5 Questions to Assess Your Fear of Failure

Can questions to yourself help you overcome your fears of failure? YES…

..and the reason why is that asking your self the right questions can lead to a healthier and more productive way of thinking. A common theme you will find in people managing their careers, is that they manage the downside versus the upside of their decisions which we will discuss more fully on my next blog post.  Terri Cole – CEO, Live Fearless and Free; transformation coach and licensed therapist, shared an interesting write upon the topic of  Reframing Your Fear of Failure.

She raised a very powerful revelation:  Fear of failure has one thing in common with all of our other fears.  It is a feeling and not a fact.  Isn’t this empowering? It is saying that our biggest fears comes from what we feel will possibly happen to us in the future. We don’t fear what we experience today, because we are experiencing it. Reality always takes over from fear. Because we are there and dealing with it.

We find problems we fear are always less than what we actually experience should that fear materialize.

Terri raised 5 questions to help us better rationalize our fears, modify our thinking about a problem and actually deal with a more realistic assessment of risks.

1.  How is your fear of failure holding you back?
2. What would life be like if you did not have this fear?
3. Who are you afraid of disappointing if you fail?
4. How strong is your desire to release this fear?
5. If there were one step you could take to overcome this fear, what would it be?

Action of the Day
Go through these 5 questions. Be really honest with yourself.  Your ability to pursue your ultimate career objectives are most likely dependent on your ability to address any fears of failure you have.  I found these questions exhilarating and reinforcing my desire to manage the upside of opportunities versus the downside of risk taking.

Quote of the Day
” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”      Eleanor Roosevelt….famous first lady to President Franklin D. Roosevelt

It would be great if you could share your thoughts:  What ways to deal with fear has worked for you? 

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Managing Creativity with Harriet Tubman

I just read the most cool article in Mental_Floss magazine.  Check out the magazine sometime…interesting facts that are stimulating and out of the ordinary. The article was about Harriet Tubman, the famous lady who led slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad during the US Civil War.  She redefined leveraging creativity to achieve her goals.  It is fascinating and written by Erik Sass.


There was a bounty on Harriet for the equivalent of $1 million as she led 19 journeys freeing more than 300 slaves. This wasn’t easy as you can imagine.  The obstacles to achieve our goals for the most part pale in comparison.  She followed several approaches that are reflective of successful people today.

*  Know your terrain and where you are heading
Slave owners often kept their slaves close so they wouldn’t know their surroundings and wouldn’t know how to escape. Tubman would manage the navigation and at times on the fly leveraging dense forests, and swamps. Sometimes she would need to split the group up and provide to the group simple easy to follow advise for a meeting point.

* Know your clients and manage them effectively
The slaves were often brought to freedom as a family unit. Kids could give away their presence by crying so to address this, she always carried paragoric, an opium varient.

* Make sure everyone knew who’s in charge
Runaway slaves faced draconian punishments if they were caught so sometimes, they would change their minds and wish to return to servitude. But going back would have exposed her Underground Railroad network. So she gave them a choice facing the barrel of a gun. Die a slave or be free!!!

* Work the News Cycle, control your messaging.
Slave owners would alert bounty hunters with substantial rewards to capture runaway slaves. So Harriet would initiate her rescues on a Saturday giving her a 48 hour head start before the ads circulate in the Monday paper.

Since Harriet was engaged in activities with life/death implications, clearly some of her actions would be viewed as over the top in what most of us face in our day to day lives. But, she addressed problems through solution approaches you can use.

Action of the Day
Imagine you were rescuing your career and running yourself through the Underground Railroad. How would you prepare for this herculean task?  Pretend Harriet is right beside you ready to coach you. What would she tell you?  Are you ready to take the lead?

Quote of the Day
“Everything depends upon execution; having just a vision is no solution.”  Stephen Sondheim:  Award-winning American composer & lyricist

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5 Ways to Address Failure

Have you ever thought about having this tagline?  I am Looking Forward to Failure.

Probably not. Who would?  We often link the failure to achieve a goal as coming up short versus others we wish to compare ourselves to.  You get this converged potion of feelings including disappointment, resentment, envy and self-doubt.  Most people’s lives and careers are based on seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. Most will bend over backwards putting themselves into a situation where they avoid failure because the perceived pain far exceeds any potential probability of success.

This is where we will stand out and make a difference in our lives.  Every failure is a stepping stone to inevitable success. If you knew, in the bottom of your heart, that no short-term obstacle can prevent you from achieving your goals in life, wouldn’t you view failure in a different way?  You bet!!!

Scott Edinger, the founder of Edinger Consulting Group, co-authored an excellent HBR(Harvard Business Review) blog titled, Get Ready to Fail.  In it, Scott highlights 5 ways to address failure and make it part of the process rather than something to avoid.

1) Acknowledge the failure and put it in perspective
Research referenced in the blog shows that taking responsibility for your mistakes separates those who handle failure well from those who don’t.

2) Look for causes, not blame
Assigning blame means shifting control of a solution from yourself to others.  Focusing on the cause(s) means you take control to prevent similar failures in the future.

3) Before you wrack your brain to think up an appropriate response, take a break.
We are not designed to operate under a 24/7 mode though when we confront failure, we cannot stop thinking about it. Engage in other pursuits. Spend time with loved ones or get some physical activity(endorphins). Let your mind wander. You will be surprised what 30 minutes to a few days of a mental break can do.

4) Get some help.
Feeling down is normal. Prolonged periods of depression and despair are not. If needed, find that friend, mentor or therapist to help you through this setback.

5) Refocus your efforts and take action.  
Nothing will make you feel quite as good as taking action and finding even a small element of success in that action. It may take some time to reach that success, but you certainly won’t have any until you start trying.

Action of the Day
Identify if you are taking any risks in your career where you are risking failure. If not, identify an action you could take to make a difference. Make believe you failed miserably in your initial efforts.  Create an outcome that is likely to cause you to feel let down, rejected or taking several steps back instead of forward.  Now, pretending you have failed, go through the 5 steps above in your mind. Play the scenario out. Do you come out of the role playing exercise in a stronger place where the implications of a failure can bring you strength and one step closer to success? The pain of failure starts to be less significant than the pleasures of success from the experience.

Quote of the Day:  “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right”….. Napoleon Hill

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