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Episode #19 | Tara Sophia Mohr: Playing Big – Putting Your Dreams Ahead of Your Fears

“‘Playing big’ is being more loyal to your dreams than your fears.”

– Tara Sophia Mohr


When Sheryl Sandberg wrote Lean In, she shined a gigantic searchlight on the gaping holes in leadership teams around the globe. Where are the women? When Tara Sophia Mohr wrote Playing Big, she gave women a roadmap to develop the tactical skills to fill those holes. What makes Tara’s advice so powerful and widely applicable is that it’s not just for women. It’s for anyone who has ever let their fears stop their dreams.

About Tara Sophia Mohr

Tara Sophia Mohr true wellth podcast

Tara Sophia Mohr is an expert on women’s leadership and wellbeing, and an author, educator, and certified coach. Tara is 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 is the creator of the pioneering Playing Big leadership program for women, and Playing Big Facilitators Training for coaches, mentors, and managers who support women in their personal and professional growth. Her work has been featured on The Today Show and in publications ranging from The New York Times to goop to Harvard Business Review. Tara earned her BA from Yale and her MBA from Stanford University. She lives in San Francisco and loves dance, art, and long walks with her family.

Show Notes

A pivotal moment in my career happened not long after Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In came out. I was attending a conference featuring women who had reached some of the highest rungs of professional success. When asked why more women weren’t leaning in, a smart female consultant to Fortune 100 executives said she had observed four stages to a person’s career.

Stage one is learning to be an expert in your field. Women excel here. Stage two is learning to manage others within your area of expertise. Women also excel here. Stage three is learning how to manage people who have areas of expertise you don’t possess. Stage four is doing stage three on a massive scale.

In her work, the consultant had observed a chasm between stages two and three in which women were nose-diving. Or said differently, men were much more willing to make the leap to managing processes and outcomes they didn’t know much about. In my own career, I have found this to be a spot-on description.

This is precisely the chasm that Tara Sophia Mohr addresses in her work around “playing big.” Tara’s work is centered around ten principles that, when used in concert, form a sturdy bridge for women–and men–to make the potentially nerve-wracking walk across the chasm from stage two to stage three with much more confidence. It sure has for me, and I hope it will work for you and the people in your orbit who you care deeply about, as well!

Manisha’s Top Takeaways

  1. Learning to play big is an iterative process, not a one and done
    Tara defines “playing big” as being more loyal to your dreams than your fears. For most of us, our dreams (and our fears!) are not carved in stone. That’s why the ten-point framework of Playing Big can be so powerful. By returning to it periodically during significant life changes, you will find new areas from which to draw strength. [10:45]
  2. The concept of Yirah
    Tara explained that Yirah refers to a specific type of fear, namely “a fear that has something to do with what’s sacred to you, the fear that accompanies the expansiveness of stepping into a larger space and doing something that brings you an infusion of energy.” I’d never thought of fear as being a positive quality to embrace and get energy from until Tara described it in this way. [14:00]
  3. “Playing big” is not a solitary endeavor
    A theme that has come up time and again in past episodes of true WELLth is the importance of interconnectedness. Tara does a beautiful job of explaining why an individual’s developmental focus on “playing big” does not conflict with collaboration and community. Instead, it’s a framework to be used to contribute your best self to the stew that is living life as one of more than 7 billion people on the planet. [15:30]

Other Major Topics

  • The surprising patterns Tara saw when observing groups of brilliant women at work [3:55]
  • What men need to know about women in terms of “playing big” [6:00]
  • The one fill-in-the-blank question that can change the entire focus of your life [11:45]

Resources Cited in the Episode

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