Creating a Dangerous Life

I am fortunate to have worked in various fields with a broad spectrum of people in my career to date. On a personal level, I have brought myself through self and externally imposed crisis time and again and celebrated the highest of highs as well. They all create who I am. Just as your experiences make who you are.

I’ve been in what I call a “WTF” period of my life filled with massive upheaval and change. It comes with a side of increased self-awareness, shedding of things that no longer serve me, and powerful new relationships for the next phase of my journey. The awareness that I am in this phase of growth once more caused me to revisit my first reflection following my first doctoral residency. I sense this is where the WTF moment sparked first.

I had noted that I felt an enhanced awareness of what I am creating in my life and reconnected with the goal I had for my coaching practice centered on writing and coaching based on sound research. However, I had the increasingly strong belief that the coaching industry was generating an aura of disingenuousness that could be harmful to people. I was losing faith in my profession as so many flocked to it with no training and the education of “I read a book” or “I took a seminar” therefore, I am qualified to change your life for $10,000 a month. It felt pandering and narcissistic and not something I wanted to be remotely attached to as a person.

In my initial reflection, I also hit upon the connection with confidence that I found myself on shaky ground at this stage of my journey. Confidence later became a central focus in the grounded theory work I did on women entrepreneurs. What I shared is spooky in how aligned it is with what my research produced.

“I feel more focused, more confident in my position and discovered that I have been limiting my interactions and level of interactions with the community around me. Maintaining connection with the confidence and releasing the self-imposed limitation will allow me to become a better leader and more connected with the community” (Murphy, critical analysis dialogue communication, 2018, para. 2).

My research model placed the women entrepreneur’s connection to confidence as central to their connection with the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Confidence manifested in positive and challenging ways for my participants and highlighted how vital relationships and structures are to integrate women into an entrepreneurial ecosystem successfully.

Living where I do, it is easy to become myopic. From where I currently work, to the community’s attitudes, to the way that even if people leave this area, they come back. It’s a closed-loop in many ways. I have always felt bigger than where I am – from the moment I decided to live here.

That has taught me a lot.

Because of the discordant energy between who I am and where I live and my growth through my work in my doctoral program, I grew leaps and bounds in the last four years. I knew it was time to reclaim my creative confidence (Kelley and Kelley, 2012), and my first doctoral residency helped me do that.

In my year two residency, the leader model I created affirmed my belief in evolutionary complexity, which became the backbone of my dissertation research. My Dangerous Leader model reveals a continuous evolution of experience that repeatedly informs itself through our interactions with others. It pulls on tenets of Ralph Stacey’s work in complexity theory and the field of relational leadership and identity construction. It requires rigorous reflexive engagement.

I realized as I dove into my dissertation work that I am a constructivist.  I was reminded to embrace reflexive thinking and move from cause-oriented thinking to active response-oriented thinking – strengthening those muscles or creating new ones (Margolis & Stoltz, 2010). I believe that I build from my experience, that my experiences construct who I am, and that I am responsible for stewarding that process as a scholar leader. Therefore, I must continue to build a culture of inquiry in and around me.

I build a culture of inquiry in my daily life by not accepting anything less than I can create. This stepping outside the lines of external expectation can feel dangerous. Defying norms is often seen as rebellion. But constant conforming is boring and limits growth. I expect much of myself in life and settling won’t create much. So instead, every day, I wake and decide to live my mantra, “Live Dangerously, Be You.”

Try this to engage your inner dangerous leader:

  1. Answer this question daily for a week: What do I want in life?
  2. At the end of the week, review your daily answers. What do your answers tell you about where you are in life right now versus where you want to be?
  3. Identify an immediate action to take to bring you closer to the life you want, something that will produce immediate results. It is likely a tiny, inexpensive, seemingly minor change.
  4. Then take another one.
  5. Embrace your willingness to be and live the way you want to be and live.

Live Dangerously, Be You



Kelley, T., & Kelley, D. (2012). Reclaim Your Creative Confidence. Harvard Business Review, 90(12), 115–118.

Margolis, J. D., & Stoltz, P. G. (2010). How to bounce back from adversity. Harvard Business Review, 88(1–2), 86–92.


About the Author:

Dr. Jennifer Murphy is a military, corporate, and entrepreneurial veteran focused on helping others create the lives and organizations they know are possible. Her research and writing focus is on the lived experiences of women entrepreneurs and how the structures that support women can be reimagined. She currently lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with her son Alexander and their labradors Walter and Nova. Her boyfriend Darrell provides all the love and support she could desire from Savannah, GA where he parents two boys Jack and Ryan, and an amazing Belgian Malinois, Ash.

Contact her at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.