In her book Some Nerve, author Patty Chang Anker learns that sometimes, it pays to say, “Yes.”


Patty Chang Anker’s “year of living uncomfortably” began at the age of 39, when she realized that her lifelong fear of failing was being transferred to her two young daughters. Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave (Riverhead Books, $28), her memoir about bravely attempting public speaking, diving and even uncluttering, among other activities, is a hilarious and instructive romp sure to inspire the most faint of heart to venture forth and discover what it is to be truly alive.

“I was encouraging my kids to go out into the world every day to try new things, to feel joyful in their lives and to not feel afraid,” Anker tells American Way. “Yet, I only wanted to do things that I felt had a good chance of success. My life had become so narrow because of that, and I realized it wasn’t a very good example. I wanted my life to be different.”

Anker’s life-changing moment came when she was invited to go boogie boarding, an activity that pushed her physically and emotionally. The day at the beach was a huge success, and from that day forward, Anker decided to go “all in” — even if it meant breaking her foot during one of her next attempts. “I was full of myself, then the ocean slammed me and broke my foot,” Anker says, laughing.

Being bolder soon became habit. She began to say, “Yes,” when asked to try new things, even if her subconscious warned her not to. She also launched a blog detailing her adventures, titled “Facing Forty Upside Down.”

“I learned to handstand without breaking my neck,” Anker says. “I got on a bike without crashing into a tree. I did things that I had mental blocks against, and then it turned out, in actuality, that it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

When it comes to measuring success, Anker says the attempt often outweighs the outcome. “It’s so easy to give up,” she says. “But by not letting fear stop you, you strengthen the part of you that can tolerate uncertainty, that can deal with the possibility of pain, that can open you to new experiences.”