Episode 36: Sarah Williams


What does the word career mean to you, if you had to write five associative words?

For me, I’d say purpose, meaningful productivity and an element of service. But I’d also mention expectation and fear. Expectation I can’t quite put my finger on – did my parents ever voice expectations around career? Or teachers? Mentors? And fear that making a change and leaving a financially secure job is always a mistake, might change your identity and will almost certainly disrupt your bank balance.


I’d hazard a guess many people have the same complex, mixed-up emotions around career, and for many who find themselves in an unfulfilled environment on the daily it can seem impossible to find realistic ways to make a change. On one hand you can read memes on Instagram such as the below (a sentiment I love, by the way) and want to pack it all in now for a new passion path, and on the other you can be held back from making any decision on the basis of mortgage payments, children, familial views etc.


“No amount of security is worth the suffering of a mediocre life chained to a routine that has killed your dreams” Maya Mendoza


These thoughts remind me of Matt Fitzgerald’s book “How bad do you want it?”, about sports competition but the principals of which could easily be translated over to career.


For those hardy few who master a career change, often the path is not linear or paved with gold and there are very many sacrifices to make. I’ve wanted to focus on big, unconventional career change as a topic for the podcast since I started it. And having listened to the Tough Girl Podcast since it launched in 2015, who better to have as a guest than Sarah Williams. Firstly, a huge vote of thanks to Sarah for giving freely of her time; she is a busy bunny and has more than a handful of interview requests at any one time.


Sarah was living a comfortable life in London, working in a high-paid finance role but feeling as though she was slowly losing herself. After self-funding a period of travel, adventure and work overseas she took the leap to start her own venture, empowering women to challenge themselves. Tough Girl Challenges was born, and Sarah began blogging, motivational speaking and podcasting. She also stepped up her adventure ambitions and self-powered her way through some monster expeditions, from the Appalachian trail in 100 days to the Marathon des Sables and cycling the Pacific Coast Highway and Baja Divide.


Sarah and I talked about her trajectory from London to moving back home to the north so she could afford the costs of living and running her own business. She gave insight into:

  • Her life and wellbeing when she was immersed in the London finance world

  • What was involved in starting up

  • What it has taken to monetise her passions

  • Her learning process

  • The many sacrifices she has made – and still makes – along the way in relation to friendships, relationships, travel and lifestyle

  • The highlights and greatest struggles from her recent adventure along the Pacific Crest Highway and Baja Divide

We also dispel a couple of myths about the reality of leaving a conventional career for self-employment, not least the many avenues of work Sarah has to patchwork together to earn enough income.


Sarah is a positive powerhouse of a woman and I bow down to her sustained drive and ambition with Tough Girl. She has consistently produced inspiring, thought-provoking work and brought thousands of women (and men; they listen too) with her on the journey. A few top learnings for me were:

  • “Document, don’t create” – Sarah’s simple and manageable ethic for content production. She documents her life and shares everyday realities rather than manufacturing a story.

  • If you feel deeply the need for a change in career don’t be led by fear but also acknowledge that friendships, relationships and financial freedom may need to take a back seat for a while. If you want it badly enough, plan far ahead and find a way.

Watch out for the episode going live this Friday 5th July 8am on iTunes, Soundcloud, TuneIn, Stitcher and the usual Android apps, and check out the show notes below. Please give us a shout out and share on Twitter or Instagram to spread the love around!


Sarah finishing the Appalachian Trail after 100 days

Show notes


Tough Girl Challenges


Support the Tough Girl Podcast on Patreon


Tough Girl on Twitter


Tough Girl on Instagram


Tough Girl on Facebook


Tough Girl on Pinterest


Tough Girl on YouTube


Seven Habits of Highly Effective People


Tony Robbins


Sarah’s books


How bad do you want it? Book by Matt Fitzgerald


7 women, 7 challenges


Headway Surrey charity


Gary Vaynerchuk


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