National Press Club

Motivational speaker writes book on how to ‘Be Fearless’

March 1, 2019 | By Talia Schmidt | taliaschmidt@gmail.com

Jean Case, chairman of the board of the National Geographic Society and author of “Be Fearless,” answers a question at a National Press Club Headliners Book Rap on Feb. 27. Club Vice President Mike Freedman moderated the event.

Jean Case, chairman of the board of the National Geographic Society and author of “Be Fearless,” answers a question at a National Press Club Headliners Book Rap on Feb. 27. Club Vice President Mike Freedman moderated the event.

Photo/Image: Alan Kotok

Jean Case, chairman of the board for the National Geographic Society, wants everyone to “be fearless” and she has written a book to illustrate how it can be done.

“I’ve often wondered why so few people branch out and take their ideas forward and others don’t,” Case mused at a National Press Club Headliners Book Rap on Feb. 27 as she promoted Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose.

What she discovered was how many people psych themselves out of believing they could be a leader, start a company, or build a movement, so six years ago, she commissioned some research to determine the core qualities of change makers, entrepreneurs and innovators who had broken through with success.

“It was out of that that these five principles came to life,” Case said. “And here’s the coolest thing about all of that: We were able to debunk the myth that so many people live with. The book highlights very clearly that it is actually ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”

The five principles she developed from this research are: make a big bet; be bold, take risks; make failure matter; reach beyond your bubble; and let urgency conquer fear.

Case emphasized the need for a tilt in mindset, to embrace failure as a learning opportunity and to build a culture of fearlessness in the workplace. In fact, the Case Foundation gives “failure bonuses” to teams within the organization who keep their heads down working on a project, do what was asked of them but failed to get the desired results.

“I think we need to be honest about the important role of failure,” Case said. “The principle is, ‘Make failure mater.’ It’s the most powerful teacher that we have.”

In 1997, Case and her now-husband, AOL founder Steve Case, started the Case Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to investing in people and ideas that make the world a better place through innovation, entrepreneurship and impact investing. Before that, she lived a life of risk taking and pushing herself to try new things, core ideas of her new book, which explores how people can assess their risk tolerance level to determine whether they are ready to jump into something new or wait to build up to that level.

“I think all of us are born with a fearless spirit, and then life takes hold, and somewhere along life’s path we get a little less and less comfortable both with taking risks, being bold, and certainly with failure,” Case said.