• June 2016

Are You Afraid of Success?

“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you,” said Bethany Hamilton, the American professional surfer who survived a 2003 shark attack in which her left arm was bitten off, and ultimately returned to — and was victorious in — professional surfing.

Her book, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, became a feature film in April 2011 that starred Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood, and Dennis Quaid, among other celebrities.

So what can we learn about success, failure, and courage from this truly amazing woman? That’s the topic we tackle in the June 2016 issue of Be Inkandescent magazine.

To help guide us on our journey is author, consultant, and executive coach Russell Bishop, who was one of the founding editors at the Huffington Post. He writes, “What if you could actually create the success you say you want in life? Could your fear of success actually get in your way?” Interesting question, right? Scroll down for his insights.

Also in this issue:

  • Are you in the FLWSTATE? “It’s not what you do but how you do it,” says Aidan Sheahan, the 24-year-old professional skier who focuses on being mindful and navigating this world with two feet planted firmly on the ground, even when he’s flying through the air.
  • What are the three major sins of sales management? “Hyper Sales Growth” author Jack Daly explains.
  • Play with your food! What better way to achieve success than to make your hands, and belly, happy? Try this fun recipe for waffles — in French — by Dylan Gibbs, 17.

We leave you with this parting thought from Winston Churchill, who said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Read more words of wisdom in this month’s Inkandescent Quotes.

Here’s to your Inkandescent success. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Be InkandescentIllustration by MichaelGibbs.com

Are You More Afraid of Success Than Failure?

By Russell Bishop
Author, consultant, and executive coach

What if you could actually create the success you say you want in life? Could your fear of success get in your way?

The fear of failure is a somewhat common scapegoat in the world of excuses. In a 2011 Wall Street Journal article, the director of DARPA, Dr. Regina Dugan, argued that “you can’t lose your nerve for the big failure, because the nerve you need for the big success is the exact same nerve.”

Indeed, Dr. Dugan brings an important element into the discussion of what it takes to get ahead. You do need to be able to stomach the downside potential of any move you make to get ahead, even if it’s as simple and mundane as the risk you assume when you get behind the wheel of your car.

However, when confronting the myriad challenges we face in life, one oft-overlooked limiting factor might just be what some have called the “fear of success.”

Fear of success and fear of failure can be very closely aligned. On the surface, this notion might seem ridiculous — what on Earth could be scary about success? But if you dig a bit below the surface, you might discover some powerfully limiting aspects of your own mindset, of your own approach to life. Let’s do a little digging.

Is “the Familiar” in Your Way?

Consider this question: Have you become accustomed to life as it is for you now? What a dumb question — of course you have, even if what you have become accustomed to is not quite what you would prefer.

We’ve all heard of the “comfort zone,” and most of us have been in a discussion or two about the role of the comfort zone in holding people back. However, most people miss the real power of this notion by wrongly assuming that the comfort zone refers to something about being comfortable.

I know this may sound a bit nuts, but hang in there a moment or two. As you think about this for a bit, you may realize that you are typically most comfortable in surroundings that are most familiar.

Even people who engage in dangerous activities like rock climbing will attest that while it’s not so physically comfortable out there hanging off a rock wall, and while the risks can be high, the experienced rock climber can still be quite comfortable, both with the lack of physical comfort as well as with the inherent risk. Why? Because she is extremely familiar with the environment and what it takes to succeed in climbing that sheer wall.

If you don’t particularly like your job or some other aspect of your life, you may also find that you have become comfortable with it if for no reason other than the fact that it is familiar.

If this is you, if you grouse about your daily circumstances yet keep returning to them, then you may be a member of what I call the “ain’t-it-awful club.” Members of this club love to engage in “one-downsmanship”: “You think that’s bad, wait until you hear this one.” You may also know this one as “misery loves company.”

Perhaps you have also settled for the “weevily peanuts” of life rather than going for life’s banquet table. Settling for less is a very individual set of choices and definitions, and it is not my intent to define either the peanuts or the banquet table for you. However, if you have the sense that you have settled more than strived for what you want, then it might be worth your while to explore how your fear of success is in the way.

As much as you may complain about the job/company/boss, have you become comfortable or familiar with what it takes to get by in your current circumstance — not necessarily to succeed, but to at least get by? Breaking out from the familiar, from what got you here, may not be very comfortable, and it may conjure up some fears or risks in your mind.

Giving up membership in the ain’t-it-awful club and letting go of weevily peanuts may have any number of risks associated with them, but the risks have more to do with new success behaviors than they do with the fear of failure.

What Are the Downsides to Success?

Consider this: What would happen if you were to achieve the success you think you would prefer? What if the job changed dramatically, the income surged, the relationships were vastly improved? Look beyond the obvious (“I’d be richer/happier/better off”) and ask yourself, “What demands would there be on me if …? What would I have to do or be differently?”

This is where it gets interesting. Let’s take a promotion as an example: If you did rise to a higher level in your job, what behaviors or skills would you have to evidence? What would others now demand of you? What would you have to do differently? How would you have to interact differently with co-workers, family, or friends? Are these skills or behaviors that you already have, skills or behaviors with which you are already comfortable?

There’s a good chance that the answer is “no.”

In my career coaching managers and executives in businesses large and small, I have often witnessed the changes that befall the person who wins a promotion, especially when someone moves from co-worker into a management position or from middle management to senior executive.

Co-workers who used to be buddies somehow begin to distance themselves, and the newly minted manager needs to resign membership in the ain’t-it-awful club. No longer is grousing about the boss acceptable; the challenge now is to fix rather than complain. Fixing and complaining are different skill sets. Are you more complainer than fixer?

What Do You Tell Yourself Before You Start?

Have you ever entertained thoughts about what might happen if …? Imagine telling yourself a story that goes something like this: “Well, first I’ll be the one with the office. Then I’ll be the one making decisions. But what if the decisions don’t work out? What if I don’t know what to do? What if I’m not very good at it?

“Now I’m going to tell them what to do, and then I’m going to have to do their performance reviews. How will my friends/co-workers respond to me being in charge? What if they start complaining about me? What if they abandon me?”

These negative “what if” scenarios may sound pretty darn close to fear of failure. However, underneath them lies a precursor fear: “What if I get what I say I want and I’m not prepared to handle it? What if I’m just an imposter pretending that I know what to do?”

The subtle little twist here is that while you might be able to imagine success and even create it, the doubt remains that you will be able to handle it. The fear of success then often shows up as self-doubt, as an inner voice reminding you that you probably can’t handle the success you want.

Fear of success might be in your way. Keep asking yourself what you want out of life and why you want it. What have you told yourself about taking the risks necessary to create what you want? What have you found useful in overcoming obstacles, in creating your own version of success in life?

Don’t stop now!

Click here to read more of Russell Bishop’s “Nine Tips for Stepping Out of Your Fear of Success and Into the Life You Deserve” in this month’s Tips for Entrepreneurs.

Note: Bishop’s articles were originally published in the Huffington Post. Learn more at russellbishop.com.

Russell Bishop's Nine Tips for Stepping Out of Your Fear of Success and Into the Life You Deserve

By Russell Bishop
Author, consultant, and executive coach
Illustration by Michael Gibbs

1. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do. Get yourself as clear as possible on where you are going and, more importantly, why you are going there. Everyone has had the experience of wanting something, busting their tail to get it, and then wondering why they ever wanted it in the first place. Keep in mind that what you are really after is the underlying experience — for most people that’s a combination of joy, freedom, security, expansion, and love. Click here to for more information and perspective.

2. Imagine success before you even start. Begin with the end in mind — we all know that one. If you know what experience you truly seek, make certain that you begin by imagining yourself succeeding. What will it look like? What will you feel like? What will it be like along the way? Keep imagining that positive outcome. The more you practice succeeding in your mind, the more familiar success will become for you — a new comfort zone will begin emerging, one where success is the new normal. And the more practiced you are at being successful along the way, the more observant you will become on choices you can make along the way that will help you get to the outcome you seek.

3. You don’t get what you deserve — you get what you focus on. If you don’t think you deserve success, then you will focus on the roadblocks, what can go wrong, and myriad other issues, all of which will add up to encountering all manner of challenges, perhaps even self-defeating challenges, along the way. And you may wind up telling yourself that you were right — you don’t deserve success or that people like you don’t win — why else would all of these problems keep showing up? So, keep your focus on those images of success and positive feelings that come with them.

4. Positive thinking just doesn’t work. OK, a bit of a twist here, or so it would seem. If all it took were positive thinking, there’d be a whole lot of people not doing very much except daydreaming. Positive work, works. But how do you take a positive action without a positive focus? Keep a positive focus, keep imagining your successful outcomes, and then take that next step that moves you along the way. Even if that step may seem sideways or even the proverbial one step back, keep moving toward your vision.

5. Embrace what others call failure. Successful human beings do not make mistakes; they just make choices that don’t work out as well as they had hoped. It’s said that Edison tried more than 1,000 combinations of filament and gas before he arrived at a lightbulb that worked. As he framed it, the lightbulb had more than 1,000 steps before it showed up. Thank goodness he didn’t declare failure after the first 500 combinations! Successful people keep on choosing and keep on moving.

6. “It’s a cinch by the inch and hard by the yard.” We all know about the journey of a thousand miles. The question: So how many steps does it take for your particular journey? It’s not just math — a thousand miles divided by the average stride won’t get you there. Getting there gets you there — you may run into detours along the way, unplanned side trips, or any number of new adventures. Just keep the outcome in mind, enjoy each micro-step, and you will have a great time accomplishing your dreams.

7. Be prepared to learn something new along the way. Sometimes the dream changes along the way — not so much the quality of experience but the objective stuff. What if you set out on a goal and discover that there’s something even more fulfilling along the way? The trick is in being willing to explore the new information without sabotaging your mission. The goal or objective may change along the way, but the desired outcome usually stays put, if not actually turns out better than you could have imagined. One of my favorite affirmations: I am experiencing miracles as my seemingly impossible good is happening now. French psychologist Émile Coué said it this way: Every day in every way, I am getting better, better, and better.

8. Enjoy the appetizers along the way to the banquet table. Really fine dining often begins with an amuse-bouche — something to please the palate and invite you into the banquet that is to follow. As you learn more about your journey, you will discover that you are the chef, the server, and the one dining. If you have ever enjoyed a meal prepared by someone who loved what they were doing, then you already know that the best meals are prepared with love and joy. So, put love into your experience. It’s for you after all.

9. Be grateful — every day. Every night before going to sleep, I like to start by acknowledging anything I may have judged myself for during the day and then forgiving myself for having judged myself. That’s an important step in reminding myself that it’s about taking those micro-steps. Next, I go over little things I experienced during the day for which I am grateful. Funny thing is, those little things have a way of building into bigger things and the gratitude builds. Last thing before dropping off to sleep, I imagine those positive outcomes and the gratitude that I hold for them. Now that’s a really good day.

Read more about Russell Bishop at RussellBishop.com.

Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.”

– Corita Kent

Destiny is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”

– William Jennings Bryan

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which obstacles vanish.”

– John Quincy Adams

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”

– Bob Dylan

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it”

– Andrew Carnegie

A man without a smiling face
 should not open a shop.”

– Chinese Proverb

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.”

– Jalaluddin Rumi

Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better.”

– Edgar W. Howe

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison

My task is really not to change myself but to become familiar with who I am.”

– Maureen Cook

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”

– Leon Joseph Suenens

Your own words are the bricks and mortar
of the dreams you want to realize.
 The words you choose and their use establish the life you experience.”

– Sonia Croquette

Almost anyone can start a community, but it takes real talent and commitment to get people to show up and keep coming back.”

– Andy Sernovitz

Remove those ‘I want you to like me’ stickers from your forehead
and, instead, place them where they truly will do the most good—on your mirror.”

– Susan Jeffers

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

‎That which grows fast withers as rapidly; that which grows slowly endures.”

– J.G. Holland, novelist

You don’t go into a field that requires cracking people’s heads open or operating on something as delicate as the spinal cord unless you are comfortable with taking risks.”

– Dr. Ben Carson

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

– Seneca

The world I believed in, back in my most innocent, uninformed, childish mind—is real.”

– Martha Beck

An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.“


– Roy Ash, co-founder of Litton Industries

You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

– Steve Jobs

If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more.
 If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

– Oprah Winfrey

A great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up.”

– Albert Schweitzer

If you want to be busy, keep trying to be perfect. If you want to be happy, focus on making a difference.”

– Lisa Earle McLeod

You must learn to be still in the midst of activity 
and to be vibrantly alive in repose.”

– Indira Ghandi

You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough.”

– Mae West

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”

– E.B. White

Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do.
 Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”

– Ella Fitzgerald

I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.”

– Thomas Edison

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.”

– Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., U.S. Supreme Court justice

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Inspiration and genius — one and the same.”

– Victor Hugo

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

– Charles R. Swindoll

You must have chaos within you, to create a dancing star.”

– Frederic Nietzsche

When I was younger I thought success was being a star, driving nice cars, having groupies. But today I think the most important thing is to live your life with integrity.

– Ellen DeGeneres

We are perfectionists. We are hungry to work all the time. We are entertained by every aspect of business and we never want to stop working.”

– Suzy Welch

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

– Carl Rogers

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.”

– Thomas Dunn

Look at everything as though you were
seeing it either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”

– Betty Smith

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

– Carl Rogers

The person who makes a success of living is the one who see his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.”

– Cecil B. DeMille

Part of your destiny is to live in the zone of maximum satisfaction.”

– Martha Beck

He who knows he has enough is rich.”

– Tao Te Ching

As each woman realizes her power, she transforms the world.”

– Patrice Wynne, WomanSpirit Sourcebook

A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.”

– Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”

– Henry Miller

I always maintained that the greatest obstacle in life isn’t danger, it’s boredom. The battle against it is responsible for most of the events in the world — good or ill.”

– Dr. Evelyn Vogel, Dexter

As each woman realizes her power, she transforms the world.”

– Patrice Wynne, WomanSpirit Sourcebook

If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.”

– Joseph Addison

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