Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit

Alberta_Williams_KingBorn in the Autumn of 1904, Alberta Christine Williams returned to her home in Georgia from teachers college and taught for a short period before getting married to her husband on Thanksgiving Day in 1926.

At the time female teachers were not allowed to work while they were married, so Alberta had to give up her job. However, as the only daughter of Reverend Adam McNeil Williams, she would grow to play an important role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church and in her family, which grew to include three children in whom she instilled deep levels of self-respect.

Alberta served as the organizer and president of the Church’s Women’s Committee from 1950 to 1962, yet that would not be her greatest contribution. Tragically, the church that held and heard the voices of her father, husband and son – who all served as pastors there – also echoed the sudden, loud, sickening sound of the gunshot that took her life inside its walls six years after her son was murdered for speaking not only his mind, but for the minds of so many others.


Recently, in an online program, a participant shared, “I know I need to overcome the overwhelmed feeling, otherwise I’ll just keep my game small, rather than making a big impact.”

Over the years, I’ve heard so many people share some version of this with me.

When they say it, there is often a backdrop of shame and embarrassment.

And I’ve seen too many speakers exhort their audiences with the same messages. I’ve seen so many coaches challenge their clients to “think bigger” as if bigger were always better.

In Edmonton, where I grew up, I remember frequenting Willard’s Magic Shop. Willard was a scary old man who looked like a wizard and his shop felt like a genuine wizard’s store. I was 12 years old, just getting into magic, and the dark shop was tantalizing – piled with boxes full of secrets that I desperately wanted to know. Yet when I was older I heard a story of Willard trying to sell a boy in his late teens a $1500 stage illusion. Willard’s desire to sell it likely had more to do with his desire to make the sale than his wish for this teen to “go big.”

I find myself wondering how much the encouragement to go big is tied to the pocketbook of the coaches who happen to also be offering “Going Big” coaching packages. Or to their egos for getting to be the one who empowered this person to make “The Big Thing” happen. Or just to their hopes. And I’ve been that coach many times. Seeing something that seemed possible and exciting to me and not being able to let it go, even though the client was clearly uninterested or not ready for it for whatever reason. And then being frustrated at the client for being so perfectly and utterly themselves.

I’ve been at networking dinners where, after introducing myself and asking others what they’re up to, I am told some version of, “My mission is to impact 100,000 people to live better lives.” The number always seems to be very large and the emotional impact of it would feel hollow. As if they were just saying words they’d memorized from a workshop exercise and built a vision board around in an effort to convince themselves this what they really wanted. It never sounded or felt like what they really wanted. Something was “not quite right” about it.

The invisible algebra of much of the business scene (even conscious business scene) seems to be this: in order to have a big impact, you must reach a lot of people and make a lot of money. Without this, there will be no impact. And the more money you make, the bigger an impact you can have.

And, woven deeply into the fabric of this story is the thread that “jobs are for chumps.” I’ve seen speakers make fun of anyone who’d trade time for dollars. Like they’re idiots for doing so. Because, yeah, f*ck those teachers. And firemen. And police officers. And road maintenance people. What a bunch of chumps. This is the sometimes-subtle, often-overt background of the conversation.

Also woven into this story, which we’re fed with too many of the email subject lines or sales letters we read, is this sense that if we charge more, we will be worth more. But the whole notion of “charging what you’re worth” has always been, is, and will forever be, bankrupt (along with many of the ideas on prosperity that prop up our rapidly collapsing economy that has its roots in the perverse insanity of constant growth and hatred of limits).

10888534_10155030151555195_334459728987611680_nAnd I want to directly challenge that math because F*ck. That. Noise.

This story keeps us feeling constantly inadequate.

This story makes people the victim of their own success with goals that are far too high, building a business bigger than they really wanted, and then paying the emotional and financial price for going beyond any meaningful sense of balance.

Who’s to say that those reaching hundreds of thousands will have a bigger impact than those who only ever reach 100, but do so very deeply? No one. That’s who.

Niching, the finding of our role in the community, will always and forever be the dance between width and depth. And that width and depth are both equal and needed. We need people working broad and shallow. And we need people working narrow and deep. And everywhere in between.

The only question worthy of being asked is, ‘What is it that you see missing that you want to give? And how do you want to give it?’ That’s it. There’s no right answer.

And then how do you make it financially sustainable?

I recall a friend of mine telling me how he’d spoken with best-selling author and sales trainer Brian Tracey after one of his talks and asked him, “What would you do differently if you had to start over?” To which Brian replied, “I’d never build it so big.” It turns out that he spent most of his days travelling and speaking just to pay for all of his staff. I imagine you might find the same answer if you were to ask many of the business gurus out there. The businesses they’ve created to liberate themselves have become the albatrosses around their necks.

And yet we try to copy them. We do this even when it doesn’t feel right.

A colleague of mine recently wrote, “I’ve recently been through my own experience of acknowledging I’m better and more profitable when I stay small and keep my focus on the few things I love to do. Especially odd when I spent 7.5 years working for the biggest seminar guru and mega-bestselling author in that arena. Or at least he was in the top five. And people saying, ‘Denise, you’re going to be bigger than him.’ For a long time I thought I wanted to be – but I spent all my time running around promoting, which doesn’t make as much of an impact as really helping a small circle of people. Some of that was fun, but after awhile it started getting old. Plus I KNEW what he spent to get his book on the NY Times bestseller lists. It was serious six-figure stuff. The kind of money I absolutely didn’t have. I no longer feel like I have to make excuses for ‘playing small.’ It works for me. I know it’s ‘the American Dream’ to be big and be recognized, but happiness brings freedom – it really does.”

10436274_10155030167540195_5701275771766354030_nI want to lift up another possibility.

Small can be beautiful. Small can be agile and nimble. Small can be making a difference in your own community instead of trying to “change the world” (as if “the world” were one monolithic thing we could effect as opposed to being another story that has come out of the mouth of the deep cultural poverty into which we are born and can no longer see).

Not to mention: small can be far more profitable than a big business (sure, less revenue but also less expensive).

If there was a theme song of this idea, for me, it would be this:


Not everything needs to “scale” to the global level.

What if you were to just make a business that was “you sized” and let that be whatever size it needed to be?

What if we stopped competing and just focused on creating something beautiful?

Sometimes people grow a big business so that they can one day return to the lifestyle they already had when their business was small.

I see the marketing world awash with exhortations to build a six or seven figure business. I’m sure by this time next year, we’ll be seeing programs for 8 and 9 figure businesses. There’s an implication that being broke is a sign that something is wrong with us.

After reading this post, a colleague commented, “I’ve had the idea to create a ‘High Five Club’ to exalt the worthiness and adequacy of a five-figure income (which is what most of us actually need and earn). Perhaps that can be a movement too.”


One of my colleagues Aine Dee said this:

I have experienced myself and with many clients that when they make an intimate, informed, and conscious choice to limit the size of their business and to increase the depth of their impact, that true wealth is naturally accessible in organic and nourishing ways. It’s always a shocker to the client who truly believed the bullshit that it would require going bigger. It’s bullshit brainwashing. Period. Not all of us desire or are soulfully inspired to a big stage, big bucks, big fame, big email list, big following, or big anything. Unfortunately many of those with a big platform are espousing this ‘big’ bullshit.”


10891669_10155093360975195_904568337707258007_nI remember my friend Julianna’s restaurant Bacon. It was nestled in the main strip in the Highlands neighbourhood of Edmonton. I loved it for its quirky charm, independent spirit and delicious local food.

Before it shut down, due to a disagreement between the owners, Julianna would often be encouraged by savvy business people to franchise what she had; to open up a second and third Bacon restaurant in Edmonton.

This is, of course, not a surprising bit of advice as it’s the dominant business model in the world: grow big and then sell. You can see it everywhere. How many organic food products you buy are now owned by “the man?” Most of them. After all, if you want to to grow big and sell then what kinds of corporations will be big enough to buy you? Not the ones you admire the most, that’s for sure.


And that is not surprising giving the way we relate to time in this culture. This culture sees time as a straight line from the past to the future. But not just any past and not just any future. It’s a straight line from Cave Man to Captain Kirk. This is the assumed inevitability of our evolution as a species. We start as “primitive” and eventually we develop warp drive, become a class-five planet and travel the galaxy promising not to interfere with other planets but doing it all the time anyway (and let’s face it, we’d steal their resources in a second if it would make us a buck). And so, in this story, the growth of a business from a mom and pop shop to a multinational corporation is the most natural thing in the world.

Of course, there are other conceptions of time, like cyclical time. The idea of living in one place (like the pygmies of Africa did for 40,000 years) by the cycles of the seasons with an ever enrichening body of stories and rituals based on the relationship to that place with no particular agenda or intention of getting to anywhere else that’s better (because is there anything better than being here together, right now?).

Julianna’s response to the suggestions to franchise was that she might, one day, open up another restaurant, but that it would have it’s own name and character. That what Bacon had was something unique, particular and special. It wasn’t something you could duplicate.

What if small was beautiful?




My colleague Caitlin Sisslin wrote these important words in a recent newsletter she sent out:

The SOCAP conference was a field of inspiration. I heard a keynote from Vivienne Harr, the ten year old girl who raised $100K+ from a lemonade stand to end child slavery – and is now revolutionizing mobile crowdfunding. I met the founder of Groundwork Opportunities, which crowdsources seed capital for community-based entrepreneurs focused on ending poverty in their regions, throughout the Global South.

And of course there was plenty of conversation about growth and scale.

Many social entrepreneurs will advise you that the goal of any good social enterprise is to scale. To cause a proven solution to proliferate across a substantial social and/or regional dimension. Thought leader Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation asks, of any proposed fix to a poverty-driven problem, “will it get to those who need it most (a lot of them)?”

Scale seems largely unquestioned as a value in the social capital space. And in many situations, scaling is the right approach. The world’s on fire, after all! If something works, spread it around as widely as possible. But one of the best panels I attended at SOCAP, The Nature of Investing, explored a different response to the question of scale.

Katherine Collins of Honeybee Capital told the story of her transition from a top investor inside a major financial institution, to an ardent student of theology, and then a leader in the sustainable investing field.

Yet her concern is not simply with “sustaining” the status quo – she’s modeling her investing on the principles of nature, a reflection of the practice of biomimicry. At its most basic level, biomimicry asks, “what would nature do?” Applied to investing, it looks like directing our resources in ways that are effective, regenerative, and tied to the well-being of the whole.

I asked Katherine about the overall bias towards scale, and she offered something really interesting: “Nature grows and replicates, but it doesn’t scale.

Instead of a singular focus on scale as a measure of impact, she urged that we look instead at questions like: what is healthy growth? What should actually shrink, or even die and decay, to make room for the new? When you consider it that way, at one extreme, scale for scaling’s sake might start to resemble cancer, or extractive capitalism. Something that simply multiplies, without regard to the nuances of the landscape or the web of relationships it encounters. I resonated with Katherine’s idea. An essential part of any ecosystem is the cycle of birth and death, emergence and fading, bloom and wither.

Regenerative design – of our organizations, our systems, and our impacts – has to account for those cycles.

So as you’re thinking about how best to measure the impact of your work, concerned that you need to show only an upward trajectory, only bigger numbers each year, only an ever-expanding reach . . . Let your work breathe inside of a regenerative framework. Feed the parts that are springing up and bearing fruit. Let the parts lie fallow, that need to rest. Tell the real stories of growth, depth, lessons learned, and transformation. And when something is ready to die, let it go. If you’re interested in learning more, check out Katherine’s book The Nature of Investing: Resilient Investing Strategies through Biomimicry.


What if there was such a thing as enough?

What if there was more to life than succeeding in a suicidal global economy?

What if part of this new economy we’re all trying to build had, in part, to do with scale?

small-is-beautiful-bannerJudy Wicks said it best here:

“The Local Living Economies Movement is about: Maximizing relationships, not maximizing profits, Broad-based ownership and democracy, not concentrated wealth and power, Sharing, not hoarding, Life serving, not self-serving, Partnership, not domination, Cooperation based, not competition based, Win-win exchange, not win-loose exploitation, Creativity, not conformity, A living return, not the highest return, A living wage, not the minimum wage, A fair price, not the lowest price, ‘Being more, not having more,’ Interconnectedness, not separation, Inclusion, not exclusiveness, Community and collective joy, not isolation and unhapppiness, Cultural diversity, not monoculture, Bio-diversity, not mono-crops, Family farms, not factory farms, Slow food, not fast food, Our bucks, not Starbucks, Our mart, not Wal-Mart, a Love of life, not love of money.”




“There are no great deeds. Only small deeds done with great love.”

– Mother Theresa

“Lionar bearn mòr le clachan beaga.”

(“Great gaps may be filled with small stones.”)

– Gaelic Proverb


Woven into these stories of “having an impact” is a deeply flawed and historically inaccurate understanding of how this impact happens.

The story of social change we are told is that of the hero.

We’re told, constantly, that one person can make a difference.

Implied in this story is that Martin Luther King Jr. was the spokesperson and only person who really mattered in the civil rights movement. That Gandhi was the movement for India’s independence. That Nelson Mandela was the leader of the anti-apartheid movement, etc.

But that’s not true. That’s not how it happened at all. There were millions of people involved in these movements without whom all those mentioned above would have been lone and lonely voices.

One person can’t do much, really.

10868215_10155030157675195_8186575161666033261_nThat’s what communities are for. That’s what movements are for.

And any of the big names you could mention of positive change makers (and there are, thankfully, many) were outgrowths of a movement, not the leaders of it. They served the movement, not the other way around. Their movement wasn’t a thing they began and trademarked as a sort of pyramid scheme to become rich and famous.

Too often when people say, “I want to make a difference,” the emphasis is on the first word, not the last.

“I know that all of my enterprises will fail. I know that already. I’m not holding out hope that somehow anything’s going to change as a result of doing them. All I’m trying to do is participate in some small way in the small collection of memories that will accompany my death. That’s all I’m trying to do is having a small part to play in what those memories might be. Understanding now, that the way I’m proceeding is helping to author those things that people will remember. If they’re inclined to. And there’s not much more to me than that. But that is not a recipe for futility. One of the things I learned at the deathbed is . . . that’s the whole thing. That’s the magic of it. Our willingness to remember turns out to be a kind of banquet . . . and the remembering is the food. And I think that’s what we have to do in a rough time like this one, is that we have to give people even not yet born, we have to leave in the air a kind of an aroma . . . let’s call it ‘inconsolable possibility’ – a possibility that won’t be consoled into impotence.”

– Stephen Jenkinson

But that bitter pill of history doesn’t sit well with the narcissistic, modern ego which, when it says, “I don’t want to play small,” often means, “I don’t want to be seen or remembered as being small.” The idea that we can only ever play some small and humble role in the course of history is not a popular notion. Our society teaches us to be apart from instead of a part of.

And the notion that we can control the impact our actions will have? Not very popular either.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing against being strategic in our do-gooding. I’m arguing for being as savvy as we can be. I’m arguing for thoughtfulness and trying to have the biggest impact we can have.

I’m just lifting up for our collective consideration the possibility that your greatest impact on this world may have nothing to do with fame, fortune, the number of people you reach while you’re alive, or the scope of your reputation.

Consider the profound loss the world might have experienced without knowing it had Vincent Van Gogh been convinced by his friends to paint more commercial and saleable things. He died poor and not very well known but the beauty he created out of his tormented heart has done more to feed this world with beauty and repay our debt to the Holy in Nature than all of the infomarketing gurus put together.

Consider your parents, the camp counsellor who inspired you, the animals you’ve known and loved, the countless seeds and animals who gave their life anonymously so that you might live to be here today. They were not big and famous . . . but without them you wouldn’t be among those who could count their good fortunes for your safe and timely arrival into our growing community.

The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman put it simply:

“It’s not about going into ‘the business.’ The business can’t be a thought. You get a foothold because you want to get a foothold as an artist. Your desire, your intensity, has to be about being a great actor or a great painter or a great musician. If that’s strong enough, it’ll lead you to good teachers and to places where you’ll learn. For me, the business wasn’t a thought. I was doing a play, and a friend in the play said, ‘My manager is here tonight and she wants to meet you.’ And I said, ‘Oh.’ And that’s how I got a manager.”

And I’m not arguing for poverty. Being broke is an overrated thing. One of my most popular blog posts is called 15 Things to Do When You’re Tired of Being Broke. I teach marketing. I get it.

I’m not arguing to make all business tiny. Some businesses are meant to grow.

10385396_10155030170325195_169231752928543090_nI’m not arguing that the urging people to “not play small” doesn’t have a place. I’m just trying to sing another song that I don’t hear as much as I’d like on the radio station of this conscious business and personal growth scene and hoping that it might get some airtime in the face of the Top 4o hits we constantly hear. I’m trying to sing a song called “Good Enough” and hoping it might catch on.

I’m not arguing that this story is without value but that, without being questioned, it is a story that is told and acted out in places and ways it doesn’t belong.

I’m not arguing for people to quit too soon, never stretch or push themselves, and to not really go for it. I’m just saying run for the joy of running, not to win some race set up by others with a dubious prize you might not really want in the first place.

“For the Indigenous Soul of all people who can still remember how to be real cultures, life is a race to be elegantly run, not a race to be competitively won. It cannot be won, it is the gift of the world”s diverse beautiful motion that must be maintained… it is an obligation to engender that elegance of motion in our daily lives, in service of maintaining life by moving and living as beautifully as we can. Living and running were holy things you were supposed to get good at, not things to use to conquer, win, and get attention for. Running was not meant for taking but for giving gifts to the Holy in Nature. Running was an offering a feeding of life. By trying to feed the Holy in Nature the fruit of beauty from the tree of memory of our Indigenous Souls, grown in the composted failures of our past need to conquer, watered by the tears of cultural grief, we might become ancestors worth descending from and possibly grow a place of hope for a time beyond our own.”

– Martin Prechtel, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic

What I’m arguing for is that smaller might be more profitable. I’m arguing for some sanity. I’m arguing for waking up to the reality that my Gaelic ancestors affirmed in the words, “Tha gu leor cho math ri cuilm [Enough is as good as a feast].” I’m arguing for waking up from the starvation based yearning for the toxic mimics of fame, big followings and big money. I’m arguing for the possibility of finding our role and place in things. I’m saying that the admonition to not play small (and therefore to “play a bigger game”) might actually lead people away from the contribution they’re supposed to make. I’m arguing for a diversity of business models.

I’m trying to make the case that the simple words “don’t play small” come carried inside of the larger, toxic stories of this culture that “bigger is better,” that the world is a monolith rather than a diverse web of connections, that money = impact and many others.

988972_10155030170035195_1160517093420416824_nI’m saying that the opposite of being collapsed isn’t puffing ourselves up and posturing as if we’re some big f*cking deal, but instead being composed and comfortable in our own skin and then doing whatever the f*ck we want.

And I would say that the holistic and personal growth scene tends towards this pattern of collapsing and making one’s self smaller than one actually is. Whereas the mainstream business scene is full of posturing and people making themselves seem bigger than they actually are.

So, I get it. In that way, people in this scene play it smaller than they secretly want to be playing it and the encouragement to play bigger may actually be precisely the medicine they need. It’s just that these words are so loaded with cultural baggage that I think that it behooves us to look inside our luggage to make sure what’s inside is worth carrying the distances we want to travel.

Some people love the spotlight (some days I’m one of them). Some people would rather work behind the scenes in the shadows (other days you can find me there).

For God’s sake, don’t play small if you aren’t.

But it’s okay to be small if you are.

And don’t play big if you aren’t.

But it’s okay to be big if you are.

10410665_10155352897430195_1905880515879259217_nThe problematic word isn’t “big” or “small.” It’s “play.” Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t.

Sometimes when people are “playing small” they’re doing it out of a deep level of fear. They have realized the truth that stepping out in the world with their businesses will require vulnerability on their part. It could mean rejection. And they realize that, the bigger their reputations become, the more rejection will follow. This isn’t crazy. It’s real. And, knowing this, many people play things very cautiously, conservatively and close to home. They let things slide and fall apart because they’re terrified for someone to really see them. They spend all of their time being lost in the minutia of font sizes, editing and editing and never releasing, thinking about things, trying to get their website “just right” because if it’s not perfect and, if it’s not perfect, then we’ll be vulnerable to attack.

And they will be safe from all of this, but, what they often miss is that in shielding themselves from criticism, they also shield themselves from the overflowing love and joy of the community who would surround them and lift them up in gratitude if they showed up.

If you show up honestly in the world, you will polarize people. And that’s okay.

So, in that way, “playing small” robs the world of the gifts you came here to give.

But I don’t think the answer to all this fear is to push through and to grow a huge business. I think the answer is to get soft, make friends with the fear and vulnerability, and get comfortable in our own skins as we grow businesses that feel right in the moment, knowing they may grow or shrink over time.

The problematic word isn’t “big” or “small.” It’s “play.”

The rental rate for being alive is not that we become well known and speak in front of 100,000 people with our “message” (though that is certainly how some people are meant to serve). We’re not all here to become big names with big followings (though that might be your fate). Becoming well known is not necessarily better than living a quiet life. Being big is no better than being small.

“. . . the rental rate for this gift of being allowed to flourish and reside in this continuum with the rest of the world is that we do everything possible to be indigenously beautiful, promising that we make ourselves spiritually full and delicious so as to feed the next ones to appear in the ongoing river on the occasion of our passing.”

– Martin Prechtel


An excerpt from my new book The Niching Nest:

. . . this world is nothing but nests within nests. One of the great losses of this modern culture is that we have lost the ability to see this. The bird’s eggs lie in the nest. The tree is the nest for the bird and its nest. The soil is the nest for the forest. The Earth’s bedrock is nest that holds the soil. The solar system is the gravitationally-spun nest that holds our Earth inside of our remarkably nest-shaped Spiral Galaxy which is, itself, nestled in the impossibly vast Universe. Nests within nests.

The civil rights movement was a nest for Martin Luther King Jr. The anti-apartheid movement was a nest for Nelson Mandela. India’s movement for self-determination was a nest for Mahatma Gandhi. Certainly, and under no circumstances would any of them ever dared to claim credit for the creation of the nest in which they found themselves. This would have been unthinkable.

And yet, in the modern world of marketing, we are exhorted to stop marketing and start “building a movement.” This would be like exhorting a bird to stop building its next and to start building a tree.

And so whatever remains of this life affirming nest of history — that comes to us in the form of various movements for social justice and environmental sanity that struggle keep the eggs of the future generation safe — was woven by the actions of those who came before us. But it was not woven for them. It was woven for us, those to yet come, just as whatever weaving we might do in our now is not only done for us ourselves, but mostly on behalf of those whose faces haven’t yet pushed out of their increasingly threatened shells.

“You are song, a wished-for song.”

– Rumi

 When we understand the larger nests we are cradled in, and how they all fit into each other, then what comes with this is a deeper understanding of our role, which is to be faithful to all of the work that has gone into the work of creating the many layered nests in which we find ourselves and to which we owe our lives.

When a bird builds a nest, it does it in service to two things. Of course, the eggs of the next generation. But also it builds it in service to the tree and the forest itself. The presence of the birds in the forest is a central part to what keeps the forest healthy.

And so a niche is not a movement no more than a nest is the entire forest. Your niche is your small part in it and humble contribution to it.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard increasing talk about this idea of movements in business. As in, “Don’t market your business, build a movement!”

But I want to suggest that if you can build it on your own, it’s not a movement.

And that this is not how any movement in history was ever built.

Your niche isn’t a movement. It’s your role in that movement.

Most of these admonitions I’ve been hearing seem less about building a movement and more about becoming famous or well known. They’re less about the movement and more about you being seen as the leader of something.

A movement is so much bigger than your business, than you, and even your lifespan. A movement is a larger cause towards which many people will dedicate their lives. A movement may have many spokespeople but never just one leader.

If your business dies, the movement will go on without it. If it doesn’t, it was never a movement.

If you die, the movement will go on without you. If it doesn’t, it was never a movement.

So, ask yourself not what movement you want to build, but what movement you want to play a role in. And then ask yourself what role you’d most love to play.

That’s more than enough.


So, who was Alberta Christine Williams? And what does her story have to do with this story of playing small?

You thought maybe I’d forgotten her. Perhaps you did. You would find yourself in good company because popular history certainly has.

Well, she was born Alberta Christine Williams. But she died Alberta Christine Williams King.

Her husband was Martin Luther King.

Her son was Martin Luther King Jr.

Her name is not well known and yet, through her son (and in many, many other ways we may never know) she blessed this world.

In my blog post, Why ‘Charging What You’re Worth’ Is Bullshit I wrote,

“I imagine a modern day marketing guru speaking to Martin Luther King Jr’s mother and saying, ‘Why just be a stay at home mom? You’re thinking too small! Stop trading your time for dollars. You need leverage if you want to make a real difference in the world. Stop doing the one-to-one model of raising your son. What you really want to do is the one-to-many model. Don’t you value your time? Isn’t your time worth more than that? So, hire a nanny, and start building your business so you can be an empowered woman. What if you started teaching workshops on how to be a social justice leader and converted the attendees into a high end coaching package on how to be more effective at social change? You could create info products and sell those via mail order and make millions! And think of how much bigger an impact you’d have on the world with all that money and with that size of following!’ Of course, sadly for all humanity, because she thought so small and didn’t value her time, all she did was raise up Martin Luther King Jr. to be the man he was.  So sad for all of us.

In an essay written at Crozer Seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that his mother “was behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life.” Until the day he was killed, he was close to his mother.

Without Alberta, there would have been no Martin Luther King Jr.

Who’s to say what might or might not happen because of you and the seemingly small, mundane or common things that you do.

“Stepping into your power is not hardest thing. The hardest thing is to step in and remain grounded, humble and generous. Much of mundane training would have us believe we are inferior. If you begin a dedicated dance with Spirit you will start to see and feel your own power. It comes in brief slices in the beginning. Like shafts of light beaming down into the shady forest. We get a glimpse of who we are and what it feels like to be powerful. If we continue our dance with dedication a glimpse becomes a knowing. Along the path come opportunities to heal. In a perfect world our awareness would grow equally as our healing grows. But that is not always the case. It is possible to be powerful and broken. And that is an challenging combination. Don’t rush to power. Rush to healing. Rush to love. Rush to generosity. And a humble power capable of transforming the world will follow.”

– Naraya Preservation Council

Recommended Further Reading:

Small is the New Big – Morgana Rae

Bigger is Not Always Better – Ryan Eliason

About Tad

  • Diana van Eyk

    Hi Tad. Thanks for addressing this crazy idea we have about having to be big/rich/famous — talk about buying into the no limits mentality! A meaningful, comfortable spot where we’re valued and understood and where we’re able to give our best is what we need whether it’s large, small or somewhere in between.

  • Alysa Golden

    Thank you so much Tad. You are an inspiring and gifted writer. Of course, this is just what I needed to hear today. I cherish your work and glad you are niching to hippies like me. Simply an awesome post. So grateful. Enjoy your tour and happy Spring.

  • Mark_Silver

    Amin, amen, omayn. I can add nothing except a rousing “hell yeah!”

  • June Timberlake

    Amen to your “Hell Yeah!” :-))

  • Tad, this is f#cking brilliant! Really.

  • Christine Algera

    I really love this blog…I’m thinking about this issue for quite a while and you just wrote down the right things…Thanks!

  • Linden

    I think the mentors that I aspire to would congratulate you on this beautiful post. Folks like Helen & Scott Nearing, Peter Schumann of Bread & Puppet, Jules Rabin, Kate Smith (of Eaton Hill Textiles), independent booksellers, Henry David Thoreau, Wendell Berry, The Hour Exchange, Derrick Jensen, Maya Jundis Hackett, yurt builders, canoe makers, sewers of handmade clothing, William Coperwaite, Looby Macnamara, Rima Staines and all the many wild band of misfits that make money by sharing who they are…too many to mention. I have followed you for awhile now and while we are travelers of this journey, it is in the listening to the internal voice that seems to resonate most poetically to me. I don’t imagine bigger…I imagine smaller moments of deeper connection where each person gets seen and even more importantly listened to. Deep respect to you for acknowledging “work”…as work in building houses, taking care, making clothing, growing food, tending the dying, ushering in quiet moment of birth. I have loved your writing before…but, maybe we just fell in love with you today here in our home. To the listening and the tending….and the doing.

  • I see this so much with my clients who are steeped in the human potential and “spiritual” movements. The catch phrase I hear is “I’m not reaching my full potential.” It has all the same pitfalls as “I need to play big” or “I want to make a huge impact”. ARRRRGHHHH!!!!! It is so insidious because it sounds “good” but on examination what does it actually mean. What does it actuallly mean to “reach my full potential”? I’m so happy for this post as it resonates with my need to “out” how this languaging designed to “help” us, when coupled with the “not enough” story that almost all humans have to some extend, gets turned around and we use it against ourselves (albeit subtly) in self-jugdement. So much to say….. I’m eager to share this.

  • Shelley Jaffe

    So, you know that Roberta Flack song, ‘Killing me Softly’? This piece is my ‘Killing Me Softly’. But instead if you finding all my letters, you’ve somehow delved into all my dark thoughts about ‘growing’ my business. And gave me the MASSIVE gift of relief – that I can set down my bags of false yearning and let go that feeling that I’m never quite doing ‘enough’. Jesus, what a gift, Tad.

    I now recognize (although I am sure I’ve know it all along), that it is far more resonant for me to deepen my business rather than expand. This concept that we are driven only by the hope of growth is crap.

    Thank you for this – I will bookmark it to read again and again.

  • Iris P. Weaver

    This was an awesome post. I felt myself relaxing into myself as I read it and feeling more comfortable with myself. Thank you so much.

  • pale purple

    Thank you for this. I have created a beautiful business that is doing exactly what I always wanted it to do. It’s finally bringing in enough money that I’ve been able to hire beautiful people to help me so that I can have a life away from the business. But constantly I am asked ‘Are you going to open a second store?’ ‘Why don’t you franchise this?’ ‘What’s next for you?’. I am keenly aware of the sacrifice it would take to open another store and what kind of a work life I would have if I franchised. I have no interest in those things. Sure, I am not reaching hundreds of thousands of people – but I am reaching many and so many have said that I’ve built a place that feels safe and inviting for them. That means the world to me and it’s all I ever really wanted. That’s enough.

  • Thank you so much, Preacher Tad!

    I loved the story of Dr. King’s mother! Here’s another heroine in the civil rights movement: Mamie Till Mobley, who insisted on an open casket when her son Emmett Till was murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” she said.

    That small/huge act of courage by Ms. Till Mobley was the first thing I saw to break through the huge layers of denial in the white southern US where I grew up. I was 12 then, just a year younger than Emmett had been, and it broke my heart. It reinforced a commitment to racial justice that had begun at eight, when I was yelled at for drinking from a colored fountain.

    When I turned 65 a few years ago, I made a list of 65 events and people who’d
    had an impact on my life. Emmett Till’s mama floated right to the top and stayed there. Only later did I hear Rosa Parks say that this was a key turning point in her life, feeding her courage to finally say, “enough!” Then her courage sparked the bus boycott which gave Dr. King a huge platform for his growing message.

    My passion now is speaking and writing about the natural capacity for genius in all of us. The time of seeing genius and any other form of greatness only in the few is over. Yes, bless those who speak and work from the heart to the masses; bless also all who speak and work from truth in any venue of any size.

    Keep on keeping on, Tad. And when I called you preacher, I meant that in the truest sense of the word, for you are a preacher in this community as Dr. King, President Obama, and Oprah Winfrey have been in the larger world.

    A true preacher does the work necessary to find the right message for the moment and let the words roll out of his or her heart and mind and into ours. It takes work to listen prayerfully to the needs and hopes and pain of a community, then write out what needs to be said. When the sermon time comes, the task requires full, deep engagement with one’s heart and mind, with spirit, and with everyone in the pews. When all that comes together, it is genius that begets more acts of truth and courage.

    We’re in an age that de-values speaking thoughtfully considered words, especially those that go on long enough to go deep and wide. You always bring us that. Thank you. And thanks to all the people who helped you find and live your unique gifts.

  • Lisa Lipsett~Creative by Natur

    Thanks so much for this Ted. It was just the Schumacher-esque “small is beautiful” message I needed to hear this spring morning. I am enjoying the word play of “nest”- a place to maintain, be held in, to build on, express gratitude for and create beautiful eggs in vs “next” always looking over the edge to move higher, build yet another, somehow trade up. I also really resonate with the nested nature of all things which is the sort of “next” that makes sense. It’s not just me here plugging away I am part of a great chain of “nexts”, the continual evolution of life. My job is to get the fit right for me and the people I am sharing with so that my life and work are sustainable within this great ongoing change- like a beautiful hummingbird in a sweet little nest. Thanks again for all that you pour into your offerings. It is a very rich meal.

  • Tad, I love this entire article more than words can say. And Caitlin, knowing the founder of SoCap, (a wonderful, caring, forward-thinking being), I can’t wait to share all of the richness of these words with him. You have both expressed my heart so eloquently. I believe my next blog post will be quoting both of you as I reflect upon the last six years of trying to play bigger, to create something scaleable that just wasn’t meant to work that way. I love the relief of feeling myself a natural part of a movement that does go on with or without me, in which I have played a natural part that cannot be scaled into a coach’s vision of success. The excitement now is looking through the myriad of new seeds that can be planted for the new season of growth.

  • Joanna Free

    Tad – the timing of this is ideal for me, thanks – and, it appears so for many others, too.

    I think many of us are sick of hearing/being told “go big or go home” and some of us are waking up to the notion that it’s not either-or.

    I did a crowdfunding at the end of last year and the start of this year. I thought I had the social media community to support the amount I was asking. I didn’t. Not even close. I lowered the goal significantly, and made that. After I’d finished licking my imaginary wounds of “why don’t they love me enough to support my massive effing vision?” I looked up to see that 70 people HAD supported that vision. That a couple hundred friends – some I’d not yet met – had shared the campaign. I saw that someone else had seen a question on Facebook asking, “what one book has changed your life?” and she named mine while many of her friends were naming the Bible. I heard someone tell me that something I had said had saved his life. I nearly missed all that, obsessing on why my campaign had “failed.”

    When we’re so busy leaping to grab the brass ring of the carousel, we miss out on ALL of these things, in the mindset of never-enough. It makes us deaf and blind to the stuff that is happening right now.

    I have not lost the desire to go big. I think I do have something useful to say, and I still want a lot of people to hear it. But I’ve had enough of the restless discontent that says it has to happen THIS year, NOW. Or ever.

    So, I’ll keep on doing the stuff I do, day to day, week to week. This summer, I think I’m going to have a booth at the farmer’s market in my town. I’d be a busker if I had more musical talent. A small booth there is the equivalent of that for me.

    So, thanks for taking the time to articulate this. Much appreciated. I’ll think of you – and this – as I’m hawking t-shirts and shooting my mouth off in the sunshine this summer:)

  • Marialuz

    I loved your post Tad! I feel so frustrated with the “charge what you are worth”. Yesterday I was talking with a client who told me “I know I need to increase my prices, to charge my worth” to which I replied “why do you relate the money you receive with your self worth. Do you think Mother Theresa ever thought of that? What do you think she was worth?”
    Thank you for your words, I have fallen in the trap of thinking I have to get bigger, I have to stop playing small, and when I started to take action I experienced what you say, an immense imbalance in my life. I went back to basics…
    Thanks for this article.

  • Sharon Quinn

    The fallacy of money as the measure of a Soul underpins all this ‘bigger with no boundaries’ type of thinking, which in nothing more profound than the insights of ego minded pettiness with coveting on a pedestal.

    If we are honest and are willing to grant ourselves that beautiful level of introspection and its attendant accountability, we would see how it is a greed motive wearing the hat of a ‘genuine value’…

    How can we not break a limited world and its economy with an endless profit margin scheme? It defies reality and common sense. Charging more than you are worth by overvaluing your proffer is a form of lying and, I will venture it out with more starkness, a stealing by proxy of your exaggeration.

    PS. (If you feel an ‘ouch’ from that, own it because it is your Heart of Hearts trying to get your attention to take whatever actionable steps you can take to make the ‘ouch’ no longer a wound. It also is advising you to set your Soul free from going down a primrose path that is paving a way to hell for you and/or others by the imbalance you are part and parcel creating. We are a Oneness in our most essential self and we impact each other all the time.

    Staying in integrity is always a wise action and one that blesses at that! Even if we don’t understand it all… doing the right thing and being responsive is our power play, yes?)

    Back to the excess of bigness; it is a confabulation of inflating: You blow hot air into your balloon/product or service till it busts… AH, and then you pride yourself on that being the maximum fee the market will bear. More in line with TRUTH, is the bursting levels and it tells you that something had to break at that fee. Thus, how you found the fee tells you it is out of synch with harmony ways, and it fits into the momentum of collapsing the very economy you are draining by adding unto the lack of balance and equity exchange.

    TO get more that a fair value exchange is to enter the greed-thievery game. Whatever mask of “I’m worth it” you put on, it is a mask…and taking advantage of people is ‘at play’.

    Ha! it is an obvious lie we must tell ourselves before we tell it to others. Also, it is an ego exaggerating lie deflecting ego’s innate fear that Who I am’ just may be insignificant. From our unexamined insecurity of possibly being ‘average’ (is that really a “bad thing??!”), we choose to believe we just can’t bear to acknowledge we’re not extraordinary?? Who is selling the need to be extraordinary in an exaggerated way anyway??

    But, the key is the word, lie. :) is it not? The second key is ego as our mind not owning our In-Spirited Intelligence and its amazing concern and ability to bless the present moment and space we indwell. Now, isn’t that a value beyond a price tag?!

    I concur with your insight and kudos for giving a direct SLAP in the marketing face of a growing bandwagon of ‘marketing gurus’ who are leading people into a most insane world in which balance is decried as something negative and shaming. Our world is based and thrives upon the the golden mean and its balance because it gives our shared mutuality a phenomenal strength and stability by Divine design.

    Balance, boundaries, and genuine caring and sharing is the strength of a society that can hold its stability of prosperity because it is allowed to be equitably exchanging natural values. It is not eking out the biggest dollar that can get pulled out of someone’s wallet and deposit to your bank account. As the bank account fattens, it seems so much of the Essential Spirit of the person goes ‘underground’ of their being. Sad, indeed! (I would call that a poor values exchange.)

    The inane reasoning of ‘more is better and never enough’ is an unnatural formula that encourages and creates a most vile dis-eased state of coveting raping profits. I’ve seen this raping trend on the marketing scene picking up a momentum over the years. It has been a most disturbing evolution of the troublesome kind and its damage is being evidenced as major red flags. I use to blog about raping profits,too.

    A loss that knows not it is loss except in terms of living becoming a continual crunch of stress from getting and having. Where is the warmth of going to be each night with the smile of someone you enriched that day with your graciousness and kindness before your mind’s eye? Is it comforting to lay your head upon a pillow with your home now a mansion, and your life more about status than having the intimacy of you and your family sitting around a table eating dinner and sharing all your lives with each other?

    How warming is it to present a picture perfect rich storybook life upon the fluff of self-appointed text-pertise that is superficial and so empty of genuine value? I know many people living this fairytale world. I’ve seen it color their pomp and circumstance weddings that ended in expensive divorces in less than two years? Yikes! The example is minimal but the implications run to the heart of what matters, our relationships are not rooted, they are floating, be it work, love, family, etc. on the bigness you are highlighting herein.

    What you speak of here today, Tad, has been on my radar for several years now and I address it in great depth in the book I’m presently working on. It is part and parcel of telling the truth.

    Oh, by the way, this book will be worth every reader’s time to read and digest its message because its foundation is over 25 years ‘on the back burner’ coalescing its depth and proofing its value/insights. It is being written not because I need a following or people need to know me and to make my valuable footprint upon the sands of time. No, far from such motivations.

    It is being written as an obligation to share what has been revealed and discovered that I notice is not being talked about on the scene of our consciousness. Sometimes we stumble into the very thing many are looking for, and it obligates us, doesn’t it? It would be ethically rude to withhold that discovery, too. Ownership has it price tag.

    If we fall into the pool of awareness first, it behooves our Soul to share it onward. I do it for the message and its value as something I’ve no right to keep to myself. Will the marketing doors bust open and make we famous and rich? I’ve no idea how people will receive it because our world has become so jaded.

    Your very article herein attests to how jaded our pathway to each other has become. Do I wonder if it will make it through the slush pile books have become because I refuse to adorn it with outrageous claims? Of course, I’m not a blind fool. Though, in truth, reducing it to pabulum and marking it up with exaggerated glowing promises, is the bulk of advice I’m not assuming I must follow. So, I wonder…

    This whole issue you have been brave enough to blog deserves a big kudos! I’m glad you took it to the arena of a blog. Many other issues are in-tow to this value inversion of how we make our proffer to others. It impacts news, medical freedom of choice, relationships, education, publications, et al.

    I mentioned the book because it juxtaposes my personal confrontation with this messy marketing challenge and its value distortions. These distortions didn’t exists even 10 years ago. So much of the big fees for little expertise riddles the publishing of books and it dilutes them terribly.

    My life is still steeped in this project. Writing it has become an investment far greater than I expected it to be. Well over 4 full time years have gone into just the writing end of it. Thousands of words had to be written before my writing voice emerged. Then taking the awareness into an organized format so it would be a nutrient packed tome worthy of other people’s time was been integral to the process.

    I mention this because it dovetails your message, Tad. How many of these overcharging marketing ‘mavens’ are advocating the value of how ‘everyone has a story the whole wide world needs to hear and read about? They are encouraging trivial info to be published. More appallingly to be written, polished and edited in less than a month! Yea! What could that HONESTLY be worth?

    Now, from engagement, I know such an approach can only produce average to nominal information. Flooding the market with such books junks up the path to valued reads. I see this now. The more the depth such a book is likely to have, the less likely it will ‘follow the success of overnight sensation’ production or sell.

    Of course those books are about as meaty as a bread and butter sandwich, but, heck, they look enticing and they consume people’s time and money, don’t they? The value issue is so pertinent. The point is the same, but the avenue differs.

    We use to rely upon authors to endure the process of developing skills, proofing their discoveries, and then gifting us by writing and publishing their worthwhile information so we could be benefactors of their work.

    We could learn much from them, so much as a result of their years of growth being shared and translated into a wisdom we could read that would deepen our being for the read. In the onslaught of trivia with a magnificent cover and manipulative marketing schemes, how are the wisdom books rising to the top of the dog pile burying them in a sea of illusions of information? Whose the ultimate winner here? With tech and wealth comes great responsibility, and I think we’ve lost sight of this, too. Would you agree?

    I apologize, Tad, if I got too far off the track. I didn’t give myself a month to formulate a truly cogent well written response because I knew if I did, nothing would have gotten to your blog. Thus, I chose this more spontaneous response. Please accept my recognition I may have been able to make my point with less input about my experience facing the shocking shift in the publishing world, but my intention is, was and will always be pure. I wanted to add to the discussion and validate your point.

    Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for listening and not limiting my response to those danged character limits that frustrate making a response with any depth, too!

    Light and Love to you and all without borders.
    Sharon Quinn
    PS. Now, that is something we can afford to invest in without limits… but it is of the Spiritual kind meant to know no end in our expressions, eh?! :)
    PPS: had to join Disqus just to comment??! :(

  • Carol Anne Olsen Malone

    I’ve been afraid of “starting a business” because I have nothing BIG to sell, no BIG idea to push on people, or GRAND way of thinking. I’m just ordinary with an ordinary story who has written a couple of books I believe are special. I don’t want to be BIG, but some of the coaches I listen to are like, “You’ve got to go BIG, or GO home.” So I don’t take the risk, it’s too painful. I would love to see my books make money, but I don’t need millions of dollars to live an abundant life. I’d like to know how to serve people, to lift their burdens. But are my books or the life I’ve lived anything special that will draw people to me? I’m not sure. But I do know I can’t go BIG and I’m appreciative of your comments. Thank you.

  • Tad, at so many levels, this speaks to me. It’s SO refreshing to not hear one more business coach promoting the “Big Life.” Having taken the “advice” of one top coach, I promptly watched my list decline by 20%. Staying true to myself, and not buying into the BS is only one half of that awareness; sheepishly I gotta admit that one sentence of the hyperbole is one I’ve caught myself using with prospects. Until today. ;-)

  • Yeah Tea! My fav Word Chef!

  • Libby

    Hello Tad. I am new to your work. Thank you for so beautifully articulating the discomfort I have been feeling about the 6 etc figure hype that is so large for many American entrepreneurs/coaches/marketing types. I live in little old New Zealand and some of us here have a healthy resistance to being colonised by the oft-espoused American cultural values of bigger has gotta be better. Loved your post, have shared it. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  • Marilyn Daniels

    Thank you for this, Tad. This sentence, especially, stood out for me:

    Too often when people say, “I want to make a
    difference,” the emphasisis on the first word, not the last.” There’s so much underlying the ‘playing bigger’ thing – the over-culture’s never-ending demand for growth, being and doing more, inculcating the belief in ‘not enough’, ‘not mattering’. All of this ego stuff is really linked into the overculture’s dysfunction and how it buries itself into our psyches.

    And, I belief there’s another impulse, often mixed in with the egoic stuff which is a kind of semi-conscious wild and terrified connection to the dangers of this time, a sense of guilt of not doing enough, being enough, staying awake enough to somehow ‘fix’ or respond to what’s happening. We can be driven by that without taking the time to notice how it gets entangled with personal inadequacies and egoic tendencies.

    I love too that you presence Martin Luther King and Gandhi as not single-handedly changing the world. It’s not to take away from their dedication and contribution but rather to presence that they spoke on behalf of a larger current, of a larger ecosystem of support. That there were mothers, wives, supporters, advisors, publicists and lots of extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people who will never receive any recognition for their sacrifices and contributions.

    I’ve witnessed people with a following of 10’s of thousands admit they turned no profit because of their infrastructure. I’ve seen people invent ‘new’ personalities, sacrifice their kindness and relationships in favor of going big and the 6 figures. And I’ve witnessed people desperate to make their mark blow big bucks on high-level guru-led programs only to, years later, sheepishly admit to each other that it was a waste of money. It’s not to say there isn’t value associated with ‘being big’ but there’s also bigger stakes, bigger risks, and bigger possibilities of doing harm if it’s not informed by love, wisdom and a real and steady dedication for what matters. Maybe if we all just focused there we’d be able to be kinder to ourselves, each other and this precious earth?

  • *waves hello*

  • Palika Benton

    I live in a community surrounded by New age entrepreneurs who have caught this illness of big means successful or powerful or happy. I’ve been holding this insight you’ve shared here unpopularly for years. I am stoked that the one you are who has the big impact of reaching lots of people in the entrepreneurial world spoke his radical truth boldly skillfully poetically and insightfully. Thankyou. We might all benefit from rememberin that it’s the smallest creature microbiology that make the world to round.

  • nancee mcpherson

    Wow, just WOW is right! Grateful I took the time to read this today. Exactly what I needed to read to move forward. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Anna

    I appreciate your Enough song Tad. I tasted life with the chauffeur driven car (on my own merits). I got to be one of the owners of a multi-million dollar mission based company. But, for me, ordinary and oh-so-much-smaller is more nourishing. Please keep singing.

  • Lis Larsen

    Thanks Tad for helping me to breath again!

  • Wow! Mindbogglingly refreshing. I’ve been a reflecting on a lot of these same ideas lately. I think the pendulum swung too far in the direction of go BIG to overcome your fears and show up fully. I’ve been a part of swinging it in that direction. It’s time to swing things back. Overcoming your fears, showing up fully, doing what you’re meant to do, being who you really are… it might involve large numbers, and it might not. You ROCK Tad! Thank you for such a thoughtful article.

  • Thanks Ryan! Nothing more valuable than the praise of the praiseworthy :-)

  • Teresa Tuulari Kruys

    I loved this. Truly resonated with what my husband and I have been talking about.

  • Thanks for the insight! I absolutely love what I am reading. I was working in an office with folks who focused on money and I felt so disconnected. I finally got the courage to leave and get my own intimate space. It has been a little scary at times but I am becoming more comfortable with my life purpose. Thank you for the inspiration and motivation. It’s good to know I’m not alone in my beliefs. Much success and happiness!

  • right on!! I study chi gong and its all about balance and moderation so you preserve your vital energy and listen to your body, emotions and wiser self. WE need all these inner resources in business! Balance is beautiful and we all have our unique balance, our yin and yang, big and small, outward and inward.

  • Danielle

    Favorite line: I’m just saying run for the joy of running, not to win some race set up
    by others with a dubious prize you might not really want in the first
    place.” Thank you this is an amazing post and exactly what I needed to hear today. I find it much harder to create genuinely from the heart when I am thinking of the possibility of growth. Your post is helping me get back to just doing what I love and to do it well and with passion. :)

  • katephillips

    Great food for thought… and tremendous job on bringing together so many strands, Tad! I can recall several times in my businesses (present and past) where I redefined what was most true for me by NOT going “bigger”, such as deciding (in a former life) that I enjoyed having a “boutique” real estate business rather than pushing to be a “mega-agent.”

    Perhaps similarly to your thoughts, as a wealth coach (present life) and someone who uses words like “abundance” and “prosperity,” it troubles me a bit to hear the idea that “there is UNLIMITED amount of money!” because, well, no, there’s actually not (though as the Fed and other entities keep printing more, it may seem that way!) But there’s a SUFFICIENT amount… there is ENOUGH, even PLENTY! Of course there are many of issues, internal and external that keep many people from experiencing plenty, but that is a whole nuther topic. Much lack is caused by people trying to be someone else.

  • All I can say is… WOW! I have only just found this site but how inspiring it was. I know I have been “procrastinating” within in my coaching business and couldn’t work out why and now I know…. I just want to be happy with what results my clients get from working with me and make a comfortable living and I have been resisting doing some things so I wouldn’t become big as I don’t want to. Somebody suggested a five figure income and that sounds wonderful to me.. thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Hey Tad, really liked the thoughts in this post which I do on the whole agree with. I do use the phrase ‘playing small’ in what I do, but not in the sense I think you mean. What I refer to is the fear and the resistance that makes you stay hidden when you know you have something amazing to offer the world – you only do so much because it feels safe yet a part of you is slowly dying because you know you were created for more. It doesn’t matter what size the more is in my opinion but until you feel safe enough to aim for it, you will always feel as if something is incomplete within you.

  • Susanna Grace

    Yay and Woohoo and Amen, Tad! ‘Poor indeed is he who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.’ (Oscar Wilde). If I never hear the phrase ‘6 figure income’ again it won’t be soon enough. I think I love you, by the way – love you for your big heart, your clear thinking and your righteous anger leavened with humour. Thank you for doing what you do and being who you are.

  • thank you susanna. so glad you liked it :-)

  • Julie Daley

    I have never read a marketing post that feels along the lines of how I know and experience the world. Thank you.

  • Zina Canton

    I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I just read your beautifully said post today, Tad. Thanks so much for it, I am just launching my coaching practice and am inundated with six figure this and 1,000’s fans that, make $$$ while you sleep…jeez I already feel unsuccessful and I haven’t even really started! My gut has been telling me to keep my practice small,intimate and mostly impactful and for me that doesn’t mean packed workshops and 5 figure product launches, Thanks again for putting a voice of validation to my own guidance. Keep up the great work!!

  • <3

  • I’m sitting here thankful. And relieved. Thanks, Tad, for having the courage to speak a real truth, a truth that cuts through the fear so many small entrepreneurs feel–the desperation to shoot for big or maybe not make it at all. I appreciate your words always, like a sensible friend who cuts through the BS and tells you what you need to hear. You are truly of service to those you are reaching. I give you a standing ovation!

  • <3

  • Matt Sutton

    Tad Hargrave, you are so awesome. Playing small, playing big? How about just “Playing.” I’ve played f+cking huge in my life and the underbelly of that is often not what people think it is. There is no pot of gold at the end of the “playing big” rainbow. In fact, there’s often a lot of landmines and an occasional nuclear bomb.

    Thank you for sharing this message.

    Its so important to validate those who decide to play in whatever pond or puddle suits them…. big, giant, little, tiny or small.

  • I’m not biting on the 6 figure hook. I have my passions, and I want live them and have enough (money, time, energy etc.) to be comfortable.

  • Justine Musk

    When someone such as Tara Mohr urges women to play bigger – or talks about women’s need + longing to play bigger – she’s not talking about massive audiences so much as impact, meaning, doing what’s truly important to you even when it means you have to come out of hiding or throw down some boundaries that will surprise and displease people. If you’re running a Fortune 500 company but hate it because you secretly want to teach inner-city kids, then you’re playing small. Playing big means being able to say “This is what I want” *without* feeling shame (itself an indication that you’re relying on external sources for validation instead of your own inner voice). It means feeling entitled to an ambition that is truly yours, exactly the size that it is + not what you feel it should be. Women grow up learning not to chase dreams, but to be the dreamgirl that gets chased; not to want, because it’s selfish and conceited, but to be wanted, the object of someone else’s quest. That can make it difficult to get clear on what you intend, much less feel like you have any right to declare it. And if Martin Luther King Jr’s mother wanted to play her own fierce game in the public sphere then yes, that is exactly what she should have felt entitled and able to do…Somehow I doubt that having a working mother instead of a stay-at-home mother would have turned Martin into, say, a soft-spoken accountant.

  • thank you.

  • I love this post. Thank you for all the work you put into this.

  • <3 thanks for noticing.

  • Thank you for this beautiful and thought provoking message! As the single mom of 2 young, amazingly gifted kiddos, my work supports us and serves an example for them that their passions and personal desires are valid and possible. While I may or may not “be big” one day, I am huge to them and I am honored to contribute to my client’s progress as well.