Tribute to Susan Jeffers

Most of my readers know that I also blog for a wonderful web site called Vibrant Nation, for women of my generation. I’ve been blogging there for a couple of years now and it is indeed a vibrant community. The community may have a few overlaps, but the difference is that this site is aimed at social proof from both men and women. I like to think that Vibrant Nation and walk hand-in-hand, so I have no qualms about re-posting some of my blog entries on both sites. This is one I wrote for Vibrant Nation today and I’m happy to share it here too…

I received the news this morning that another of my modern-day heroes has left the planet. Dr. Susan Jeffers, author of “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” passed away on October 27th. She was in her early 70’s and had been courageously battling a rare form of cancer for a couple of years.

I read “Feel the Fear” when it first came out in 1987, which was the time of my “rebirth” at 35 as a confident career woman instead of a naïve young girl with big expectations. I had taken one of those transformational workshops many of us experienced in the 80’s, and afterwards I couldn’t get enough self-help. The title of Susan’s book resonated with me as I confronted the possibility of never having children after three miscarriages. I knew I had to do something besides feel sorry for myself. I chose to pursue my career and overnight I went from an entry level editor to Director of Advertising at a Honolulu publishing company.

When I read Susan’s “five truth’s about fear”, I realized I had always relied on family and friends to push me to take a new path, to get through something scary. Now I had to do that for myself. The first “truth” was that fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow. I couldn’t wait until I was no longer scared to do what I wanted and needed to do. So against everyone’s advice, I left my job and opened a small PR firm in Honolulu. A year later, I had rolled it into a huge PR firm and joined them as a Vice President.

I remember one of the first things I had to do when I joined the large firm was to present a PR plan to a powerful man who was one of Hawaii’s top businessmen of the day, always in the news and known as an intimidator. The night before I was to do the presentation, I rehearsed in front of my bathroom mirror, my knees shaking and my heat rash breaking out on my neck as if I was already in front of this man.

I had to do something to quell my nerves so I went into the den and pulled out Susan’s book.  I re-read “Fear Truth #4” – “Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else.”  I began to think about this man facing his own flaws.  He had a bit of a tummy, so perhaps he wasn’t so happy looking in the mirror in the morning, either – or “trying” to look down. It occurred to me that everyone does feel scared for some reason, at some point in life. So I just had to push through this silly fear of presenting something I knew would be good for his company.

The next day when the meeting began, I was relaxed. I had pushed through the fear.  When he challenged me, I paused, breathed in naturally and responded. He accepted our proposal that day, and over the next few weeks, he became a friendly client because we shared mutual respect.

I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Jeffers in 2004 at The Inside Edge, a wonderful organization in Orange County, CA founded by TV personality, author and motivational speaker Diana von Welanetz Wentworth.  The Inside Edge was a kind of breeding ground and “think tank” of some of the best self-help minds in the country including Jeffers, Wentworth, Dr. Jean Houston, Dr. Wayne Dyer and “Chicken Soup” book authors and publishing gurus Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Susan had returned to the Edge to discuss her latest book and I remember feeling a little nervous standing in line at the front of the room afterwards to talk with her.  Sure enough, she was like an old girlfriend, congratulating me on my choice to leave my career for my aging parents as long as needed. She and her husband, Mark Shelmerdine, a jovial Brit (pictured here with Susan), were funny, kind and obviously loving and connected. We sat at the table for about 10 minutes chatting and laughing. Wow.

So congratulations to beautiful Susan who has made her transition off the planet into the realm of the angels. She has left a rich legacy, namely all of us she helped transform into strong women and men. It makes me think of her “Fear Truth #3” – “With each little step you take into unknown territory, a pattern of strength develops. You begin feeling stronger and stronger and stronger.”  How lucky heaven is to welcome Susan Jeffers.


Shannon Ingram
Shannon is a co-founder of An expert in the field of marketing to Boomers, seniors and family caregivers, she is the author of "The Heart Way - A Journey from Corporate to Care" about her experience of caring for her elderly parents. She is Vice President of Industry Marketing for and an active supporter of UCI MIND, the University of California Irvine's Institute for Memory Impairment and Neurological Disorders. She considers her most important title to be "Granny Shanny" and enjoys spending as much time as possible with her two grandchildren.

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