Some Thoughts on Fear [Of Success]
I would not describe myself as a model of success. If anything, I’m just not afraid to burn the midnight oil and push through to deadlines by sheer force of will. I often joke that “I don’t need to live big, I just need to live.” But I had a conversation with my wife, Annie, a little while back, and the subject came up again last night while I was decompressing at the end of the day with the marketing team at Innisfree Hotels
We talked about fear. But not conventional fear. We discussed fear of success.
Everyone is great at ideas. Ideas are fun, easy, and the arena in which posers try hard to look innovative. But when time and resources converge to actually execute those ideas, that’s when people show you who they are.
Some people have every chance to execute, but don’t. And sometimes they can’t even tell you why, it just didn’t happen.
I think people are unconsciously frightened of success.
Life is pretty easy when you don’t have to think too much. Human beings are wired to need a tribe. We crave mental and emotional support. When you hang out just right-of-middle in the bell curve, steady money and social acceptance aren’t difficult. The flip side is that is only satisfying for so long.
Starting something new or ascending to the next level of a corporate structure requires stepping outside the safety of the tribe and sending the message of “I’m different, and, just maybe, I’m better at this than you.”
Life in a polite society makes that last sentence feel rude, but succeeding requires that you stand out from the crowd. That separation means your peers could easily resent you for having the unmitigated gall to swim upstream and take risks. Those with less backbone will feel threatened, and they will take out their insecurities on you.
That’s an unpleasant prospect. With that said, consider the alternative. If you take the comfortable road, you risk a life of “coulda shoulda wouldas,” of getting so comfortable as the years pass that you never know whether that gamble would pay off.
And think about how infinitely better it will feel if your gamble does pay off.