By Viet Phan, Jaunty graduate
I've always suffered from social anxiety for as long as I can remember. During my childhood, any form of social interaction—from answering the telephone, to ordering a hamburger at McDonald's, to even speaking to my own family and friends—would make me feel anxious and tremble with fear. I was labeled as anti-social, passive, shy, and introverted, and because of that, I grew up with a lot of fear, shame, and guilt.
I coped with my anxiety the only way I knew how: by working extremely hard in life and by being really kind to others. I hoped that achieving success could help combat some of the negative labels that had been placed on me. I hoped that by sacrificing myself by helping others I would receive their appreciation and approval in return.
I worked hard at everything. I put in extra time at the office to advance my career. I trained for many hours at the gym to improve my physical appearance. I even pushed myself to take up public speaking and ballroom dancing classes to help overcome anxiety and find some comfort in my own skin. And I continued to do my best to make personal sacrifices for the benefit of others.
It all went according to plan, and eventually I found myself having everything I had ever wanted in life: a beautiful, loving girlfriend, a successful career, and the recognition from others. Everything seemed perfectly happy on the outside…
On the inside, however, it was a much different story. Despite all of the love and happiness in my relationship, I found myself overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and emptiness. Despite all of the successes in my career, I couldn't escape the feelings of inadequacy. And despite having the support of my family and friends, I couldn't help but feel exhausted and bitter from a lifetime of seeking external approval and validation.
One day, I found myself staring into the mirror and asking myself, "Who are you?" I began rationalizing with myself, "Maybe I'm just one of those people who are incapable of happiness."
I started to pull away until my girlfriend finally decided to end the relationship. Some of my last words to her were: "I'm not happy and I'm not sure why," and, "I just want to feel free for once in my life..."
After some soul searching, I started to understand that I had been suffering from depression, a low sense of self worth, poor communication skills, and a lack of self awareness. The self discovery left me heartbroken and devastated. I eventually found treatment through therapy, and started reading books about cognitive behavioral therapy, relationships, communication, self-esteem, and masculinity. I finally understood that my anxiety and unhappiness was due to my inability to love myself.
I decided to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco with the goal of pushing myself outside my comfort zone, expanding my boundaries, and finding myself. But since I was all alone in a new city, I wasn't sure where to begin. I started joining Meetup events when I saw Jaunty's free workshop on how to deal with social anxiety and improve your social intelligence. I felt that it was exactly what I was looking for.
I took the free workshop with Eric, Jaunty's founder, and was immediately impressed by his knowledge and understanding. After following up with the private session, I was sold and decided to sign up for the full six-week Jaunty course. It ended up being the best decision I ever made.
The true value of the Jaunty course is how it breaks down social intelligence concepts into really simple, yet powerful tools that anybody can use. Jaunty provided me with real techniques that helped me develop the knowledge and courage to manage my anxiety and ultimately build the confidence and ability to truly express myself.
There's nothing more powerful and inspiring than being surrounded by amazing people who are all in the same boat as you are. The inspiration and support from my classmates truly inspired me to trust the methods taught by Jaunty, to push myself to apply the things that I learned, and to ultimately hold myself accountable for my own personal growth.
In my honest opinion, the real magic behind the Jaunty course is Eric himself. Before Jaunty, I was unable to accept myself because I couldn't shake the stigma of being introverted, and the belief that having anxiety meant that I was mentally weak. However, Eric really understood where I was coming from, and helped me understand that I'm not less of a person by any means, and that anxiety is not a character flaw, but rather, something that I can work on. Eric is truly passionate about helping his students. His empathy, understanding, and support really pushed me to overcome my negative sense of self-worth and to start learning how to love and respect myself.
It's been a few months since I completed the course, and I have done things that I never thought would be possible. I have been meeting new people and making new friends everywhere I go. I had the courage to approach the most beautiful women at the hottest pool party in Las Vegas. The anxiety hasn't completely gone away, but I'm now able to embrace it and then replace it with excitement. The feelings of inadequacy are being replaced with feelings of confidence and self-esteem. Bitter resentful feelings have been replaced with feelings of gratitude and appreciation. I still don't have all of the answers, but thanks to Jaunty, I am no longer letting anxiety stand in the way of the person that I want to become.
My name is Viet and I know that who I am continues to grow with all of the new experiences that I encounter in my life. And thanks to Jaunty, I learned that I definitely am capable of happiness. And I finally feel free, for the first time in my life.
By Eric Waisman, Jaunty's Founder
How are you doing at life? Where are you right now? Kicking some ass? Struggling a bit? Somewhere in between?
I was recently invited to Vanity Fair's Summit here in SF. I got to see some amazing speakers, people who in a lot of ways are kicking ass and people who are changing the world. One of my favorite speakers was Jony Ive, Apple's top designer. I mean, this guy had a big hand in the design of the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad…etc. Brian Grazer, whose book I recently read about curiosity, was moderating a discussion with Jony Ive and JJ Abrams. Jony Ive said "Curiosity means you are comfortable with being wrong." Maybe we can increase our curiosity and actually be more okay with being wrong.
For me, part of that means taking risks. I've taken big risks like starting Jaunty, asking someone out, raising money from friends and family, and saying no, or sometimes yes. And every day I take little risks, like making a joke with a stranger, even though they might think I'm weird or am being serious. At Vanity Fair's Summit, I was surrounded by amazing people who had all pushed themselves in some way and taken risks to get to where they are now. It was really inspiring.
Kicking ass at life doesn't mean getting everything perfect all the time. That's impossible. But to me it's about having the courage to acknowledge when things aren't working so well and getting curious about how to make it better. Entrepreneur James Altucher focuses on being one percent better a day. I love that.
Get your shit together. Well, what does this mean? As much as I loved being the alternative punk, adored Kurt Cobain, and miss Amy Winehouse, the more I spent time with people who had their shit together, the happier I felt. Don't interpret having your shit together as being straight edge or boring either. If you really want to start to get your shit together or are motivated to learn a few things that can enhance your life, here are my thoughts on some areas to work on:
Money: This is by far the easiest to learn. I spent six years as a financial planner and I only scratched the surface of the topic of Finance. But you don't need to be a financial expert to be smart with money. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, eight in ten Americans have some sort of debt and a Nasdaq study says 34% of Americans have revolving credit card debt. Whether it's student loans or credit card debt, it's not going to go away on its own. Educate yourself. It won't take that long. Whatever your financial situation, there are tools and things you can do to help yourself. Get curious about how you spend your money and how you could save more. Learn about the ins and outs of budgeting, credit cards, and stocks. They don't teach the differences between a student loan and a student grant in our high schools. I think they should. You are not alone.
Relationships: Everyone deserves a rich social life and a loving partner. Get curious about what kind of people you want around you. Having close friends, a partner, and the ability to get along with most people at work and in your daily life is crucial to our happiness. Some studies even show that married people live longer on average than single people. Love and support rules. Take some risks and approach more strangers. If you've already come to one of Jaunty's free social intelligence workshops, then you have some idea of what to say. If you've done our six-week course then you know you can take the conversation wherever you want.
Health: When we take care of ourselves, physically, mentally and emotionally, we feel better and are better able to function. Listen to your body. I love snacking on mochi or a falafel but I usually feel like crap afterwards. What kind of food will nourish you? What kind of exercise is your body asking for? If the gym isn't your thing, go for a hike, dance, or get on top more in bed. Here are some more fun ideas.
Get curious about what you're really curious about. What do you want your life to look like? Are you curious enough to actually do something about it…or are you only curious enough to hope something will happen? Take a step in the right direction, even if it's a small one. One percent a day better!
How are you getting your shit together today?