The Fear of Success


When I was a child my parents often remarked about my ability to set my mind to a task and accomplish my goals. The one example my Dad always used was the summer that I first went to the high dive alone. You see every summer as a child I spent a lot of time at a local lake and I loved to swim. At this lake there were 2 diving boards at the end of a T shaped dock that I loved. However, this summer I set my eyes on the big prize, in the center of the lake was a dock and on this dock was the high dive. The water near the diving boards I was used to was around 7 feet deep. The water at the high dive was roughly 20 feet deep if memory serves.

Now I was a fairly strong swimmer so my parents did not mind if I went to the normal diving boards, but because of the depth of the water and the location of the high dive I was only allowed to go out there with my Dad. I quickly realized the problem with this set up as my Dad was not nearly as excited about the high dive as I was about the high dive and I grew tired of always waiting on him. Inevitably I begged my Dad to let me go out there by myself to which I received a quick no. I persisted in the request much to Dad’s dismay, so one day he said “fine if you want to go to the high dive alone you have to prove to me that you are a strong enough swimmer to handle yourself out there”. Perfect! I had my in so, “OK Dad how can I prove that to you?” “When you can swim across the lake and back with no break I will know you are ready.”

I had a goal now and wasted no time in getting to work. Day in and day out I swam and kept pushing myself farther and farther. Nothing was going to stop me from getting to this high dive. I do not remember how long it took me, but I do know that before the summer was over I had accomplished the task and I was spending time out at the high dive by myself. Years later Dad told me he had only come up with all of that on a lark. He was tired of me bugging him about the high dive so he picked something he thought would keep me out of his hair. The idea that I would accomplish the task before the summer was out never entered his mind.

As I grew older my ability to relentlessly pursue a goal was shaken. The insecurities and angst of adolescence assaulted me and the threat of failure really began to sink in. Even while I battled with my insecurities my Dad would tell me this story about how I surprised him with my drive and determination. Eventually I began to ask myself where I went wrong along the way. For a long time the answer to that question escaped me.

One day I was speaking to a friend of mine who was studying psychology at the time and he said to me, “you know what Jason; I realize now that I can continue to be depressed about all these things that bother me, many of which I have no control over. Or I can choose to not focus on those things and find my happiness”. This statement really stuck with me and slowly burrowed its way into my thoughts. Eventually this brought me to the answer as to the difference between myself and that young boy who was not going to let anything keep him from the high dive, fear.

Maybe it was the naivety of youth, but failure was not an option that ever entered my head. When I allowed myself to entertain the idea of failure the fear of that failure started to influence my decisions. The people of this world that succeed at anything all share one trait; they believe that they can succeed. They fail like the rest of us do but they do not let the fear of failure stop them from trying.

Many people have expressed this idea much better than myself. One of my favorites has always been the quote, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. If you do not honestly believe that success is possible then it is not period. Will you fail? Absolutely, but failure is only a lesson on the path to success. If you want something then get up off your ass and go get it. I know this all sounds cliché but that doesn’t mean it is not true.

The only thing you can ever control in this life is yourself and you have to believe in yourself before anyone else will. The path to success begins with a choice, what is yours?

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