Episode #116: My Experience with Anxiety

Encouragement, Hope and a Confession

Recently, I learned someone I know – and who is hugely successful – suffers from anxiety to the point it has necessitated him canceling as many as twelve upcoming speaking engagements.

His name is Lee Cockerell, a former Disney executive and a previous guest on Read to Lead where we talked about his book Time Management Magic. He shares his story of dealing with anxiety on a recent episode of his podcast called Creating Disney Magic.

Lee began experiencing anxiety attacks for the first time about a year ago. Lee is 72!

seth godin


Which brings me to my confession.

Though I’ve not been clinically diagnosed myself, over the last two years, I’ve had at least two instances where I was gripped with a what I would call a strong – but thankfully – brief moment of intense fear and dread.

Anxiety or panic attack? I’m not yet certain.

Interestingly, both instances involved podcast interviews with me as the guest, not the host. And, though there were no signs leading up to either interview that they would be any different than all the others, both were for shows and hosts whose platforms I did not feel worthy to be on.

I found myself wrestling with doubts about accepting the invitations when they came, but felt they were too good to pass up. The real moment of anxiety didn’t arrive until the instant the interviewer began to ask the first question. What was that question you ask?

“So Jeff, tell us a little bit about your background and what’s led you to where you are today.”

Is there anyone more qualified to answer that question than me? Well, I assume not. But still, the fear and dread (anxiety?) in those moments was high enough that I had to ask the hosts to excuse me for a moment (about a minute in each case). It felt like an eternity.

In one instance I feigned a coughing fit. In the other, I “heard a crash in the next room and needed to check on my wife.” Both were flat out lies.

The reason I’m confessing this is simple: If you too suffer from moments of fear and doubt about your abilities and what you were put on this earth to do, especially if that fear grips you and won’t let go from time to time, you are not alone.

Now, I’m certainly not qualified to suggest how you handle it going forward. Depending on the frequency of your bouts, you may need to seek a doctor’s opinion and evaluation. In my case, I’m keeping a close eye on the issue for now but, barring future bouts, don’t intend to seek an outside opinion just yet.

The point is, despite what you see, I don’t have it all together. But I often feel as if I should only present the good parts. I’ve been convicted of that as of late, in part because of Lee sharing his experience.

Ultimately, I’d like to ask your forgiveness. I’m truly sorry. I’m sorry to you, my dear reader and podcast listener. And I’m sorry to the interviewers who had to sit and wait on me as I lied to their faces. 🙁

Maybe my sharing this can help someone else who’s been struggling with a similar problem. If that’s not you, maybe you can share this e-mail with someone you think it can help.

Thanks for your kindness in reading this. I truly appreciate you.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Fumnanya Bernard

    Wow… Thanks for sharing this Jeff, I can relate with this as i often suffer from this from time to time. I used to think it was just me being shy.. Honestly, i don’t know what to call it. But i manage to pull through and try to do what it is that i have to do most of the time.

    • Thank you Fumnanya! I really appreciate it.

  • HFullCT

    Thanks for this post Jeff. It’s a constant battle when I have to present. As I do more I find two things happening, one, the depth of anxiousness is less and two, the gap between anxiousness and confidence is narrowing. Listening to and reading Michael Port has been a great help with this.

    – Harry

    • Indeed Harry. Love Michael’s stuff. I haven’t (yet) experienced anxiety while presenting oddly enough. Go figure. 🙂

  • Hi Jeff, thank you for sharing this! I hope this year has been good for you in the area of anxiety. To experience or suffer anxiety can be truly debilitating!
    I want apologize too, I came across this and remembered I was going to share it on the A New Day Counseling Center Facebook page and Twitter and totally forgot to!
    I’m sharing there today.