Success and Failure: What Are You Afraid Of?

iStock_000016022972SmallWhen you ask people if they’d do something crazy like spend two years alone on a deserted island for a million dollars, more often than not, the answer is yes. They’re willing to eat a bug or walk through fire, but when it comes to the much simpler, real life tasks that can get them actual, rather than hypothetical, money, suddenly it’s too scary. It’s too scary to ask for a raise or to start your own business or to pick up the phone to call a new prospect.

Why is it that people are more willing to be stuck in a box of rats than to approach someone to make a sale? Perhaps it’s the lack of a guarantee. You know that if you can face the rats you’ll get your million and be done with it. But if you go for the sale and fail, you’ll have nothing to show for yourself and you’ll feel rejected.

The fact is, no one is going to give you a million dollars for the rats, or the fire, or the bugs, or the island. So why not take that hypothetical commitment and put it towards real money producing actions? Sure, they might not carry a 100% guarantee, but at least they carry a possibility.

When you take a chance, when you approach or ask or confront, you open the door for opportunity. When you do nothing, you get nothing, not even a chance. You can be crippled by the fear of how much you have to lose, or you can get excited about what you have to gain and go for it. Don’t send yourself back to the world of hypotheticals by not acting and always wondering “what if…”.

Truth is, your livelihood depends on reaching out to other people. You can’t make any money, much less a million dollars, unless you sell- either your product or your services. Even as an employee, you’re selling yourself to your employer- to get the job, to keep the job, and to negotiate raises and promotions. All of those things, the initial proposal, the interview, the request for more, carry the possibility of rejection and failure. If you’re not willing to take that risk, how will you ever make your millions?

The more times you put yourself out there, the more risks you’re willing to take, the more chances you have at succeeding. It’s a percentage game.

The real secret to success is being willing to fail rather than being afraid to fail.

The number of rejections really doesn’t matter- if you put yourself out there enough times to find the “yes” that you need, you can have your millions and more.

Develop the discipline to confront your fear of failure on a daily basis; make the pitches, make the cold calls, ask for the benefits every day. Make it a habit to stand up to your doubts and reservations and not let them get in the way of your success. The only real failure is failing to ask.

Whatever stands between you and the “yes” will be of no consequence when you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor. The fear that once crippled you will seem trivial and foolish when you’ve achieved your goal- whether it be something small and simple like asking for an extra week of vacation or something big and grand like making a million dollars. Once you get in the habit of “asking for the order” there’s no limit on the success that can be reached.

So next time someone asks, “Would you do X for a million dollars?”, you can dismiss their ridiculous hypotheticals and let them know what you’re doing in your reality to make it happen. Every ask, every pitch, every risk is another opportunity for success and another step closer to the goal.

What’s holding you back from making your million? What steps are you taking to confront your fear?


Success and Failure: What Are You Afraid Of? — 32 Comments

  1. I think most people are afraid to step out of the ‘ordinary’ course of life. It’s easier to not pursue a small business, or that next higher-paying job, or any number of things because you might fail and there is lots of uncertainty. I’d say my biggest thing holding me back is not executing on ideas that I have. Instead of planning for months and months (and sometimes years) I need to get the ball rolling on some of the ideas I have.

  2. What a great article! Too many of us are content drifting through life and letting our fears control us. Stepping out enables us to grow, learn from others and experience the joy of sharing. There’s no better way of living.
    I’ve learned this as I’ve launched my new business and began promoting a cash management strategy routinely used by banks but not shared with consumers. It’s simple, yet counterintuitive. Consequently, I’ve had to learn persistence and work at packaging the concept the right way so it creates that necessary emotional hook.
    Do I wish my learning process had gone faster? Yes! Is there anything else that I’d rather be doing? No!

    • Like you said, learning is a process. I think we have to allow ourselves the time to take it in. Patience- it’s something I struggle with quite a bit.

  3. I have failed many times in my life, and I suppose I’m not afraid to fail anymore. In fact, I think it’s part of the growing process!

  4. Great post, Stefanie! As a freelancer, I have to be willing to take chances and risk rejection. It isn’t easy, but I’m getting better at taking chances all the time.

    • Me too! In addition to freelance writing, I’m a professional actress, so most of my life is about rejection. But you really only need the “yes” every now and then.

  5. I struggle with this as I feel like I’m someone who fears failure. I am definitely someone who fears getting rejected and then would feel like a failure. It’s something I need to work on…there’s a quote I heard recently which I need to tape on my wall “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will”

    • I guess I’m of the mindset that if I don’t try I have 0% chance of succeeding. If I do try, I might fail, but my chances at success are better than nothing.

    • For me, committing is hard when the challenges come up. I try to remind myself of my own advice 🙂

  6. I love this post! Uncertainty is a part of taking risks – even for people who seem fearless!! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Thanks Claire. I think you bring up an important point that we ALL face uncertainty, even those who seem fearless.

    • Me too! I think that’s why I’m not afraid to go out and pitch people, even if I never hear back, I just keep sending them out, because eventually, some of them come back to me and it’s glorious.

  7. I work for a consulting company. We don’t get work unless we sell ourselves. Most often, this is in the form of a formal proposal, but sometimes it also comes from a visit to a prospective client and showing some form of our corporate capabilities. On a more personal front, I have progressed to my position as an Associate Principal Engineer by always making sure that the management above me knows that I always deliver on time and on budget.

    • Yep, from sales person to employee, we’re all in the business of selling ourselves.

  8. Stefanie, I agree on most counts except the ones about eating frogs, bugs and other stuff. This image brings to mind a show called ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ and the people who go on it do other outrageous things for money (most of them are famous because they repeatedly do highly objectionable things). I’m not sure how many ‘normal’ people will spend two years alone for a million bucks. What I’m saying is that when you are afraid you are afraid! It isn’t I’ll eat a rat but I won’t invest $5,000.

    As to your question, I’ve become much better but what used to stop me was the recognition of convention (we don’t talk about money in the UK), fear of riducule and sheer laziness. I’ve dealt with two of these and now dealing with the laziness :).

  9. Great stuff Stefanie! The unknown controls too many of us, what’s the worst someone can say “No” if they do you move on to the next.

    • Exactly. I’ve gotten so used to “no” that I don’t really fear it any more. I know if I keep asking, I’ll eventually come across a “yes”- I always do.

  10. I am definitely afraid to fail but that’s not working for me. 0% score

    Oh, I can be lazy and procrastinate too. 0% score

    Every little thing I do that is facing fear, overcoming laziness or procrastination will bring me above 0% and closer to a million dollars.

    I like that.
    Thank you

    • Don’t forget it. Every little step brings you away from zero and towards what you want.

  11. Fear has transpired for me from days at school as the quiet one in the corner. For myself it’s a constant learning curve through reading and writing that I confront my fears and fight my corner.

    Also I think people believe they can literally survive a long time on a desert island after watching the film/reading the book ‘Cast Away’. I think the fear of losing everything is not as scary when we are prepared for utter survival, but preparing to fail in a human society seems to have no back up plan other than to pick yourself up and go again. Also, people are scary (employers ec.) whilst nature is as honest as it is empowering.

  12. I think for me it’s the fear of not progressing and feeling as if I’m wasting what little time I have. I would consider progress as a measure of success. If I’m doing the same thing, or I’m trying to do the same thing, but in a different way and I’ve done it several times and it’s not working, that I feel like that would be a failure. I need to see some sort of change in every endeavour I take on. If nothing is working, then I would give up, probably dwell on it a bit, and then hopefully move on.

    • I think, in that situation, moving on is a good thing. If you continue to try the same tactics over and over again and you continue not to make progress, it would be a little crazy to do the same thing and expect a different outcome.

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