6 Ways to Break the Grip of Fear

Let’s face it, fear can be paralyzing. We’re afraid of being embarrassed. We’re afraid of being the bad guy. Of hurting someone’s feelings. Of going against the status quo. So we become stuck. People make decisions for us. We avoid difficult conversations. We limit ourselves, and our dreams fade away.

Or worse. We become silent. We stop standing up for what we believe in.

As January approached, I was prepared to begin The Imperfection Challenge. I planned on trying something a little uncomfortable each day. I’m an introvert, so things like small talk, talking to people I don’t know, and going to large gatherings or parties are out of my comfort zone. These are the things I was going to confront this month.   But before I even started, I got sidetracked. Some events occurred that planted seeds of doubt in my mind, and those seeds turned into fear.

Now I’m reflecting on how I can continue to move past the fear that caused me to be stuck for the past month. The events that planted the seed of doubt are not the important part. We all experience a variety of things that allow fear to settle in our hearts and minds. The important thing is that we push through the fear and come out a better, stronger person.

Acknowledging fear can help you overcome it and help you get moving again. So I did some reading and listening and learned some strategies to help me loosen the grip of fear.

6 Ways to Break the Grip of Fear

Fear can be subtle or in-your face powerful, but what is important is that you recognize it. Fear can be a temporary feeling, but resiliency is permanent.



A year of imperfection

A Year of Imperfection: Why We Are Skipping the New Year Resolutions and Trying This Instead

For the past eight months we have been writing about imperfection, so you’d think we would be pretty comfortable with the idea of being imperfect.  

Nope. It’s still a daily struggle to accept all of the ways we come up short. As much as we try to reframe and see things differently, the negative thoughts continue to sneak in.  But we are so passionate about embracing our flaws and mistakes that we decided try an experiment.  

Inspired by Jia Jiang’s month of intentional rejection, we decided to intentionally seek out and embrace the creeping self-doubt that make us so uncomfortable. We want to look imperfection in the eye and say, “We see you! And we are okay with you hanging around.” 

In 2018, we are embarking on a journey of imperfection with monthly milestones that will push our deepest insecurities. We are going to engage with them until we are living our best year, imperfectly.  

We ditched the year-long resolutions and decided to tackle imperfection one month at a time.   Thirty days feels long enough to give us space to feel discomfort and short enough to keep our eye on the prize.  

On January 1st, we will be starting our first challenge: The Imperfection Experiment. For each day in January, we are going to embrace something we are clearly imperfect at and confront it head-on. We are using an action planning sheet, available when you click the subscribe button, to keep our goal visible and help us reflect as we go. Next month, we will push ourselves in a different way.  

We know this will nudge us out of our comfort zone We think it will make us stronger leaders. We hope it will make us more empathetic and compassionate humans. 

Our year of imperfection will look like this (subject to change because, well, nobody is perfect): 

January: The Imperfection Experiment 

February: Leading with Love- A Focus on Relationships 

March: Embracing Leadership as a Woman  

April: Pursuing a Passion (Imperfectly) 

May: An Experiment in Being Grateful 

June: Taking Risks 

July: Relaxing the Right Way 

August: Leading With Less- A Challenge to Minimize 

September: Paying it Forward 

October: Facing a Big Fear 

November: Calling Yourself a Writer 

December: Reflecting on an Imperfect Year 

We will be using a monthly action planner specific to each challenge to keep us focused and hold us accountable. Download our January planner by subscribing to Leading with Imperfection. You will receive a new planner each month to help you push your boundaries along with us. Join in on as many or as little challenges as you want. We hope you will be a part of our year of imperfection.   

“Get out there, be imperfect at it.” ~Matthew Manos (my wise friend, who refused to listen to me when I tried to pass on a surf session one day because the waves looked too big) 



last minute gift ideas

3 Meaningful, Last Minute Gifts for the Hidden Leaders in Your Life

Last minute gift shopping doesn’t have to be stressful. Sometimes, the gifts we save for last are the ones we want to be the most meaningful and thoughtful. Then we are left scrambling to find something that is personalized with only a few days to spare. Are you in a rush to find a gift for an inspiring person? Are you hoping to find something that stands out from the traditional and expected? Try these ideas below. They add inspirational value and ideas–instead of just taking up space.

A Book with a Personalized Inscription

You may have read about the charming Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve and then spending the rest of the evening reading. Not only does this sound like the coziest thing you could do on a winter night, it also sounds like the perfect gift idea.

Gifting books to others is such a powerful thing, and I really don’t think I do it enough. And I think the reason we avoid choosing books as gifts is because it’s so hard to choose a book for someone. It’s difficult unless we really, really know what the person enjoys reading and hasn’t already read.

But don’t let this stop you from wrapping a brand new book as a last-minute gift option. If you include personal inscription on the inside cover, these memorable words will be treasured no matter which book you choose. Here are some ideas to make the selection part a little bit easier. A big bonus for last-minute shoppers: With Amazon Prime, you can order these titles as late as mid-week and still have them in time for the holidays.

Here are my favorite titles for gifting and why I gave them to the hidden leaders in my life:

1. last minute gift


I believe there is a writer in all of us, even if we never show our words to anyone. Stephen King’s memoir on his own writing life both teaches and inspires the reader to see life differently. On it’s own, it’s a mesmerizing tale. As a manual on writing, it doles out blunt advice on writing rituals, the art of writing dialogue, how to survive failure, and much, much more.

On Christmas of 2006, I wrapped this book and put it under the tree for my husband. Newly married, without kids, and just emerging in his career, I knew he had a big vision but was making some tough decisions about what really mattered to him. I wrote on the inside cover,

I wish you a life full of brilliant ideas and the courage to write them down. Never give up on people, on life, or on writing.


Gift this book to someone who is trying something new or is on the fence about being a writer, a leader, an artist…anything that is hard but worth it.

Note: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is another amazing title you could pair with this one to make a little inspirational package. Her wise advice on writer’s block, jealousy and discipline provides comfort and inspiration to those who are overwhelmed by the enormity of an important task, such as writing.


2. on our bookshelves


Last summer I sent Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly to a colleague who was unaware of her own potential. I mailed the book and wrote a note to the effect of, “I believe in you.” That’s exactly what you are saying to someone when you choose this book as a gift. With a simple inscription to the recipient, this book will inspire all year long with the message of embracing vulnerability and being courageous in the face of imperfection.

3. last minute gifts


I actually gifted this book to myself one year. I simply could not resist the title: The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. This book is the perfect holiday gift because it leads the reader through a yearlong journey starting in January. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. I actually did get cleaner closets out of this, and they made me so happy that I read this book and this website and then started to embrace minimalism.

Whether you gift this book or keep it for yourself, it will bring more happiness to the people that matter to you. If it’s going onto your own nightstand, you might even write an inscription to yourself. In a few years, you will be happy that you did.

Looking for more ideas? Here are 9 more titles that a hidden leader in your life might want to read.

Bonus gift: Include some chocolate with any book that you choose. Icelanders do this too, and it makes their book-giving season extra sweet.

The Gift of Empty Space: A Notebook, Journal or Planner

You cannot go wrong with a beautifully empty journal or planner for the recipient to fill with their thoughts and musings. This gift says, “You have amazing ideas—you really should write them down!” This gift provides a place to cultivate a voice, a way to set goals for the upcoming year, and a safe, personal space to take risks with a voice that may currently be hidden.

Search for one that reflects their personality on the cover, or go for a more neutral choice. Tie a ribbon around whichever one you choose, and give a friend the gift of empty space.

A Handwritten Letter of Gratitude

When I was teaching in the classroom, I received everything from Starbucks gift certificates to tree ornaments. I loved them all, including a ceramic gingerbread woman with my maiden name, Ms. Faucher, etched into it. I hang it every year on the tree and remember my early years as an educator.

However, the gifts that I treasure most, even 10 years later, are the personal letters and notes. There is really no greater gift than a hand-written letter that expresses gratitude—for anyone in your life.

While you don’t even need to go shopping to give this meaningful, last minute gift, you can make your words extra special by expressing them on a locally drawn holiday card. Check Etsy for artists that customize notecard designs, or shop a local boutique for the perfect card. You can show gratitude to a loved one as well as support the work of your local artists.

last minute gifts

Photo Credit: Local artist Colby Custis designs beautiful holiday cards on her Etsy shop, Custis Prints.

There is still time to shop for the hidden leaders in your life, and these last-minute gifts will be as inspiring to give as they are to receive.

Want to add a unique gift idea for hidden leaders to this list? Did you receive an inspiring gift that made you feel like a leader? Please comment below with your ideas!





When You Need to Hit the Reset Button

When You Need to Hit the Reset Button

My daughter ran track during high school and will soon participate at the college level. She favors the mid-distance runs, not too short or too long. Her favorite seems to be the 800-meter run. For those non-track people like myself, that means running two times around a track as fast as you can.

It’s probably one of the most challenging events because it sits in between a sprint and longer, more endurance heavy events. The 800 meter is notoriously demanding, tricky to pace and apparently hurts like the devil. The key seems to be going hard in the first lap but not hard enough to waste all your energy for the second lap.

That’s how the month of September is for me. After 24 years of teaching, the balance of starting the school year has eluded me. Unlike my daughter, I don’t pace myself; I expend all of my energy in the first lap and crash before getting to October.

Exhausted and emotionally drained, I turn to the solace of books. I need to slow down and take some time to rest and regain my strength.

If you find that you too have crashed and burned after expending so much energy in September, you may need to push the reset button. One way I do this is to lose myself in a good book. I just recently finished an Audible book listening binge. Audible is an app that lets you listen to books while doing other things like cleaning and exercising. During my binge I didn’t do any of those things though, I just stretched out on the couch and enjoyed the sweet sounds of a good book.

If literary escapism sounds like what you need, read these titles below to escape to a meth lab farmhouse, a female concentration camp, a design firm in Scotland and ten years back in time.


After a slow start, I found myself not wanting this story to end. Be warned; it can be dark and depressing at times. Eleanor is a prim and proper loner but believes in good manners and doing things right. She is completely alone in the world until she meets Raymond. The author pulls you into Eleanor’s life, and you find yourself rooting for Eleanor to settle her past and find true happiness. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of emotions.



what alice forgot

If you could have a do-over of the last ten years of your life would you? That’s what Liane Moriarty wants to know in What Alice Forgot. Author of Big, Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty addresses the family unit, infertility, loss, and love. Alice is a single mother of 3 going through a messy divorce. An accident at the gym leaves her with a bump on the head and missing the last ten years of her life. She wakes up thinking she is pregnant and madly in love with her soon to be ex-husband Nick. Travel with Alice through this touching and thought-provoking story as she tries to unravel the mystery of the last ten years.


Lilac Girls

Martha Hall Kelly’s story is centered around three very different women with three very different situations during WWII. Their lives come together when one of them is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this novel explores the depths of love, the shared human story and uncovers secrets hidden for decades. An uplifting story during one of the most horrific times in our history.


all the ugly and wonderful things

This novel pulls you outside of your comfort zone and asks you to read without judgment. It reveals things that are ugly and uncomfortable like family discord and mental illness while showing you wonderful things like unconditional love and understanding. Simply put it’s about Wavy, the young daughter of a drug dealer and his abusive wife, and Kellen, a loner drug runner, and ex-con fall in love. However, there is nothing simple about this novel. Just read it, you’ll see.


If you sprint through September and need a breather, take a weekend and choose a book from our stack. For more titles check out our Pinterest page for a glimpse into our literary life.

Tell us what you are reading. We’d love to know!




ted talks

5 TED Talks That Will Change the Way You Lead Tomorrow

Here at Leading with Imperfection, we believe that you can redefine yourself as a leader in small ways every single day. It doesn’t take much time to shift your perspective. That’s why we are so hooked on TED talks. They deliver big inspiration in bite-size portions. TED curator Chris Anderson describes the average length of 18 minutes as “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It’s the length of a coffee break.”

I have made it a practice to think of one clear, actionable step I can take from a TED talk and make changes that matter. Below are some of my favorite speakers and how they can change the way you approach leadership—the very next day.

  1. Brené Brown helps us embrace vulnerability

In Brené Brown’s insanely popular talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability,’ she categorizes people into two groups—those who feel worthy and those who don’t. The difference between them? The courage to be imperfect and the willingness to embrace vulnerability.

Her talk is hilarious, yet startlingly raw and honest. She urges everyone to stop chasing perfection and trying to control and predict life. You will laugh and nod in agreement through her delivery. And then in the very last minute, Brown’s steady and reassuring words will lift a burden from your shoulders that you may not have even known was there.

Lead differently tomorrow: Identify something specific that makes you uncomfortable in your work with others. Acknowledge it. Decide to be vulnerable. Choose courage and give up comfort. At the end of the day, you can’t choose both.

If this talk inspires you like it did millions of others, check out her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.


  1. Adam Grant teaches us how to be original

In ‘The Surprising Habit of Original Thinkers,’ Grant focuses on what we can all learn from nonconformists—people who “not only have new ideas but take action to champion them.”

He puts a new spin on procrastination by renaming it “thinking.” This time that we allow ideas to develop in the back of our minds before taking action is the sweet spot for creativity. He explains, “Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.”

Another quality of original thinkers is their fear of regret. Grant explains that we are all afraid of failing, but innovators are more afraid of not trying. “They know that in the long run, our biggest regrets are not our actions but our inactions. The things we wish we could redo, if you look at the science, are the chances not taken.”

Lead differently tomorrow: I’ve been experimenting with the word “yet” and it opens up so many opportunities to continue after failure. We started this blog in May and we don’t have a large amount of readers—yet. That one simple word gives you the freedom to be original instead of shutting down after a setback. Think of a problem you previously defined as a roadblock. Approach it again. This time around, take your time and continue to doubt yourself in order to improve. Innovators are the ones that fail the most times.



  1. Celeste Headlee reminds us to listen

We spend a lot of time avoiding conversations we don’t want to have. In ‘10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,’ Headlee encourages us to stop avoiding connections with others by teaching us how to talk and more importantly, how to listen.

She keeps it simple. “You need to enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn.” This can be a shift in mindset in leadership, where we often believe we must arrive armed with all of the answers.

Lead differently tomorrow: Start with her advice to genuinely be interested in other people. Make a stronger connection tomorrow by releasing everything you want someone to know about yourself—and inspire by letting them truly, and without interruption, show you who they are.


  1. Simon Sinek urges us to ask why

In How Great Leaders Inspire Action’, Sinek tells us to look inward and ask, “Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”

This fascinating talk on how to move people to believe in what you do will turn your approach to leading others inside out. Give it a watch and prepare for a thought-provoking experience that will keep you reflecting on the “why.”

Lead differently tomorrow: Start just one day with this perspective in mind. Instead of mentally going through your to-do list tasks and how you are going to accomplish them, ask yourself why you are showing up in the first place.

  1. Drew Dudley puts leadership in perspective

‘Everyday Leadership’ encourages emerging leaders to value the impact they have on others-no matter how small. Listen to this talk when you are not feeling adequate. Don’t make these excuses for not feeling like a leader.

‘Everyday Leadership’ encourages emerging leaders to value the impact they have on others-no matter how small. Listen to this talk when you are not feeling adequate. Don’t make these excuses for not feeling like a leader.


It’s time for that coffee break. Go get inspired 18 minutes at a time. And if you just can’t get enough of TED, add Want to Talk Like TED? to your summer reading list.