Six months ago, Tami Hackbarth began what she called the 100 Women Project. Before we dive into all the awesomeness that came out of that, I want to rewind and have her share with everybody where she got this crazy idea to go out and talk to 100 women.

RC:: What sparked that idea, and why did you do it?

You actually sparked that idea, because I was feeling unsure of what I offered people, and I was unsure of what my messaging should be. I was unsure of who I actually served and who I wanted to serve. You came back with, “Well, ask a few people,” and I did via email. I got a little information but it wasn’t that satisfying.

I kept that, “Oh man, I still don’t know” even though I talked to people.

Then you shared a blog post that included the advice to interview 100 people. I thought that sounded completely bonkers, but it wasn’t just like, “Oh, do this for the novelty sake.”

You were saying that if you were serious about your business, like you threw down the “if you’re serious” gauntlet. “Oh, I’m serious. Let me see how this is going to go.

That’s when I said, “Okay, self, are you going to stop yourself?” Because I was like, “I can’t talk to strangers. I can’t ask these questions. It’s so invasive. I don’t know. I don’t know 100 people who would talk to me. Is self-care even a thing?”

I was trying to talk myself out of it, but when you said, “Are you serious about your business?”… I told myself, “Oh okay, so this is how you show how you’re serious about your business.”

That’s why I decided to take it on, because I’m at the crossroads in my life which is I was a teacher for a long time, and so I’m at the point where I have to decide am I going to get a classroom teacher job, or am I going to make it as an entrepreneur?

I had given myself ’til my kid was in first grade, and she is in kindergarten now, so I need to get it taken care of. I thought, “Also, this can’t possibly hurt me, because I’m going to learn things.”

I took it on because I wanted to be serious about my business.

I mean, don’t boss me, but challenge me, and then suddenly I’m like, “Well I guess I have to do it.” And it did sound completely bonkers. There was a large time commitment. It’s a lot of time, but I had decided I was going to go and get some further education, and so I was doing an in-person life coach training at my local university.

I thought, “Well, it’s the same thing. Like if I was going to do this as a yoga teacher, if I was going to do this as a private yoga teacher, or a retreat leader, whatever, self-care coach, I was going to have to get information anyway,” and so I decided while I was in my program to not take on any clients and to not teach, but just to go to school and go do this research project.

RC:: Did you know 100 women to talk to? How did you end up finding that many people?

I do know a lot of women, but I thought, “Am I just going to talk to my friends? I don’t know how this is going to work.” I did what I always do when I need something. I crowdsourced it on Facebook. I made an event on Facebook and I invited my friends and I invited my followers on Twitter. I invited my followers on Instagram.

Let’s put it this way, I started on May 15th with the calls, and by May 30th I had done 22 calls.

By the way, I didn’t actually talk to a single one of my friends.

I talked to people from high school. I talked to colleagues. I talked to colleagues of my husband. I talked to bloggers that I’ve never met before. I talked to people who I’ve been friends with online for years who I had never heard their voice.

Then once I started having these great conversations with people, they started referring me to their friends, so I talked to peoples’ moms, and their sisters, and their aunts, and their nieces. The age range was 25 to 70. From all over the world.

I would get on the phone with somebody or Skype, and I’d go, “How do we know each other? How are we connected?” They’d say, “Oh, I’ve been reading blog for years.” Which I had no idea about. I talked to somebody in Sri Lanka. I talked to somebody in India. I talked to somebody in Ireland. I talked to lots of people in my home town. I talked to people from where I live now.

I didn’t go in thinking, “Oh, I’m going to target these people.” I went in thinking, “I’m going to make some time in my schedule.”

That was how I felt like I kept my energy really clear, and I’m not a big talk about energy person, but I felt like I was very clear because I was saying in every piece of information that it was not a sales call, so that nobody would feel oogly about talking to me.

I literally was just asking. There was no pitch, and also no teaching. I didn’t like go, “Oh, you said this and I’m going to offer you this…” I didn’t coach anybody. I was literally transcribing what they were saying so that I could use their words back to them when we talk later. Having that really clear energy, I wasn’t shy about sharing it.

I am a member of a bunch of Facebook groups for entrepreneurs, and women entrepreneurs, and people changing careers. I would go to the leader and say, “I’m doing this project. It is solely for information. Can I put a post on it?”

They were totally on board. I was able to because I wasn’t trying to like poach peoples’ clients or their potential clients, that it felt really clean in “going after” people, which was inviting them and saying, “Hey, I’m doing this thing.” So women self-selected. All they had to do was be a women and get on my schedule. That was it.

I gave people the questions straightaway. Again the questions were clear. Every once in a while I could throw in followup questions, but they knew the basic framework. I also said it’s 30 minutes, and so I just got off at 30 minutes.

RC:: You set your intention for 100 women. You put it out there. What were those conversations like? What kind of questions did you ask in those interviews?

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I wanted to know where self-care was going well for people, what was already working and where they were struggling. And then I wanted to know what was the underlying gut feeling, the theme, the stories they tell themselves about self-care.

I go into my first interview. I thought, “Oh my, I should probably ask them what it is to them” and by the grace of God I actually got the real question, which was “What is your definition of Self-Care?”

I did 100 interviews, and I got about 90 definitions.

It ranged from manis and pedis all the way to one of my interviews said self-care for her was doing political work during the campaign. She was in the White House and I was on the Hill.

It made perfect sense, because for her using her voice, I should say not using her voice, was showing up in her body, and not using her voice was showing up as feeling powerless and hopeless. She was like, “I have got to manage my energy and focus it to where it’s calling me.”

RC:: One of the challenges I often see from entrepreneurs – and it doesn’t really matter how long you’ve been an entrepreneur if you don’t get this – 

If you don’t have a clear way of articulating what you’re talking about to all those people you want to serve, then it’s kind of like both of you think you’re talking about the same thing but you’re really not. 

It feels hard because you’re always trying to explain yourself not very well. You’re always fumbling, and people don’t really get what you’re talking about.

But by starting with “Hey, what is your definition of self-care?” … you get on the same page.

Anybody can ask that question, you know.  What is your definition of whatever it is that you happen to be focused on, your topic in your business? You got so much clarity on the spectrum of where people were coming in at.

Within probably 10 interviews I had distinct themes, and very distinct messaging. I literally said this all the time, “Please do not be frightened when you see your words in my copy, because that was good.” It was amazing how willing people were to talk, and they told me super personal stuff. I mean, I don’t think you could get more personal than self-care, but it was so meaningful because I got authentic responses.

You know we do these exercises when we’re entrepreneurs, who’s your ideal client? You get into their head and you make up this story and you do this thing. I actually just went into a bunch of women’s’ heads and I asked them the questions and then they told me.

I was like, “Okay, well I was never going to get there. I was never going to get to where you guys were driving because I was in a different bus,” right? My message was never going to hit with those people because we were talking about different things in different ways.

RC:: Now that you’ve identified those themes, how is that impacting your business or the way you talk about your business?

First things first, I changed my tag line. I used to be just “Tami Hackbarth, your 100% guilt-free self-care coach.” end with a period. Then I added, “For women who want to drop the story that self-care is selfish and become a powerful and strong leader in their own life.”

RC:: Tell me about that. What is the impetus for changing your whole tag line?

A majority of women, they did not come out like get on the phone, “I think self-care is selfish.” They waited until the last possible minute, and I felt like they were telling me their secrets.

I asked, “what’s the hardest part? Like what’s the deep down business?” Most of them whispered, “Well, self-care is selfish.”

I responded, “Why does everyone keep saying that thing that I don’t believe is true?” Wow. I thought, “Aww, I have an education issue.”

If everyone, or if this many people, believe this and I don’t, boy it is up to me to go, “Whoa, no. I reject that. And you can too.” That was the biggest piece where I was said, “Aww, you think it’s that?”

Also what people considered self-care. Lots of people, they only talked about their body. There was a lot of gym confessions, like when I would say, “Where are you struggling?” people would confess that they hadn’t been to the gym.

I was like, “Okay. I don’t actually go to the gym, but go on. It’s okay, but just tell me all of the things …” It was like they were reading Shape Magazine back to me about all the things they should do that they weren’t doing. I responded, “But does anything on that list float your boat or light you up?”

They said, “No,” to which I replied, “Then throw the list away. What is self-care to you? What makes your body feel good? What makes your spirit feel good? What floats your boat?” They were shocked, “What? I can make choices?”

“Yep. You’re in charge. You’re a lady that’s all grown up.”

RC:: I love that you said you realized you had an education issue. You believed one paradigm and they believed another.

Out of the 100 women that you talked to, you mentioned that maybe 10% had a very similar definition to your definition, but they were already drinking the Kool-Aid. They’d already been through the same types of education and programs and were already right there with you.

This is so important I think for entrepreneurs because if we don’t realize where the gap is here, like you said it’s a education problem, a paradigm shift you have to take them through, it’s going to be really hard to build your business on just that 10% who understand what you’re talking about versus understanding those themes, those challenges that are reoccurring for the rest of the 90% of people you could help.

By having these conversations, now you realized, “Okay, well here’s where they’re starting. Here’s where I need them to be before they’re ready to actually do the work with me.”

You can break it down and figure out exactly what you need to talk about, where they’re starting, truly starting, their point A, and get them to the next stage, which is simply changing the way they think about your topic.

What’s happening next? What’s the next stage of this project and how are you going to take all these insights and put them through your business?

One thing I started at the beginning of the year is the Self-Care Myth Busters Series on my newsletter and blog, which is basically taking the themes, the slices of information that I gleaned from people and just sort of turning it on its head and offering a different perspective, offering an alternative view, an alternative mindset to where they are.

Because I have to tell you, not one of the people who said self-care is selfish also yelled, “And I’m so happy I can hardly believe it.” Right? They said things like “It’s selfish and I feel terrible about it. I feel terrible about feeling terrible about it.”

My response, “Well, you could change how you think and then you don’t have to feel terrible anymore.” That’s one thing.

I’m also putting together some private one-on-one coaching sessions with people who are ready to drop that story, who are ready to dig in and do the work, and to find an alternative.

Again, it’s a paradigm shift, because when you look at how self-care is written about in magazines and stuff, it really is consumer-driven. It’s “go on this luxury retreat.”

By the way, I also do retreats, but that’s not the only thing I do, and while we’re there, what we’re doing is we’re learning a new way of thinking without the constraints of being at home and being with your kids. But it’s not the act of going and being in the lap of luxury for four days.

It’s really being in this sort of mindset bootcamp of changing your perspective on what it could be, self-care, what could it be, and how it’s very personalized to you. There’s a level of personal responsibility in the kind of self-care that I teach that I think is uncommon.

I am not going to give you a list that says, “Racheal, in order to be healthy, happy, and sane, you have to do XYZ,” because Self Magazine, they already do all that stuff for you, right?

All the ladies magazines say, “Oh, if you just lose weight, and if you wear these pants, and if you do this, and if you use these yoga accessories.” Umm, no. That’s actually not how it works.

It turns out you don’t need any of that stuff. What you need to do is change your mindset about your place in the world, and the level of kindness that you show yourself, and the level of grace that you exhibit in the world, and the level of kindness that you show other people, and giving people a break and not taking shit so seriously.

My brand does not have to be expensive, right? I want to work with women who are ready to drop that story and to shift their mindset into being in a more powerful place where they are sovereign, they make the rules for themselves, and they establish their boundaries.

When you are grounded in that kind of self-care, you feel strong. You feel powerful, right? You knock out the overwhelm because you’re the boss.

RC:: What would you say to somebody who’s where you were in their business. What would you said to them to nudge them to create their own version of the 100 Women Project?

Three of my colleagues are doing them. Each of those colleagues was part of the program, and they were interviews for me, and now they’ve turned it around.

Because what it comes down to is each one of them is questioning, “Who am I serving? I have had some success. I would like more success. I would like to know what people are thinking. I would like to know where people are struggling so that I can tailor my offerings to actually helping people.”

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The thing is I don’t think 100 of my people are going to become clients. In fact, I don’t even have room for 100 new clients. I want like 12 over the course of the next few months.

One hundred might be hard. I mean, if I came up with this great group program, which I might at some point and maybe it’ll be like an offshoot of the 100 Women Project, that’s great, but the only way to get into someone else’s mind is to have a conversation with them where you have no stake in it, you’re just listening.

I would challenge people just to do it if you’re stuck, and if you are not 100% satisfied where you business is, pause your business for a minute and do a few calls a week. One of my friends started in the summer and she’s done 54 I think, and with every single one she says “Oh my God, I had the best conversation last time.” I’m like, “I’m sure that you did.”

My business partner that I do our retreats with, Nikki, she just started hers. I think she’s done five interviews. She said, “That was the best use of my business time, I don’t need to guess. People will tell me where they’re struggling.”

In five calls, she’s already found out she has an education issue. It’s like, “Well, I guess I could keep guessing what everybody wants to know about or I could just ask.”

RC:: It makes such a huge difference. I remember when I created the Fired Up & Focused Challenge, it was very much an education issue.

I remember two months before I had the first Fired Up & Focused Challenge in January of 2014, I was teaching this weekend-long retreat, and I had some of my private clients were there. I went around the room asking, “Hey guys, you know, before we dive in, what do you absolutely want to make sure I answer for you this week?”

I was sure everybody was going to be like, “I need to understand how to write copy for my about page,” or, “I need to know how to price this thing.”

I thought they were going to ask very specific marketing businessy type of things, and nearly every single person was:

  • How do I stay focused

  • How do I keep on track

  • How do I stick with my plan

  • How do I get more done? I’m getting distracted.

  • How do I avoid the shiny objects?

That was like a light bulb moment.

I thought, “Before I can teach this marketing or businessy stuff, maybe I just need to help people figure out how to use their time?” Suddenly I sent out a survey following that, and I don’t always love surveys.

Surveys aren’t always the best way to get information, but I sent out an open-ended survey so it was like, “Tell me your biggest challenge with staying focused in your business.”

I had 100 responses in like 48 hours. My team and I were sitting there going, “Okay, 100 responses in 48 hours.” We started grouping like with like, and then again, just like you said, we started seeing themes.

This was at that point I’d been in business for six years or so, so I had already had a lot of conversations, but I didn’t see this one small piece that was it’s hard to talk to them about big picture stuff if they’re overwhelmed just trying to get through the day.

It just goes to show that no matter where you are in your business, if things aren’t working exactly as you think, if programs aren’t selling as quickly, if you’re having a hard time enrolling people into working with you, it always makes sense to do your homework.

I often say we tend to go into our little secret entrepreneur labs and try to cook something up, and then we want to go out into the world and go, “Ta-da, here it is.” Then we wonder why it doesn’t really take off again. The answer isn’t the secret entrepreneur lab.

It’s to go out and talk to people who you don’t know and ask them, “Where are you struggling?”.

In fact, the more you start asking people, “Where are you struggling?” the more insight you get, the more clarity you’ll get, the more information you now have at your disposal to not only create the marketing or the content that helps get them to where they need to be in order to work with you, but just the more they’ll understand what it is you do and how you can actually help them too.

I had a big handful of people during the course of our interviews say, “When you’re done, I want to hire you.” I replied, “I haven’t even said anything,” They responded, “But you’re asking the questions that I need to think about.”

In fact, one of the people who ended up sending me like 20 of her friends wrote on Facebook, “I just did this interview, and just by talking to Tami for 30 minutes, and I did pretty much all the talking, just having that conversation put my self-care at the top of my to-do list.”

Dang. That was powerful. I didn’t say anything.

RC:: The “Where are you struggling?” question it makes people get real and get honest very quickly, because it’s really easy to not think about where you’re struggling in this one area of your life and then find out yourself.

They’re not quite swimming but they’re not quite drowning. But either one could happen at any moment. I think that’s how a lot of people feel in these areas, you know, whatever your topic area is for your business.

Yours is self-care, mine is business. But people will often kind of sit there in that kind of struggle and they don’t realized, “Hey, you don’t have to struggle so hard.” You also don’t have to be the expert. You don’t have to know anything, right?

That was also the beauty of this is because I switch from being a pure educator into becoming a coach, because again I was doing coach training during this, as a coach, you don’t tell people what to do.

You ask them questions. I did 100, I thought “Wow, I have a lot of experience talking to people.” That was like as unintended benefit of this project, where I just got in the habit of asking questions, being quiet, and not having to be the expert. Oh, what a relief that is.

They weren’t looking to me for answers. I wasn’t looking to give them, and so many people arrived at their own conclusions that within the context of a half an hour call … Like my friend Jen she was like, “And now I have to go do some volunteer work.” Laura’s like, “Oh my God, I need to do some more meal planning.” You know what I mean?

It became top of mine just through having the conversation of, “What would make me feel good? Where is it going well?” By the way, where it’s going well, perhaps we should focus on doing more of that instead of kicking your butt about, “Oh, I should be doing this but I’m not.” So don’t do it.

RC:: We have created an awesome download for anybody listening in to this episode about doing your own 100 Women, 100 Men, 100 Child, just 100 Conversations Project here.

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I think if you go and download it now you will find very quickly that people want to talk with you about where they’re struggling, where they’re frustrated, where they’re stuck.

They will love nothing more than just the opportunity to feel heard, and when you have those conversations, just like Tami said, even without giving advice or without having the answer, you will help them because through the act of them having this conversation, they will reach some more clarity that they couldn’t have gotten to by themselves.

I think this project is such a great act of service for everybody, and it truly is a win-win. They’re going to get something out of it, you’re going to get insane amount of clarity, and then be at a very strong foundation for where you want to take your business next.


Show Links

Tami Hackbarth’s Blog at Teacher Goes Back to School

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