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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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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Solving Business Problems Methodically

In our careers, we are always faced with uncertainty.

Uncertainty comes from things we cannot control. This includes the economy, how other people act/perform, and just pure fate. Successful people don’t stress out because there are uncontrollable factors in their lives. By definition, they are uncontrollable.

What we focus on are the things we can control.  Marty Zwilling from Startup Professionals, Inc. wrote a terrific blog on the 6 Tips to Max Your Business Problem Solving Skills.  You can train yourself to be a problem solver. Here are the 6 tenants:

1. Practice Active Listening  – Resist the urge to vocally jump into the fray, and listen attentively without interruption.
2. Promise Action but Manage Expectations – You know the drill….Undercommit, Overdeliver!!
3. Investigate thoroughly – Don’t assume anything…GATHER THE FACTS!!!
4. Provide Regular Updates to All – Communication is the most underrated element of problem solving but probably the most important step.
5. Make a Timely Decision – Assemble the facts, talk to all the stakeholders of a problem, then make the solution decision. Don’t delay….that’s status quo.
6. Follow up – Reconfirm your decision within hours or latest days by all who is impacted. Explain why.

Action of the Day : Review the last decision you have made (or led others in making) that impacted more than yourself. Did you follow each of the above 6 steps. If not, which one did you fail to adequately address? What happened as a result? Write down these 6 steps onto a small index card. Carry it with you for a week. Refer to it daily. You are working to modify your behavior. This typically takes a period of constant repetition until it is habit. You will find over several weeks that you have trained yourself to follow these steps intuitively whenever confronted with a significant business problem/decision you need to make.

Quote of the Day :  “Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.  ~Author Unknown

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Can Lying impact your Career?

Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson, found himself in some hot water recently for being exposed on blemishes to his academic record.  It seems that he let stand uncorrected in corporate biographies and other official public documents that his background included college degrees in both accounting and computer science. But he reportedly only has a degree in accounting. Some of you might be thinking:

                                                                                                                                                      What’s the Big Deal? 

Why, he even publicly apologized for the controversy to the Yahoo employees per this article from the web news-zine The Inquirer titled…Yahoo CEO apologizes to staff for lying.  No harm, no foul, right?

This is a perfect example to leverage as a lesson for all of us.  In our career, we are often judged on several factors. These include results, how well we get along with people and working hard. However, all of these attributes are nothing without being viewed as a person with integrity.  Think about it.  Consider all of your friends and people you know. Put them in buckets. Those who make things happen, charismatic and a person who you know tells the truth and will not compromise their values to move ahead in life.   Very likely, you will not have someone in your top-tier category of people you most admire and respect if they lie and demonstrate weak integrity. You simply don’t trust them and you don’t let them into your inner circle.

At the time of this writing, Scott Thomas is still CEO but there are calls for his ouster. Most blemishes of truth are done with very little risk of getting caught.  I suggest to take the high road. Be honest.  If you haven’t achieved something, don’t claim it. If you have earned revenues, report it.  Life becomes much simpler. You will become that person of integrity who will be trusted to take on growing roles of responsibilities during their career by decision makers you don’t even know are out there.

The long-term benefit of having the reputation of honesty and taking the high ground will be much more valuable than any short-term benefit from claiming a result that didn’t happen.  Only you can decide which direction to go when you reach this proverbial fork in the road.

Update as of 5/12 : Scott Thomas lost his job as CEO for Yahoo due to not being truthful on his resume.

Action of the Day:  Are there any blemishes of truth you are aware you have made in the past week in order to accomplish a goal and manipulate the perception others have of you?  Write them down.  Create a list of the benefits and negatives that comes from continuing this behavior.  Is it really worth it? If you agree it is not worth it, start evaluating how you can move forward being more honest to yourself and others.

Quote of the Day:   Every time I’ve done something that doesn’t feel right, it’s ended up not being right.  ~Mario Cuomo (former governor of New York).

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Did you make a Career Mistake?

      Is your career where you want it to be?  If not, maybe you are reading this while slugging away at a boring 9-5 job or possibly combing over the various position openings de jour on Monster.com or Snagajob.com. The bottom line is that you are feeling dissatisfied. Did you make a career mistake somewhere that resulted in your current circumstance?

In an interesting article by Paul Schoemaker on Inc.com, titled “You Need to Make More Mistakes”, don’t even think twice on a making a regrettable mistake. In fact, you need to make significantly more of them to get to where you want to go. Is this great news?  Most definitely, YES.

 When going for my MBA, I was earning a very good income in the Finance Industry in sunny Los Angeles with good prospects of growth and career advancement. I had the yearning to get my MBA in my late 20s while most of my peers were starting their careers and earning growing incomes. I decided to go heavily into debt for an illusive MBA career; moving my new wife to a new city in Chicago.   My friends were earning income, buying homes, building wealth, while I was going into the hole on a monthly basis on living expenses. While the academic and “life” experience of the MBA degree was everything I could hope for, I started getting a gnawing pang in my gut.

Did I make a Career Mistake? 

NO…I took a risk, gained an incredible experience, and realized that no matter what happened, nobody can repossess the skills I learned. This was MY JOURNEY  to better myself and become more marketable.   It took me much longer than others to gain financial stability, own a house and build my career. However, if I didn’t risk making a “career mistake”,  I wouldn’t have the success and happiness I am enjoying today.

SO GO AHEAD, MAKE A MISTAKE…..

ACTION:

1) What were two of your biggest “Career Mistakes”?  Identify 3 things that ultimately benefitted you from making those mistakes. Every mistake is a stepping stone to learning.

2) What is your biggest career decision ahead of you right now that you are afraid of becoming a mistake? Are you unable to recover from a temporary setback? Is there any way you could move, if required, in a slower way to make it work?

Quote of the Day: “Always desire to learn something useful.” — Sophocles