How does the youngest of four from Normal, Illinois grow up to influence the beginnings of the internet, work in the non-profit sector alongside powerful names like George Bush and Bill Clinton, and serve as Chairman of the Board of the National Geographic?
CEO of the Case Foundation Jean Case tells us her life story and outlines her successes and failures in her book: Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose. This episode is a must-listen for anyone who feels they can’t start a business because of who they are, where they live, or their current economic situation. Listen now.
“That generosity of others… was pivotal in terms of how the story of my life played out.”
Jean Case was the youngest of four kids in a single-parent household. The community stepped up and offered her many opportunities that shaped her young life: a full scholarship to a private school, a mentorship with the mayor, and political campaign experience that eventually lead to a job in the Reagan administration. From there, she was furloughed, which made her seek out employment in the tech space—a sector she fell in love with. Each opportunity and event built on the other and lead her to where she is today.
But Jean will be the first to tell you that it’s not because of any inherent “specialness” that afforded her these opportunities.
“It’s very easy getting caught up in this world thinking, ‘I can’t be the one.’”
The research she details in her book suggests, firmly, that it’s not a special genius gene that makes a person more likely to succeed. Jean took advantage of the opportunities where she was and used them to propel her forward. This is a powerful lesson for a budding entrepreneur—to start where they are—which is one of her five principles in Be Fearless.
“The underserved need to be served better, and there are powerful ideas of how to do that that are probably not going to come from Silicon Valley.”
Less than two percent of venture capital goes to female founders and co-founders, a statistic that Jean finds sobering. Yet, she says, female-lead brands and diverse teams are outperforming other cohorts. Jean sheds light on inspirational stories of female entrepreneurs who innovated where they were at and built powerful brands, without a lot of prior experience or formal help.
Jean unpacks the five principles (Start Where You Are, Be Bold; Take Risks, Make Failure Matter, Reach Beyond Your Bubble, and Let Urgency Conquer Fear) with real-life stories and examples. She also gives tips on how you can apply them to your life, even if you’re just getting started.