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The Smart Passive Income Podcast

AP 1059: What Is the Path to Doing Only What Sparks Joy for Me?

AP 1059: What Is the Path to Doing Only What Sparks Joy for Me?

By Pat Flynn on

Today I’m speaking with Dara Hoffman-Fox. They’ve got an amazing story and I’m so thrilled to be sharing the impact Dara’s having on the world. Dara is a gender therapist and they’re very well-known within their niche. They want to help mental health counselors better serve the population who Dara serves; Dara wants to niche down and also create more passive income. How can Dara conserve their energy and make as big an impact as possible? You can find Dara at and on their YouTube channel.

Dara kicks off the call by laying out everything that’s going on in their head. Next, I lay down a Marie Kondo-inspired approach to decluttering business life and honing in on what brings the most joy. I offer tactics and strategies for discovering what Dara’s audience needs the most. We dive into tactics that Dara can use for pre-selling events and speaking to their niche live. I challenge the idea that in order to speak live to people, Dara needs to sell an online course or have passive income. Dara ends the call with some clear next steps and a positive outlook for the future. Well done, Dara!

What You’ll Learn:
Learn thought exercises for discovering what parts of your business bring you the most joy, plus strategies for discerning how to best serve your audience.

AskPat 1059 Episode Transcript

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Pat Flynn: What’s up, everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to episode 1059 of AskPat 2.0. This is a show where I interview, or actually coach, an entrepreneur just like you who needs a little bit of help. And today we’re going to be speaking with Dara Hoffman-Fox, and they’ve got an amazing story. I cannot wait to share just what kind of impact Dara is making on the world, and we get a little bit of education at the same time, so make sure you stick around.

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All right. We got a lot to talk about and a lot to discover, so introducing Dara Hoffman-Fox.

Hello, Dara. Thank you so much for joining me on AskPat 2.0 today. Welcome.

Dara Hoffman-Fox: I am really excited to be here. Thanks, Pat.

Pat: I’m so excited you’re here. Why don’t you tell the viewers or, sorry, listeners, what it is that you do, Dara?

Dara: Sure. One thing I want to mention from the start, and you’ll know why I’m going to do this, is that I like to introduce myself by saying what my pronouns are, because I use they/them pronouns. I am non-binary and you’ll find out why that’s relevant. I’m a mental health counselor, and specifically I am a gender therapist, and what that means is that I specialize in working with those who are gender questioning, transgender, and non-binary. They do make up the majority of my private practice.

I would say back in 2013 is when I realized I wanted to take things beyond just the four walls of my office. And so it turned out to be something more like an online business. That’s not what I thought at all back then, but I just started blogging, and basically long story short, at this point, present day, the best way I can describe it is that I am very, very well-known in my area of expertise. Even though many of your listeners might not know who I am, in the circles of people who are transgender or gender questioning, and especially for therapists who are wanting to learn how to work with people in this community, I have a very well-recognized name.

I’m asked to speak at conferences. People ask to take selfies with me. It’s really quite wild, and I enjoy it a lot, but it was a very unexpected part of this. The reason that I’m well-known is because my undergraduate degree is in communication, so besides the fact that I’m a mental health counselor, I love social media, I love YouTube. I’ve created online courses, so I have made sure to put myself out there and it’s worked and people . . . I’ve written a book. I self-published it and then a publishing company actually approached me and asked me if they could publish it as well.

This is a very niche area and it’s something that I did not expect would sort of take off in this way for myself.

Pat: Congratulations, by the way.

Dara: Thank you so much. I’ve been listening to your show since probably 2014, so I feel like, especially for our common love for Back to the Future, it kind of feels like I’m just kind of finally getting a chance to actually connect with you, but . . .

Pat: Wow, I didn’t even know that. Now we’re even better friends.

Dara: Exactly. Ooh, that’s a long story. Yes. So yeah, this is . . . Again, I really appreciate your insights. I’ll kind of pause there; so that kind of gives you a bit of a snippet as to what it is I do and what my life is like.

Pat: Absolutely. Would you mind sharing with the listeners, and with me, where might we go to get more information about what you do? What are all the best spots?

Dara: Oh, sure. I have a main website and it’s under my name,, and that’s where you can get connected with all the blog posts I’ve done, the YouTube videos can be linked through there. I have done, at this point, probably about three dozen interviews, podcast interviews. It’s under the Press section of that. I’ve been interviewed by USA Today, Teen Vogue, places like that. You could just look up my name on YouTube as well, and also I have a Facebook page that has . . . I just checked this morning, almost 22,000 likes or follows. So just type in my name on all these places; as far as I know I’m the only person out there with my name, so that’s kind of handy.

Pat: Incredible. What’s on your mind? How can I help you?

Dara: Sure. What I’m thinking about the most is how . . . When I started, like I said, in 2013, I knew this was a mission of mine that I wanted to help this population. And then, as it also turns out, about two years after that I realized I am a part of this population, the fact that I am non-binary, so I feel even more passionate about wanting to make this world a better place for those who are trans.

But I did start off with a very, very big audience, which is pretty much not only those who are gender questioning, those who are transgender, then there’s the family members, the parents, the spouses, there’s the mental health professionals who I want to teach how they can work better with this population. The last couple of years I’ve definitely been listening to your podcast and thinking about how I need to niche down a bit. So I have a couple of challenges with that that are both in my heart challenging, and then also even just practically. But it’s important to me that I streamline more because I know it’s smart for business, for one.

In terms of my time and my energy, I have a family and in fact my oldest daughter is going to be graduating from high school this year. I’m really focused and wanting to spend as much time with her as possible. My stepdaughter’s one year younger than her, she’s going to be coming up next. As for everybody else, time is a currency that I don’t want to waste. And I just can tell it’s . . . I’m being drawn more towards wanting to teach mental health counselors how to be able to serve this population.

Mental health counselors, there’s so many of them that are really eager, really wanting to learn more about this. I’d love to figure out how to therefore focus more on my audiences, without leaving behind the audience I really have been inspired to help, and then also create some more passive income through this. I have created a lot of free content at this point. I have my book, which I don’t make a whole lot of money from, and then I also have one online course that I’ve created, and as you’ve mentioned, online courses take a lot of time and energy to make it. But I love making them. I’ll still put those out. But in terms of being more efficient with my time and my energy, but also wanting to make as big of an impact as possible with this passion of mine.

Pat: You sound very similar to me in the position that we are in with having a lot of opportunities in front of us, having quite a bit of authority in the space that we’re in, and almost, perhaps—and you can agree with me on this, because from my end I’m saying yes to a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t be saying yes to. Are you kind of in a similar boat?

Dara: I sure am, yes.

Pat: Yeah. One of the things . . . We have a few things to talk about. Definitely sort of where you want to go, streamlining your processes, which means, number one, understanding priorities more than anything and what is important to you. And it stems from where do you want to go. And this was an exercise that I had a couple of years ago actually while I was writing Will It Fly? It reminded me of how important it is to know what the destination is going to be or where I want to go. Because then once I figured that out, all other decisions that I could make were based off of that and it was much more clear to me what I should be saying yes to and what I should be saying no to. And I’m a yes person. I want to please everybody and I want all the opportunities and I think that there are more than 24 hours in a day and I think that I don’t need sleep. Then, obviously that’s not true.

Starting with the destination and then kind of rewinding from there, okay, of the things that you’re doing now, what can we clean out? We can take a very sort of Marie Kondo approach to the work that you do. We can put everything on the table, maybe in Post-it Notes or something, and this is a pretty incredible exercise. I actually did this with a student of mine not too long ago, and we had her take all the things that she was doing and put it out on one per Post-it Note on the table, and there were probably fifty or sixty Post-it Notes.

And we went through the exercise—very similar to what Marie does on her Netflix show. We take one Post-it Note and go, “Does this bring you joy? Yes or no? If it doesn’t . . .”

Dara: That’s awesome.

Pat: It’s kinda crazy, but our business lives are cluttered just like our closet sometimes. And so when you pull one of these out and you go, “Wow, okay, this actually doesn’t fit into my destination. This doesn’t give me joy.” Because some of the decisions that pop up during that time as well is like, “Well, this could help.” If I focused on SEO and I bought a course on that and I went to a retreat, learn all about SEO, yes it would help my business, which would help me help more people, but does that give me joy? Are there perhaps other things that would better fulfill me that could be in its replacement?

So then you go, “Okay, well, thank you for this opportunity.” And you put it away, and as you start to see these Post-it Notes remove themselves from the table, you start to see only what is worth doing, and I don’t know if that’s an exercise that you’d be interested in trying out yourself, but I’ll tell you, I mean . . . I’ve only practiced that since A, watching the Netflix series, but B, working with my students. It was a pretty powerful exercise. I don’t know if that’s something you’d be interested in trying out yourself.

Dara: Yeah, I can tell even just as you’re talking about it, even though . . . I feel very curious. Right from the start, I’m like, I don’t know exactly what it’s going to reveal, but I can tell this is exactly the type of exercise I need to go through.

Pat: I love that. And then when you decide on what’s leftover, the next question to ask would be, “What of these do I need to do? And what could perhaps be handed off to others?” And now you’re even removing more. They’re not going away. They’re just going into perhaps somebody else’s hands or another software that can do those things or what have you.

And I’ll tell you, just these two things alone—so it’s phase one and then phase two—it’s a sigh of relief for many people. It is a lot of weight lifted off shoulders and it’s also often a big realization that, wow, they were saying yes too much. So let’s stay focused now moving forward. What do you think?

Dara: Yeah, for sure. It’s so cool because I know that you have that gift of being able to just kind of like, hear it. I can’t help myself, just like I can’t be my own therapist as much as I would love to, just me sitting here and swirling and swirling. And yet, it sounds like such a simple answer, but yet this is the key. You can tell this is what I need to be able to do, is really now look at everything I have . . . Let’s say I’ve gathered it since 2013. I have almost six years worth of items to go through and I can absolutely relate it to what sparks joy. Because of course, I’m watching that show. I’m working on doing this in my own home, and duh, of course I can apply this to my business life.

Pat: That’s great. And the beauty of this is the third phase would be to then go, “Okay, now that I know I have this extra time, now that I know I have this extra bandwidth, what might I want to do with that?” And it could be just nothing. It could be just more relief and breathing time in between the other moments of when you are doing your business. It could be putting more time into those things that are left on the table, or it could be, which is where I’m thinking that it would make sense for you, would be to, “Okay, I want passive income, which will allow for more automation in terms of my income moving forward. Now that I have this extra time, perhaps I can . . .”

And you’re blessed with an audience already and a lot of clout, which is great. You have people that you can go to to serve and ask, “Of all the things that you need help with, what is your biggest struggle right now?” And you just start to dive into that question and really discover how they speak of those things to try, in a creative way, to give them those solutions. And that can become the passive income.

Now, just to kind of share some things about that. The first thing you create after you understand what the solution is may be very far from passive income. It may be very active income. It could be some coaching program, it could be an actual call, or I don’t know, but a lot of the hard work into creating passive income starts with active income. You’ve started that already, but perhaps you can then excel into passive income a little faster than others, but I would imagine that it won’t take too long for you to understand what the big one or two challenges that your audience has are that they could use some additional help with.

Even though you have been creating free content—which for many years I had as well. I was very afraid of selling things on top of the free content because I was worried about leaving people out who, A, couldn’t afford it or, B, feeling like Pat sold out finally, like, “Oh, he’s cashing in on all that goodness that he gave us earlier.” When really, you have to understand that you’re not taking anything away that you’ve already done. You’re not removing yourself and excluding those who perhaps aren’t going to be sort of excited about this particular problem because they maybe don’t have that particular problem. But you still have all those other resources there that can still help them and still keep them there. And maybe the second or third problem you tackle is specifically for them. I would say that you’re going to be able to better serve more people by honing in on a specific problem rather than lose more people by doing that.

Dara: Yeah, this is terrific. While you were talking, I was thinking about your destination question. I can see how, even as you’re mentioning things, I can already see the Post-it Notes start being filed away and taken away. Because when it comes down to it, I know that eventually, as much as I love doing the individual counseling, I’m still only helping one person per hour during that time. Eventually, being able to move towards the passive income part, I would like the passive income part to fund my ability to speak and go to do trainings and presentations and conferences across the country and even the world. Especially since my kids are about to . . . Both of them are interested in going to college.

I can tell, now that we’re talking about this, no wonder I’m thinking about this, because I’m like, “All right, this is going to be a transition stage where I will now have more opportunity, more time available to me.” And what I do imagine is wanting to help more people at once, but being able to have something that can fund—that would be what would bring me joy. Traveling, meeting new people, educating them around this, doing interviews, and then eventually . . . And then having that passive income help bring in the ability to support me to do that. I’ll make money doing the speaking, but that’s more the joy part. So I would want to have something else that brings in that extra income.

Pat: Yeah. It’d be interesting to spend some time calculating how much you might need to do those joyful things, like travel and speak and what not. You may not even really need passive income to support that. Maybe that’s just a thought that popped in your head that is perhaps a barrier or something more deeper that is more of a reluctance or a resistance to it. I don’t know. But I would imagine that . . .

I mean, if I were you, I would potentially go, “Hey, audience. You’re amazing. I want to help. And you know what? I want to travel and be there with you in person because I know I can make a bigger and deeper impact in your life in that way. On this date, in this location, I will be there. Here’s what’s gonna happen, here are the tickets.” There’s your pre-sale there, and that you don’t have to do unless you sell, which then funds to travel to go there.

Dara: Wow. Your listeners can’t tell, but I’m smiling right now because I’m like, “Okay.” To me, that’s like . . . It really indicates that something you just said, I just started imagining it, and then obviously it’s putting a smile on my face because I’m like, “That sounds amazing.” Sometimes it might be a bigger conference that can afford to pay me, but there can be also smaller ways in which I do this and make it a big part of my lifestyle.

Pat: Imagine if you went to a city like Chicago—I don’t know, I’m just making this up—and maybe it’s after the polar vortex is gone.

Dara: For sure.

Pat: But how many people would you want there? If you were to set up your own space, like there’s some logistical things that go into that as well, like finding a space and whatnot, but anyway, those things aside, what would it be . . . If you had a magic wand and you could have an event tomorrow and be there and there’d be people, how many would you want there, ideally?

Dara: That is an amazing question that, I’ve never thought about it. I would say 2,000.

Pat: 2,000. Awesome.

Dara: In Chicago, it’s a big place, so let’s go big.

Pat: I love it. I love it. I love that you also were very honest with me and said, “You know, I haven’t thought about that.” These are the kinds of things you should think about. Just create it in your head the vision, and then you go, “Okay, I like that. Let’s go make it happen.” And then you kind of rewind to the first steps. The first steps would be to, okay, let’s sell tickets to this, to see if anybody’s even interested. This is the Will It Fly? method and it’s very simple with events because if you don’t sell any tickets, well, then you don’t need to worry about the slides that you’re going to create, right?

Let’s just imagine 2,000 people and they were to pay . . . I mean this is a life changing thing, but let’s say they were to pay $50 for a ticket to go and sit in a theater and listen to you and perhaps special guests set to appear there as well. So if I’m doing my math correctly, is that not $100,000?

Dara: Okay.

Pat: I mean, okay, let’s take a zero out from the 2,000 just in case. To speak to 200 people only at $50 a ticket, that’s a five-figure day, essentially. Would $10,000 be able to support you and your travel to speak to 200 people and all the logistics and all that stuff?

Dara: Yeah, for sure.

Pat: Most likely. We don’t necessarily need to come up with an online course or something to support this endeavor. I’m not saying that passive income is bad, but you were saying that that was necessary for this to happen. I don’t think that’s true.

Dara: That’s awesome. Yeah, and in fact, the way what you’re describing it too is also, I don’t have to wait every time to be invited to a conference or to a training. Instead of me just kind of like hustling and trying to get people to know, “Hey, I’m here for hire.” I can do that partially, but then you’re just describing how I can then just like, pick a city and then sell the tickets, and then I get to choose where I go based on maybe even feedback from my audience. Where can I gather a bunch of people together and ask them? Where do they live?

Pat: That’s amazing. I’m getting goosebumps just because I think we figured it out.

Dara: This totally went in such a different direction. I mean, I had no idea what direction was going to go, but this is . . . woo-hoo.

Pat: I love it. I love it.

Dara: I knew it would be magical.

Pat: I’m just here to serve and I’m so thankful that you were very vulnerable and open about this process, and I hope that it’s helpful for everyone else who’s listening. Before we finish up, just give me a rundown of the things that you’re going to do after this call.

Dara: For sure. I want to journal for a while about my destination. I really want to get clear on that. Do some visualization, really dive into it from there. Do the Post-it exercise that you were talking about. I also need to get your book, Will It Fly? Because I have . . .

Pat: I’ll send you one. I’ll send you one.

Dara: Oh, that’s amazing. Thank you.

Pat: No problem.

Dara: Because I haven’t been sure if it’s something that would fit in . . . Because I’m like, “I’ve already been doing this for six years,” and now it totally sounds like something I’ll need.

Pat: Thank you.

Dara: Yeah, so after I do the Post-it Note exercise, then I’ll really be able to see what sparks joy, what does not. When I see what’s left over, I’ll be able to say, “Then what do I need to take on myself? What is it that I can pass on to other people?” And then already, just us talking about this, I have a sense as to where this Post-it Note exercise is going to lead me, and then for sure, I feel like I’ve got time. Like I said, here’s one kid is going to go off to college and I can pace it around that. Then the other kid goes to college.

But I could definitely then see myself creating a bit of a sensible timeline for myself to really start making this happen. And then once they’re both in college, that’s when I can just say, “I’m ready to travel,” and then I can really put that into . . . kick it into high gear because I have a feeling that’s where this is going to lead.

Pat: Love it. Dara, you’re amazing. Thank you so much. And thank you, also—you had sent me a sort of pre-interview video with more information about how to say the right things, and because I’m not educated on that and this is what you teach, can you give us perhaps a link or somewhere to go to learn more about just binary and like . . . This is a new world for many people, and I think educating the masses on this is extremely important.

Dara: Thank you, Pat. I really appreciate it because this is a big platform for me to put this on. I would say the easiest thing is to go to my YouTube channel, which I can send you a link, but also just type in Dara Hoffman-Fox. You can also type in my brand, which is Conversations with a Gender Therapist. I’ve got about, at this point, five years worth of video where I cover things that I talk about for those who are transitioning on binary male to female, female to male.

But then I share a lot about my own experience of realizing that I am non-binary and it’s really cool because if you watch the earlier videos, I look so different. Everything is so . . . It’s crazy. It’s just such a different experience because then by present day I’m just like, “Wow. I, guess what, everybody? I know you’re my audience, that I’m helping you, but through this process I’ve learned so much about myself and look at the changes I’ve been able to create, and I’m finally my authentic self.” It’s a real rollercoaster, but I like to think it’s an enjoyable one.

Pat: Well, thank you so much. I’ll make sure to include the links in the show notes and all that good stuff, and good luck to you. We’re excited to see what you do next.

Dara: Thanks. This has been amazing. I appreciate your time, too.

Pat: All right. I hope you enjoyed that coaching session with Dara. If you enjoyed what you heard, first of all, make sure you subscribe to the show. We have a lot of amazing people coming on the show with some amazing problems that I help solve. I mean, I know what’s coming up, and we have some major breakthroughs just like today.

Hopefully you can take a lot of lessons that I taught Dara and actually implement them. Probably you could do the Post-it Note exercise right now and discover a lot of the extra stuff in your business life, and maybe even personal life, that you may not necessarily need to do right now. So Dara, thank you for coming on the show and thank you to everybody who had listened.

If you want to get coached just like Dara did today, you can potentially make that happen. I can’t take everybody who applies, but you have to apply. So if you want to apply to get coached by me just like this today, all you have to do is go to, hit the application button there in the middle of the page and tell me a little bit about yourself and what you need help with, and if I reach out to you we’ll schedule it and make it happen.

Thank you so much. I appreciate you, team Flynn. Keep on rocking. Make sure you hit subscribe if you haven’t already. I appreciate all the reviews that are coming in. You’re amazing, and yeah. Let’s keep it going. Team Flynn for the win.

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