Audio (Podcast)

Fear: It’s Not A Dead End…It’s A Choice And An Opportunity!

Sarah Webb
By Sarah Webb

Dena Jansen may not know you yet, but as far as this speaker, writer, and guide is concerned, you are meant for more. Dena’s focus is professional women and leaders – both emerging and veteran – of corporations both large and small. She shows businesses and individuals that by taking small steps toward one another, they have the power to cultivate an environment where everyone wins.

Dena launched Dena Speaks as a way to inspire others by sharing the real life lessons she’s learned along her personal and professional growth journey. A retired partner from Austin based accounting, tax, and consulting firm Maxwell Locke & Ritter, Dena uses the firm as an example of corporate culture done right. In her speaking and guiding, she yokes shared accountability to infinite possibility.

Introduction:00:09Welcome to Plaid Radio by Plaid for Women and the #NoMeanGirls movement. Enjoy today's show and be inspired to change the world.
Sarah Webb:00:18Welcome to Plaid Radio. I'm your host, Sarah Webb, and I'm with today's guest, Dena Jansen. You do not know her yet, but you are going to, and especially if you're joining us this year at the #NoMeanGirls conference, September 21st and 22nd. You can go register at You will get to see Dena live and in person, but today she's going to talk to us about her career and how she got to where she is and give us a sneak peek of her breakout session - Fear: It’s Not A Dead End…It’s A Choice And An Opportunity. Welcome to the show.
Dena Jansen:00:51Thank you so much, Sarah. It's awesome to be here with you guys.
Sarah Webb:00:55First tell us just a little bit about yourself. Give us your family stats, how you got to where you are and where you're going.
Dena Jansen:01:01Sure, absolutely. So I am Dena Jansen and I am proud wife to my husband JP. We just celebrated our 18th anniversary. We are high school sweethearts so we've been together since we were 15. We actually decided that this was our second marriage because we're like many others and part of my journey has been just working through life with him and growing and changing with him. We have two precious little ones. They're precious right now, but I also fuss at them plenty like most of us do at our kids. My son Trace is middle school, sixth grade, and my daughter Elizabeth is in fourth grade. They keep us busy along with a cat and a dog, that we will hope doesn't chime in to the podcast, but if they do we'll welcome them, and I am a licensed CPA. I was a partner at an accounting firm here in Austin, Texas. I was in the profession for about 15 years and I am now almost a full three, maybe four, months into retirement. We'll talk about that, I guess, as we talk about my journey. I did decide to retire from my first career and launch into the second one, which is Dena Speaks. It's my new business where I just want to inspire other potential seekers, just spur them on with, with words of inspiration, either spoken word, written, as I'm working on my first book, and maybe someday, on t-shirts. So that's a little bit about me and I hope that gives you an idea of where I'm coming from.
Sarah Webb:02:36Yeah, absolutely. And why don't you use the word “retire” for your first career?
Dena Jansen:02:40Because I could pick it. You know, it's funny. When people found out, they'd be like, “man, that just came out of nowhere.” And I'm like, “oh no, no.” That was a long and hard road for me to make that choice. It was a solid two and a half years from the inkling to the actual walking out the door. I remember when I first started telling people, I was saying “I was exiting the firm” [which translated to], I was being fired and escorted out. And that wasn't the case. I just decided that retirement was a good way to remind myself that I had a wonderful career. I appreciated everything I learned from that time with the people that I worked with, the clients, but that it was time to move on to something else. So, I call it retirement.
Sarah Webb:03:28There you go. Well, give us a little bit more about your breakout session at the #NoMeanGirls conference. I love the topic of fear and in fact I'm looking forward to this conversation because last night I woke up at 2:00 and I was like, “what if people don't come to the conference” or “what is this doesn't work?” And so I was like, you know what, I think I might have a one on one coaching session about this. So, tell us a little bit about your breakout session.
Dena Jansen:03:53Yeah. So I love talking about fear honestly. And the session topic, it is Fear: It’s Not A Dead End…It’s A Choice And An Opportunity. And I'm passionate about it because I've lived it. I've lived and funny enough, not even realizing that I was scared to death, right? I, I didn't realize in the moment that the choices I was making were based on my fears, but as I in 2016, so I don't do resolutions, but I do name my years and so I started that in 2016 and I decided to make that my year of fearless growth and I don't think that I thought at the time like, I'm just going to eliminate fear from my life. That wasn't the point. The point was that I was going to grow in spite of the fear and what I learned that. And that's why I love to have this topic in this session because that's what we talk about is that I had to 1) go ahead and admit that I had fears. I had to name them. I actually had just been time naming what those fears were and going ahead and speaking about them to myself and others. And then I had to decide what do I do with it, what did the fear really mean? And when I was able to retool it and realize that wow, fear is just giving us the inklings, she's giving us a reminder that we have a choice to make. Do we give into the fear and do we go ahead and just sit and fester in it or do we realize that it's an opportunity to take action? And that is where I have found that fear... I like to say that it comes with me, right? It's in the front seat. I can't, maybe sometimes I love to have it in the back seat. Sometimes it's right up in the front, but we're still going forward and I don't want fear to stop me anymore. And I, I feel like I've lived it and I've had to work through a lot of my own fears. I still have plenty, but I'm able to acknowledge, recognize and then decide where do I go from here.
Sarah Webb:05:49So did you, when you first had this inkling that you might want to retire from CPAism, was that fearful for you? Were you scared of that change or were you more excited about it?
Dena Jansen:06:01Oh, terrified. Terrified. Because I was an earner, right? I was a contributor, I was the insurance provider for our family, my husband farms for a living where there's not that many, so he farms and he also has a crop insurance agency that pairs with it, but he's completely risk based. Right? Everything he's been has been about risk and it's been great for him and our family, but I was the consistent stability and so it was terrifying to talk about that and for me and my husband to really look at that and realize that yes, there were financial consequences to the fear. It had to come down where we ultimately realized this is who I am and I have passions that are calling me elsewhere and we're going to have to let fear come along with us. Right? We look those fears in the eyes. We talked about them and then we decided what action do we take to get us both to where we're both living in our passions. Now, of course there was excitement, right? There's excitement and all of that, but there was definitely some real moments of real scary fear.
Sarah Webb:07:04Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So what are some of the takeaways the attendees can expect from this session. We're not going to come away completely fearless.
Dena Jansen:07:13Nope.
Sarah Webb:07:13But are we going to learn some tactics on like maybe how to manage that and how to use it as an opportunity?
Dena Jansen:07:19Yeah, absolutely. I think what I hope anytime anyone comes into contact with me and especially in this session about fear, is that I encourage you to get wildly curious about yourself. I love to just plant seeds and then later that day you're like, why am I still wondering about that? And that is how learning starts. I feel like you have to open yourself to curiosity and then you find that, okay, I'm curious about what my fears are. And then you go and you seek information about, you might seek counsel, you might seek other people say, "Hey, I'm having a fear about this. What do you think?" And let other people into your fold. And then you have to just get really vulnerable. And the vulnerability is when the action piece comes in, right? Because if there is a fear but you decide to take action, it's not going to make the fear go away, it just has to come with you, but you have to be vulnerable to enter that place of uncertainty. So I hope that everyone would walk away feeling that they know how to ask themselves good questions about what their fears are, that we'll have specific time to do that, to get them thinking about what the fears in and of themselves could be telling them about their own growth and what they might be longing for. As well as then what are the opportunities, what are the opportunities for change? And that is where I think it's just a retooling of our minds and hopefully they walk out of that session really having more self-awareness. I call it fear awareness, right? Having awareness of your fears, but then also the opportunity awareness and knowing that every other woman in that session, you're not alone, right? We all have fears and so I also want you to walk out knowing you're not alone in this fear is a beast, but we can play along with it.
Sarah Webb:09:04I'm interested about the ‘getting curious about yourself’ bit. I think sometimes as women we don't take that time [to be] curious. We're worriers about everyone else in our lives. I kind of consider myself very boring, but I think potentially I could peel that back a little bit. Like, okay, why am I having this fear? What is this born from? And not necessarily my personality but is this coming from your ‘parents always mess you up.’ No, I'm kidding.
Dena Jansen:09:33No, for sure. We will all be messing up our own children. They have a fund for their own therapist one day. It's okay, we're doing the best we can. But you are, and I get your question and I think that curiosity is the starting point and there are so many things to start getting curious about as you un-layer it, you're going to find that you are not boring at all. You are wildly interesting in your own unique ways because our top three fears could be really different and when you start to play with those, you realize... and it's also teaching you how do you feel your fear in your body? We'll spend time talking about that. Where do you actually feel it? Don't only just put words to it like one of my biggest fears was a loss of control. Okay. Well that just sounds normal. Oh, for sure. We like to be control freaks. Okay. Well, yeah, if you stopped there. Okay. But when I really dug into it, I went ahead and started getting like the thesaurus out. What does that mean? Loss of control. Well, what is the opposite of control? Right. Well, one of the words was freedom. I was scared of my own freedom and so to me it gives me goosebumps now and it still does because you can peel... yeah, we could do it very superficially. I have a fear I'm going to mess up at the presentation or whatever. My stomach is sick. I need to practice more. Okay. But really, really, when we dig a little bit deeper, what could that be about? Could it be about judgment? What are the different fears we have and how can we work to make ourselves stronger to then push through those?
Sarah Webb:11:08I love that. What do you think about risk? Like how does fear play with risks? Because I consider myself a pretty fearful person, like I have all these contingency plans, but I'm kind of a risk taker and I have this abundance of, "well, let's try that. Let's do that." How does risk and fear kind of work together?
Dena Jansen:11:27Well, I think that they work hand in hand. I think there's two things, and I'm not going to give away the whole session. I want people to come and see the rest, but there is a difference between fear and danger, right? If you're in danger, okay, let's take care of ourselves, right? We fight or flight for a reason, but if it's just a fear, oftentimes it's made up. It's our own story that we've created. So with fear, what I, again, when I think about risk it is actually an opportunity for risk management. That's all it is. I come from a numbers world. If there's people in the insurance business, we are managing risk, right? So if you have a fear, there is some risk of something. There's a risk of failure, there's a risk of low attendance, there's a risk of whatever. Okay, so if that's the risk, okay, then what's the opportunity for action? How do we reduce that risk? How do we reduce the likelihood we can't get rid of it, but we can sure make ourselves feel more comfortable. Right? That we have taken the action that at the end of the day, no matter what the actual outcome, we did our best to manage that risk and that to me is how fear and risk play together.
Sarah Webb:12:41I like that. Well now that you're four months into this entrepreneurial lifestyle, what are some changes that you've made in your life? Like do you sleep more exercise more or eat more? I mean there could be lots of mores, but maybe there's a few lesses. You don't have to get dressed as often. I don't know. Like what's your life been like?
Dena Jansen:12:58It's funny. I do feel like I've learned some things pretty quickly. I am a raging extrovert and after about two or three days I am literally talking to myself and my dog and answering ourselves and so I have to layer in people time. I really can't go more than about three days without some pretty intense just having that energy fill me back up. So, I do learn that it's nice to put on that business casual every once in a while. Right. So just put it on and just feel the routine. So the routine was the second thing I really learned is I had to create some sort of routine for myself. So yeah, I'm getting in a consistent workout and I can do it, but it is creating some sort of pattern in my life because without it I felt like, well I will still be honest. I have no idea what day it is. I've lost complete track. With the work week you had indicators and markers and now I'm like, I think I know... what was funny, I was just about to say I think it's February. So it's May and I'm a little off on that. So I need people, I got to bring those into my life. I need routine and I'll also say that I've loved it. I've had, it has been a real gift that I, at times I feel guilty about saying it, but I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to take this time in my life and explore my own options, set my own schedule and really be engaged in my marriage and my kids' lives and in a way that's different.
Sarah Webb:14:31Yeah, absolutely. Well, just so our attendees knows a little bit more about you. Who has had the greatest impact in your life?
Dena Jansen:14:39The funny thing is I want to say myself, but that seems so weird, but since I'm in the final stages of writing my memoir, I feel like I can't name one person, but what I did find is in writing my own story was that I intentionally brought really wonderful people in my life to help me. But I still had to make the choices and I still had to take the risks and do the things and feel the things and learn them. And it's very hard to celebrate ourselves, so I'm trying to learn to do that in a better way, in a way that is humble, without… it feels weird to do that. Right. But again, I, I couldn't do it without the other people that I have intentionally layered into my life, my husband and my kiddos and both sets of our parents. Our immediate family is a constant source of support for me and we're a village. I literally go by the village model. I could not do it without them. And so me and my family, we're a bunch and we've definitely, um, they've each impacted my life and I pray that I've done that for them too.
Sarah Webb:16:12That's amazing. What are you most proud of that you've created? You've talked about this memoir. Tell us about working on that.
Dena Jansen:16:36Oh my goodness. Talk about a, an intellectual challenge. An emotional challenge. One, I had never really dreamed of writing growing up, to be honest. I was one who enjoyed writing. I was the one who would write things up in my CPA world in that profession, I was the one with all the words, but writing the book which I'm in final revision stage, which is just amazing to have set that goal and I've actually started well over two years ago and to have worked through two years of writing, let's just be honest, it was crap. It was unorganized. It didn't make sense. I was working with an editor and she was so kind and patient and consistent, but we kept feeling like we're going to get there. Clarity will come. And sure enough, as soon as I retired, not even a couple of weeks later I was able to sit and have clarity. Then it just flowed out. I mean it's been hard and challenging and I had to set my own deadlines, but again, I'm a firm believer in accountability and so I had a team of people who knew where I was and knew what I needed, if I needed their support, and it feels really good to be at the place we're at now and then to look forward to the next journey of trying to decide how I'll publish. I'm going to go ahead and take the risk and put it in front of agents and publishing houses because why not? And if I get told no then I'll self-publish. So there's options. I can't let that stop me but I've got to keep learning through the process. So it has definitely been something that I am very proud of that I've created and... I told people I'm going to have book weight. I swear I got book weight. You know like baby weight? Because a Vanilla Chai got me through many chapters and I did, I actually literally gained a few pounds so I'll be happy when I can drop the book weight and just be ready to take it to market someday.
Sarah Webb:17:56That's amazing. Well, you'll have to definitely keep us informed on that so we can celebrate and share that with you.
Dena Jansen:18:01I will. I'll do it.
Sarah Webb:18:02So what's one interesting fact about you that you don't mind sharing?
Dena Jansen:18:06So, the one that comes to mind is that the weekend that I graduated from college, right. So, it was a five year program. You had to get your, you had to do five years to get the hours you needed for the accounting to sit for the exam. The weekend I graduated with my masters, I started massage therapy school. It was a weekend course. It was several months, it may have been a full year, and my husband, I got married in college, so he was just like, "what are you doing?" And I was... I had heard a commercial about massage therapy school on the radio like months before. And I just had something in me telling me I needed new people. I needed to get away from the number crunching. I needed something that was different and I loved it. I loved learning something different. I have never done a massage for money. I actually, because it's who I am, I took the state licensing exam and I passed, but I just never did one. I let everything lapse. But it was... I enjoyed learning and I felt called to do that, so I laugh because I was, at one time, a licensed massage therapist just never did anything with it.
Sarah Webb:19:25I feel like I'm going to see if I can schedule a massage chair for your breakout session.
Dena Jansen:19:27That would be awesome.
Sarah Webb:19:30We can say these are unlicensed massages.
Dena Jansen:19:34Yes! That'll be awesome. Except now I just enjoy the massages. I don't need to give them. I'll take one.
Sarah Webb:19:39That is a very interesting fact. I may keep track of all these interesting facts from our speakers. You may win most unusual interesting fact.
Dena Jansen:19:47Oh, how funny. Thank you. I'll be proud of it. My husband would finally say it was worth something then.
Sarah Webb:19:55Well, at Plaid for Women we're all about celebrating women and lifting each other up. We have our whole #NoMeanGirls campaign where we want to be a place where women can celebrate each other. Did you ever experience mean girl treatment either growing up or professionally?
Dena Jansen:20:08I honestly, and maybe I am wildly different, I can't remember ever overtly like in my face receiving that kind of treatment. When I think about that treatment, I can quickly think of what that would look or feel like. And I can think of, of movies or I can think of girls that maybe I just distanced myself from. But I think if anything I did plenty of my own mean girl treatment on myself. Right. I was, I was just as damaging to myself as anyone else could have been. Right. I, I had my own doubts and insecurities that no one had to yell at me or exclude me from things because I was doing them internally. And I think because of that I did shy away from a lot of extensive girl relationships. I mean I had a small handful of girlfriends, but I was with my now husband from the time I was 15 and it was me and him. He was my best friend and so I don't know if some of that was intentionally back then, like did I subconsciously know that I didn't want to put myself in that position or did I not trust myself enough that other women would support me, right. No matter what I was like, so I'm glad to say that I haven't received it directly, but I know that I did enough damage to myself so hopefully we can learn to love on ourselves. And then I think we, we changed that game anyways.
Sarah Webb:21:38What about your daughter? Fourth grade. Are you seeing kind of some negative friend behavior or...?
Dena Jansen:21:41We have been really fortunate. I've talked to other moms of girls and they have had some really hard times with the "mean girls," but if you ever meet my daughter and funny enough she likes to be my social media girl so maybe she'll make an appearance during my session, take some pictures, but... I'm not saying she's charting a similar course as me, but she distances herself. Like she will come home and say that girl, the first time she ever said it, she said, mom such and such is sassy. And that was her word. She's like, "she's sassy," and I said, "oh, she's sassy. What does that mean?" And she said, "well, she just isn't nice all the time. Like, she just kind of has some attitude about her," and I think as soon as she recognized it, she kind of just found her tribe and she has found a best friend and a smaller group of girls who just seemed to really love on each other and I encourage that as much as I can, that she creates another bond with another girl who they can start looking at things and learning, learning together.
Sarah Webb:22:43I think that's amazing. And I know she has a good role model. So there's that. Thank you so much for joining us. Where can our listeners, I know they're going to see you at the #NoMeanGirls conference, but where can they find out more information about you and hopefully see that memoir published?
Dena Jansen:23:04Yeah, the best place for them to go to my website at There you can scroll to the bottom, you can get a quick link to my Instagram. Instagram is my favorite, I've got my Facebook page too, but you can find links to both of those and there's a connect page and you can shoot me an email straight through there and connect with me personally and there's also then ways we'll, we'll try to get you connected through on my email list, which is just beginning, but check out the website and we'd love to hear anything from your, from your attendees.
Sarah Webb:23:43That'd be great. Well that's a wrap for Plaid Radio. Thanks for joining us.
Sarah Webb
A bit about me, I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee and volunteer. I am married and have two children - one who aspires to be a secret spy ninja and the other wants be a doctor for toys...Read More
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