Luvvie Ajayi Jones wants to ‘loan courage’ in fear-fighter manual ‘Professional Troublemaker’

Luvvie Ajayi Jones’ 2017 Ted Talk about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable — which has over 5 million views — almost didn’t exist. 

Ajayi Jones, 36, turned down Ted Talks twice because she felt like she wasn’t ready, comparing herself to other speakers who she assumed had more training. 

What if she was too busy to prepare? Or worse, what if she tried and failed? 

Before she resorted to saying “no” a third time, a phone call with a friend changed her life. Even Ajayi Jones, a woman who has jumped out of a plane thousands of feet above the ground to skydive, needed some reassurance.  

Her friend loaned her the courage she needed when she couldn’t muster up enough for herself. 

Loaned courage.

That’s what the author wants to offer in her new book “Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual” (Penguin Life, 304 pp.), out Tuesday.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is a NY Times Bestselling author whose second book, "Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual" comes out on March 2. (Photo: Submitted)

Fear looks and transcends differently for each person, but Ajayi Jones expects her book to resonate with anyone stalled by the things they’re afraid of. 

“Fear is natural and that’s the piece that we need to normalize,” Ajayi Jones said, adding that there also needs to be less guilt and shame associated with being afraid. 

People who are fearless, she believes, aren’t immune to fear; they just don’t allow fear to stop them from pursuing what they want to do. 

Ajayi Jones, whose first book “I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual” was a USA TODAY bestseller, has pushed past her own fears and impostor syndrome throughout her life, which has supplied her with authentic insights she thinks others can relate to. 

How many times have we let fear make us say “no” to a “yes” opportunity that could transform our lives?  

Her second book – the big sister to the first, she says – offers an opportunity for people to affirm their lives, dreams and fierceness. 

"Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual" is the second book written by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. (Photo: Submitted)

The author, speaker and podcast host wants the book to be something she could have used when she was contemplating her Ted Talk. Page by page, she grants people permission to fight their fear, speak the truth, live audaciously and take up space — like her Nigerian grandmother did.

The book is actually dedicated to Ajayi Jones’ grandmother, Funmilayo Faloyin, whose presence demanded respect and who exuded a “fierceness that was still soft.” 

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Be the example 

For nearly 10 years, Ajayi Jones was reluctant to call herself a writer. She wasn’t a novelist or a journalist, she thought, so where did she fit in? Ajayi Jones didn’t see anyone who looked or acted like she did in the writing industry, so she forged her own path. 

“Sometimes when we don’t see the example we are looking for, we have to become those examples,” she said. 

Ajayi Jones admits that Black women don’t normally get opportunities to write this style of book for publishers. There’s usually a demand for books about being Black in America.

“I want another Black girl to pick (up my book) and say ‘Got it. I got the permission I needed,'” Ajayi Jones said.

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A post shared by Luvvie Ajayi Jones (@luvvie)

A virtual book tour launches on publication day with select conversation partners whom Ajayi Jones views as professional troublemakers. 

“I picked people who are disrupting for the greater good. These are people I go to to laugh, to help me think, to inspire me to continue to create art and create great work,” she said. 

Discussion partners include Glennon Doyle, Kevonstage, Esther Perel, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Gabrielle Union, Myleik Teele and Kahlana Barfield Brown. Events are ticketed and include a signed hardcover copy of the book. 

Ajayi Jones expects to sit with the accomplishment of finishing her second book for a while and resist the societal pull to rush into another big project. Overworking to prove herself (when she has already done so much) is the way impostor syndrome functions in her life. 

It’s simple, but she revisits often three words that refocus her reality: I am enough.

Jasmine Vaughn-Hall is a reporter for the USA Today Network in central Pennsylvania. Contact her at [email protected]

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