Have you ever heard of something called “death by despair”?

Eesh. Sounds really bad, right?

Apparently, there’s a collection of CODs (causes of death) classified as “death by despair” and there are more of these than there have been deaths due to AIDS from 1999 to 2015 in the United States alone. A rise in “deaths of despair” is being studied in the UK. The smart science brains out there say the increase in these CODs is because we’ve been working to change diseases like AIDS from an automatic death-sentence diagnosis to something that’s absolutely manageable and live-with-able.

But, see, “death by despair” has a murkier root cause and is therefore nothing big pharma is keen to help treat or cure. The cause of the despair that is creating a rapid spike in mortality? Chronic stress.


Mindset shit.

And instead of working to try and reduce stress as a massive contributor to the early death of a few whole generations of people, we’re — as a society — amping UP our stress levels, making stress-contributors MORE addictive, prescribing more drugs to numb the stress… and rarely talking about ways we could naturally reduce stress in our lives.

Labeling “self-care” as a hipster trend and slapping the term “woo-woo” (with derogatory agenda) on actual stress-reducing, longevity-enhancing non-medical techniques like EFT, RTT, and breathwork.


Good thing labels don’t stress me out. 😉

As I dug around about the science behind all of this — specifically looking at the Whitehall Study from UCL and a rhesus monkey study at UC Davis, as well as my old favorite Capuchin monkey fairness study from Emory — I really paid attention to the issues of status inequality and status uncertainty as factors outside our control, and of course lack of control/lack of certainty is THE major stressor in the human brain.

We prefer consistent MEH to occasional YAY because at least the MEH is consistent. The variability of the YAY is too stressful.

This is why it actually feels *better* (to a certain part of our brain) to fail. Failing = a certainty we can control = safety. Failing keeps us in line with our peer group or our family. It ensures we aren’t out-growing our community which would make us less safe when it comes to survival in the evolutionary brain.

Of course, we’ve evolved enough to crave something more and therefore we have the audacity of striving. We find ourselves WANTING to succeed and then feeling shocked when our own self-sabotages show up to prevent success from happening on as large a scale as we believe we’d like to experience!

So many of us chose creative careers precisely because they give us permission to dream big *and* have totally acceptable reasons we fail at achieving those dreams. We signed up to be REJECTED, right? We know going in that we’re going to “succeed” at auditions a very small minority of the time we go out for them.

Unless we reframe the whole dang thing so that “success” is not booking the job; it’s booking the room.

This is where the human brain has an edge: We get to change the meaning attached to our most primal wiring thanks to the executive function. By focusing on long-term relationship building (vs. short-term goals like booking A single role in A single project), we are actually redefining what success IS and making succeeding a less-risky concept for our primal brain!

Here’s how it plays out: When we “fail” — don’t book the job, don’t get signed by the agent, don’t win the award for which we’re nominated, don’t accomplish anything in the short-term — we’re staying safe, we’re reducing stress, we’re choosing a low-enoughness existence.

But when our eyes are on a much longer-range measure of success or failure (whether or not a relationship was worth investing in — which is only decided upon years or decades later), we do two things for sure: We REDUCE the stress that is inherent to a short-term results-oriented measure of success or failure *and* we settle down the part of our brain that sees inequality in status (there are no “gatekeepers,” only colleagues) or lack of control (since our results won’t be measured anytime soon).

And that reduction in stress hormones actually increases the likelihood that we WILL succeed! Because we are not using the primal brain to map out the danger in doing so!!

Whoa, right?!?

Now I’ll ask you: What adjustment in your short-term worldview could you make TODAY that’s gonna help reduce your stress, make your brain less-inclined to sabotage your best intentions, unhook failure from the equation, and possibly extend your lifespan?

How can you begin to focus on certainty that you control (your own enoughness) so that your odds of success in all things is improved? Share right here in the comments of my blog post!

Look, I know some of this is pretty dense stuff, so let’s connect at noon pacific Tuesday for a livestream jam sesh on the topic, okay? Can’t wait!

ADMIN NOTE: If you try to visit any of our online spaces Tuesday night (from about 8pm to 11pm PDT) and find we’re DOWN, please hold tight. Our server is getting some upgrades apparently and that could affect your access to things like our glorious 100-day membership, the mastermind forums, and my blog posts! Thanks for your patience!

Finally, I’d love to invite y’all to sign up for Tara McMullin’s Candid Confidence series here. It’s FREE. It’s for creative entrepreneurs. It’s happening for 22 days in August. I’m a part of it. 🙂 I’m super stoked that I’m getting invited to do more and more non-showbiz things with my work. But honestly, showbiz folks can use FREE strategies for upping the confidence too, right? Duh. Of course. We all can.

So, yay! I’m looking forward to jamming with you in this new collaboration! And everywhere else we connect! 🙂

Thank you for reading… and for sharing your thoughts with me, as always.

All my ninja love,

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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  1. Sean Frost July 23, 2019 at 7:50 am

    One thing I can do is to lower my own self-importance. I’m not big enough for anybody to be out to get me, to sabotage my career, or to gossip about me (not that I think anybody does—I mean…why would they?!?). But a key was just in this entry of yours, Bonnie. Some part of me had thought of you as one of the gatekeepers… but you’re a colleague. You’re trying to help us succeed, but I think our own lack of enoughness says “No, no. You’re worthless and horrible and nobody is gonna let you in”. I think it takes confidence to accept a helping hand—to believe people like you, Bonnie, and others really have our best interest at heart, and if that’s true, then maybe we should have our own best interest (NOT SELF-INTEREST) at heart as well.

    I think the biggest gatekeeper is inside us, and it does what we train it to do, like a dog that is trained to attack a threat. We shouldn’t get upset when it does what we trained it to do but to correct it—retrain it. And at least in my case, the gatekeeper is, thankfully, getting some retraining.

  2. TONY P July 23, 2019 at 9:12 am

    A deeper look into what I’ve always just called the fear of success. Quite interesting Bonnie.

  3. Sean Frost July 23, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Oh, just to clarify—in the last comment, I meant our own lack of enoughness tells US we are worthless and horrible. Bonnie, you are extraordinary and wonderful, and I am blessed to know you. 😃


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