I Had a (mini) Breakdown

I Had a (mini) Breakdown

Actually, I’m not really sure it was “mini.” I just need to type that to get up enough courage to tell you this story.

If I’m honest, I crashed on December 16, 2022. After 18 months of writing and re-writing, I had just published my first book, “Choosing Me: The Journey Home to My True Self.” Through that stretch, every day I’d wake up early to write for a few hours before work, serve my clients all day, and then write for hours more. I felt like I was working 24–7 for a multi–marathon stretch.

While there were parts of the experience I loved, the literary birthing process was a true labor…and exhausting. Not to mention, as a memoir, the book was a deep emotional excavating of leaving my 25+ year marriage, coming out, and a tough, visceral exploration of my mother–daughter relationship. Expressing my story in the public realm was a raw exercise in vulnerability.

As a daughter of strong, enterprising parents, I wasn’t raised to be vulnerable. I learned to hold my cards close and not let others “see me sweat.” This upbringing, while wonderful in many ways, also conditioned me to be cool and calm on the outside despite the stress and overwhelm I often carried on the inside. Over my career, as a driven leader and business owner, I’ve kept a strong façade and taken on things when I should’ve said “no” or asked for help. Such was the case in December 2022. I wish I’d done both, but I didn’t. So, my body spoke for me.

I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a Friday afternoon, and I had just wrapped up the work week. My wife, Lyn, came upstairs in our home office the same moment I came down. One look into her face, and I crumbled to the floor and burst into tears sobbing, physically trembling, and trying to breathe. I’d never had a panic attack before, but I’m quite sure I did in that moment. I felt out of control.

Looking back, this was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Mostly, I’m thankful that my body woke me up this way instead of something much worse. Until that moment, I didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t know how to rest. I didn’t feel like I could turn down client engagements and wasn’t as skillful in seeking partnership and accessing my resources. Now I know, and I do.

Since that day, slowly and steadily I began living a new way…a new life. I learned that I can slow down and my world won’t come crashing down. In fact, it’s when I don’t that it does. I stopped reaching for some arbitrary benchmark outside myself to give me permission to live a healthier and whole life. I still work hard. I’m still driven. My business is full and thriving. And more than anything, it’s life giving and fulfilling.

Gone are the days of scheduling myself wall-to-wall, leaving no white space on my calendar, boarding an airplane 30-40 weeks a year, waking up and trying to remember what city I’m in. I don’t pull near all-nighters obsessively preparing for client work the next day. In fact, I’m not quite sure why I ever did. From where I sit today, I hardly recognize that old self.

Reflecting back, I can see things that enticed that insanity. There was a kind of high, like a runner’s high, that came from the race. There was a deep satisfaction of achievement in doing the work and supporting clients in navigating the volatility and uncertainty of their worlds. And I’m sure that there was a degree of proving to myself and others that I could do it, and even make it look easy.

I told myself that I loved it (and believed it). I assured my wife, “I got this!”—especially when she was experiencing her own Covid wipeout and career reinvention. A responsibility gene kicked in, and I was my own Atlas. Why did I create this internal myth, swelling into some kind of unsustainable savior?

It’s important to me to share this story. Too often, I keep my real and gritty life buttoned up, presenting instead the “put together,” shiny parts of myself. But that behavior is the same that led to the crash. We appear to be these superhumans, conditioned by our patriarchal society we live in to strive, achieve, produce, and earn. And at what cost? It’s time to challenge and dismantle these structures, starting with our own values, beliefs, and actions.

In the newly released audiobook, “Choosing Me: The Journey Home to My True Self,” I have a heart–to–heart conversation in the Bonus Author Interview with Lyn about what it takes to know and live your true self. We talk about this experience and others, reflecting on our journey since publishing my book in November 2022. I hope you’ll grab a copy and let me know what you think!


Jeanie Duncan is an edge walking transformation partner helping individuals and organizations align with their values, discover their core purpose, and create meaningful impact in the world. Her avenues for doing this work are executive coaching, team coaching, keynote speaking, program facilitation, and organizational consulting. For more information, contact Jeanie here.

If I Had One Wish

If I Had One Wish

…I would wish for organizations and leaders everywhere to seek to know their truth and be bold and courageous enough to live it.

I’ve witnessed the power of “knowing and living your truth” both in my own life experiences as well as with my clients in theirs. To me, it’s the difference between living an ordinary versus an extraordinary life. Between sleep walking through your life versus tapping into your most full, amazing self and unleashing your gifts in the world.

My “one wish” reflects the essence of how I most want to live my life and help others live theirs. I like the image of water and stepping stones to describe it.

Water represents two things as a constant…

Presence: You can’t seek to know and live your truth if you’re not paying attention. If you’re caught up in all the stuff of life and not noticing, you’re gonna miss it. And I get it, lives are full. Reeeally full. The aim is to “do” your rich, robust life while slowing the pace enough to “be” and focus your attention. It’s both challenging and possible, requiring some serious, conscious choice making, not to mention loads of courage.

Knowing and Loving Yourself: You’ve got to care…about you. YOU have to matter to you. Ground zero in knowing yourself and knowing your truth is first loving yourself (and for organizations, it’s about loving the “entity” as a living breathing organism…its people, mission, purpose, its reason for being).

Next, the stones represent…

a progression of steps I believe are present on the pathway to knowing and ultimately living your truth – what I call the “truth journey.”

  • Presenting moment: First, there’s a trigger – an event or situation that swings a person’s or an organization’s pendulum to either dissonance (things like exhaustion, burn-out, hopelessness, crisis, failure, conflict) or resonance (imagine ease, energy, joy, excitement, thriving). You have this experience, and your emotions get stirred, often strongly. Accompanying this moment, is an internal sensation – I’ve experienced it as unsettledness, restlessness, a stirring, or insatiable yearning. And like a nagging 3-year-old, it just won’t go away until I address it head on.
  • Stillness: Regardless of whether the experience is positive or negative, it’s important to stop and “sit with it.” If it’s particularly challenging, our tendency is to push it away, busy ourselves, or pretend altogether that it doesn’t exist. Resist the urge! It sounds counterintuitive to say “C’mon! Pull up a chair and sit with that misery for a while!” But it really is important to do just that – to stop, get quiet, be with what you’re sensing and thinking, and reflect, “What is this ‘thing’ trying to communicate to me? What knowledge and information can I get from it?”
  • Clarity: In this pause and inquiry of the stillness, the answers could come quickly, almost instantly, or it could take days, weeks, months, even. I promise, there’ll come a time of greater clarity when the knowing appears – it might arrive with gusto like an ah-ha or break through, or it can come almost unnoticed as the slightest movement like a cloud floating by. You’ll know it when you sense a shift inside you – the dots connect, suddenly things make sense, or you might feel an ease, a lightness, or a rise in your energy.
  • Choice: Next comes the most pivotal point in the process – you arrive at a choice point. Let’s say you’ve been frustrated in your job for a while. You haven’t been happy for a long time, maybe never. You’re burned out, exhausted, and feeling empty. Then comes the “event” that causes you to burst, “I’ve had it! I’m done!” And here you are…hello choice. You start contemplating your situation and exploring options. Often what happens here is we do what’s easy and take the path of least resistance: we stay, we tolerate, we settle, we endure. It’s here that I stand the firmest (and most compassionate) with my clients, because I can see what they can’t – their gifts, potential, resources, and courage (even if only a glimmer). I help them consider choices that empower, harness their strengths, and connect them to their passion.
  • Action: In my opinion, the most important consideration here is that your actions align with your values and what most fulfills you. One of the perils that gets in the way of action is living in the place of “should.” With the job example above…“I should stay. After all, people are counting on me, proving my loyalty is important, it might get better…” If you’re an organization considering these steps, it might sound like “We should continue this program. We’ve been delivering it for 20 years, and a lot of people count on us. The program may be making little revenue and have ‘run its course,’ but there would be a public outcry if we stopped.” To take action, first tune into your “why,” your purpose, to what calls to you and lights you up. From there, make your plan and work your plan.
  • Live: Once in action, live fully into the choice you’ve made and the path forward…no second guessing, no wondering if you did the right thing. Bravely, boldly go! As an individual, of course there’ll be personal check-ins, and you’ll continue to reflect and refine your path forward. As an organization, there will be assessment, evaluation, and measuring progress. That’s simply being smart and responsible. Lastly, remember that you are surrounded with resources you can leverage wisely: people, time, money, as well as practices like self-care, meditation, good nutrition, and fitness.

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, and coach, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 


Welcome to the Neutral Zone

Welcome to the Neutral Zone

We’ve been waiting. Waiting for 2020 to end and 2021 to finally arrive. But the turn of the calendar didn’t solve our problems – in fact, not much feels different at all. If anything, it feels like a continued or even an increased sense of unknown, uncertainty, and chaos.

Since March 2020, I’ve often felt like I’m in the middle of a dense forest with no obvious way out. My “way” has become one of putting one foot in front of the other, literally taking the next step, and then the next. Most days, this helps me feel like I’m making progress, albeit slow.

My consulting and executive coaching work focuses on helping leaders and their organizations navigate change and transition. These days, I lean on my own practices…a lot. One of my favorite sources is the work of William Bridges and the Bridges Transition Model. In his book, “Managing Transitions,” he presents the stages of transition: Letting Go, the Neutral Zone, and the New Beginning. Let’s take a look at the Neutral Zone he describes.

The Neutral Zone

“It’s a time when all the old clarities break down and everything is in flux. Things are up in the air. Nothing is a given anymore, and anything could happen. No one knows the answers: one person says one thing and someone else says something completely different.”

Sound familiar?

This Neutral Zone is a huge chasm of discomfort between an ending and a new beginning. We’re waiting – for a new president to take office, for spring to come, for a vaccine to be widely available, to return to school and work, to hug our friends and family, and to travel. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Telling yourself it’ll be worth the wait, but also feeling exhausted, isolated, and worried because time can feel like a finite resource.

Bridges continues, “One of the most difficult aspects of the Neutral Zone is that most people don’t understand it. They expect to be able to move straight from the old to the new. But this isn’t a trip from one side of the street to the other. It’s a journey from one identity to another, and that kind of journey takes some time. The attitudes, outlook, values, self-images, and ways of thinking that were functional in the past have to ‘die’ before people can be ready for life in the present.”

So, what do we do in this neutral zone? What do we do while we wait? How are you in this zone? Probably like you, one day I’m up, the next I’m down. Some days I’m optimistic, others, I can’t find that optimism no matter what I do or how hard I try.

But hang on…there’s hope!

As we’ve sustained in this abyss now for nearly 12 months, I’m learning to be with it and also recognize it for its gifts and opportunity. Somehow, it helps to know we’re all in it together…it literally feels like there’s not one person on the planet with a “ticket” to escape this time of pandemic, social and racial injustice and unrest, and political turmoil. We’re faced with doing our work and living our life the best we can. What feels most right to me is openness, kindness, compassion, flexibility.

“This is not the wasted time of meaningless waiting and confusion that it sometimes seems to be,” offers Bridges. “It’s a time when reorientation and redefinition must take place, and people need to understand that.”

Yes, it’s a time of anxiety and even chaos, but also it is a time when we’re more open to new ideas and opportunity. I remind myself daily that there’s power in this place. For me:

  • Priorities have become clearer, and I realize what’s most important in my life.
  • I can do with less. A lot less, in fact: money, material things, activities, work hustle…all the busyness
  • Losing what “was” is teaching me to exercise my creativity and look for new opportunities to cultivate and apply myself – my interests, skills, talent, and experience. Coupling this with new insight around my priorities is giving way to a new and more aligned path.
  • I’m reminded to celebrate the highs and the wins, even the smallest wins (especially those!)
  • I look for the lessons in the lows and greatest challenges.
  • I realize that my happiness and power come from within. I’m developing my spirituality practice to help me tap into that.

Since March, I’ve discovered that not only does my old way not work now, but I no longer even wish for that way. There are many things I quite like about this middle place and how the present is informing what I’m building. I’m learning to trust myself and my intuition and inner voice much more every day.

How are you finding ways to maximize and leverage your neutral zone?

Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Bearing Witness to Truth

Bearing Witness to Truth

When I began writing my book, I decided it would be informed not only by my own life experiences, but also those of many others. I put together a plan and timeline, began writing, and started the interviews.

Nice, neat, and tidy, right? As soon as I got started, I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be the orderly, paced project I had designed. My strategic, linear mind was clearly not going to have her way. Truth work is anything but a straight line…both the processing of my own and the witnessing and interpreting of others’.

Being with someone who’s sharing their personal story of knowing and living their truth is sacred. It’s mind blowing and heart wakening – a bearing witness to one’s humanity and soul. It’s not an “interview;” it’s a sacred conversation.

When planning out this work, I had no idea the gift I would receive in bearing witness to others in their openness, struggle, loss, joy, and deepest vulnerability. I hold it in the utmost trust. I get to do this work.

And about that plan and timeline of mine…I’m doing my best to stay on course and meet the necessary deadlines. I’m also learning to be open and allow the beautiful connection with others to be my guide. Whenever the battle brews between my heart and head – as it often does – may my heart prevail.


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Authenticity: No crock

Authenticity: No crock

I listened to a podcast recently featuring Seth Godin and his latest book, The Practice, where he proclaimed, “authenticity is a crock. Authenticity is overrated. Authenticity is a trap. No one wants you to be authentic.”

I’m a huge Seth Godin fan – I love his work and principles, but I completely disagree with him on this position. He professes that his position on authenticity is controversial, and I couldn’t agree more!

According to Godin, the only time in our lives when we’re truly authentic is when we’re an infant. When something doesn’t go our way, we spiral into a tantrum. Post toddler, we lose that raw, unabashed authenticity because our decisions and actions become calculated, carried out with intent and purpose (even if subconscious).

For example, you may not like something your boss does, but you’re not likely to go run screaming into their office, as that’s not likely to get you your desired result. What you do instead is weigh actions and consequences, navigate the political landscape, and moderate your behaviors. Godin considers this inauthentic – what you deep down most want to do is not what you end up doing in your actions.

“If you go see a concert,” he says “you don’t want the authentic musician. You want that musician (despite exhaustion from a 20-city road tour) to give you the best performance of their day, their week, their month. If you need surgery, you want the surgeon to ignore that they had an argument with their spouse and instead bring the best version of themselves. That’s what we want in every interaction.”

Godin continues, offering that people don’t want authenticity. What people want from you is consistency, humanity, and empathy…for you to deliver the best, most talented, skilled version of yourself. And the best way to deliver this is to do what comes naturally to you.

I read this. I hear this. And my response is, this IS authenticity – at least my definition of it.

For two weeks now, I’ve churned on Godin’s viewpoint that “authenticity is a crock.” I’ve wrangled with it internally and debated it with colleagues. Where I’ve landed is this:

  • I have a deeply held belief about what authenticity is.
  • To me, consistently delivering who you are IS being authentic. If humanity and empathy is core to who you are and you show up and deliver that, then you’re being authentic.
  • Authenticity is being true to who you are, aligning with and living your values, and delivering on your personal brand promise day in and day out, regardless of whether or not people are watching.
  • Being authentic is being the truest, realest me…the me-ist me I can be.

No, I’m not going to run into my boss’ office and throw a tantrum because something didn’t go as I had hoped. I refrain from doing this, not because I’m being inauthentic, but because my authentic self functions in a world where I’m keenly aware of rules, protocols, and the political landscape.

With this example and many more, I’ve learned about cause and effect, actions and consequences, and the culture of “this is the way we do things around here.” These lessons have saved my life, my career, and relationships. No, I won’t necessarily live out my unadulterated, unfiltered, raw self out on the street, in the boardroom, or even at my kitchen table necessarily, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not being congruent and authentic.

My clients know my skill, talent, values, and qualities. They know that when they work with me, they’re going to get these things fully and consistently. And I’m human, I can have a bad day, I can get overwhelmed and exhausted, and when these things happen, the impact can show up in my work. When it’s likely to, I name it, we adjust and adapt, change or reschedule…whatever the situation calls for. This is authenticity.


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Do The Work

Do The Work

Fear. Self-sabotage. Procrastination. Self-doubt. I’ll bet you know some of these “characters” first-hand. I do. I know all of them…and then some, sometimes all at once! Right now, this is where I am.

Earlier this year, I shared that I’m writing a book. It’s a book on knowing and living your truth. I’m embarking on this, my most creative undertaking yet, and as I do, it’s awakening Resistance (yes, with a capital “R”) like I’ve never experienced. I’ve done hard stuff in my life. I’ve done big things, creative things and things that have terrified me. But this venture has me searching for a new way, new tricks, props – anything! to keep me focused and move me through the process.

What’s helping most is a platform of sorts that I call “Do The Work.” It may sound ridiculously simple. It kind of is. And yet, it’s bullishly hard. So, I have little reminders, like the sticky notes pictured here, posted around my office and home to keep it front and center. This maxim is becoming my #1 defense to the Resistance – this multi-headed fire breathing monster – I experience every day.

First, it has helped me to acknowledge that this project isn’t really about writing a book. In the beginning, I thought I was simply writing a book. Instead, it’s a meandering, soul quaking undertaking to:

explore what it means and what it takes to know yourself at your core

understand and challenge your deeply held beliefs

get clear on what you most want and desire in this life

realize you’re always in choice to claim and act on that desire

know that it takes a hell of a lot of courage to take that action and live the life you most want to live

What I now know is that when you begin work like this…a deep, life transforming undertaking  – where you stir up the molecular juju within yourself – you awaken God and all her angels as well as the darkest dragons and demons. Daily, the battle between these allies and adversaries rattles my bones! If this sounds intense, it’s because it is.

This project as a whole is much less about the art and skill of writing (although this is important!) and far more about – Doing The Work – the discipline of showing up every day, committing this as a core part of my professional full-time business, and engaging in the physical activity of producing words on paper.

This project is also acknowledging a very important shift in me that writing is not my fluffy, amateur, side kick hobby. It’s my profession. I’m a writer. There. I said it. I AM A WRITER. My internal battle to slay the dragon is as much about claiming and owning who I am as a writer as much as it is the writing process and content itself.

Every. Single. Day. Resistance slithers in on my scene with a mission not just to slow my work or redirect it, but to derail and destroy it. It’s sneaky and cunning. It attacks not as a single strike, but rather as a slow, steady, relentless invasion. It’s deadly. And I refuse to be taken out by it. It requires me to be diligent, resolute. I engage everything at my disposal to slay the beast. In my world it shows up as:

  • my other work clients needing my attention
  • urgent (but not always important) project needs that spring up
  • my elderly mom and her many demands of my time and focus
  • a workout that I suddenly am hugely motivated to do
  • the compulsion to organize my bookshelf…again, this time by title and in alphabetical order!
  • monthly finances that must be reconciled NOW
  • the overwhelming desire take my dogs for a walk

Early on, it tricked me. I had no idea all the attractions and distractions were Resistance.

Some of the above tasks seemed like legitimate priorities, and I thought my unquenchable desire to read more, study more, and research more were all forces to sharpen me, enhance my work, make me better. While all these certainly are important – there is a time and place for them, and it’s not during my writing time.

Resistance is seductive. The more I fall victim to Its force, the more and more and more It wants.I see you, Resistance. I’ve learned. I’m smarter now. And you will NOT beat me. You will not win.

Do The Work keeps me focused. Do The Work centers me. Do The Work has me keeping the main thing the main thing.

Now, in the mornings when I rise, I imagine the hoodie, sweatshirt, or suit I put on as a powerful, protective “Harry Potteresque” cloak – an impenetrable “Do The Work” shield to all the distractions, chaos, and fires attempting to kidnap me from my writing. I put it on. Lace it up. It’s becoming my super power.


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation.