Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes.

Man and SuitcaseI have discovered something about myself. I’m terrified of success.

Not just terrified. I’m willing to put my health at risk, my reputation, and my financial security. I’m willing to do just about anything, if I can avoid being successful.

You probably are too.

Some of you are thinking that I am nuttier than a Planter’s convention, but I assure you that this blog post was not made on machinery containing nuts. My parents assure me that neither was my brain, so we are living in a nut-free zone, here.

This is a harsh truth, and the sooner we all own up to it, the better.

We’re afraid of success.

An Anecdote

Don’t you love anecdotes? I do. This one’s going to involve my man-friend of the moment, which means it might just be steamy. It’s a good thing they allowed a woman onto the Men with Pens team, or such posts as these might never have been introduced. I seriously doubt James will ever offer you an anecdote involving his man-friend of the moment, for instance. Think about it.

So my man-friend and I were engaging in some pillow talk (see? STEAMY) and he mentioned that his parents were wishing he’d leave LA and take up elsewhere. Now, their skepticism about his ability to make it in LA might be mislaid. Man-friend is an actor of some measured success by LA standards, which is to say he’s been in some major films and national commercials and quite a lot of smaller stuff.

He’s also currently working as a promoter and a waiter to pay the bills. He hasn’t hit the point of making so much money as an actor that he can do only that for a living.

And this sounds mighty familiar to me as a writer, as it will to many of the rest of you. We may have had some great successes in our fields, but few of us have actually made it to the point where we can quit the ol’ day job and do the thing we love as a career.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

He actually knows what he needs to do to make it as a full-time actor. He needs to go someplace where they’re not just looking for the right “type”. He needs to go someplace where acting is respected on its own merits, and where directors cast people just because they’re that damn talented. Where good acting overshadows whether you are the perfect height, weight, looks, and voice type they want.

He found it in Chicago. Four years ago. And he still hasn’t moved there.


Same reason you’re still working the day job.

Same reason you haven’t quite shoved off and decided yes, you’re going to be a freelancer now.

Same reason you haven’t taken the leap of faith.

He’s afraid. He’s afraid of failure, yes. But he’s also afraid of what happens if he succeeds.

If he succeeds, there’s always the chance that still won’t be good enough. Sure, he’ll be paying the bills and working full-time doing what he loves, and that’ll be amazing.

But maybe his parents still won’t think it’s a viable career. Maybe they’ll still want him to quit.

Even if he can support himself, maybe he can’t support a family. And he wants a family. Does he really want to find out later that he can’t continue acting because while he was enough of a success for him, he wasn’t enough of a success for them?

Maybe all of his actor friends in LA will think he hasn’t made it, because his name won’t be alongside DeNiro’s in the next big summer blockbuster.

Maybe it’s not worth it to work that hard and achieve success for yourself – only to find it’s not enough for everyone else.

End Anecdote

I gave him a lot of good advice, but as with all human creatures, I told him lots of things I’ve never personally been able to execute for myself. So I’m telling all of you out there, in hopes that repetition will get us all off our butts and out of the fear-game. The fear-game is a sucky game. It’s even worse than Russian Roulette, and it has an even better chance of killing you.

• You deserve to succeed.
• Your dreams are valid.
• No one has the right to tell you your dreams aren’t good enough.
• No one who loves you should ever hold you back from happiness.
• You know what you love to do. You know what you love will make you happy. Go get it.

You may be afraid of success, but it isn’t because you don’t want it for yourself. It’s because you’re afraid other people don’t want it for you. And you know what? Screw ‘em. Your success belongs to you. And it’s nothing to be afraid of.

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. An interesting perspective, but I’d be fine succeeding. But I am way more scared of not being able to pay the bills and having my family to starve to death!

  2. This article is so true. I think the most important, sneaky reason that holds me back is the fear of success. And yet it is somehow mixed in a weird way with the fear of failure. For me, the fear of success is mostly fear of losing control. It is the unknown that scares me the most. Even more than the unsatisfactory familiar things.

  3. Great explanation of the fear of success – it’s not that we’ll become wildly successful – it’s that we’ll succeed but not as much as we want to and we’ll disappoint ourselves our partners and our families for not living up to the dream we promised.

    That’s why I’m learning not to look at the end product (at the goal) but focus on the steps to get there, picturing the actions I’ll take to reach the success and that way I’m already successful because I’m acting and living out my dreams. (the whole journey not destination thing)
    .-= Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog ..Just Let It Happen: How to Stay Productive While Sick =-.

  4. That part about not allowing anyone to take your dreams really struck a chord with me. Ask a classroom of first graders what they wanna be when they grown up and you’ll hear everything from president to rocket scientist ( performing these duties at the same time, of course!).

    This isn’t just the innocence of childhood talking. It’s the fact that as children we still believe in the power of our dreams. And then one day we grow up and allow life, negative people and bad situations to stop us from dreaming.

    Our dreams are VALID and we do have the right to succeed. Playing small to make others look big serves no purpose. Thanks for a wonderful….nope….inspiring post! 🙂
    .-= Roschelle´s last blog ..Why Aren’t You Guest Blogging? =-.

  5. DiscoveredJoys says:

    Me? Afraid of success? Absolutely.

    But not just because of fear of failure or fear of being thought a failure, but the sheer risky effort involved in living a life stuffed with meaning. Much safer to plod along not looking up, not daring to live fully.

    By some strange coincidence, this recent blog (not mine) addresses the same problem, but from a different perspective:

    With two such recent blogs rattling around in my mind I’ll have to go away and have a good ponder.

  6. I don’t think it’s always being afraid of success….I think it’s also more that the steps REQUIRED to achieve success are too daunting for many to do (not enough energy, not enough motivation, too much comfort, etc.).

    Generally, you have to give yourself permission to succeed first. Then the rest *can* follow, once you’ve opened those doors.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..101 Crazy Simple Black Friday 2009 Tips, Goodies and Resources That Will Save You BIG Bucks =-.

  7. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    “The fear-game is a sucky game. It’s even worse than Russian Roulette, and it has an even better chance of killing you.

    • You deserve to succeed.
    • Your dreams are valid.
    • No one has the right to tell you your dreams aren’t good enough.
    • No one who loves you should ever hold you back from happiness.
    • You know what you love to do. You know what you love will make you happy. Go get it.”

    Love this! Great way to start the morning.

    I’m struggling with the “Your dreams are valid” part.

    I often have to compromise and compromise and compromise until I wonder if there is any dream left–when your only chance at survival is to give up and just live in the moment. There is a great line from a song (sorry, it’s too early to remember the title), “When the smallest of dreams won’t come true.”

    I’ve been working for 6 months to get a friggin’ coat rack for my son’s group. Yesterday I learned it’s not going to happen any time soon. It’s November for *&^% sake. They throw their coats on the floor each morning.

    The “dream” of a quality life for him and the others in his program is deteriorating to the point of extinction. Now, the ‘quality dream” is changing to an “okay dream” and that is a failure that is even harder to handle. But, what choice do you have? Now I have to resign myself to the “okay dream” and start climbing that mountain.

    And the coat rack was just going to be my first hurdle to changing the curriculum and ….

    The good news is a friend is donating 6 storage bins for their supplies.

    Maybe the lesson is to not bury the “quality dream” yet. Just get smarter, regroup, and find more allies.

    Maybe “No one has the right to tell you your dreams aren’t good enough.” is the flip side of the coin of “No one has the right to tell you your dreams are too good.”

  8. Tei,

    As Joel commented—there’s plenty that’s scarier!

    Yesterday morning, pondering a moment when potential success was staring at me pretty hard, I said to James, “Heart’s thumping. Fingers are crossed.”

    Fear of success? Sure. I think that’s as human as the fear of getting up on stage. Succeeding wildly is scary.

    But whenever that fear stares at me I *know* it’s time to plunge right in. That’s the curtain going up on my life. I’m not going to miss my cue.


    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Why *You* Should Work for FREE =-.

  9. Gillian - Google SEO says:

    I agree that fear of failure holds people back so it’s lucky then that we work in an industry (writers) where a lot of famous writers were failures before they became successful. With writing, it’s not just about raw talent. You need to be persistent, know how to market yourself and have a lot of self belief. For me failure is not about trying and not succeeding …. it’s about not trying at all. And sometimes you need to give something a go before you decide maybe it’s not for you and for me that’s not failure either. So maybe we need to start defining what failure means to us as individuals first perhaps?

  10. I don’t know if it being afraid of success itself so much as taking the risk necessary to acheive that success. There is almost always a gaping gulf along the path to reaching your dreams. Somewhere you have to jump, and I am personally terrified of missing the other side by an inch and winding up a bloody mess at the bottom.

  11. Good words. I find that failure isn’t all that bad (brush off and keep on going with a lesson leanred) but success requires a continued perseverance toward continual greatness. Having moments of success is one thing but to have sustained success involves expectations, demands and requirements. Yikes!

  12. Great post, Taylor. It’s funny how sometimes succeeding scares us more than failing. Failing is familiar, comfortable even, while success is big and scary and has pointy teeth.

    @Mary, that song was “I Won’t Last a Day Without You” (by the Carpenters).
    (When there’s no going over that rainbow/When the smallest of dreams won’t come true…) And, it’s a good thing nobody could hear me singing the lyrics just now!
    .-= Jodi Kaplan´s last blog ..The Number One Marketing Secret You Need to Know =-.

  13. Whatever fear it is: of success, of failure, of proving your mother right (or wrong), of risk…. It’s fear itself that get’s in the way, regardless of the specific phobia. I have been out on my own now for about 14 years launching a few different idependent (and very varied) ventures. In that time I have experienced great failure, great success, huge disappointment and great pride, sometimes all within the a period of a few months. Being independent/entrepreneurial is not for the faint of heart, although in many ways I would consider myself in that category. But what is scarier to me is spending my life sitting in a cubicle. Yes, I’d get my regular paycheck, yes I’d get health insurance paid by someone else, yes I’d get paid vacations and 401K and chit chat at the water cooler, but that image is scarier to me than being faced with a month of no clients while on my own. It all boils down to what you want out of life and how you measure success. Is it money? Is it being able to do what you want without anyone telling you what to do and making ENOUGH money to live a decent life? You can only decide that for yourself. One road is definitely easier, less risky and may give you security and make your mama happy, and the other is bumpy, sometimes dark and spooky (the kind of road your mama told you to NEVER go down), but if she never went down it, how would she know what’s on the other end?
    .-= Cheryl aka Momblebee´s last blog ..Branding Rule #1: Avoid Conjuring Up Images Of #2 =-.

  14. You tease us with mention of pillow talk, then tease us some more with “Here’s where it gets interesting.”

    Oh wait! You didn’t mean more interesting in the steamy sense of the word? In which case, yes. I am very afraid of success.

  15. It’s always a mystery to me why those who deserve success are always hitting walls while those who are afraid of it are always presented with ways.
    .-= poch´s last blog ..H1N1 vs Immune System Pure Hype? =-.

  16. Ah, yes. There’s the typical mantra:

    ….Live your dreams and succeed. And don’t be like those miserable people who work cubicle jobs.

    Well, news flash. It’s often the cubicle-people who enable your dreams to succeed.

    I’ve read enough blogs (and personally know people) to realize that many of those who are fulfilling their dreams can only afford to do so, because a spouse or partner is holding down a day-job supporting them.

    And for those that are supporting themselves, excuse me if I take things with a grain of salt. Because I’ve read a LOT of freelancer stories about 70-hour workweeks, barely being able to pay rent or groceries, having no vacatio, and literally BEGGING fellow bloggers for money.

    Hey, I’m not putting these people down.

    Just that I get tired of the smug attitude of superiority, that implies that we cubicle-people are losers, we’re “afraid” and not succeeding in life.

    Sure, my cubicle job sucks at times.

    But on the other hand, I don’t have to deal with all the stresses free-lancers do. And my salary provides the means to allow me to enjoy many other aspects in life.

    So, who’s really “succesful”, here? There’s no right or wrong answer…It’s all relative.

  17. I absolutely love this Taylor. I’m working on this same idea only on a relationship level. I’ll be sure and send it along once it’s done. And cite you as well, since I’m sure to use some of this post.
    .-= Corey – Simple Marriage´s last blog ..The Pitfalls Of We Speak =-.

  18. So much good stuff here. It’s interesting that you choose an actor as an example. So many people do look at the DeNiro’s as the “successful” ones. But some actors are happy doing community theatre or voice-overs because they just need to be expressing their art and themselves.

    My daughter is an actor and, boy, has she seen the ups and downs. She had a steady gig playing Monica Lewinsky on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno back in the late 90s. These days, she’s doing local theatre and podcasts for businesses and nonprofits in Seattle. But I have to say, she is happy because she is doing what she loves. If you define it by what you love doing, rather than what you want “to be” (or earn), I’d say that;s a better gauge of “success.”

    And parents who try to discourage their children from going for their dream? I could never be one of those because I quit a secure teaching position loaded w/benefits to do the thing I love most: writing. I have never regretted it.
    .-= Judy Dunn´s last blog ..Writing Mistakes That Make You Look Stupid: 5 Things Your Teacher Was Right About =-.

  19. Friar,

    That is totally true. There are different definitions of success and yours is certainly one!

    But for folks who are on the path to independence or who have small businesses already… believe me, I see this every week with clients. Drives me nuts. People almost literally pushing away success.

    It’s not my way. And working from dawn to midnight for what I want is cool with me. Headlong into success!

    But it is very, very real, and it has nothing to do with whether you have a day job or not.

    Ever hear someone kvetch about wanting to lose weight when you saw them eating a candy bar the day before and you know they’ve never done 10 minutes of exercise in their life?

    People push away success in all sorts of ways. Kvetching about wanting success is way more amusing. To some.


    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Inspiration Points: Is the Label Helping or Hurting Your Business? =-.

  20. This is a very terrific post. I started my own business a few years back (Skyler Media) and still work the day job.

    My fear of success is not qualifying it against other’s standards but rather the idea of “who do I get to do all this work?” Having this mind set keeps me limited to only taking clients that ‘I’ can handle on my own.

    My clients are are thrilled with the work and service they get, but I am fearful of taking on more clients and being forced to hire less qualified help or not being able to afford the qualified work my current clients have come to enjoy.

  21. @Kelly

    Okay, if you want to follow that example…Yes, people kvetch about not being able to lose weight.

    But, as we know, there are some people born with good genetics, who can eat all the crap they want, never excercise, and never get fat.

    What if they blogged, and advised people: “Hey, look at me…look how thin I am…You can do that to….and you can still stay skinny! ”

    It’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of their situation, is it?

    Kinda equivalent to some of the bloggers, who, when you read-between-the-lines, aren’t necessarily successful, but might have other people or other circumstances supporting them and contributing to their success.

    Not saying everyone is like this. People DO succeed.

    But I believe there’s a place for healthy skepticism, when reading some of these “living your dream” stories.

    They’re not always necessarily telling the full story.
    .-= Friar´s last blog ..Stupid Candy Purchases =-.

  22. I know what you’re saying Taylor, but after some deep digging, I’ve found that it isn’t actually the FEAR that drives us away, it’s actually something called “Avoidance motivation”

    There is the motivation we have to succeed, then the motivation we have to AVOID success, when these two forces clash, it’s causes an inner conflict which, can surely scare the sh*t outta you. I wrote about this a few days back… as someone who needs to see results in his clients, eliminating fear of success is a massive ass task.
    .-= FitJerk’s Fitness Blog´s last blog ..Product Review: Manta Ray By Advanced Fitness Inc. =-.

  23. wow. I joined a group of women for a get-together last night and finally confessed to all that my procrastination was directly related to my fear of success. The reason I was willing to confess was because I realized I was putting a client relationship at risk – and because I cannot abide bad customer service, I also realized that I needed to address this issue. Sometimes, if I can just stop thinking, I am much better at succeeding LOL Thanks for the reminder that what I want and what I dream are what I deserve.

  24. Gloria Attar says:

    Oh that’s not fair… you reached inside my mind and heart and pulled all the gunk out in the open! I’m afraid of further controversy at work. I’m one of the objects of disdain because I’ve lived out just about every dream and goal I’ve ever had. If I published my novel, well then, I’d just be hated.

    Hmmm, okay, I’ll take that.

  25. I’m going to hop in here today (Taylor should be along soon) – there’s some good commenting going on, and I’d like to address a couple of them (wish I could address all of them, you guys are great!)

    @ Friar – Sounds like you’re pretty angry about something, but I’m not entirely sure what. Maybe you could clarify that for me? I’m interested in what you have to say… but as it stands, I’m not sure I can agree with what you’ve written, which sounds like, “Never pursue your dreams. Safer that way,” and a little of, “You guys are liars. Your life sucks and you make it sound great.”

    I dunno. I could be wrong. Let me know if I heard the wrong messages there, and we’ll discuss

    @ FitJerk – I think you’re fluffing up “fear” with words that dilute its meaning, and I’m cautious about such things. Call a space a spade. People do have clear fear of success and wrap it up in all sorts of fluffies to make it more palatable, but it’s a pretty basic fear.

    And…’avoidance motivation’ didn’t appear in any of my university courses so that one must be a new trendy thing I’m not up on… or somethin’ 🙂
    .-= James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  26. Hmm, I’d call this conditional fear of success. True fear of success is the fear of wild, undeniable, big success. And as some commenters mentioned, this is a big deal, a lot bigger than the conditional one like, “Well, this success may not be enough to …”

    And true fear of success has nothing to do with others. Don’t believe me? Stop and imagine your wildest success. If you are a writer, imagine you have a book deal with a major publisher, your book is on the top selling list, people are making long lines at your book signing, money coming in like crazy, the fan letters pile up asking about your next book, ….

    Did that make your nervous?

    .-= Akemi – Yes to Me´s last blog ..Review: The Spontaneous Healing Of Belief By Gregg Braden =-.

  27. Woo, lot of comments really fast. Shame I was sick and slept in. In order!

    jstainer – I believe you just made my point for me. You’re afraid your success isn’t sufficient, just as in several of those examples there.

    Kimmo – Fear of success can most definitely be fear of losing control. Now you’re accountable for maintaining success, too, which is also hard. The idea is that you’ll be more of a failure if you succeed and then fail, than if you never succeeded at all.

    Alex – It really can help sometimes to get tunnel vision. Bring on the blinders.

    Roschelle – Aw, thanks, Roschelle. It’s true. And as adults we have much more reasonable dreams, and yet we still think they’re not possible. How weird is it that we lower our expectations and still think we can’t meet them?

    Discovered Joys – May your ponderings bring you much of value.

    Barbara – The steps required often aren’t that daunting when you break them down, though. My friend and I have the same sort of steps, and neither of them are really that frightening to us when taken individually. It’s really success itself that scares us. The big end product of those little steps.

    Mary – It’s hard thing. It’s true, though. Go with Roschelle on this one – you’d never tell a five-year-old that their dream of becoming president wasn’t valid, would you?

    If I may make a suggestion on the coat rack point – go find yourself a carpenter in town, explain the situation, and ask him what it would take to get that coat rack, and if he’d be willing to build it for barter or trade. Then see if any of your son’s group’s parents can provide the services he needs in exchange. Offer to feed his family for a week or something – everyone can throw in a dish. Most people like to do nice things, and you’re not asking for the most difficult work he’s ever done. Just something that functions. Good luck to you! I believe!

    Kelly – Good for you. Go break a leg.

    Gillian – Perhaps, and redefining it for ourselves as well. It’s a very noble idea to say that not trying is failing, and yet many of us are still far more scared of trying than we are of that “failure”. so something needs to motivate us past the fear, and often that motivation comes from a different fear. Being less of a person than we could be, for example.

    Dava – it’s not a leap. It’s a series of steps. One step at a time. Sure it’s a long distance, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who had a dream where the process couldn’t be broken down into tasks that really weren’t scary at all. Take a page from Alex’s book and put on your blinders. Just this one step. Then the next one. Then the next.

    Eric – Thankee, and yes, continued perseverance is key.

    Jodi – Failing is comfortable indeed. That’s one of the things I told him. We’re very secure in failure. We know what it looks like.

    Cheryl – Nothing to fear but fear itself.

    Marc – “And then we shagged.” Steamy enough for you?

    Poch – Oh, wow. I totally deserve more presentations, then.

    Friar – There’s a valid point here, which is that success is defined differently for different people. In my example, his own vision of his success is to make a living as an actor. Mine is to make a living as a writer. Those are just two examples, though. It is entirely possible that your personal vision of success is being a good provider for your family, or being a father who’s there for his kids all the time, or maintaining a personal level of happiness. We all have different ideas of what “success” is. So I suppose for you, the flip side of this argument is – don’t let people who think the artistic life is the best life get in the way of you feeling happy with YOUR successes. I don’t think I’m better than the guy who works a cubicle job so he can send his kids to college. My father is that guy, and I think he’s the best man I know.

    I don’t think I was being smug, Friar. I certainly don’t think I implied that creative freelancer types are better than anyone else. And I didn’t say a word about cubicle people. The only mention I made that might possibly be interpreted that way was the thing about being unable to quit your day job, but “day job” presumes you have another life. Otherwise, we just call it your job.

    I’ll thank you not to put words in my mouth. “Don’t be like those miserable people who work cubicle jobs”, indeed. I said “don’t be miserable.” I said “don’t be afraid.” I said “you deserve success.” I never said your idea of success had to look just like mine.

    Corey – Thanks for that, I’d like to see your take on it.

    Judy – That’s right. Some of my favorite actors are the ones I see at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland every year. They’ll never be nationally or internationally known, but they’re amazing and I love them and they make a very nice living as actors.

    Kelly – Ooch, true.

    Anthony – Mm. Sounds like you might want to consult someone, but I’d say your better bet is finding someone who IS qualified to be a good right-hand man. Or alternatively finding someone to handle all the easier busywork so your hands are free for the hard stuff. Good luck to you.

    Friar – My gods, you just can’t quit today. Here’s my situation: I grew up quite poor. My parents worked very hard to send me and my two siblings to private schools, because public education here was seriously lacking. I went to college on a merit scholarship. I worked my way through college waiting tables. My parents haven’t given me any money since I left home – at my insistence. I wanted to be independent and I learned how to do it the hard way. I’ve failed to pay my rent and I’ve been unable to buy groceries and I’ve lived on my friends’ charity sometimes when I screwed it all up. I graduated and moved to New York, where I landed my first job on the strength of one cover letter. No connections, no nepotism. Just a cover letter. My copywriting success comes from a lot of failing and trying and failing again. I am single. No one supports me. I did this on my own. My parents, should you be interested, are quite proud.

    Now, I appreciate your healthy skepticism, but I rather resent the implication that I am one of those people who just magically succeeded. I wouldn’t call myself “successful” to this day, even though I make all my income from writing. I have bigger goals for myself that I still struggle to achieve. I write posts like this one not to make fun of people who are beneath me, but to remind people that we’re all in the same boat. When I learn something, I like to pass it on to people who might get something out of my newfound knowledge. I’m sorry that seems to offend you so much, but I wonder if you’re not just making excuses yourself. “I don’t have to listen to this, because it’s not real.”

    It is real. You absolutely do not have to listen to it, and of course you don’t have to have the same idea of success as I do. But you came in here swinging hard at the idea: “don’t be afraid of your own success.” You decided I had told you what your success should be. And you did it all your own. So where’s that anger coming from?

    FitJerk – Sounds like they’re one and the same, by your definition. I don’t really see the difference.

    Charlene – Hey, I’m proud of you. Go for it.

    Gloria – Nooooo! Go get whatever it is you want at work! Go for it! Publish things! Be brave!

  28. Brett Legree says:

    Hmm. Friar doesn’t sound angry to me.

    Why are you trying to paint him as such?

    He offered a different opinion from all of the rest of the comments, that’s all.

    If I read this part of the post very carefully:

    “…And he still hasn’t moved there.


    Same reason you’re still working the day job.

    Same reason you haven’t quite shoved off and decided yes, you’re going to be a freelancer now.

    Same reason you haven’t taken the leap of faith.

    He’s afraid. He’s afraid of failure, yes. But he’s also afraid of what happens if he succeeds.”

    I know you were referring to your man friend’s particular case, but it could (possibly) sound as if the words are saying that the reason anyone reading this is still working a day job is because they are afraid of failure or success.

    Perhaps this was the point Friar took contention with – why don’t you ask him, instead of somehow determining from the 7 percent of the message (the written word) that he is “angry”?
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..6 weeks 2 days. =-.

  29. I can see Friar’s good point.
    .-= poch´s last blog ..H1N1 vs Immune System Pure Hype? =-.

  30. Brett – If he can infer that I am “smug”, “superior”, and that I think “cubicle people are losers” from the above passage, I believe I can infer that he is angry about something from his very aggressive posture here.

    I wrote a post about something I struggle with to this day, and that a friend of mine also struggles with. Where he got the idea that I’m one of those pompous blowhards who succeeds without trying and who thinks that everyone who doesn’t want to be exactly what I want to be is stupid – it’s beyond me. But it is an attack, and very few attacks are launched from a place that lacks anger.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  31. I also don’t think I left his major point unregarded. I think he’s absolutely right that success looks different to different people, and I said so. I take issue with the fact that he assumed I was saying success is only one thing, and that all people should follow the same success story.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  32. Ah, jeez. AND – I should really make this all one comment, it’s starting to get annoying –

    I said the word “angry” ONCE. There are six other paragraphs that are all discussing the points that he made, and why I disagree or agree with them. Why’s that the one thing you focused on?
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  33. Brett Legree says:

    Did he say that you, personally, are a pompous blowhard?

    No, he did not.

    In fact, he also says that some people do succeed without help from outside, which you are doing.

    Perhaps he hurt your feelings, but I don’t think that was his intent.

    We’ll have to wait for Friar to reply, I guess.

    I still don’t see it as an attack, since he did not single out anyone by name.

    However, he has been singled out by name, twice, as someone who is angry.
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..6 weeks 2 days. =-.

  34. @ Brett – I don’t think that Taylor meant for each of those points to be taken as a whole. And, too, I think she was speaking to our target audience, which typically very much are people who are struggling to reach their successes – many of which is to become a full-time freelancer.

    As for the tone… I have no problem with differing opinions on this blog. It’s in our comment policies. But to me, who doesn’t know Friar personally, it did sound angry and bitter, as if those who’ve succeeded did so on the backs of others.

    Like I said, I may be wrong, and I invited Friar to correct me.
    .-= James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  35. Brett Legree says:

    You said it once. James said it once.

    I focus on it because he did not personally call out anyone by name, yet he is being called an angry person.

    I know Friar, he likes a good debate.

    He didn’t “get personal” with anyone, directly, but the same cannot be said in reverse.
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..6 weeks 2 days. =-.

  36. Brett – That’s a fair point. I suppose that when you come to comment on THIS post and comment that the overarching statement I attempted to make is “cubicle people suck, freelancers rule” and then proceed to talk about “some people”‘s posts about that mantra, then it feels rather as if you’re talking about, you know. The post you’re commenting on. Perhaps it’s a leap, but it doesn’t feel like a big one.

    I think he does sound rather angry. That’s my personal opinion of the tone of his comments, and it’s clearly not how they came off to you or perhaps to others. But perhaps that’s simply me being defensive. I dislike being so open about my fears and having someone put words in my mouth that are completely counter to my intent. It hurts my feelings, and it undermines the point I was trying to make. It rather makes me think that putting my own emotions on the line isn’t worth it, because they’re only going to be disregarded as the same sort of drivel that’s around the internets every day on this point.

    The worst part is, I’m totally with the Friar on the posts that tell people they suck if they don’t want to live the freelancer life. I hate those posts too. I don’t like the implication that this post was one of them.

    Weirdly, it puts me in mind of a story about my friend who was breastfeeding. There’s a group called the La Leche League that runs commercials trying to explain why breastfeeding is really good for babies, and why you should breastfeed over formula if you can. Problem is, some of those commercials started sounding more like “If you don’t breastfeed, YOU ARE A BAD MOTHER AND DO NOT DESERVE A CHILD!” My friend used to burst into tears whenever she saw one, because she couldn’t breastfeed for medical reasons even though she wanted to.

    I hate when people decide they unequivocally know the answer to every situation. Definitive statements. I think “don’t be afraid of succeeding” is a vague enough definitive statement to allow for interpretation that factors in everyone’s own circumstances, personal goals, and ambitions. I dislike the implication that I said something like “be a freelancer or you suck”. Makes me think of those La Leche League commercials, and my friend crying.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  37. Brett – You commented while I was commenting, so ONE MORE TIME!

    It’s kind of like someone walking into a room and saying, “Well, I guess SOME people don’t think that they should use a fork. I guess SOME people weren’t raised with good manners. SOME people just don’t have any consideration for others at the table.”

    If you’re the guy eating a plate of chicken wings with your fingers in that room, you’re not exactly going to think she’s just raising a debate about table manners to the public at large.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  38. @ Brett – Cool your jets, dude. We didn’t say, “Friar is an angry person.” We said he *sounds* angry. That’s all.

    On a side note, my inbox is always open, if you’d prefer to take this to email – ’cause I’d really like everyone to enjoy the discussion and not feel like they should stay away, you know?

    On that note…

    When I read this post, I had to sit back and think. I’d recently been making a bunch of excuses to a friend of mine why I didn’t write a fiction novel. I’ve always wanted to. I suppose I’m good enough. People seem interested. And yet… I’m not doing it.

    And after reading the post Taylor wrote, I realized she’s right. I’m a little bit afraid that perhaps I do write it and it’s successful and what that means isn’t really what I expected… and since I can’t *know*, I start to avoid, and procrastinate, and think, “Well, better to stay where I am than reach for it and maybe be disappointed…”

    Was a good post, Taylor. You made me think.
    .-= James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  39. Brett Legree says:

    I suspect this is (unfortunately) another example of what may happen with text-only communication.

    For what it’s worth, I am 100 percent in favour of following one’s dreams. I am doing it myself.

    It will take me a bit longer to do it, though, with four kids!

    (If I may show a few cards here, sometimes I wish I had “gotten the self-employment bug” when I was single and could have survived on Ramen for three months at a time… oh well, just requires more planning.)
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..6 weeks 2 days. =-.

  40. Brett Legree says:

    Don’t worry James, my jets aren’t even on. They’re outside in the car.

    Yes, I agree – y’all don’t get scared off by us, m’kay?

    No need to take it to the inbox, I’m not looking to tussle today.

    I thought it was a good post too (so there!)
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..6 weeks 2 days. =-.

  41. Amen Taylor. Fear of success if the #1 cause of failure.

    Fear that people won’t like you if your’re successful (which of course, if true), fear that you won’t be able to handle the responsibility.

    All excuses spawned by old paradigms picked up from people who were afraid to be successful.

    I’ve conquered many fears regarding success of the last year and the results is that I feel Alive.
    .-= Ryan´s last blog ..What Is An RSS Feed? =-.

  42. @Tei and James

    OMG….You guys are jumping the gun too, misinterpreting what I said.

    I’m not angry, I’m not saying your life sucks, I never called you guys liars.

    It’s what Brett said (who’s the only one who seemed to get it). I meant to offer a different point of view from the general consensus.

    In fact, if you looked at what I wrote, I said I’m NOT putting down freelancers or entepreneurs. I said that yes, people DO succeed.

    In terms of being “smug”, I apologize. It wasn’t meant as an attack on this post specifically.

    What I meant was, there is a sense of smug out there, but in Blogoland. With SOME bloggers. The same way some (NOT all) bloggers aren’t necessarily telling the whole story. And that we need to be aware of this.

    But that doesn’t mean others arent’ genuine and work very hard and do well.

    (*sigh*) I guess that’s what happens, with just written communication. Only ~7% of the intended message gets through.

    Next time, I suppose it’ll be easier for me to go with the flow, and agree with all the other commenters.
    .-= Friar´s last blog ..Stupid Candy Purchases =-.

  43. Brett Legree says:


    I eat my chicken wings with a knife and fork (can’t stand the sauce stains) 😉
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..6 weeks 2 days. =-.

  44. Brett – Oh, man. Probably true. We get into so much trouble with the written word – and here we are supposed to be the professionals.

    And yeah, often succeeding is harder due to a slew of other factors, kids among them. I’ll admit to being afraid to settle down with anyone because I’m not secure enough in my own path of success to be sure it won’t get derailed by joining my life up with someone else! And the whole idea of kids . . . oy. I commend you for sticking with your ambitions even with so many other people in your life to consider. I hope they’re your support system too!

    I probably wouldn’t have made it self-employed if I weren’t on my own. Mostly because even if someone else were supporting me while I pursued it, then I’d have been accountable to that person for my success, and I’m absolutely terrible when I feel that kind of pressure. You’ve got a lovely wife you adore and awesome kids – that’s a vision of success I’m not even ready to confront yet. Business success, personal success, emotional success – they’re all different, and you have to figure out which one comes first, I think. So hard to keep them all in the air at the same time. Sometimes it’s best to succeed in one place before you move on to another.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  45. Brett Legree says:


    You’d make it with kids, it just might take a bit longer. If you have the drive, you’ll do it, no matter what.

    Oh, and don’t be afraid to settle down with someone, if it is the right someone, it should make it easier to succeed.
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..6 weeks 2 days. =-.

  46. Ohmigods. Okay, here’s what’s going to happen.


    I wish I had a bigger font for that. Everyone’s okay! Everyone loves everyone! Everyone is sorry for things that were misinterpreted or came off wrong! Auuuuuggghhh!

    Now then. Can we get back to this chicken wing point? Because I am sick as a dog and for some reason chicken wings sound AMAZING.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  47. Brett – lol, that’s sort of my point. I don’t have the drive. I’d absolutely love to find someone who kept me going, though. That’s the ambition right now. I just had a lovely talk with an old lover about how his wife challenges him to better, higher heights all the time, and it sounds pretty great. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for that.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  48. Wait, if Tei’s looking for someone to settle down with, I have first dibs. Mmhm.
    .-= James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  49. Brett Legree says:

    I could use a hug too, I suppose (maybe the dog needs a hug?)

    Chicken wings would be a close second.

    Actually, tomorrow I’m going out with some friends to the local Dirty Burger – that’s like a group hug on a plate, with a side of poutine.
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..6 weeks 2 days. =-.

  50. I am afraid of poutine too. Not as much as success. But pretty afraid.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  51. I agree…GROUP HUG 😀 😀 😀

    Don’t worry, we’re all cool.

    You gotta admit, though…the latter part of this comment thread was..(er)…”interesting”, to say the least. 😉
    .-= Friar´s last blog ..Stupid Candy Purchases =-.

  52. Friar – “Interesting” is so rarely used to describe anything about which you can find a better compliment, you know?

    The thesis isn’t brilliant, but it’s interesting.

    The evening gown isn’t beautiful, but it’s interesting.

    The lettuce isn’t green, but it’s . . . interesting.

    Yes. VERY interesting.
    .-= Tei – Men with Pens´s last blog ..Are You Afraid of Success? We Bet Yes. =-.

  53. I am not afraid of success,but ironically the times I was successful, I was shot down by my own demise. The culprit was Al cohol, Al kicked my A$$ over and over. But by God’s grace I am recovering. Almost two years,now I am ready to succeed. That’s why I promote my site the bigger it gets, the more I succeed. Thanks for the opportunity to share.

  54. Poutine is interesting… now you made me hungry. Maybe I can get a date with Tei AND take her out for supper…

  55. @Tei

    Well, it WAS a lively discussion.

    Glad it’s over, though. 😉
    .-= Friar´s last blog ..Stupid Candy Purchases =-.

  56. This discussion took an ahem ‘interesting’ turn overnight. I do agree with Friar that a lot of people can achieve their dreams because they are supported by a spouse or a family. I know that if I did not have the support of my family or if I was not single or mortgage free, I would not have been able to devote as much time to changing my career from public relations to copywriting in the middle of a financial crisis (yay!). I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to do this before I have the responsibility of a family or a mortgage. So when it comes to pursuing our dreams, we’re not all coming from an even playing ground and it’s not as easy for others. That’s why you need to look at your own personal situation and not define your level of success by others.

  57. @James

    Poutine for supper. really know how to show a lady a good time. 😉
    .-= Friar´s last blog ..Stupid Candy Purchases =-.

  58. I know I’m coming late to the party, but I wanted to agree that fear has been a huge part of my life since leaving my cubicle job.

    I wish I had Alex’s focus. Even when I’m trying to work step-by-step, the fear gremlins often sit up on my shoulder and try to derail me from the tasks at hand.

    I don’t know if it’s fear of success or fear of failure, but the gremlins definitely seem to hunger for those tasks that are the most important. The stuff that doesn’t truly matter, they tend to let me get done with no problems.

  59. Bravo sir, bravo!
    .-= Chris from AB Web Design, LLC´s last blog ..Do You Write Rubbish? =-.

  60. I think we scared that people will be intimidated by our success. Not everyone wants us to succeed. They fear a person’s power and happiness. Some people become jealous and envious when we go after our dreams. It’s tough to lose family and friends over success. But we have to make ourselves happy.
    .-= Omar´s last blog ..Your Better Than That =-.

  61. @Tei
    It’s hard to say yes or no, explanation below…


    Oh they didn’t teach you that eh? It’s alright, whenever you need a schooling, FJ will be there 😉

    I’m not trying to fluff word it, but fear (which IS real, no doubt) is just one of the tools of the avoidance motivator… just like whining, being negative etc. Also remember that “success” is usually defined by some type of “goal”. wants to be an actor with self-sufficient pay, and while he does have achievement motivation to move towards the goal… it is VERY apparent that his avoidance motivation has a force that’s FAR greater.

    And if it’s been 4 years, I duno… I think it might be more than just “fear” that’s holding him back. Obviously it could very well ALL be fear since I don’t know the man but I think after doing some digging, other factors will pop-up.

    Oh and let’s not forget, at his major point of conflict, decided to give in and NOT move to Chicago, and you can read the implications of that in my article but I don’t want this to get any longer.

    SO.. haha did all of that make sense or was it a case of verbal diarrhea? Probably both.

    I wish this dude the best. Sounds like he’s got the chops, he just needs to overcome his inner conflicts.

    .-= FitJerk’s Fitness Blog´s last blog ..The Best Shoulder Exercise In The World =-.

  62. @FitJerk – Still looking the same to me… but we still love ya. 😉

    @Omar – Personally, I think fear of failure is stronger than fear of success – if you reach for that success and as another commentator implied, are worried you’ll go splat on the ground, that’s a mighty good motivator to stay put, eh?

    @Chris – Hehehe, bravos go to the lady, not the sir. (Though I’ll take them anyways!)

    @Matthew – I’d say it’s a good idea to figure out exactly what types of tasks don’t scare you, and which do, then ask yourself why. There’s something in there for sure.

    @Friar – I am all about letting them indulge their inner hunger. 🙂

    @Gillian – Single, mortgage-free, family support… those sound like magic words, lol. But honestly? It’s awesome you had that and were able to pursue your dreams furthur.

  63. Realizing that we’re really afraid of our success can be a big breakthrough. As soon as we can name our fears and own them, then we can move on.

    Sometimes, we’re afraid of what it takes to be successful. You know, like hard work. And discipline. And giving up TV.

    Thanks for an insightful post.

    .-= Lexi Rodrigo´s last blog ..Meet Savvy Freelancer: Jarrod Thalheimer =-.

  64. @James – well, hopefully not single and/or mortgage free for long 🙂 But thanks – I wanted to work from home and I realised my dreams quicker than I thought. I’m lucky to work full time for a company – it’s like freelancing for one client with all the benefits of a full time gig. So I’ve checked that goal and upwards and onwards to a new one!

  65. It would be a bad thing to start doing something you love and then it´s not enough to support a family with the money you make. Then maybe it´s better to never start and just keep the dream? I´m not sure…
    .-= furacoua´s last blog ..Las Penitas Real Estate =-.

  66. @ Furacoua – I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to do something you love and not have it work out. You learn, you experience new things and get to test and try. Even if it bombs, then you’ve come out knowing what NOT to do next time.

    From adversity comes growth and strength.

  67. I believe that a lot of people ar not only afraid of success, but many are just too lazy to even try!

  68. Fear of success manifests itself in so many ways. As a career coach for executives, I see it in the myriad ways candidates sabotage their job search efforts.

    They often believe they are smarter, better or more experienced than others, so the proven tools and methods for job search don’t apply to them. They remain unemployed for an extended time thus proving to themselves, they are really impostors.

    The fear of success comes from so many places. Here are a few of my thoughts on overcoming the problem… Taylor’s comments were especially valuable.


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