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Reflections on 2017 and What’s Next for Tough Girl Challenges

I started Tough Girl Challenges in 2014 to motivate women and girls and increase the amount of women in the media. I’ve interviewed inspirational women around the world from runners, adventurers, to ordinary women and it’s been a fantastic experience.

I wanted to take a bit of time to reflect on the year 2017 and what’s next for me and Tough Girl Challenges. I have a number of questions to help me do this and help you do the same if you wish.

To set the scene, in November 2016 I attended a web summit where I had to write down my bio. I wrote that I was planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and start my Masters in Women’s Studies. That was the beginning of how I wanted to spend my 2017. The first third of the year was all about Tough Girl Challenges and getting everything ready so I could take off 3 months to hike the Appalachian Trail. When I came back from the Appalachian Trail, the third part of the year was going back to school for my Master’s.

What went well this year?

I put together a team of 8 women to help with the Tough Girl Tribe while I was away and it felt amazing knowing they were there to support the community. Getting 3.5 months worth of podcasts pre-loaded was an immense amount of work, but it was worth it because it allowed me to take the time off.

While I’ve talked about what I learned on the Appalachian Trail, I can say it was a phenomenal experience. It was an emotional challenge and I’m so pleased I’ve vlogged it. It’s been interesting to see how I’ve changed from the beginning to the end through my vlogs.

Then it was October and I was starting my Master’s. I felt like a bit of an impostor, having done nothing academic in years, but I’m enjoying it so much despite the learning curve.

So much went well in 2017. In terms of the growth on Patreon, doing the Tough Girl Daily Podcast, the Tough Girl Podcast, and online everything seems to be growing.

What didn’t go well?

I’ve been so focused this year that I haven’t had a social life. I rarely go out for coffee and I’ve maybe been to a couple of dinners with friends. This is something I really need to work on in 2018 because doing what I do can be incredibly isolating.

In terms of vlogging, it has been incredibly difficult editing. I ended up getting very far behind because of it. When you’re not posting for 2-3 weeks, people stop following. So figuring that out will be a key learning.

What surprised you?

I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but the kindness of the strangers I saw on my journey on the Appalachian Trail was incredible. The kindness of the people in my tribe, the Tough Girl community, the Tough Girl patrons, podcast listeners, vlog watches, and my family and friends has been amazing.

To know that people will lend you a tent or give you food or sign up to be a patron makes me so happy. I love that people are so willing to get involved.

What did this year teach you?

I learned that I can go out, set big goals, and achieve them. When I started this year, I set out with 7 goals and I’ve completed 3 of them. The 3 goals I completed were to start my Master’s, thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, and donate my hair. But what I also wanted to do was do my personal training, do my mountain leader, reach half a million downloads, and learn French.

These things just didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. I didn’t have the time or brain capacity. What this year taught me was to have those big dreams and take it one step at a time. The final push to achieve your final goal is often the hardest. You almost have to expect this dip before you achieve your goal and that’s when you have to push.

What needs to be left behind?

I don’t feel so desperate anymore. I’d get emails asking me to give a talk somewhere and I felt like I had to do it. Now I’m so much more brutal so my first question is, “Is this a paid speaking gig?” Because I know my value and worth. It’s not to say that I won’t do it. It’s deciding what works and what doesn’t. I don’t need to accept everything that comes through.

I received sponsorship requests asking me to promote their products for a free pair of headphones. But no, I’m not going to devalue the podcast like that. This isn’t an expensive hobby. It’s a business and I have to make money from it. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’m doing, but you do have to make bills. I hope that I’ve been transparent about it.

What’s next for 2018?

I’m not going to be setting 8 goals in 2018. I need to focus on the main areas for me. I’m going to be focusing on reaching 500,000 downloads on the podcast, graduating with my Master’s, and supporting the Tough Girl Tribe.

I’m also moving out of home next year. I’m 36 years old and I’m so in my comfort zone at home. I’m so lucky because my parents are so wonderful. Sometimes they don’t agree, but they’re always there supporting. But it really is time. By the end of August, I need to be doing something different.

2018 is going to be the year of the tribe. I’ve introduced a new buddy system, I want to do more meetups, and see more of your faces. I’d love to get out and meet more members of the Tough Girl Tribe. That’s what it’s all about.

Some big picture ideas of what I’ve been brainstorming is doing an internship with the UN, travelling somewhere, and hiking in New Zealand. There are a lot of variables so it’s a bit of an unknown. While 2017 was super structured and well planned, 2018 is not going to be like that.

How will you evolve in the year ahead?

I want to make sure I’m listening and engaging with the Tough Girl Tribe. I want to be balanced and focused. I want to make sure I’m excited about what I’m doing. I’d love to do another big challenge whether it’s an ocean row or a thru-hike.

Thank you to everyone who’s been supporting me each month. It makes such a difference. Knowing that someone appreciates your worth that they’d donate each month makes it all worthwhile. Thank you to all of you who are patrons and if you’re not, check it out. I hope you’ve had an incredible 2017 and reflect on your own year. 2018 is going to be a wonderful year!


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