What is Fear of Success? Really?
You awaken in your waterfront apartment in Monaco. The sun is fresh and bright, the air is clean, you open your window and look down at your Perini Navi superyacht. The crew has been readying the boat for a voyage to Seychelles. As you pass the breakwater, the electronic robots will lift those magnificent carbon-fiber sails as your family takes in one of the most beautiful bodies of water on the face of the earth. Don’t forget to remind them that you’re coming back on September 15th to take in the opera at La Scala. Perhaps you might take a little side trip to your villa in Lake Como.
How many of us wake up in the morning paralyzed with the fear of being our perfect weight, having truckloads of cash in our bank accounts and having the freedom to do whatever we want?
For years, participants have come into our programs and at some point, told me they have good old-fashioned fear of success. I usually ask, “What does that mean?” Because fear of success doesn’t really exist. In fact, the human mind often creates blind alleys so that we’re not really talking about the fear itself. Instead, we allude to its symptoms.
For the vast majority of those who say they have a fear of success, the real fear is of drawing enough attention to ourselves so that we actually fulfill our dreams and ambitions.
For years, we have delivered a process that has helped thousands of people transform their relationship towards work. When we elevate work to a relationship, not only do we examine and define what we want, we evaluate all that influences our decisions.
Many of us are afraid of drawing enough attention to ourselves to become wealthy. We are afraid of asking the right people to help us. Our educational systems don’t teach us to master these 2 vital skill sets. Even today, our schools continue to teach our children how to fit into jobs that no longer exist.
Drawing attention to ourselves is one of the fundamental skills that gives us the option to do the work we love. Let’s be candid. When we draw attention to ourselves we raise the probability of being judged, scrutinized, and even hurt. But, when we lower the amount of attention we’re getting, we raise the probability of starving. Consequently, many of us get just enough attention to get by but not enough to thrive.
In the past, high visibility was reserved for a select few. But, accelerating change requires that all of us learn the game of connectivity. Why? Jobs and business models change more quickly, the technology eliminates obsolete work, and than, there is isolation. The #1 reason people fail is due to isolation. Hide from the world? Nothing will happen because no one can see you.
When people had jobs for life, we could squeak by. In fact, asking for help and drawing too much attention to ourselves was greeted with gobs of suspicion. But today, as the cycles of change between jobs speed up our success is utterly dependent on our skills in getting people to see us in a positive light and our ability in getting the right people to help us.
When I launched this company there was a career book on the market entitled, Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. The notion was that finding the work you love was enough. I really disliked this metaphysical approach to work. The whole idea that prayer and meditation would generate sales didn’t add up for me. Typically, I would pray and meditate to gather the strength to make sales calls! Andy Warhol, one of our culture’s most successful artists summarized the truth when he said, “Do what you love, you can always sell it.”
As advancements in technology make task work obsolete, what will any of us do for work?
Let’s rephrase this in a more positive tone:
Rapidly advancing technology is offering all of us freedom from task work which is rote, monotonous, repetitive, and mind-dulling. A far better question is, “What do I want to do with my freedom?”
As the world continues to speed up, those of us who are adverse towards drawing attention to ourselves, asking for help, selling our value, influencing others, learning the needs and expectations of the people around us are having a very rough time getting into the future of work. While our country celebrates 3.8% unemployment, the real truth is that almost half of our country’s workers describe themselves as underemployed.
What would happen if I could sentence you to love?
What would happen if you loved your work so much that you became willing to learn how to draw high-quality attention to yourself? What if you loved your work so much that you became willing to change? What would happen if you loved your work so much that the right people would be moved to help you?
The world’s most successful people love their work so much they don’t wait to get over their fears. They take action.
Many of our cultural icons are more frightened about attention than the rest of us. But, they do not allow that fear to keep them from their purpose or their destiny.
Cher has such crippling stage fright that she hires a stage manager whose sole purpose is to push her onto the stage. The manager agrees to do this regardless of the threats that come out of her mouth or the pleading and crying. If she allowed her fears to keep her from taking action, she wouldn’t be Cher. She’d be Charilyn Sarkisian, the crazy manicurist at the local nail salon.
Richard Branson is terrified of making presentations. But, he makes them.
Successful people are used to the experience of fear. They take action whether they are frightened or not. If they are healthy, they reach out for comfort from friends and loved ones. As the world of work transforms, the most terrible response we can adopt is to seek comfort before taking action.
Taking action whether we are frightened or not is one of the single two most important differentiators between successful people and the rest of us.
Successful people know that drawing attention to their mission, vision, and purpose is a fundamental element to thriving. Avoiding attention is the much-used option for people who are just getting by.
Let’s tell the truth. I believe that most of us would love real success. I believe that most everyone would rather become a member of the 1% than spend energy demonizing them. But, when we blame anyone for our unhappiness, we absolve ourselves from the action that will bring happiness into our lives.
The world of work is accelerating to the point that today’s average college graduate will change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times. How much attention will that graduate have to draw to herself in order to succeed? Recently, my colleague Dr. Mary Campbell and I made a presentation to an organization that sponsors one of the wealthiest charter schools in America. When we were finished, the group gave out its “Student of the Month” award. She was a Junior in the school, so crippled with fear that she refused to come up to the podium to accept her award! This is a failure of our educational system as well as her family.
So, the next time that someone around you announces they have “fear of success,” tell the truth. Every single one of us has the means and the spirit to become successful. Only we have the right and the choice to choose whether we will stand on the sidelines or go for it.
I just want to promise anyone who reads this, there is a purpose inside of you that is so perfect and clear. Connect with that and you will become willing to do whatever it takes to thrive and give and change the world in front of you.
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