What

I

Do

01/

What I Do

I give science a soul and make courage contagious. I use biology, psychology, and communication studies to transform the way you see, hear, and feel everyday fear. I brandish every tool I can think of from unique immersive experiences, to live talks and workshops to print and digital learning spaces to make it as engaging and memorable as possible.

I hold two Masters degrees, one in biology and the other in science communication with honors from Imperial College London, with my PhD in Media Psychology set to be completed in 2020. 

02/

How I Got Here

In 2007,  I was working in a job I hated because I was afraid to take a leap. This job was safe, secure, well paid – and frankly, also killing me. I sacrificed nearly everything I was because I was too afraid of the person I could be.

 

As the youngest of 5 children and the only one in my family to go to college, I was taught to be happy with having a full time job, any full time job. Although my family was loving, many of our core values were rooted in fear.

 

Then one night over a brew house dinner,  I was offered the biggest opportunity of my life to teach exactly one class at San Jose State University, because I dared to ask. I dared to share my unhappiness and my desire for more with the right people. But of course, no invitation to adventure is an easy yes. At the time, I was helping to support my elderly mom and had to take into account the huge pay cut that came along with saying yes to this new life, this new opportunity.

 

But I knew something had to change if I was ever going to have the life I wanted: to die with good stories. So, I took the biggest leap of my life and quit my cozy full time corporate job to embark on this new venture. Since teaching a single class wasn’t going to pay all our bills, I got a job waiting tables at night to make up the difference and prayed at the start of each shift I wouldn’t have a student from my class come into the restaurant (awkward!) and began my journey of learning, researching, and exploring the human relationship with fear.

03/

Who It's For

My work is for the woman who is afraid to take that next big step. My talks are for the student that needs just a few simple tools to get through their imposter syndrome or anxiety. My workshops are for the leaders that need to produce creative solutions and quick strategic decisions.

 

Most of us are never taught how to thrive with our very natural, very human emotions, especially those difficult ones like dread, terror, or insecurity. My job is to change that. To change the collective conversation, we have about non-clinical fear and give science based strategies to those looking for a little more courage, a bit more creativity and even maybe a ton more confidence.

Although fearology is not a recognized discipline of study, I feel like I’ve been a student of fear my entire life. One, of many reasons, I became a biologist was to have an adventurous life like Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey. To live a life of great stories. However, at age 27, I (like the rest of my family) I didn’t even have a passport! It’s pretty hard to have good adventure stories when you still live in the same town you grew up in.

 

So, I decided to devote myself to the study and application of the fear strategies I teach today by truly living the material. So far, it’s allowed me to travel to 22 countries as a solo-female, gave me the confidence to give away almost everything I owned and move to London, and the resilience to start my life all over again in Los Angeles when I fell in love with a man in a piano bar on a rainy Thursday night.  My research never made me fearless, I still feel fear everyday – but my strategies helped make me brave.

 

I’ve shared my knowledge with millions of people across the world since 2007 through my university courses, science videos, live talks, podcasts, and writings. But that’s not why this work is special. It’s special because of the look on someone’s face when they say my talk gave them the courage to quit a job they hated and start their own business. It’s life-changing (for me) when a young man emails to say he thought of ending it all, and when talking didn’t help, my tools did. It’s beautiful when a senior executive tells me that my strategies changed the way he now relates to his team and his family. My tools made them feel powerful enough to reshape their relationship with fear and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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What I Don't Do

I’m not a life coach and don’t post positive affirmation #InstaQuotes (mostly, I mean there’s some really good quotes out there). I definitely do not do patient counseling or clinical psychology. Just like you can get science based, data driven information and health advice from non-physicians, you can get high quality guidance from other qualified people outside of a practicing clinical psychologist. Clinical therapy is a wonderful avenue for supporting our human journeys, and although I am an active member of the American Psychological Association, clinical psychology services are not something I provide. Please see the APA resources for finding a licensed clinical psychologist in your area at: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/index.aspx

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Why You Should Care

Fearlessness doesn’t exist. It’s a lie we’ve been sold: sorry kids. If we perceive fear, we feel fear. Yet, we are generally under prepared to deal with the onslaught of fear messaging we get every day. If you’ve ever felt scared of interviewing for that position you think you’re unqualified for, or nervous for a presentation, or down right terrified of creating something that’s never existed before, then my work is for you.  It’s not about ignoring the fear or thinking we can ever get to a place where fearlessness is possible. As the famous quote goes, it’s about feeling the fear and doing it anyway, but now with science-based tools and strategies that can get you through the fear zone faster in an empowered way.

 
 
 
 
 
Let's Work Together
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Mary Poffenroth, MSc

Mary.Poffenroth@sjsu.edu

Los Angeles | San Jose | London 

@MaryPoffenroth