's awesome.


Well, thank you.


So, I don't know how many things you tried to get to this point, but you have landed, for now, in a beautiful spot.


I think to kind of relate to where we started the conversation, part of being able to create the experience of an audio essay is very much the sort of systems thinking, the sense making, the seeing what's hidden part of creating too. Because when I listen to a podcast, I'm not just listening to it passively. I'm always paying attention to what's going on here, what was happening behind the scenes, how did they think about this, how did they think about this, why did they put these things together.

And as a producer, what I've learned is that most people don't listen to podcasts that way. But for me too, in the creation part of it, it's like, "Okay, what are all the different layers of this? What are all the, sort of the sense associations that are here? What are the memories that are involved? What kind of cheeky things can I do with music or a sound effect to make this a little more fun?" So yeah, to me, whether we're picking apart ideas, or picking apart social systems, or picking apart how a podcast gets made, it's all very much, for me at least, in the same sort of mental process.


And clearly fun and creative for you. And it brings you joy, because your face just lights up as you're talking about these things, and your voice goes all up and down, which tells me it just feeds you, which is incredible, because when you think about this road of trying to get your ideas out there, to change the way that people think, to change how the world is functioning, it can take a toll. It's a lot of work, and full of self-doubts, and it's this emotional journey, and it's just all the things. It's all the things. So finding a medium, a way of communicating that idea, that as you're doing it is also feeding you is so incredibly important.

So if we figure out the mode in which we want to communicate and we figure out how to synthesize our ideas, the second half of this is getting people to listen. But humans are very messy, and we are very fickle, and it is hard to get our attention. So for those of us with big ideas, how do you evaluate what matters most? Is it information and data, and showing people how smart you are and how you can synthesize these ideas together? Is it vulnerability and telling personal stories, so they connect with you as a human being? And then, how do you decide what you share versus keep to yourself?

I know you're going to say, "It depends," or, "It depends on the person," because that's what everybody's going to say. But how do you evaluate those things? Because you know that in order to make a living from your ideas, you have to have a certain denominator of attention and a certain crowd of people paying attention and willing to pay for content. So how do you balance all the things?


Yeah. So the way I think about it is that there's what I want to say and there's why someone would want to hear it. And that doesn't necessarily mean that they know they want to hear it, but it's my job to figure out what's going on in their head, what's going on in their lives, what they're dealing with, what they're excited about, that makes what I have to say relevant to them.

I'm at a place in my career where I'm really only interested in talking about what I want to talk about. There was a time, not too long ago, where I would think about, "Okay, what do I need to talk about this month to make sales? What do I need to talk about this month to set up a sales campaign that six months away?" And that was fine, and I could do it again if I had to. I wouldn't be happy about it, but I could do it again.

Today, I sort of recognize that a big part of how I bring value to my audience is by presenting the things that I want to say because they're so used to hearing whatever content is driven by the market on a regular basis, bringing things back full circle.

So I try to not write according to market forces. I try to not think about, "What can I say to get more clicks? What can I write to get more subscriptions?" Blah, blah, blah. I try not to think about that. And I think, "What is fascinating me right now? What am I angry about? What am I excited about?" And then, once I know what that thing is, then I can say, "Okay, how is this relevant to them? How is this relevant to the people receiving it?" And my job is to make that crystal clear.

So just giving you an example, again, from today's episode/essay, I wanted to talk about Ludism, the Luddites, because I just read a book about Ludism and how it applies to work today. And I loved this book. I thought, "Everyone needs to read this." And also, "No one is going to read this." So I need to take this book, pull out my favorite ideas from it, pull out the things that I thought were just fascinating or really made you think kind of stuff, and I need to make it relevant to my audience, because it is relevant to them, but they don't know it.

So there's a couple of places my brain goes when I think about, "All right, the Luddites were not anti-technology. They were anti-exploitation. How does technology function in this way that creates exploitation?" And that's really what the book was all about. And so, I'm pulling out those ideas and I'm thinking, "Okay, what are the pieces of technology that are most familiar to my audience that demonstrate this?" So for me, it's project management apps, it's social media, scheduling apps, and AI. Those are the three things that I know just about everyone in my audience either has an experience of, or they know what it is, or they can wrap their head around it. And they all know, literally everyone in my audience knows what it feels like to be overmanaged, overwhelmed, and that compulsion to work more and more and more.

So that's really what the episode is about, is this compulsion to work more, to do things faster, to always be trying to eke out another ounce of productivity. But how does technology enable that or create that dynamic? And what does that do to our power as people in a ostensibly free society? What does that do to us and our ability to have meaningful participation in our communities?

And so, by tying why they need to hear it with what I want to say, I can sort of bridge that relevance gap, which allows me to talk about things that, I mean, frankly, no one else in my space is talking about, because it doesn't make financial sense to talk about what I talk about. So I can bring those things together in a way that allows people to engage with ideas that they never dreamed of wanting to engage with, but I can make it relevant to them. And even if they don't see what I see in this book, they see something that they didn't see before. And that's what's important, because from there then, again, it's incremental, it's iterative, that over time I can sort of chip away at those assumptions about the things that people can't see. I can chip away at all of that little bit by little bit.


So you've essentially taken something that is inside of you, that you are passionate about or interested in, or just this thing that just keeps tapping your shoulder saying, "Pay attention to me. There's something here. There's an idea here. Not quite sure what it is," develop it with resources all around you. And then, essentially, turn 180 degrees and say, "Okay, now, how do I need to write this in a way that will appeal to the audience that I have? And how do I communicate it in a way that will resonate with them?"

So good.

Ms. Tara, I have asked all of my questions, but I am sure that there was something that I should have asked you that I didn't, or if there's anything else that you would like to add, please do so.

There was one thing, before we jumped into the lightning round, that I was thinking about. I think about this all the time, that whenever I start talking about capitalism and how it invades every area of our lives, whether we know it or not, I always feel like I'm the conspiracy theorists in the center of town, shouting, "The end is near." And I am aware of that. And it's not a conspiracy, it's true, it's everywhere.

But also, there are things we can do about it for ourselves and for others. And that, I think is really exciting. And the things that we can do about it are pro-social things, not anti-social things, the way many conspiracy theories are.

I always encourage people to start just paying attention to one thing. Pay attention to one thing, one way that this vast conspiracy of capitalism impacts your life. Maybe you think about productivity. That's what I'm thinking a lot about right now. And notice all the ways you think, "Oh, I could be more productive at this. I could do this faster. I could do more of this. Was I productive enough today?" Maybe you start there. And then you start to notice the way you relate to yourself in terms of price, or your time in terms of price. Maybe you think about the ways that you relate to the ads that you see. And you just start to notice these things.

And it doesn't have to be about getting down on yourself. It doesn't have to be about even getting mad at the system. It can simply be asking yourself, "Is this what I want? Is this how I want to live? Is this healthy? Is this meaningful to me?" And little bit by little bit, you can really start to deconstruct those stories and write your own.


Well, Tara, thank you so much for this time. Thank you for your dedication and work to deconstructing all kinds of subject matter for us on our behalf, and then creating these beautiful narrative podcasts, walking us through an experience, so that we could understand the material in ways that we never thought we could. I appreciate all of your time. I appreciate all of your efforts. Thank you so much for being here.


Loved every minute of it.


Tara doesn't just want you to read her ideas. She wants you to experience them. She crafts her essays into narrative podcasts to bring complex ideas to life. Definitely give What Works a listen.

What's more, Tara's superpower is making the hidden visible. Her curiosity fuels her work as she explores cultural narratives and collective beliefs that shape who we are and what we do.

So I want to know, what questions has her work sparked in you? How has her approach to narrative podcasting shifted the way you're thinking about sharing your ideas? Tell me over on LinkedIn. Or even better, leave a review to help others who'd benefit from this content.

And to learn more about Tara, you can find her on Instagram and LinkedIn. There's also a treasure trove of content on her website,

Speaking Human First is a production of Thought Leader Media, a boutique visual communications agency for socially impact-driven leaders. It's produced by the amazing team at Yellow House Media and is recorded on the ancestral lands of the Mi'kmaq Nation. Many indigenous peoples continue to thrive in this place, alive and strong.

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