What Works explores how we navigate the 21st-century economy. Host Tara McMullin talks with small business owners, thinkers, and creatives about the questions that drive them to build more humane and sustainable businesses. You'll find transformative ideas, as well as practical applications, in every episode. What Works is the podcast that helps you think differently about how you do business and the impact you can have in your community.
EP 388: Extra Context: Not Getting Paid
“You could make money with that!” That’s probably the first thing you hear when someone discovers you’re an excellent baker, or designer, or potter. Even if your hobby is collecting super hero figurines, someone has probably suggesting “monetizing” that interest. There is all sorts of historical, economic, and sociological context for this. But in this episode, I talk with someone who typifies not getting paid for what you love to do: my husband, Sean McMullin. You’ll hear how Sean’s extended family in Utah and Montana, as well as his time living in an Iñupiat village in rural Alaska, shaped how he thinks about work he doesn’t get paid for.
* More about the Iñupiat people* “I grew up in a church led by a prophet” by Meg Conley* YellowHouse.Media* Sean McMullin on Instagram
Essay versions of each episode are published every Thursday at explorewhatworks.com. Get the delivered straight to you by signing up at explorewhatworks.com/weekly
EP 387: Context Clues: Is there hope beyond positive thinking?
“Positive thinking” comes in many forms: New Thought, the prosperity gospel, manifestation teaching, self-help guides, and more. It’s hard to argue with thinking positive thoughts! But when positive thoughts become a substitute for curiosity and inquiry about real challenges, positive thinking can lead us away from real solutions. In this episode, I explore my own encounters with the world of positive thinking and how facing reality has actually given me more hope.
* More about Mary Baker Eddy* More about Ernest Holmes and The Science of Mind* More about Norman Vincent Peale* The Power of Positive Thinking* Mary Kay Ash on YouTube* Confidence Culture by Shani Orgad and Rosalind Gill* Rhonda Byrne on YouTube* “Farm-To-Table: Reciprocity in Every Seam” (Christy Dawn ad)* “Manifestation, eugenics, and flower oil” by Meg Conley* Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell* At The Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell* Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
Essay versions of each episode are available at explorewhatworks.com each Thursday. Get them delivered straight to you by signing up at explorewhatworks.com/weekly
EP 386: Extra Context: Getting Paid
Who doesn’t love to get paid? So we’re going to talk about how that actually happens. Not the dollars and cents of getting paid, but the form and structure. In the previous two episodes, we examined our relationships to work—both paid and unpaid. And it got me thinking about how we actually account for the ways paid work, well, pays—and especially how that impacts business owners and independent workers. I’m talking the difference between wages and profit, how surplus labor creates profit, and specifically how I structure my own pay in order to have a better perspective on my work.
* Surplus Labor in Radical Economics* Karl Marx via The School of Life* “The ‘Cult’ of Passive Income” via Tiffany Ferguson
EP 385: Context Clues: Who do you work for?
It seems like every business owner or freelancer I know wants to quit social media. But very few people are actually doing it. It seems easier to imagine the end of your business than the end of social media, to paraphrase Mark Fisher. There’s something about our relationship to social platforms that makes them feel inescapable. And, perhaps without even noticing, it’s started to see like we’re working for them more than working for ourselves. In this episode, I unpack our relationship to platforms and who profits from our labor. And it starts in an unusual place: the recent Etsy strike.
* “Etsy sellers will go on strike in April and ask customers to boycott” on The Verge* “Why Etsy sellers are going on strike” on Yahoo Finance* “16,000 shops join Etsy strike” via KERO* Rob Kalin speaking to the World Economic Forum* Mark Zuckerberg testifying before the House Energy & Commerce Committee* “How Facebook (Meta), Twitter, social media make money from you” via Investopedia* Tyler McCall on Instagram and Twitter
EP 384: Context Clues: Do you love your work?
I grew up expecting to love what I did for a living. I was encouraged to choose a career that I was passionate about. But when I did, I bumped up against the stark reality that work I loved didn’t pay the bills. At least not in any straightforward way. In this episode, I explore the context of “doing what you love” and how it shapes the way we build our businesses or careers today.
* Analysis of wages during the 90s (BLS)* Eupsychian Management by Abraham Maslow* Target Commercial: “Come in for workout gear, leave feeling empowered.”* Dan Olsen on The Ezra Klein Show* The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord* “The Passion Paradigm: Professional Adherence to and Consequences of the Ideology of ‘Do What You Love’” by Lindsay DePalma* “Down with Love: Feminist Critique and the New Ideologies of Work” by Kathi Weeks* Work Won’t Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe* More about Lou Blaser and Midlife Cues* “To My Brothers and Sisters In The Failure Business” by Seymour Krim* Works Progress Administration
EP 383: Extra Context: Rugged Individualism
“Rugged individualism” is the very language we speak in America. It shapes the way we approach work, family, and society. And rugged individualism has a direct impact on the decisions we make about our businesses and careers. In this short Extra Context bonus, I unpack where rugged individualism comes from and highlight a different way forward.
* Rugged Individualism Monologue by Terry Smith* “The Myth of Rugged Individualism” by Robert Reich* “We’d Like To Thank You, Herbert Hoover” from Annie* Individualism and Economic Order by Friedrich Hayek* Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit* “The Philosophers: Loneliness & Totalitarianism” on Vox Conversations
Honest, Intelligent, Insightful, Authentic…Must Listen.
Thank you Tara McMullin for the immense amount of time you must put into researching, constructing and producing each episode. My new favorite episode is #386 about Getting Paid as a small business owner. 🙏🏻Thank you for discussing Wages vs. Profit, as well as the actual cost (and toll) of being a creator, and the fallacy of passive income.
I spend a significant amount of time de-programming my audience and clients about what it really takes to have a “passive” income and the size of audience they need to make it a viable revenue dream.
You also gave one of the best breakdowns of how an S-Corp operates.
While we might disagree on what a “fair” profit margin is, I appreciate your point of view. We need to understand what we are really trying to create through our businesses and it is not just MORE.
My inner intellectual is grateful that you have more thinking, researching and writing time. Thank you for the art you are creating through this podcast.
I see you!
This is one of the most well-researched and thought-provoking entrepreneurship podcasts I’ve ever listened to. You can tell how much research and thought goes into each episode. Each time I listen I come away with new ideas and questioning (in a good way!) what it means to be a business owner in the online space.
More podcasts like this, please!
It is clear that this podcast is created with very clear intentions. Each episode I’ve listened to is well researched and thoughtful. The thing I like best, though, is that Tara asks more questions then she gives answers. This is a podcast that you listen to as a prompt for personal reflection and continued exploration. Not one that instructs you what to do or how. I’m here for it.