An interview with Katharine Hargreaves, founder of The FEARLESS Workshop
Tell us about The FEARLESS Workshop and how you came up with the idea? Why does it matter to you?
A year ago I left my full-time job because I was feeling disconnected from my purpose and totally disempowered as a result. I had been working in the design and tech space as an educator and facilitator. I taught individuals and organizations how to implement innovation processes into their workflow and business practices - so why not use the same techniques to reinvent my life?
I started brainstorming different “experiments” to test out early ideas. I’ve always been an advocate for inclusion and access in my work, and I noticed that a lot of amazing people were left out of the conversations happening in the tech space simply because they didn’t have the language - or framework - for how to participate. Even more intriguing is the narrative that in order to be successful, we have to be disruptive. As a culture, this is a powerful story - and yet shockingly, many people lack the tools to actually take action. As an educator and storyteller, I knew I had the power to help people write and implement an inspiring and actionable story for their future.
A mentor suggested that I put together a pilot workshop. There were a lot of transformational tools I wanted to share with the world, but more importantly was the mindset that united them. FEARLESS is built on the idea that everyone is exponential - it is our stories about what we are capable of that get in the way of becoming fearless. I believe that being FEARLESS is the key to success - in business and beyond. Why? Because the most important tool of the future is the ability to continuously re-invent yourself. If we learn how to evolve ourselves as much as we evolve our businesses, we become future proof. I launched FEARLESS because I practice what I preach - and I’m passionate about bringing others along with me.
What were you doing before you started The FEARLESS Workshop?
Before FEARLESS, I was teaching design at General Assembly, a technology bootcamp that transforms people’s lives by providing the skills to enter the tech space. Teaching has always appealed to me because I believe that knowledge is power - but only if we know how to catalyze our learnings and apply them in more resourceful ways.
Our educational system emphasizes hard skills but rarely addresses the mindset necessary to take big leaps in our thinking. We promote the idea that successful people “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” but punish people who risk everything - unless, of course, they win along the way. We live in a world of constant disruption and yet we don’t equip people with the transformational tools to navigate these changes effectively.
Working at General Assembly was a powerful crucible for my growth. Pedagogy and the process of transformation are deeply interwoven and a place where my passion, purpose, and power meet. My experience teaching at General Assembly revealed a major pain point that I was motivated to address, refined my teaching superpowers and most importantly, prepared me for the next leap in evolution.
How have you changed since working on The FEARLESS Workshop?
It’s almost impossible to answer this question without being broad, because the reality is that my entire world has rearranged and expanded since I started doing The FEARLESS Workshop. The same day we started promoting our first pilot in LA, someone in Argentina found our post on Facebook and invited me to come down to Buenos Aires to do the workshop. A month later, I was on a plane. The universe has a delicious way of providing you with all the opportunities you want when you’re ready to see them, and FEARLESS helped me take off the blinders and widen my periphery.
More importantly, it helped me understand that my relationship to change created suffering. Now that I embrace change and use it as a partner in evolution, I feel lighter and more free to fail forward because it’s no longer about avoiding mistakes or protecting myself from pain. This has allowed me to live more authentically. I’ve let go of so many outdated ideas and expectations that made life feel heavy, and I’ve attracted incredible opportunities and people into my world as a result. Changing your life is never easy, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be hella fun.
What have you learned, since working on The FEARLESS Workshop?
I’ve learned to take responsibility for my life - especially the pieces that I don’t like. One of the biggest insights I’ve taken away from this work is that everything in my world exists because I designed it that way - even the parts I supposedly “hate”. I *am* that powerful, and it is up to me to take ownership of everything and shift it to better suit where I am now - not who I was then.
I’ve learned that we build failure up in our minds to be this monumental thing - and the social media lens certainly increases the feeling of living under a microscope. We live inside so many stories that operate subconsciously - and failing is a way to prove to ourselves that we’ll survive the fallout if things don’t go our way. Asking myself “What would I do if I weren’t afraid of failing?” shows me that fear of being wrong is more inhibiting than experiencing a mistake. And a far more interesting story to me is the idea that “doing it wrong” might yield more interesting fruit than doing something “right”.
Finally - and I say this without an ounce of ego - FEARLESS has shown me how to unlock the universe. This isn’t to say that I have all the answers, but rather I’ve realized that life is a game and how we play determines our experience. I realized this year that I was no longer interested in a game that felt exploitive, exhausting, and isolated. I desire a life that is expansive, magical, and revolutionary. And when you commit to approaching life differently, you change the game.
How do you handle days when you just don’t feel confident?
Confidence is such a funny thing in a world of high-performance people living highly curated lives. I think we often equate confidence with an outcome or ideal end result - i.e. “I lost weight and I feel good, thus I’m more confident.” And the reality is that you can be fat and confident, you can be broke and confident, you can be humble and confident, you can be successful and confident. And more importantly: you can be failing all over the place and be confident (just look at the Fyre Fest founder...)
I say all this because as an entrepreneur and business owner, there’s so many days where my confidence is tested - days where I don’t feel successful, I experience doubt, and where I question whether all the work is worth it. People assume that I run a workshop called FEARLESS that this is a natural state of being for me - but the truth is that fearlessness is a choice, not a characteristic of a person. I created FEARLESS precisely because I was in a pivotal moment of my life questioning what was next.
There are many days when I don’t feel confident and on those days I practice grace and gentleness with myself. I tend towards perfectionism and this process is never easy for me, as I grew up believing that one should just push through the pain. However, I now see these moments of insecurity or doubt as opportunities to re-frame my perspective. It’s become an awareness trigger of flipping the script on myself and remembering that it’s never about moving towards a feeling - it’s coming from a state of being-ness that creates the results I seek. Surprisingly, this state of being requires far less force and much more surrender of me. It’s an interesting place to live.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
I don’t think there’s one ultimate piece of advice I’ve ever been given. I’ve been blessed by the wisdom of many beings throughout my life and although much of the advice in the moment is powerful, I tend to archive what is no longer relevant to my state of being. One thing that I have chewed on for quite some time is the idea that “waking up” entails taking full responsibility for everything in my life. This statement has showed me all the areas where I was waiting to be saved or living in a victim mentality. Any knowledge that opens the door to more awareness holds power and should be considered.
How do you relax?
I love walks - they are one of the best ways to move energy, get inspired by small moments in life, and unwind. I find even the most basic of walks an exhilarating excursion.
Who inspires you, and why?
Badass women inspire me. Women who resisted definition, women who inspired revolution, women who ignited controversy. I tend to gravitate towards fierce, strong, warrior women who defy easy definitions: bell hooks, Frida Kahlo, Anais Nin, Tilda Swinton. The tantric dakinis.