Home > Personal Development > Fear of Success

Fear of Success

NOTICE: This thread is a split from a previous thread, Networking is great but..., that was located in the "Networking, Referrals and Word of Mouth" forum. This new thread starts out where the conversation splits from the original thread topic.

One of the sad realities of life is that more people are afraid of success than failure.

Watch someone climb a ladder...the further up you go the more your behind sticks out.

Is it any wonder we pay millions of dollars to people who are willing to risk failure in front of the entire world...athletes, actors, etc. - by Masteri5
I've tried to be wise on this telling people at one time more fear of success than failure then other times more fear of failure than success and I don't know which it is - I've read the experts say it both ways and then have other theories - does it matter?

We sponsor people into our network and take lots of time spelling out everything still some people can perform and not others - my friends in insurance and real estate say the same thing. I've learned that a sales system and being very clear and very direct with people so you spend time only with those already convinced of the benefits of what you offer is the solution to most of whether it's fear of loss or fear of gain, fear of success or failure.

MitchM - by MitchM

Good points. Only when people "buy in" to the program, product, system, etc. and take it for their own will they accomplish great things. My point, in general, is that people are taught from a very early age to "not be different", "not to boast", "don't think you're better", etc. Not a very good set of conditioning statements.

Ask someone about a new piece of clothing...the first response is usually something like "this old thing?" instead of simply..."Thank You"

By the, regarding your reference to "experts"...an "ex" is a nothing and a "spirt" is a drip under pressure...silly old saying but a germ of truth - by Masteri5
That's a good point. Masteri5.

We've been with our company ten years and besides learning our system people who are successful have this in common:

1. they embrace our mission statement and have a love for our company and products

2. they have decided this is their business and will pay the bills with it, be successful with it

Both have to be present. - by MitchM
I know it's a topic that often comes up, but I don't buy into the notion about "fear of success" too readily.

I believe that it is often our underlying commitments that are often in conflict with with the things we need to do to achieve. That is not fear....it is about compromising, and yielding, to choices that are not consistent with our "success" drives. - by Gary Boye
Makes sense to me, Gary - a question is: what produces the yielding in some and the stick-with-it in others? - by MitchM
Can you give an example Gary? - by Houston
One that comes to mind is about close relationships. Sometimes a person can become aware, or conditioned to acknowledge, that someone very close could be threatened by one's success. A parent, a spouse....even a close friend. So there can exist a strong "desire" to not displease the other person because of the value of the often loving relationship. That would be an example of an underlying commitment...one that is just below the surface that can effect a willingness to succeed.

Another example...similar..that you often see in both children and adults is an underlying commitment to a group of peers that would preclude our willingness to achieve because it might compromise our acceptance within the group. - by Gary Boye
I've seen a few of the spouse/commitment examples in our business - to please the other mate failed to execute business as planned - sometimes that's also used as an excuse - let the other be at fault.

MitchM - by MitchM
Hey Gary - I love such a concise answer. Over the years I've heard fear of success and fear of failure so much I began to believe I had to have either or both - everyone said one or the other or both kept people from getting some kind of success.

Then one day I realized I had neigher of them - I was who I was, I did what I did, and if I had any fear it was the fear of stopping my search for new interests, insights, challenges and things to throw myself in - in other words, the fear of dying without ever living fully the best of my ability.

Once I understood my fear - no more fear - just live.

There's a long answer.

MitchM - by MitchM
Fear of success (what will happen if I succeed?) holds many people back from achieving their goals. I would agree with Masteri5 that more people are held back by fear of success than fear of failure. - by Agent Smith
Even if that were true, how would that differ from "what would happen if I failed?"

People might fear the perceived "price" of success which often conflicts with their underlying commitments, but success itself...I doubt that very much.

Maybe someone who is a member here will come forth and support yours and Master15's view by telling us that he/she is being held back by fear of success. - by Gary Boye
Fear of success (what will happen if I succeed?) is not the same as fear of failure (what will happen if I fail?)

Fear of failure and fear of success are not uncommon roadblocks Gary. Are you at all familiar with these concepts? - by Agent Smith
To All

Good, healthy debate. Makes the world go 'round.

Fear of success takes more than one form. For instance...some people move out of their comfort zone. Perhaps it is in the amount of money or the number of sales. Their fear is they cannot duplicate the results on an ongoing basis and are labeled "flash in the pan"...someone with "beginner's luck"...or they take home a very large paycheck and now "its expected every time".

The sustainability of sales performance and achievement comes at a high price. A price that some, once having tasted the fruit, simply refuse to duplicate.

It is no secret that we receive lots of conditioning during our formative years. What we sometimes forget is we have formative years during our sales career. Little comments like..."Who does he/she think they are...they can't keep that up." How about..."He/she gets all the house deals"..."He/she gets all the referrals from the manager/owner?" Very few of us are willing to be labeled different, again part of conditioning. I made this comment in another thread and will repeat it here...

We pay actors and athletes millions (this is not an argument for or against the amount of money) simply because THEY ARE WILLING TO RISK FAILURE IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE WORLD. How many salespeople are willing to risk failure in front of a group as small as their peers, family and friends? Just some food for thought. - by Masteri5
"The sustainability of sales performance and achievement comes at a high price. A price that some, once having tasted the fruit, simply refuse to duplicate." -- Masteri5

This is something that interests me greatly - two questions:

1. Does the sustainability of sales performance and achievement have to come at a high price? Is that a fact or law?

2. If that is is fact or law what is the "high price?" - by MitchM

Fact or law? Not sure it is for me to decide for everyone but I think it's fact. There are no easy ways to achieve sales success. The reason salespeople see frequent peaks and valleys is because they subject themselves to the whims of markets. For instance, auto salespeople, since I have spent over 20 years in this field, often complain that business is slow because foot traffic counts drop. Interesting how people who prospect daily, follow up with customers and use the telephone effectively never seem to experience the same slow down.

As for the high price issue itself. Yes, a high price is part of the payment. Payments made in terms of time invested, education, doing what ought to be done as opposed to what you would rather be doing, etc. How about the price our families pay from time to time when we miss dinner or a ball game because we are in the middle of making a sale. The payment here is time lost with loved ones. They sometimes interpret that differently than we do. We know it's because our efforts afford our families a great lifestyle that others will never have. They sometimes only see us as selfish and interested in what WE do.

This really has nothing to do with this discussion but I would like to add an additional comment about your family...they are the most important thing. Help them understand that what you do and the time commitment you make is for the benefit of all and the price they pay is sometimes they won't see you as often as they wish. - by Masteri5
Facts and truths are important to understand - the distinctions challenge me at times. How people integrate the different aspects of their lives and what produces pain for one and not another - or the price to pay or not to pay - is a big topic.

I'm convinced that success is not dependent on paying a price that inflicts pain in one's family, one's other lifestyle needs although I'm sure for some that's true.

Likewise, I've seen people pay the price - if paying the price means time away from family - working a job and a half just making ends meet. Yet contrary to that, I've also seen very happy families even when mom and dad put in long hours away from home earning a $45,000 yearly income. - by MitchM

Thanks for the kind words. It would be nice to think we know it all, that just isn't reality.

As for where was I when you were starting out. Let's take that statement and see where it leads us. I would assume your comment means something along the line of avoiding mistakes, pitfalls, etc. when we first start. (If not, I have missed the context but its my post so lets continue.)

One of the things sales organizations fail to do is utilitze an EFFECTIVE mentoring program for new people. They generally just point at someone and say..."help the new guy"...without thought to whether the person they pointed at is really capable of being a mentor.

Some organizations simply do nothing more than say..."Here is your desk, here is the phone, good luck and show us what you can do."

What we end up with are salespeople ill-equipped to be productive. They spend vital sales time just trying to figure out who's who, who the big dog is, what they need to do to stay out of harm's way, etc. So what you get is people who learn by utilizing


here is a proverb to ponder...Experience is a great teacher but the tuition will kill you.

I could go on and on but suffice to say, very few of us have had a great mentoring experience and learned most of the sales business the hard way. What works, what doesn't., etc. I would prefer to make my mistakes during training, not in front of the paying customers. - by Masteri5
There's a price to pay for failing to be successful - that's also a cliche with enough truth to fit some situations. I know very successful people whose incomes range from $250,000 to a million dollars a year who haven't paid a price for their success - that's as much a fact in thrie case as it is that some "pay a price." - by MitchM

Part of what keeps a debate like this going is what you mentioned above. Success has a different definition for each of us. We look around and often make the statement..."There but for the grace of God go I."

It is not up to me to comment on what amount of money equals success...Howard Hughes was still working when he died...how much is enough?

I see families with what we consider very meager posessions...but all of them value the importance of family and are smiling.

Not to be maudlin but my wife watches a tv show where a crew completely rebuilds a home for deserving people (not a dry eye in the house) and I ask myself if what I am doing is really that significant.

Questions each of us have to answer for ourselves. In the context of this forum, however, sales and success in sales is the issue. The results we achieve are simple to measure against the performance of others in our own industry or even our own company.

Nice title to your post. If I can paraphrase...Wish in one hand and put dirt in the other and see which one fills up... - by Masteri5
Gary Boye

If you will permit me to play devil's advocate I would like to comment on your post.

I am not certain anyone will post about their fear of success. One of the issues people have that prevents their success is the fear of looking foolish in front of others. I would have to believe that lots of folks read these posts and have an opinion they will never share for that very reason. Gosh, what if I put my thoughts out there and everybody jumps on me or calls my words simplistic, idiotic or not worthy. That very fear prevents us from hearing from some very bright people.

It also prevents people from being better because they are inhibited about trying something labeled different or out of the box for fear people will ridicule them.

"That will never work"..."Are you crazy"..."Whatever gave you that impression?"

Easier just to go with the flow, not make waves, not stretch...much easier than facing the fear of success and the duplication of the effort that lead to the success.

Best wishes to you. I hope someone who is really afraid of success will screw up enough courage to tell us first hand. - by Masteri5
I hope someone who is really afraid of success will screw up enough courage to tell us first hand.
Many times I've imagined the demands that would be put on me and my time if I was to start and maintain a successful franchise and I'm not sure it would be worth it. Would that be considered "fear of success"? - by AZBroker

First, it seems as if you realize what the demands of your own business might be. After weighing the options you have made the decision you are not "sure it would be worth it?"
Is that a fear of success? Perhaps, perhaps not. I would ask you what your decision about "worth" is based on. Solely the time involved? The financial risk vs. reward? Occupational liability? Knowing that as the "boss" everyone will be looking to you for leadership?

So...Fear of success? Fear of something else? Being comfortable with your current achievements? I don't think it's for anyone other than you to decide. You know you a lot better than anyone else.

As always, best of luck in your endeavors. I enjoy your posts. - by Masteri5
I think it's not wanting to give your life over to the franchise and losing quality time - it's got nothing to do with being afraid of failing or succeeding - you don't want to put your time and energy into it - that's what I think.

What do you think, AZBrpker - do you already have an answer to your own question or are you totally in the dark about it? - by MitchM
WOW! Maseri5 ... you certainly can provoke thought! That's a good thing. Selling is a thinking persons profession ... if you put those thoughts to action. Now ... I enjoy good philosophical debates, so I wonder if we are using the wrong word, "Fear".

I agree with the term "Fear of Failure", because we can all relate to a time when things were not so good for us or at least things were worse then ... then they are now and we fear reverting back to that situation.

Fear of success is something difficult to see, (without a crystal ball) in our own circumstance if we never experienced being more successful than we are now.

I like the word "trepidation". Fear is a state of being. Trepidation is synonymous with fear, but it's a measured reaction to fear.

Over the years, I've had opportunities to work in my field for a lot more money than I presently earned. The opportunities I turned down were not due to my fear of being able to perform the job, but my measured fear, "trepidation" of the effects on everyone involved; family, friends and the conditions they imposed at that time.

I am sure we can all look back on poor choices and poor decisions we've made. I don't believe we can relate them strickly to the fear of failure or success. Maybe our lack of analytical skills at that time was flawed. Or ... have I missed the point completely of this discussion? - by Gregoire
I'd like to share a little something about fear of success. This is the readers digest version of course, and my dates are fuzzy, but I’m sure you’ll get the point.

About 20 years ago, give or take a year or two, I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of the local community college where I was taking a couple of classes. I was in my 73’ Mustang Grande with the brown body and the red white and blue hood from the junk yard. I had just finished jumping the starter solenoid with a pair of pliers to get it started so I could listen to the very first tape of the “Tony Robbins Personal Power” series I had bought on my first real credit card.

I was making around $8,000 a year selling computers (up from $6,000 the prior year) and I felt there was much more to life, and that I was really not tapping my potential. I really had nothing to speak of, living with my parents, bartending at night and so on. I don’t really know why I bought the tapes other than I felt a need to use my new credit card.

I dove headlong into them. I followed the program to the tee, even the silly stuff like imaging a bad experience as a record and scratching it up, through the goal setting seminars and right on to the end. I still have the goals list. I wrote down some seriously unreasonable stuff – that was the point, stretch your imagination, no limits!

I wanted to double my income every year (from 8 to 16k woooweee!!!), I wanted to own a house, I wanted to take a trip, I wanted to become a pro bowler (ok, some goals are just no meant to be achieved), I wanted a wife and kids, LOL, on and on and on..

OK, so it’s 20 years later, and here I sit. I have a modest 6 figure income, I co-own one of the largest direct mail companies in the midwest, of not the country, I (we) employ over 40 people, I have a large house on an acre and a half, I have 4 kids, a wonderful wife of 21 years, and I am pretty close to being millionaire on paper.

I am not satisfied with my life. Each and every day, I feel there is more, much more to be had, I feel I could make a real significant contribution, I feel my income is not at all near what it could be, and on and on.

What “scares” me is that I know first hand the power of goal setting and a burning desire for success. It scares me to death. I know it can and does happen, so I am equally afraid to commit to a new path.

Before, I had nothing to lose; now I do. This is what scares me. Even writing this and posting it in a public forum is scary, because I will feel held accountable, and that I may have set a new course in motion, with no idea of it’s destination good or bad.

This is a different twist on the fear of success, but a fear none the less. Anyone else in the crossroads of life feel the same way? - by TommyMac5

To tell you how paralyzing it truly is; I have been driving around with my TR goal setting seminar on my iPod for a month now. I finally got myself to the tipping point, and felt it was time to "pen a new course". I am so paralyzed by the idea of commiting myself to a new direction, that I manage to talk myself out of, or distract myself in such a way as to miss my opportunity to be alone with myself and my yellow pad.

It's like quitting smoking; I know it's the right thing to do, I know it will save my life, I know if I don't I will suffer with the consequences of inaction every day and I *still* can't seem to get it done!.. ( I did, however, manage to quit smoking last November).

wow... :) - by TommyMac5
I'm coming in a little late to this discussion but it seems to me that fear of success is fear of change. Yeah, we have fear of failure but if you miss the next sale what's new about that? Failure is a demon but it's a demon we know. Success is all new territory we know it supposed to be good but we also know that we don't really know. Maybe it's a subconcious fear that being successful is even harder than becoming successful. It reminds me a song lyric " Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die" - by jkenn
You Know AZ, there is a relationship between sales success and success in quitting smoking. What they have in common is DECISION. I quit smoking man years ago but only after several failed attempts. To make it really work requires a really solid, gut decision that you are going to quit and you refuse to allow the possibility of failure. A half-hearted attempt usually fails after about a week or so.
"Think and Grow Rich" has an entire chapter devoted to Decision and I believe it is one of the most important chapters in the book. - by jkenn
Weekly Updates!
Questions and Answers about Selling
Subscribe to our mailing list to get threads and posts sent to your email address weekly - Free of Charge.