Becoming Fearless with Jean Case

We recently had the opportunity to interview Jean Case about her new book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a LIfe of Breakthroughs and Purpose. After growing up in Normal, Illinois she attended college and began a career in the private sector working at places like General Electric. In her twenties, she helped connect the nation to the internet while working at America Online (AOL). After leaving AOL, she and her husband, Steve Case, started the Case Foundation to become a “laboratory for change”. In addition to the role as CEO of Case Foundation, she is the first female chairman of the National Geographic Society in their 130-year history.’

Together with her team at Case Foundation, she saw a need for a roadmap for ordinary people to become more fearless. While reading her book and speaking with her I learned that being fearless is not just about quitting your job and taking a massive leap of faith. There are ways we can each be fearless every day and make an impact, simply by deciding to do so. I was inspired by the stories shared and realized how tangible breakthroughs can be.

The book explores five principles, developed through Case Foundation research that include:

  1. Make a Big Bet.
  2. Be bold, take risks.
  3. Make failure matter.
  4. Reach beyond your bubble.
  5. Let urgency conquer fear.

 When done together, they define what Case refers to as “Be Fearless”. These principles give readers a clear roadmap to ignite change at work, in life, and in your community.

The book weaves together stories about ordinary people who set out to change the world. You can also see Case’s passion for the work of the National Geographic Society come out in the examples of fearless people around the world who made an impact. In addition to the powerful stories, the book is also sprinkled with inspirational quotes. Dr. Jane Goodall wrote the forward and shared her journey to overcome personal fears and what seemed like insurmountable odds to make a global impact on the environment and animal rights.

“The most effective way to do it is to do it.” – Amelia Earhart

Case argues that we will make times for the things that matter to us. She also discusses the need to get uncomfortable and face fears, even sharing her own stories of overcoming fear both personally and professionally.

In her chapters on taking risks, I appreciated her discussion of substituting the words “risk-taking” for “research and development.”  “When you change the image from a reckless act to an intentional, sometimes incremental process, the fear lessens,” she says. At Getting Smart, we hope to see more availability, both in public policy and philanthropic funding, for education leaders to participate in research and development. Very often foundations and policy has been very risk-averse and can, in turn, stifle innovations.

Case’s book was a great length, easy to read and had a good mix of inspiring stories with a roadmap that anyone can follow to make an impact starting tomorrow. We encourage you to listen to our conversation with Jean Case and check out her book wherever books are sold.

Key Takeaways:

[:16] About today’s podcast.
[1:38] How Jean defines fearlessness.
[2:41] Jean shares her thoughts on how we can all be more fearless in our everyday lives and some of the examples featured in her book.
[3:55] Jean talks about one of her core principle about fearlessness: the idea of letting urgency conquer fear.
[7:05] How Jean thinks both students and teachers can act on this principle (of letting urgency conquer fear).
[9:39] How fearlessness can have an impact in a variety of ways and the main message of Jean’s book.
[10:12] Jean speaks about her thankfulness regarding Jane Goodall writing the forward in her book.
[11:32] Jean highlights another important message in her book: being a ‘sponge.’
[12:44] Why Jean decided to support National Geographic Society’s work and how their work has proven to be fearless.
[14:39] Where Jean’s interest in difference-making came about.
[16:02] How the Case Foundation is supporting change-makers and people being fearless.
[17:36] Characteristics Jean has found that change-makers often have in common.
[18:28] Jean’s advice for how we can all start being more fearless.
[20:01] Share with the Getting Smart Podcast the ways you’re being fearless and making an impact in your community by sending them a note at [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming blog post.

Mentioned in This Episode:

Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose, by Jean Case
UCLA  Swipe Out Hunger
Case Foundation
Jane Goodall of National Geographic
Thomas Edison on being more of a sponge than an inventor
National Geographic Society

For more, see:

The book, Be Fearless, was provided to Getting Smart at no cost for an optional review. If you’d like to send a book in for consideration of a book review, please email [email protected].

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Caroline Vander Ark

Caroline is President of Getting Smart.

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