In today’s rebroadcast we are revisiting a topic that I still get asked about every single week: Fear of Success. So let’s dig deeper: What is it? Once you've identified what you're really afraid of (hint: it's probably not “success”), how do you overcome it? That's what we'll cover today.
In my experience working with creatives, what looks like “fear of success” is usually a fear of something else:
Fear that you need to have the kind of “success” other people want … which doesn't appeal to you at all.
Fear that you'll change into something you don't like
Fear of being seen, noticed, paid attention to
Fear of being overwhelmed
Fear of disappointing others (when you're so overwhelmed you can't fulfill expectations)
Do you let failure convince you to stop? Is it a sign that you are not going to ever get what you want? Or do you use failure as fuel to push you farther?
When I was reading Abby Wambach’s new book Wolfpack, one of the lessons in it really struck me. She said: Use failure as fuel. She talked about how women so often use any failure as a reason they can’t do something. They feel like everything has to be perfect before they have permission to try something or be something.
The problem is, success is built on failure.
You’ve got to experience failure to get to success.
If you let the first failure stop you from going forward, you won’t have any success.
As I read, I realized: Oh man, I’ve been using recent failures or just small things like not hitting a small goal, NOT as fuel, but as a kind of proof that I can’t do it.
And I know I’m not alone, because so many of you tell me that “Well, I tried that and it didn’t work out, so I’m just not good at it.” or “I guess I can’t have that.”
This is something women struggle with a lot, I know I have. We’ve got that internal fire, we have a mission, the motivation to do amazing things, but so often we are looking for reasons to distrust it, reason to not trust ourselves, proof that we’re not good enough. And failure provides the perfect excuse. The perfect proof.
And I get it, when we go into a project (or anything really) with self-doubt, anything that doesn’t go perfectly seems like proof of what we already believe: “I’m not good enough. I really can’t do this. It’s for other people.”
But that’s just wrong.
Failure is not a sign that there is something wrong with you. Failure is just data. Data on how to get what you want. Maybe you need to grow, maybe you need to work more, maybe you need to try harder. Maybe it’s just gonna take more time. Failure is information about what your goal or your dream will actually require.
So the question is: are you using failure as an excuse to stop doing what you’re doing? Are you using it as proof that you shouldn’t be doing it? That you’re not good enough? Or are you using failure as fuel for the next step?
One of the stories in Abby Wambach’s book was about using failure as fuel. In it, she told the story of how the women’s USA soccer team used a four-man loss as a reminder the need to work harder to win. As fuel for their fire to keep going.
I want you to think about this for a minute. What if failure actually inspired you?
What if it could be the fuel that pushes you forward, what if it could be the inspiration that keeps you going? I know, I know, that’s a major mindset shift from failure as a sign that we’re doing the wrong thing, to failure as a sign that we need to go harder.
But so often, in so many of your own businesses, that’s exactly what failure is. It’s the sign that you needed to work harder, it’s a sign that you need to commit more, it’s a sign that you are capable of so much more than you think.
I want you to think about it like a sports game. I know, I am not the best at sports metaphors. But I do know this: losing one game, does not mean that you lost this season, it does not mean that you lost the championship. In baseball, players are expected to “fail” most at-bats. A GREAT hitter only hits a SMALL amount of the balls that come at him.
Because…FAILURE IS NECESSARY FOR SUCCESS.
I talk about this more in episode 171 – because in order for your business to grow, you need MORE failure, or as I phrase it in that episode get MORE rejection. You need to be told “No” more often, so you can get to yes. You need to not hit your goal, so you get closer to hitting it.
Let’s do this together, let’s reframe how we think about failure, about falling down, about not getting it right.
Let’s remember that this is not the last chance you’ll ever have, that there are more at-bats, there are more games, there are more months.
In fact, you have endless at-bats, you have endless opportunities to work hard or learn more reach that goal in the future. You’re closer now than you’ve ever been!! Don’t quit when you’re minutes away, weeks away, months away from hitting your goal.
I wanna hear how you’ve used failure as fuel or how you’re ready to reframe this. Come tell me on Instagram, I’m @TaraSwiger and you can use the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm.
I follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list with me on Facebook and find all the posts here.
The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, by Sherri Lynn Wood – Oh man. I love this book. It gave me so many quilty ideas! It's exactly the kind of craft book I love – lots of ideas + inspiration + “how to think” stuff, without step by step instructions (which I never follow anyhow).
Leaving the Saints, by Martha Beck – Oof. I thought I was reading a (well-written) book about the author leaving the Latter Day Saints. And then it turns into so much more. It gutted me and I'll be thinking about it for a long time.
The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, by Susan Wise Bauer – Yes, the author is a bit sniffy about those of us who haven't had a “classical education” but I always say what I learned in college wasn't so much conjugating French verbs but HOW to learn anything, and how to think critically. This book gives you the tools to apply that critical thinking to both fiction and non-fiction. It also provides a list of books in literature, history and philosophy to round out your classical education. Since it's a library book, I didn't read the blurbs for all the suggested books, but I did take notes on critical method and the books I haven't yet read. (I started a new note keeping system during reading, would you like to see it? Lemme know on Facebook!)
Year of Reading Dangerously, by Andy Miller – The above book led me to the “reading” section of my library (meta!) where I found this. Funny, interesting, and definitely got me re-excited about my Great Books project. (My list is here.)
Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle-Melton – Like I said last month, I found Glennon's blog, read a ton of her archives and immediately checked her first book out from the library. And then her next book came out and I snatched it up… and then it was named Oprah's next Book Club pick. I hope that won't turn you off from this, a totally gripping memoir about a woman's understanding of herself, as a woman, in this world that objectifies and sexualizes us.
All the Things We Never Knew, by Sheila Hamilton – Another memoir! This one by a woman who slowly uncovers her husband's mental health diagnosis and struggles to keep him safe and alive, even after it's totally destroyed their relationship.