Are You Afraid of Success?

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In yesterday’s giveaway question I asked if you were not crushing int because you were afraid of success.

I’m not asking if you are afraid of FAILING, I’m asking if you are afraid of SUCCEEDING.

With success comes responsibility.  It might come in the form of money, or a title, or recognition, etc.

Sometimes I look at stuff people do and wonder if they are intentionally doing wrong things because they are afraid of succeeding.

Maybe the job seeker is afraid of getting the wrong job, even though they succeed at ending their job search… so they do the wrong stuff.

Maybe the business owner is afraid of getting that big sale, or growing their business to $x.

Back in school it was uncool to get the best grades, so we didn’t (I didn’t, but not for that reason :p).  We were afraid of succeeding because it just wasn’t the cool thing to do.

But now, as an adult, as a professional, as a strong contributor to society, it IS okay to succeed.

Are we still afraid of what success really means?

If we are not, then why don’t we change our actions so that we are positioned to succeed?

One of my favorite sayings is right in front of me… it was a gift from Heather Gardner when I spoke at her company:

what would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

When I start out on projects that perhaps should fail, I read that and forge on.  How about you? (if this makes any sense to you, read Janet Thaeler’s post Whatever Your Fear Tells You – Do the Opposite (Seth Godin))

8 thoughts on “Are You Afraid of Success?”

  1. Interesting timing, Jason. I struggled last year. I’m still struggling this year, but there are some very bright spots in front of me. I think this may be the year my business finally takes off. And yeah, that scares the hell out of me. Just a couple of minutes ago, I was sitting in my basement: exhilarated and terrified at the same time. Then I come up and see this post in my Twitter stream. 😉 Okay, I get the message.

    Scared or not, working to be successful is a heck of a lot more fun than being depressed about failure. So I guess I’ll just have to make it big, won’t I?

  2. You have made a really good point. The really sad thing is that often this fear of success attacks people who really need it.

    It’s not as though this fear is always obvious, either. It can take the form of not filling out the paperwork on time, or not following up with an e-mail after an interview. The person might not even realize that he’s afraid, telling himself that he didn’t fill in that form because he was busy with his child or that he couldn’t find the interviewer’s business card. Meanwhile, the truth is a form doesn’t take that long to fill out and he could have found that business card had he just looked an extra minute.

    Thank you for this blog post. It reminds us to be honest with ourselves.

  3. Man, Jason, you could be writing to me! You know that I am turning things topsy-turvy this year but for years, I sabotaged my own success. Hanging on to trying to be too many people to too many things… and not focusing on the area that I have the most expertise in. 2010 is different. I still have much work to do to eradicate 20+ years of shooting myself in the foot… but each day opens a new door.

    Wishing you blessings and success in 2010!

  4. Fear of success is one of those concepts I’ve heard about for years and never can quite get my mind around. Maybe that’s a sign I should pay more attention to it. (Though my first reaction is, “Hmph, it’s never come close enough to scare me.”)

    20+ years of shooting myself in the foot, though, that I can relate to. More years than that, if I get in a reflective and hemlock-sipping mood.

  5. Thanks for the comments all. I have thought about this topic for years as I’ve seen people step away from doing what they can or should do, and the only reason I could come up with is perhaps they were afraid of what would really happen if they did succeed. Looks like I’m not alone in this realization :p

  6. Wow, Jason. Reading this leaves me speechless (which doesn’t happen much!) It is making me ponder a lot — I was actually the kid who did great in school, and I think I did alright in my choices I made when in nonprofit. But, have I been getting in my way as I walk on this new path? Maybe. Probably.

    I need to make that saying my mantra.

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