Lu Ann Cahn’s book: I Dare Me

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Note: After reading about I Dare Me by Lu Ann Cahn, I emailed her for a personal interview. As an investigative reporter, which is only a 10 minute walk from our condo, made an appointment and had a grand tour of the building, one of the oldest TV studios, and learned more about why Lu Ann wrote her book and how her Year of Firsts brought her closer to her family. By the way, her daughter was the one who told her to try a new thing every day. Do you notice that, as we get older, our daughters become our mothers?

Lu Ann Cahn, despite being an eight-time Emmy award winner for Channel 10, felt overwhelmed by all the new technology that had not been available when she started her TV career 30 years ago. As those of us over 50 know, the learning curve for computer programs, Notebooks, iPhones, etc. can be steep. Lu Ann resisted learning all these “new-fangled gadgets” as previous generations called the telephone and radio. She soon realized that keeping her head in the sand or entrenching herself in this rut of resistance would not work if she wanted to stay in her field.

As the flyleaf on her book notes, “Everything in her life pointed to success and yet she could not drum up enthusiasm for the road ahead.” Her daughter challenged her to get out of her rut by trying something new each day for 365 days. Lu Ann had thought about one new thing each week, but her daughter Alexa said it had to be every day and include posting her accomplishment on a blog.

Quite an order, but as I Dare Me demonstrates, not impossible. The book highlights many of her experiences in her Year of Firsts, from plunging into the freezing Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day 2010 at the age of 53 to giving out free hugs on day 162. Many of Lu Ann’s “firsts” have a direct relationship to her fears. For example, she chose the Polar Bear Plunge because she had been afraid of the ocean from childhood when a big wave came and she lost hold of her father’s hand. While he scooped her up in a few seconds, she writes, “I felt sheer terror.” So many of the “firsts” relates to facing her fears, a little at a time, until the fear has been vanquished. She also has firsts that moved her, that is, going to new places she might never have tried before.

As I read each of her entries, also accompanied by other first suggestions in case plunging into the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day just isn’t for you, I became not only eager to read another one of her firsts, but also inspired by her willingness to challenge herself daily, even if it was a small challenge, like singing with a barbershop quartet when she does not have a particularly good voice.

At the end of the book is a list of all 365 firsts, ones that took her to other places and ones that she could do at home or at work, such as One day without coffee or a Day without cursing, both of which were a stretch for LuAnn.

Probably the most important lesson LuAnn learned from this year of firsts can be understood from what she wrote at the beginning of Chapter Four:

“As the months went by during my Year of Firsts, I felt more joy; I felt more present every day.” Of course, not every day was easy, nor was every first, but Lu Ann persevered, noting: “I had to take the good with the bad as part of my journey.” (p. 62).

This is a great book to inspire someone you love that is “stuck,” personally and/or professionally. And if you are the one stuck, then buy it for yourself. There is a great deal of humanity and humbleness in I Dare Me, and there is also courage and conviction to move forward in life. The subtitle , “How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Every Day,” will lift your spirits just by reading it and even more so by experiencing some of the firsts in each chapter that you can do.

I Dare Me is published by the Penguin Group and costs $22.95; 220pages (6” x 8 ½”)