An Homage to Dr. Susan Jeffers
FEAR TRUTH #1 — The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow! There is no point in saying, “When I am no longer afraid, then I will do it.” You’ll be waiting for a long time. The fear is part of the package.
FEAR TRUTH #2 — The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and … do it! When you do it often enough, you will no longer be afraid in that particular situation. You will have faced the unknown and you will have handled it. Then new challenges await you, which certainly add to the excitement in living.
FEAR TRUTH #3 — The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and … do it! With each little step you take into unknown territory, a pattern of strength develops. You begin feeling stronger and stronger and stronger.
FEAR TRUTH #4 — Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else! This should be a relief. You are not the only one out there feeling fear. Everyone feels fear when taking a step into the unknown. Yes, all those people who have succeeded in doing what they have wanted to do in life have felt the fear — and did it anyway. So can you!
FEAR TRUTH #5 — Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness! This is the one truth that some people have difficulty understanding. When you push through the fear, you will feel such a sense of relief as your feeling of helplessness subsides. You will wonder why you did not take action sooner. You will become more and more aware that you can truly handle anything that life hands you.
Susan Jeffers is the author of one of my favorite books: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®. I buy her book “used” on Amazon, with the express intent of giving it to any friend, client or colleague who may need it. Every once in a while, I see the need to return to her book, as recently I did. I downloaded an audio book so I could listen to it during my morning walks.
At fifty, I totally changed careers. In the course of the next decade, I struggled to identify myself as a recovery coach, graduate from an Ivy League school and write a book. It has taken some time, but finally, I feel I have achieved my goals. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in Outliers, it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. For those that don’t have a calculator handy, that’s 416 days. So for those looking for mastery and only can work at it like a part time job, it’s roughly eight years. Yes, I want to verify, it takes at least eight years to be good at something. But to be an expert? Well, that takes outside recognition. But, that is another story altogether. Let’s get back to fear.
As Susan Jeffers relates in her book, you can be fearful of many things. I was extremely fearful of going back to school, even to investigate a new career. I had just lost a job, I was feeling pretty low. I was given the opportunity to work with Right Management, an executive outplacement company, hopefully to lift my attitude and sharpen my job seeking skills. I received my first Myers Briggs assessment, which would tell me quite a lot about what jobs would “suit” my personality. I see I was very lucky in my professional career, because I have had many jobs that were perfectly suited to my personality. I was an art gallery owner, chef, public relations specialist, and a real estate manager. In fact there were only two jobs on the list that I had not done: therapist and executive coach. Should I choose coaching? Is there something else I could do? Maybe I should stay in my career and be satisfied with the glass ceiling, resolve myself to the anti-women, or female prejudices? Maybe get a job at Nordstrom’s? Here comes Susan’s first FEAR TRUTH — The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow! Every time you take a step into the unknown, you experience fear.
I really enjoyed working with the executive coaches with whom I had engaged at my former position. I had coaching on communication, public speaking, preparing understandable Excel spreadsheets and conflict management. Each coach I worked with was a breath of fresh air, drifting in the corporate window and exiting (still cheerful) out the elevators, leaving behind good feelings, karmic order and confidence. So, I began researching organizational development [OD] master’s degrees. I found three universities that offered excellent OD programs: Columbia, University of Pennsylvania and George Washington University, and all were within a commutable distance from my home. But I knew I could not get into Penn, the Ivy League University closest to my home. My second feeling the fear moment — FEAR TRUTH #2: — The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and … do it! When you do it often enough, you will no longer be afraid in that particular situation. You will have faced the unknown and you will have handled it. So I applied to the three Universities. Low and behold, I got into Penn! I luckily had a large chunk of cash from a severance package to pay for the first semester and showed up in a classroom less than two months after submitting the application.
I felt I had found a home at Penn. My first class was with John Eldred, a professor who taught all about the power and politics in the workplace. It was as if he was talking about my corporate life! But it was the second professor, a skinny, short, old-ish Jewish fellow named Bill Wilkinsky who captured my heart and inspired me to declare my major in executive coaching. He made coaching “real” for me. He offered coaching strategies from an insider’s perspective. I knew I wanted to be an independent contractor. I prefer being my own boss. But how would I start a coaching practice from the ground up when I knew nothing about the field? FEAR TRUTH #3 — The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and … do it! With each little step you take into unknown territory, a pattern of strength develops. You begin feeling stronger and stronger and stronger. So within the first year of starting my training at Penn, I had registered my business, obtained a tax ID number, printed business cards and began practicing coaching on everyone I could!
With having an occasional part-time coaching position, I had a flexible time frame that allowed me to attend as many twelve-step meetings as I wanted to. What I found was that there were many people in the rooms who were looking seriously at changing careers. They had gone back to school or had changed jobs because of their addictions. I found interior designers and CPAs going back to school for counseling and social work degrees. I encountered others that walked away from plush corner offices to fulfill the dream of helping others in various service positions. I saw that there were many people in long-term recovery doing the same thing I was attempting. Yes, they were struggling, but they were happy. I wanted to be happy too.
I also saw that there were many entrepreneurs in the rooms struggling with their addiction and/or the collateral damage it had on their business, family or friends. I thought “these people need a coach!” Not an executive coach. A coach who knew their story, knew about recovery from addiction, about hitting rock bottom, divorce, loss of job, or even how to get their business back on track after years of having a leader that was under the influence. I didn’t know what to call this coach, back in 2006. I didn’t know there was a term for this form of coaching. I called it recovery coaching. I decided to look further into this field, and develop it as an adjunct of my executive coaching business. I had to start researching for my Capstone (e.g. master’s thesis) around this time, so I decided to write my thesis on recovery coaching. But no one knew what I was talking about. No one recognized this term “recovery coaching.” Why was I looking into something that was relatively unknown? Rely on my income from this? It is too much of a risk. Enter from stage right, FEAR TRUTH #4 — Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else! This should be a relief. You are not the only one out there feeling fear. Everyone feels fear when taking a step into the unknown. Yes, all those people who have succeeded in doing what they have wanted to do in life have felt the fear — and did it anyway. So I went forward, planning on building this recovery coaching business, writing two master’s thesis on the topic, developing a web site (knowing nothing on how to build a website, or how to get it on the first page of Google), getting clients and eventually writing the first book on recovery coaching.
I am a single woman, my son was going to college, as well, and I had a mortgage, car, and living expenses. And I was unemployed, going to an Ivy League school that cost close to $40,000 a year. Hello, FEAR TRUTH #5 — Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness! This is the one truth that some people have difficulty understanding. When you push through the fear, you will feel such a sense of relief as your feeling of helplessness subsides. You will wonder why you did not take action sooner. You will become more and more aware that you can truly handle anything that life hands you. I just kept not allowing the old tapes in my head to play with fear-based thoughts. It wasn’t good for my recovery and it was not good for building my new business. Today, I am truly living life on life’s terms. Not in denial, not in fear, I endeavor to live in faith, hope and happiness. I know I can truly handle anything that life hands me.
I sat on my porch this morning, looking out on the beautiful lake that surrounds my home and said a prayer of gratefulness. I have truly achieved everything I have dreamed of. I am a woman in long-term recovery, I am an executive coach, a recovery coach, I am a teacher, author, and motivational speaker. I have been the president of an international coaching association and recently honored with national recognition for my work. I am so happy with my life. I no longer feel the weight of any chains around my neck. I have little or no fear, and I have no anxiety.
Yes, I have bills. Yes, I have student loans. And yes, I have a mortgage that I might pay off when I am eighty. But I am living my dream and for that, I am blessed. I let go of the fears that were stopping me from achieving my goals and I thank Dr. Jeffers for showing me how to do it.
 Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway ®, (1987) Fawcett Books, an imprint of Random House Publishing, New York, NY, pages 21-29
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway ® is a registered trademark. Permission to duplicate or reproduce part of the book was given by Susan Jeffers, LLC.
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