I Broke Last Night: On Leading, Breaking, Getting Back To Work

I broke last night.

I left my office at 4:48pm, walked down the hall to Sean’s office, sat down across from his desk, and felt so very heavy.

I picked a fight about dinner. I got grumpy on our evening walk despite it being the most beautiful evening of the year so far. I collapsed in silence on the couch when I could have been enjoying some evening YouTube entertainment.

I broke.

Over the last 3+ weeks, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating a lot of open conversations about doing business in this environment. And it seems like every time I fire up ye olde Zoom and engage in the ritual small talk, someone (often a few people) announces that they broke the day before.

Sometimes, they tell us they ugly-cried at the grocery store. Other times, they tell us they snapped at their kids. Still others retreat into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a box of wine.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I knew this was coming.

I knew I was going to break–and that I will probably have a few more evenings like last night over the next few weeks.

That feeling of breaking–of feeling so heavy that I fully expect to collapse in a heap on the floor–doesn’t mean I’m not a worthy leader. It doesn’t mean I don’t have what it takes to serve, or hold space, or even thoughtfully challenge and encourage the people I care about.

Although, it’s no surprise if my inner critic wants me to believe that to keep me safe.

I break because I lead.

I break because I serve, hold space, and thoughtfully challenge the people I care about.

And that’s why the business owners I’ve been talking to have been breaking one by one, too. They are leaders, servants, space holders, challengers, encouragers.

And if you find yourself breaking, too, I bet that’s why.

Sure, being a business owner means figuring out your offers, creating a marketing strategy, honing your operations, making sales…

…but it also means leading.

Or, at the least, it’s an opportunity to lead.

Leaders can (and do) break–even when they have excellent self-care, strong boundaries, and impeccable support.

I’ll leave you with this:

Please don’t mistake this message as a glorification of working yourself to the bone, the pain of hustling, or ignoring your boundaries.

This message is a recognition of our shared humanity.

We’re leaders–and we’re people who feel things deeply. We’re servants–and we long to be served. We hold space–and we long for our own space to breathe in.

We break, we rest, and then we get back to the work–whatever that might be in this time.


By the way, I’m talking with Nicole Lewis-Keeber tomorrow about this subject and others in a live session plus Q&A. The subject is “taking care of yourself as you take care of your business” and I hope you’ll join us. Nicole’s sessions are always transformative for our community and I know this one will be no different. Click here to register.

With gratitude,

Tara McMullin
Founder, What Works


On the What Works podcast, we’re kicking off a new month filled with conversations about the tools we use to run our businesses. We’ll be talking about software, systems, and workflows in a variety of different business types. To get us started, Sean and I shared the tools we use to run YellowHouse.Media, as well as the tools we’re using to manage stress and anxiety right now.

🎧 Click here to listen.


So, um, how do you even set goals right now? Yeah, I don’t have a good answer to that question (and I’ve been in the process of letting go of traditional goal-setting for the last year or so anyhow). But I love how Charlie Gilkey frames up choosing the right level of “success” for whatever you’re working on–including why choosing a small success doesn’t mean you’re playing small.

👓 Click here to read.


Nikki Groom makes a strong case for looking at how to run your business through the choice to lead, serve, and connect with the people in your orbit. She shares a story about a client who wanted to disappear and how they reframed things so she could continue to lead.

👓 Click here to read.


I’ve also had a bunch of conversations in the last couple of weeks about the overwhelming amount of free stuff out there. Free software, free courses, free sessions (guilty!), free books. Look, free is great. But it’s not always the right choice–especially when you’re making something free because you’re afraid to sell it. This article (probably) isn’t about the kind of business you run but it is still an excellent framework for thinking through whether the thing you’ve made should be free.

👓 Click here to read.


A couple of weeks ago, Andréa Jones led a guided meditation for one of our virtual retreats. It was all about releasing tension after heavy social media use. So good! Well, she’s turning meditations like these into a podcast feed so you can access a few peaceful minutes whenever and wherever you’d like.

🎧 Click here to listen.


Lots of small business owners are rushing to bring their communities together in online spaces like Mighty Networks or Zoom. And that’s fantastic! But, there’s more to nurturing a true sense of community than just opening an online network or firing up a virtual event. I went on the 7-Figure Small Podcast with Brian Clark to talk about the strategy behind building community and hosting remarkable events.

🎧 Click here to listen.

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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What Type of Goal-Setter Are You?

I've explored goal-setting and planning with small business owners, creatives, and independent workers for over 12 years now. That means I've observed many different types of goal-setters. Some confidently choose a new goal and get to work. Others rebel against...

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