Dean College was proud to welcome Brian Beneduce as our latest speaker in the Leadership in Action Series. Brian is a master salesman and the founder of one of the country’s most successful plastic bottle companies. However, throughout his accomplishments and life milestones, Brian was trying to mask his underlying crippling anxiety. Brian spoke to the Dean community about his struggles and the tools he uses to conquer his agoraphobia.
Brian experienced anxiety from a young age. He recalled his hatred of sleepovers, as anxious thoughts would race through his head and keep him from sleeping. Finally, when the sun rose, he would briefly fall asleep, and his friends would think he had slept through the night.
Brian grew up hiding his anxiety. He did now want to “show weakness.” Detailing a business sales meeting that involved travel, he explained that “I wasn’t crying about the appointment, I was crying because to get to Phoenix I had to get on a plane, and park in a big garage, and drive to Boston through a tunnel. And I didn’t know if I could do any of that.” He explained that he wasn’t afraid of something like a natural disaster, he was “afraid of my own horrible thoughts.” He learned to use his skills as a salesman to cover up how scared he was every day.
Brian described his growing thoughts of what-ifs as his “anxiety tree.” This tree grows and results in overwhelming and paralyzing fear. His name for this fear is “the beast.” After dealing with and hiding his struggles for numerous decades, Brian happened to see a program on television about anxiety. This was a turning point for him, as up until then he could not put a name to his issues. He now knew he had a medical condition.
After coming to the understanding that he had spent his life with agoraphobia, Brian developed his own coping mechanisms for anxiety. He shared with the audience that when scary thoughts begin to creep in, he reminds himself to “drop his armor” instead of trying to fight the panic. He encouraged students to embrace the fear and realize that having anxiety or a panic attack will not kill you. Another tool he shared was “acting as if.” He explained that the mind is a powerful thing, and if you can act as if you are in control (which you are), you will be able to move forward and understand that it is no more than a flare-up of an illness — just like a rash.
Brian explained that he has not fully conquered anxiety, but with his tools, he can effectively manage it when it crops up. He shared that he is making up for lost time with his family due to all the years he felt like he was only half living while hiding his anxiety. He has written a book, Fear’s Fortune, about his struggles with anxiety and the mental tools he has developed to break free.
For more information on past and future speakers visit our Dean Leadership Institute page.