What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?


I had my beloved book club earlier this week, and the selected book was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Usually at our book clubs there are at least a few girls that haven’t finished the book (or sometimes even started), so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that every single one of us had read it completely.

While I definitely didn’t agree with all of Sheryl’s views (to be honest, there was quite a bit that rubbed me the wrong way), I was still left with some major takeaways about women in the workforce. There are so many invisible systems in place that make it easier for men to succeed than women, and while we have made a lot of progress, sexism is alive and well. This wasn’t a surprise to me as most of my professional experiences have taken place in very male-dominated environments, but seeing the facts laid out so clearly is always jarring.

But perhaps more importantly, a huge takeaway for me was that we (as in women) frequently hold ourselves back. We often don’t go after our dream jobs out of fear. Fear that we’re not ready. Fear that we won’t be able to spend time with our families. Fear of judgement. And in comparison to women, men don’t really have these fears. They go for things regardless if they’re qualified or not, while women often don’t. So as women we have to stop holding ourselves back. To not let fear stop us from reaching for our goals or achieving our dreams.

One of the recurring themes of the book was the question “what would you do if you weren’t afraid,” so my friend Shannon asked all of us what it was that we would do if we weren’t afraid.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

And here’s the thing… as ridiculous as it might sound, at first, some of us were afraid of even answering that question. Publicly declaring what our real hopes and dreams were, out loud, to a group of people (even when the group was full of awesome supportive girlfriends), well, it was kind of scary.

But as we talked about this, the question started to morph from “what would you do if you weren’t afraid” to “what would you do if money weren’t an issue,” because for a lot of us, it’s our fear of not having the money we need to support ourselves that is holding us back. Once the question was asked like that, the conversation seemed to flow easier.

Almost everyone said that they would quit their job and pursue things that they were truly passionate about, things like design, cooking, writing, art. We would travel more. Start our own businesses. Find an organization that we are passionate about and work with it. You know, all those things that “everyone wants to do” and that only a few are actually able to make a successful living at.

But over the past few days I’ve been thinking, is it really money that is holding me back? Because if I’m being honest with myself, really honest, I’m not necessarily sure it is. Yes, money does pose a huge obstacle, and that fear is a very real and valid fear for sure, but what I’m afraid of more than that is the fear of failure. Of trying something I think I’m going to love, and then failing at it. Or, and I’m not sure which is worse, trying something that I’m so sure I’m going to love and then realizing… I just don’t. Where would I be then?

While I can’t speak for others, I know that I definitely downplayed some of my own dreams out of fear, though even now I’m not sure what exactly it was that I was afraid of. Fear that my friends would think my dreams were stupid? That they were unrealistic? That I wasn’t smart/strong/talented/[insert insecurity here!] enough to actually achieve them? I suppose a little of all of that.

The little/vague things are easy to talk about. It was easy for me to say that I wanted to be my own boss, to work with people who inspire me, and to find a way to combine my love of writing with my passion for travel and international education, while still making enough money to live a good life in San Francisco and travel often. The totally outrageous things are easy to talk about, too. Things like “I want someone to pay me to travel the world while I eat and drink and write about it!” because really, who doesn’t want that?

But the big things? Those are a lot scarier to admit. Things like “I want to be a published author!” Things like “I want to create a more cohesive blogger network for bloggers in the bay area!” Things like “I want to find a way to encourage college students to step outside their comfort zone and study abroad in programs and places that will make them more socially responsible and globally conscious people!” Because those things are all so different and HUGE and daunting and OMG what if I suck at all of them and where do I even start?

Also? All of those things would require me to be serious about changing my life.

And that is scary.

So what would I do if I wasn’t afraid? A lot of things.

I want to do something purposeful with my life, and though I might not know what exactly that is right now, I’m certainly not going to figure it out by sitting on the sidelines.

So the first thing I’m going to stop doing is being afraid to even try.

There have been more times than I would like to admit that I’ve stopped myself from going after something solely for fear of the possible rejection. Or times where I’ve made excuse after excuse about why it wasn’t right for me, when really, I was just afraid. Afraid of being rejected, yes, but also of the work that I would have to do if I wasn’t rejected. Or, like I mentioned above, the fear that I wouldn’t love it as much as I had hoped, and admit failure and have to start all over again when I’m even older than I am now.

But no one said living a life with intention and pursuing a life you are passionate about was easy!


Now it’s your turn. What would YOU do if you weren’t afraid? Please let me know in the comments below!

(And if, like me, even writing those things down is kind of scary, feel free to use a fake email and comment anonymously.)

Cheers to Friday and to not being afraid!

P.S. The What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid website has a constant upload of awesome, inspiring, and often hilarious things people would do if they weren’t afraid. And from the looks of it, the world would be a much happier place if we were all just a little less scared of everything!

StephanieJune 14, 2013 - 7:18 am

I REALLY needed to read this today. The two things that have plagued my career and my personal life have been my inability to define what I want and being AFRAID to go after it.

I want to be a published author. I want to split my life between the city and the beach. Ahh, I feel better.

May have to steal this conversation for my own blog and I will definitely link to yours. Thanks! Have a great weekend.

Julie / BoundJune 14, 2013 - 8:53 am

Uh, yes. I know for a fact that I’m holding myself back out of fear a lot of the time. And I feel fine about declaring my big, BIG hopes because they’re so hard to obtain…therefore they’re in the future and no action is required of me right now. Right? Um, no. If I want to make over the entire LA foster care system AND write a book AND have multiple children, then I should be getting my ass all of the way in gear NOW.

Girl, this was one epic push of a post. Really loved it. Maybe the desire to define/working on these goals was the reason for your slump and getting into them will pull you into the next creative phase!

ChantalJune 14, 2013 - 11:22 am

my book club read this book too. like you, I didn’t agree with everything, but certain parts def struck a cord with me. until this post, I didn’t really think about what else I am afraid to do. when I was reading, I was thinking about fear in my current job. this isn’t my dream job for but a while there I was really liking it. then I stopped. I realized, I was bored and unchallenged, but also afraid to take on more. I decided not to be afraid and to act like I thought a man would. I asked for a meeting with my boss to discuss my career. we talked about how I would be doing and what I wanted. I told him I wanted to do more challenging things and take on more on my own. he said he was thrilled to hear it and happy to help. he said he was waiting for me to step up. since then (just a month ago) he has already given me new, much more challenging tasks. one was this week. it resulted in my crying in front of him, but man did I learn from it. he was understanding and reassuring. leaning in has def made me happier at my non-dream job ๐Ÿ™‚

TheresaJune 14, 2013 - 1:41 pm

I loved this post! I’ve been wanted to read that book, I think it should be next on my reading list.

I was nodding my head as I read about being afraid to even answer the question. Why is it so scary to say our true dreams out loud? I always care too much about what other people think, that is part of my problem. There is so much I want to do, but am too afraid to try, which is silly.

Also, love the bay area blogger network idea ๐Ÿ™‚ You and Stephanie did a great job with the meet up! That was a good start ๐Ÿ™‚

Hope you have a great weekend. Thanks for this thought provoking post.

JessicaJune 20, 2013 - 6:42 pm

Yup, I want too want to travel and eat my way through the world. Is that so wrong?! And I want to rescue every stray dog. Loved this post and the money post above. We all need to ask ourselves the hard questions and then not be afraid of the answers. I living a good life takes work, but if it’s really what you want to do it won’t seem like work! But obviously, it will be harder in the beginning Gosh, starting something is always the hardest part. XO!

[…] Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Leadย – I had mixed feelings about this book. While I believe in Sheryl’s overall message of empowering women, I felt like it was rather repetitive. I’m also not sure how relatable it is for women that don’t work in the corporate America environment. ย However, a lot of my friends loved it, and I wrote a bit more about it here. […]

Life Lately

Last week was a busy week in our household. Monday was Kevin’s birthday, and since we didn’t have an “official” celebration until Friday, he had no problems throwing out the “but it’s my birthday week!” card all week long, which led to more eating and drinking than usual. We went to dinner at Zarzuela (one of our favorite restaurants in the city) on Tuesday and then had an official birthday celebration with lots of friends on Friday, which was a lot of fun. So much fun, in fact, that I may or may not have fallen asleep at a table (aka passed out) and been “kindly escorted” out of a bar, among other things.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that, as thinking about it still makes me want to hide under my couch out of embarrassment.

Moving on.

My good friend Rachel’s bridal shower was on Saturday, and considering how I felt after Friday night, it was a small miracle that I made it and looked even remotely presentable. But I did, and I’m glad, because it was beautiful. Lauren did such an amazing job putting it all together, and more booze and lots of sugar always eases a hangover.

Good conversation with good people doesn’t hurt, either.

Prom Pose woo hoo!

Sunday was a rather gloomy SF day, dreary and overcast and misty, The perfect day to just stay inside and watch movies and do nothing. But instead, we bundled up and met some friends at Off The Grid in the Presidio. Despite the chill it was a wonderful day, full of friends and good food and boozy beverages.

Other than that, I’m still trying to fight my way out of this slump rut thing I’ve found myself in. But it’s getting better, so hopefully I’ll have some more exiting blog content soon.

How was your weekend?

StephanieJune 11, 2013 - 5:06 am

I, too, “fell asleep” in a cab over the weekend. Aren’t we too old for this behavior? Nah!

JessicaJune 11, 2013 - 7:17 am

Gah, love the awkward prom pose! And my hubby always pulls the birthday week card- men and their damn birthdays! I only get one day!

MeganJune 11, 2013 - 7:36 am

What a great way to spend your weekend!

StephanieJune 11, 2013 - 8:43 am

Zarzuela is one of my faves too! You have excellent taste in restaurants, my dear. We should hit one up together soon ๐Ÿ™‚

MistyJune 11, 2013 - 8:46 am

The ideal, simple weekend for sure… I crave them when life gets busy!

Your weekend looks absolutely lovely!

LaurenJune 11, 2013 - 11:17 am

Thanks for the shout out! I love the prom photo and of course the book club one too!

RachelJune 11, 2013 - 11:58 pm

ahaha I hadn’t seen our prom pose! “My good side!”

eileen ragan | leaner by the lakeJune 12, 2013 - 8:06 am

Oh man, have we all been there. Water under the bridge! Your girlfriends look so sweet and I love the throwback prom pose. Last time all my college girl friends got together, we decided that awkward senior photo poses were a great idea. Oh the photos…

Nicole MarieJune 12, 2013 - 1:52 pm

hahahahahah literally laughing out loud….
well if it makes you feel any better i “fell asleep” on the kitchen floor saturday night and eating pizza and chips with ketchup (don’t knock it till you try it), granted it was 7am but please people i’m 27 how in the hell am i supposed to party till 6am and make my way home in one piece?! i’m still recovering….

Kristin WJune 16, 2013 - 3:40 pm

Birthday weeks really are the BEST! And girl…I can totally relate to overindulging and “falling asleep.” That’s when you know you’re old, right? You fall asleep instead of do crazy, embarrassing stuff like dancing on bars…

For Those Of You That Are In Need of Motivation…

If you’re feeling rather slumpish like I have been lately,
I thought you might appreciate this motivational penguin.
I know I did.



And if you’re not feeling slumpish?
Well, who doesn’t need a little motivation now and then?

You can do it!


Believe in yourself!

Not bad advice, if I do say so myself =)

Happy Hump Day friends!

eileen ragan | leaner by the lakeJune 5, 2013 - 12:40 pm

YES! This is totally what I need after a few bad work days this week. Have you seen this guy? : http://leanerbythelake.com/my-manatee-said-on-a-day-like-this/

Sarah @ Scissors and a WhiskJune 5, 2013 - 2:07 pm

Lol, too cute!! Penguins always instantly make me think of one of my second grade (now third grade, eep!) students. Totally cute! Made me smile.

nancy @ adore to adornJune 5, 2013 - 5:55 pm

AW I love this. Not to mention penguins are seriously some of the cutest and funniest animals! haha…I love to visit them at the zoo.

MistyJune 6, 2013 - 7:43 am


Mallory HillJune 6, 2013 - 11:59 am

Thanks for sharing this little guy. After getting some not great news from my “day job” I need a little extra motivation today!

nicole marieJune 10, 2013 - 12:01 pm

but really, it’s time to come back to blogging now… it’s been 5 days… #notastalker #liar

Happy Birthday to My Sun and My Stars

Today is Kevin’s 30-something birthday.

I’m going to keep the mystery alive and not tell you all the actual number,
but he is entering late 30s territory.

But hey, you’re only as old as the person you marry, right?

And if ever there was a man that is young at heart, it’s this guy.


Happy Birthday Kevin!

You make my world go round.
I’m so thankful you’re mine.

Us in Napa this past weekend.



nancy @ adore to adornJune 3, 2013 - 12:10 pm

Happiest of birthdays to your husband!! You two seem so fun and sweet together in these photos!

It seems our husbands are birthday twins! Mine just celebrated this weekend! =)


MichelleJune 3, 2013 - 12:28 pm

Awww happy birthday!! Can’t wait to help celebrate this Friday!! ๐Ÿ™‚

StephanieJune 3, 2013 - 12:50 pm

Happy birthday to Kevin!!! What a sweet little birthday post. Love the Game of Thrones reference. ๐Ÿ™‚

JessicaJune 3, 2013 - 1:31 pm

Happy Birthday, Kevin! Love it!

eileen ragan | leaner by the lakeJune 4, 2013 - 9:43 am

Couple of cuties! I love celebrating birthdays, too! Hope you guys have fun toasting! Cheers!

Nicole MarieJune 5, 2013 - 1:38 pm

happy birthday kevin!

Life Lately | SpillerenaJune 11, 2013 - 5:01 am

[…] week was a busy week in our household. Monday was Kevin’s birthday, and since we didn’t have an “official” celebration until Friday, he had no […]

It’s Friday I’m in Love

Friday, I couldn’t be happier to see you!

A few things I’m loving on this particular Friday:

If you’re a San Francisco local, chances are you’ve already seen this article. Nicole sent it to me earlier in the week, and since then I’ve seen it all over facebook and what not. It’s about why we San Francisans are just so damn busy all the time, and it’s so so so true. My personal favorite is the slide above, but “we’re eating farm-to-table at a loft that used to be a fire station but that is now also a shared workspace” is a close second. My friends Caitlin and Jono moved here from San Diego about a year ago, and they used to make fun of me and Kevin for needing to make plans with us a good three weeks in advance. Now they are right there with us. There’s just so much to do in this city!


The other day my coworker sent me this article. It’s about an exercise called “prancercise” in which you prance around. Like a horse. If you don’t watch this video and laugh, then I don’t think we can be friends.

Please watch the video.
It’s that good.


Last week I downloaded this new app called Buycott, and I kind of love it. When you’re shopping, you can scan a product and then see what the history of the company is. For example, if you’re trying to avoid Monsanto products, this app will help you do that. It’s pretty awesome, BUT it will increase your shopping time by a lot.


I absolutely DO NOT LOVE that last week House Republicans passed a bill making student loans more expensive, but I do love that Kevin forwarded me an email about it and changed the subject line to read “F*%king Republican Dingleberries.” And before I start getting emails/comments about this, I know not all republicans are dingleberries, okay? But it still made me laugh.


New friends and old friends. Lately I’ve been making some awesome real-life connections with blog ladies, and it’s so wonderful (and weird, but good weird) to have online friends turn into real life friends. I had drinks with Mish last week, and went to a game night, hosted by Mo, which was full of awesome blogger girls. And, sorry but I have to call her out on this… is it weird that only Heather knew what bukakke and smegma meant? Hmm…. (Note to my MIL Patty and friends – DO NOT GOOGLE THOSE WORDS!)

BUT! It’s also sooooo awesome getting to hang out with old friends. Vegas for my best friend’s 30th birthday, bachelorette parties and weddings galore… Over the past couple of months I’ve gotten to see and catch up with so many of my most favorite people, and it’s been awesome.


And with that, I’m off to Napa for yet another wedding! I know, I know.

I assure you my life is not normally this crazy, it’s just a busy month.

I can sleep when with I’m dead, right?

What are you all up to?

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Patty McClainMay 31, 2013 - 7:43 am

Don’t worry. I won’t google “those words”. I’m not looking for trouble. However, I will google MIL ( jk). Can’t wait to introduce Prancersize to the ladies I walk with in the morning!

StephanieMay 31, 2013 - 9:45 am

So much goodness to comment on here! First, I saw that Prancercise lady on CNN yesterday. The clips of the video were creepy/funny enough but then seeing her interviewed just sent it over the top for me. Also, saw the SF busy article and it’s so true! “I’m 30 and going out seems exhausting” is often my excuse. Also the I’m-in-the-FiDi-you’re-in-the-Mission (or I’m here you’re there in reference to any two far apart neighborhoods) is also my excuse. You have no idea how many times I’ve said, “ugh, but they’re in the Marina!” when deciding whether I want to live my quiet slice of Potrero for a night out at a bar. So lame, I know.

Also, totally knew what smegma was but I’ve never heard of the other word. Until I googled it. Oops.

ChantalMay 31, 2013 - 11:44 am

hahah you are busy lady! little wedding planner over here. man that lady in the prancercise video has a nasty camel toe. nasty.

heather @ fieryandopinionatedMay 31, 2013 - 1:33 pm

my god, prancercise is amazing. hahaha she equally creeps me out and cracks me up. i gotta say though – it’s working for her! joanna is in better shape than i am!

ps – being the only one to know those two words is weirder for me than it is for you, trust me! apparently i’m a dude. a perverted dude at that.

MichelleMay 31, 2013 - 1:49 pm

That video is so amazing. I aspire to be as awesome as she is when I grow up.

Rich KrawczykMay 31, 2013 - 2:29 pm

Didn’t need to google any of the words including camel toe – on which I totally agree with Chantal!

eileen ragan | leaner by the lakeMay 31, 2013 - 7:35 pm

Aren’t online friends turned real friends like the best thing ever? It’s this totally new thing to me, and now I’m talking about my blog friends to my significant other as much as I talk about work or the people I see face-to-face everyday. But the thing is, blog friends are this special thing – they really WANT to know all the parts of you that you find important. They aren’t your friend because of location or circumstance or convenience or just because they need more friends. It’s because they truly stand behind you and support you. I love that about it! So happy that you’ve found a great blogging community!

KerryMay 31, 2013 - 7:48 pm

Well you just made my Friday… fun post! Especially loved LOLing watching that video while inadvertently listening to the new Aceyalone album. HAPPY FRIDAY!

Sarah @ Scissors and a WhiskJune 5, 2013 - 2:10 pm

Oh my word… That video!! “The trot is hot.” lol. I gotta give it to her though, she looks fit for being older!