Is Fear of Success or Fear of Failure Holding you Back this Year?



The end of January is the time of the year when a lot of us can give up on our New Year's resolutions.

I’ve been thinking about this and wondered: what role does fear have to play in this? 

The end of an old year and the beginning of a new year are a great opportunity to start again.  

Like a game of scrabble where all the pieces go back into the box, a fresh new game can start.  

Unfortunately, many of us - myself included, start a new 12-month game and then give up one month down the road.


Why, fear?

For many of us, fear of failing and looking stupid is our biggest fear.  

However, succeeding, and then being seen as different, is also a fear. One we might not be aware of at first. Our minds imagine others accusing us of excessive pride, or arrogance, or undeserved luck.

Here in Australia we have a warning called the "tall poppy syndrome".  

It goes something like ‘Don’t stand out up or stand out, or you'll be cut down.’  

Historically we are all unconsciously hardwired to want to be part of a tribe and we fear losing our sense of inclusion - and being cut down if we excel. 

Both fears - failure and success -  can cause us to procrastinate and not follow through, or even start on our best of New Year's resolutions. 

However, fear is a natural part of being human and in a sense, it's one of the emotions where we know we are alive.  If we didn’t feel fear, we may not be fully experiencing all that life has to offer.  

It's amusing that my daughters will actively search and pay for the latest horror movies, just to be feared! It is an emotion that has tremendous value in the right setting.


Can fear be transformed, enlisted as an ally or even be befriended?

Well, here I'm going to draw on some wisdom from others.

Marianne Williamson refers to the fear of success when she says: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”


Have you asked yourself that question? 

I did. It scared the crap out of me—until I read the rest of the quote:

“Who are you not to be?  You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 

In Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit, she writes a chapter entitled "An A in Failure."

"It's not that failure is a good thing in and of itself. We hate to fail. And why not. It is that learning is a good thing, and you can't learn unless you have a degree of experience."  

She goes on to say " If Leonardo da Vinci, Beethoven and Mozart failed on occasions, what makes you think that you will be the exception?”

Failure Is merely feedback - Kimon Nicolaides, author of The Natural Way To Draw, told his students that, "the sooner you make your first 5,000 mistakes, the sooner you'll learn to draw”.  

So, can fear failure and fear of success be harnessed and used as stepping stones in creating a life that matters to us? It certainly appears so and is a topic I will be exploring and writing about more in the future.


Listen to the 'Don't Retire, Refire' Podcast on iTunes by clicking here.

Selflessness is the Ultimate Selfishness

What's the connection between retirement and the 1998 fantasy/comedy/drama film called "Pleasantville"?

Well on the surface they both seem like great places to experience.

Retirement is painted as the golden years where you get to do the things that you enjoy. Perhaps the things that you were denied when you had to work.  Endless rounds of golf, traveling, fishing, lawn bowls, coffee with friends, spending time with the grandkids.

Similarly, Pleasantville was a small town in the USA where the environment, facilities, society and residence were perfect.  Everything was just, well, pleasant.  No need was unmet, everyone was happy.  Every day was ideal with a permanent rainbow over the town indicating an even better day tomorrow.

However, both situations have a couple of unforeseen downsides once you scratch the surface a little.

The first is that you will mostly likely still be time poor.  Most retired people are not sitting around twiddling their fingers with nothing to do.  Their days are full, in fact most of them comment that they don’t know how they ever found time to go to work.

Parkinson's law is that "work expands so as the fill the time available for its completion".  This seems to apply not just in work.  It seems to be very true in retirement, things fill your life.  You get out of bed late without any urgency or stress, you might visit a friend, go play a round of golf, have coffees, do some home chores and it's all very pleasant.  How on earth did you find time to work?

Well, that's when you start to realise the second downside of this pleasant life and that is that very few of these pleasant activities are truly meaningful.  They're nice, but they are not significant. They provide a sort of hollow happiness with not much lasting substance.

To understand why, and what to do about it, we need to explore the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, and his use of the saying 'Know Thyself'.  He viewed humans as complex entities with a physical side - the body, and mental side - the mind and a spiritual side - the soul.

Most rational people will agree that money will not buy you happiness.  However, it seems that when people talk about searching for happiness they mistakenly think that if they have a nice holiday, and have a nice car, and nice clothes then they will be happy.  The problem is that it's very short term, then,  you want the next material thing.

True lasting happiness and fulfilment must include all three elements - the body, mind and soul.

The soul is engaged when we are involved in activities which are bigger than ourselves.  When we do useful things for other people.

From the outside doing useful things for others, might seem like acts of selflessness.  However, if we consider how we engage the soul, these selfless actions are the ultimate form of selfishness.

So, we all have a choice.  Stay in Pleasantville and experience a hollow happiness, or be really selfish and find ways to do something useful for other people, our communities, our country or whole world.

Here's to "knowing yourself" and experiencing the ultimate in selfishness!

For more about this concept of 'Pleasantville' and how to have a listen to the 'Don't Retire, Refire' podcast episode with Alan Hay by clicking here.

'Don't Retire, Refire' - An Intro

Currently society's expectation is that those aged 55+ should be retiring, if not already retired.  

Interestingly the concept of retirement has not been around for very long.  It’s not something that goes back hundreds of years.  The first recorded use of the term was by a German Chancellor called Bismarck in the early 1880’s.  He invented to concept of retirement to deal with a falling economy and political issue at the time.   However, it was not until the 1930 depression that the concept was  embraced by the western world.

Back then, being midway through the industrial age, the concept of retirement made sense in that a 18 year old could shovel more coal into a furnace than a 65 year old.  Physical ability was important.  However, since then, we have moved out of the industrial age,  through the information age and are now entering what the author Daniel Pink calls the conceptional age – the age of the artist, entrepreneur and creator.

During this new era, mental strength and wisdom may be far more important than physical strength.  Additionally, many well-respected experts believe that with an effective mindset, mental strength and wisdom may increase with age rather than decrease.

“Retirement’s” original meaning was to be "put out of use". Whilst being "put out of use" may have been attractive 50 years ago (end of the industrial age), today it's not.  And this experience is not just for the senior’s in society.   Future predictions point to entire workforces from age 20 to 55 being “put out of use” due to new technologies.

Additionally, compelling new evidence from a number of well-respected medical authorities’ links traditional retirement & being “put out of use” with diminished physical, mental, emotional & relationship health.

Notion: what's going on now isn't working, there has to be a better way and we think that there is a better way.  ReFire is the new paradigm to replace the old retire paradigm. ReFire means to bring out your best, and in the process make the rest of your life, the best of your life.

This new paradigm would promote multiple career portfolios, bringing your passions into life, creating new work opportunities, and finding meaning and authenticity in our life’s journey. ReFirement is dedicated to a vision of our world where a full life doesn't begin or end at a certain age, or on someone else’s timetable - To ReFire means we start living a full life today!

And you can ReFire at any age.

This blog is dedicated to the quest of discovering insights and the tools of ReFiring.  I’m personally looking forward to my own ReFirement, opening the possibility of life being a continuous adventure. Why don’t you come and join me on this adventure of a lifetime?