PJ Sharon, blogging from the Berkshires once again. I love these brief January warm ups that allow me to get out and snow shoe or cross country ski on one of the many trails behind my house. After weeks of frigid cold temps, it felt good to be outside in the sunshine and breathing in some fresh air. It gave me time to contemplate my WIP, ponder my marketing strategies, and sing a few tunes to the wind. It also gave me an opportunity to take a moment to appreciate how far I’ve come and think about where I’m headed next.
A few hours of reflection led me to ask myself the hard questions: What is holding me back? Are there any obstacles I need to overcome to achieve my goals?
Then I remembered a lesson my sensei taught me many years ago. I had achieved the level of brown belt and he wanted me to compete in a regional tournament. When I refused, he shook his head, frustrated with my stubborn refusal. I tried to convince him that I couldn’t risk being injured, that I didn’t need to compete to know I was good enough, that I couldn’t afford it. I gave lots of excuses, and still he shook his head. Finally he asked me, “What are you afraid of?”
After a few days of honest analysis, I went to him after class. “Maybe I’m afraid of failure,” I admitted. He smiled. “I don’t think its failure you fear. I think you’re afraid of success.”
It took me a while to process this new perspective, but eventually I realized he was right. Competition at brown belt level for adults gets very tough, and it only gets tougher as you approach black belt. It requires a tremendous amount of dedication and focus to do well at that level. I was a married woman with a family and work responsibilities that were demanding. Taking on another huge commitment was not in my cards and I knew if I made the commitment to compete, I’d have to give it my all—which would have been more than I had to give. I decided that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go with my martial arts. In that case, my fear of success was the litmus test that helped me decide my direction–a decision ultimately based on choice and not fear.
That lesson has been with me many times over the years since. Whenever I feel myself holding back or not embracing my highest good, I ask those hard questions and wonder if my fear of success is what’s keeping me from moving forward or if the path before me is perhaps the wrong direction.
To this day, I continue to wonder whether the writer’s life is truly for me, but I’m not ready to give up all that I’ve accomplished and I’m not about to let my fear of success—or failure—stop me from becoming all that I can be. I know I can’t be alone in feeling this way as a writer. I think fear is one of the biggest stumbling blocks people deal with. If you’re not sure how to tell the difference, fear of failure is that doubt monster that says “you’re no good,” “no one will read your books,” or “you really suck at this writing thing.” While fear of success looks something like this:
If I finish a manuscript, then I have to submit it (that means queries, synopses, and rejections). I would bet there are as many writers who fear acceptance from an agent or editor as there are those who don’t submit for fear of the dreaded rejection letters. Any agent will tell you that they only receive a relative few of the submissions they request at conferences.
If I become published, I will have to sell my books, have a social network presence, learn marketing, file taxes, etc., etc. Whether you are traditionally or independently published, you will take on these responsibilities and more. Not everyone is prepared for the business side of writing. In fact, most writers are not. Being a published author is a career—a very challenging and complex career that requires a tremendous amount of time, commitment, and hard work. As the scripture says, “To one who is given much, much is expected.”
As you look at your goals for the coming year—as you contemplate how far you’ve come and ponder the path ahead, ask yourself this question: Is your fear of success holding you back? What will happen if you succeed in achieving your goals? Are you really ready for it? If not, what do you need to do to prepare yourself to meet the challenges head on?
Motivational speaker and financial guru, Harv Ecker says, “People don’t have what they want because they don’t know what they want.” Be clear about what it is you want your life to look like. Enjoy the control you have over your career and the opportunity you have to grow into it at your own pace. Don’t let your fear of success–or failure–drive your decisions.
Unlocked secret: If you love writing, but aren’t sure you’re ready for that next big step, don’t push forward just because others expect it of you, or you’re feeling the need to keep up with the crowd and prove yourself. Continue learning the craft, growing as a writer, and learn the business side of publishing to see if it’s the kind of career you really want, because it definitely isn’t just about writing good books. And if being a published author has always been your dream, don’t let anything stand in your way—not even your fear of success. This is your life—the life you are creating with every choice you make. Choose consciously.
What about you? Are your fears holding you back? Which is it…fear of failure, or fear of success?