Be Fearless Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Be Fearless shows that radical changes are more effective than small enhancements and urges us to be bold in trying to make progress.

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As the first female Chairman of the National Geographic Society and one of the first members of the America Online team, Jean Case has been a change-maker for years. Most notably, she and her husband established the Case Foundation, which exists “to invest in people and ideas that can change the world.”

Case believes we need brave people who dare try and solve the world’s problems. That’s why she wrote Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose. She says that daring to go big can bring bigger results than a cautious, conservative approach.

At her foundation, the team analyzed many game changers’ lives to extract patterns of traits and behaviors. They discovered that, contrary to what most people think, you don’t need to be rich or privileged to be a trailblazer.

Instead, innovators have other common traits. They go out of their comfort zone to make fearless promises with a high risk of failure, then work hard to stick to those commitments. If they don’t succeed, they learn from their mistakes and try again.

Here are 3 inspiring concepts I found in the book:

  1. We progress more from revolutionary changes than from small enhancements, so be audacious and make big bets!
  2. Think out of the box by questioning assumptions and peeking around corners to see what the future holds.
  3. Greatness doesn’t happen by being comfortable, so be prepared to face new and unexpected situations.

Do you want to change the world? Let’s find out how!

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Lesson 1: To improve life for everyone, head for a revolutionary change and take huge risks.

America wouldn’t have been the first to land on the moon in 1969 if John F. Kennedy hadn’t boldly promised it even before the technology to do so existed. In 1961, he announced on national TV that, in less than a decade, the U.S.A. would accomplish this mission. His leap of faith rallied the country to achieve his ambitious goal.

Courageous goals help us overcome the fear that blocks us from doing great things. By saying you’re going to beat the odds, you grab people’s attention and take responsibility for what you’re promising. Once you give your word, giving up is no longer an option. Your commitment motivates you to work hard and find solutions to problems.

In 1910, Rachel Sumekh took a risk in trying to solve student hunger. She started Swipe Out Hunger, a project which allows American college students to give their unused meal points to their peers who need them more.

As a student herself, Sumekh decided to face a problem nobody seemed to take seriously. Eventually, her initiative caught the attention of Barack Obama, the Case Foundation, and Forbes. Now implemented in over 30 campuses, Swipe Out Hunger is considered a leader in hunger awareness and alleviation.

Lesson 2: Question assumptions and peek around corners if you want to find new solutions.

To make big bets, you need to defy assumptions. Changemakers don’t settle for answers like “that’s just the way it is,” they commit themselves to look ahead to see what the future holds.

One example is the ambitious entrepreneur Elon Musk, who in 2010 promised to colonize Mars by 2030. His detractors said it would be impossible considering today’s technology, but this didn’t deter Musk from making such promises. Now, he already has detailed plans for the needed spaceship and reusable rockets through his SpaceX project.

When founding the online prescription eyeglass retailer Warby Parker, David Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal questioned the assumption that getting a new pair of eyeglasses had to be expensive. From humble beginnings, the company revolutionized the industry and was recently valued at over $1 billion.

Let’s take a look at another example. Back in 1990, the internet was young and people had no idea everybody was going to need an email address or website. Despite the bewilderment of some friends of hers, the author joined a small internet service provider called Control Video Corporation. It was a young startup at that time, but in ten years had millions of customers and changed its name to America Online – AOL.

Lesson 3: Get out of your comfort zone and reach beyond your bubble, embracing the new and unexpected.

You can do just fine in your comfort zone, but if you want to be great, you must get uncomfortable. Nobody has ever accomplished game-changing work while feeling comfortable.

The first female trustee of the National Geographic Society was Eliza Scidmore. As an audacious journalist and photographer, she succeeded in a realm of men in the eighteenth and the nineteenth century. Scidmore was also part of the first Oberlin College’s class that admitted women and never got married.

In Washington, she wrote popular newspaper columns, hiding behind androgynous pen names. One day she boarded a steamship to Alaska and found herself writing the first travel guide to this area. This helped her become the first female member of the board of the National Geographic in 1890.

Traveling extensively in Eastern countries, Scidmore became an expert on Asia. She fell in love with Japanese cherry blossoms and was the first to propose they be planted in Washington DC. That’s how sakura cherries began to grow in many parks of the capital of the USA.

When you are in a minority at your company, you feel different with added pressure to represent your kind. We can only imagine how tough yet gratifying it must have been for Eliza Scidmore to be the pioneer that she was.

Scidmore’s story also reminds us of the importance of looking beyond our own bubble. Traveling to underrated places, considering unique partnerships, and involving people from different backgrounds in our work all bring us ideas and tools to change the game in our field.

Be Fearless Review

Jean Case is an enthusiastic advocate for social responsibility and commitment to the environment. In Be Fearless, she urges us to adopt a revolutionary approach and get involved in making a global difference for everybody. Through fascinating stories of people who really made their mark on humanity, she inspires us to be fearless enough to do the same.

Who would I recommend the Be Fearless summary to?

The 15-year-old who often thinks of the problems in society but feels there’s nothing they can do about it, the 20-year-old that wants to change the world, and anyone who wants to use their free time to make life better for all of us.

Last Updated on August 16, 2022

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Clara Lobina

Clara is a SEO content strategist, writer, and proofreader from Sardinia, Italy. She is a cofounder, head of content, and COO of Botteega, a delivery service for local goods from high-quality shops and farmers. Clara wrote a total of 16 summaries for us. When she's not working on her own or her client's blogs, she teaches and does yoga. My favorite project of hers is Come L'Acqua — "Like Water" — a personal growth and mindfulness blog (in Italian).