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Leadership and fear of failure

Demystifying Fear of failure

Last week, I had an interesting coaching conversation with one of my clients
He is a senior leader in the tech industry with over 3 decades of work experience across multiple geographies
Now, he wanted to call it quits and start something of his own
He had been toying with this idea for sometime, but was not able to take the decision
I asked him : “What is stopping you from deciding ?”
“I am not sure if I will succeed” he responded “I fear that I will fail”
And this is not uncommon….
I coach several senior leaders and entrepreneurs and fear of failure is something which holds most of them back from playing really big in life

It prevents them from chasing their dreams and doing something which they are truly passionate about


Whenever you want to start something new, there is always this anxiety and hesitation, right ?
Whether it is relocating to a new city, joining a new company or entering into a new relationship, you always have this fear whether things will work out or not ?
And it is natural to think that way, except the fact that most people do not understand this fear very well
The truth is that this fear of failure is actually made up of two distinct fears :
The first fear is the fear of unknown or fear of uncertainty
The second fear is the fear of failure
Most people get confused between the two and hence, not able to move ahead

Let us examine the fear of unknown
This is something bound to happen whenever you are trying something new
Say you are relocating to a different city
You may have some anxiety, some fear whether you will like the new place or not. You may have doubts about the social life, the infrastructure etc.
If you want to get into a new relationship, you might have a fear that whether this relationship will work or not
If you are joining a new company or you are getting promoted to a new role or you want to leave your job and start your own business....

In all these areas, you will have this fear of the unknown
..Fear of uncertainty, because you truly do not know what will happen as you are stepping into something new
The second fear is the fear of failure
In this case, you are actually afraid that you will fail at whatever you are trying to do
Let us say you are getting into a new relationship
You are assuming that this relationship will fail or you will not be able to play your part in this relationship
Or let us say you are joining a new company or you are getting promoted to a bigger role
You might have this fear that you will fail in this new role or the new job
Or let us say you are leaving your work and planning to start your own business
You will have this fear of failure that you might fail in your business
You see the distinction ?
Fear of the unknown, which is “I do not know what will happen” and
Fear of failure, which is “I will fail at it”
The first fear, fear of the unknown, is a very natural fear to have
The second fear, fear of failure, is mainly because of self-doubts, your own limiting beliefs and lack of confidence in your own self
"I am not good enough"
"I do not have the right skills and talent"
"I am not worthy enough"
"I do not have enough experience"

And so on....
All these self-doubts can create fear of failure in you and prevent you from trying out something new
Fear of failure could sometimes stem from past experiences as well.
Let us say you quit your job and started a new business in the past. It did not work out for various reasons, but now, that past experience can create a fear of failure and prevent you from trying out another new business in future
Another reason could be your upbringing or what people around you have been telling you for long :
"You are not good enough"
"You are not worthy enough"
"You cannot do anything"
And over time, you start believing it
So fear of failure has a lot to do with your own self and your experiences
So what should you do ?
First, create the awareness around that distinction
What is the real fear you have, whenever you are trying to do something new ?
Is it the fear of the unknown ( which is very natural to have ) or is it the fear of failure ( assuming you will fail at what you are trying to do ) ?
Second level of awareness is around the impact of this fear
What is it preventing you from doing ?
Because both these fears, fear of the unknown and fear of failure, have the same impact on you
They pull you down. They prevent you from taking action
They prevent you from taking risks. They prevent you from playing big in your life
As a result, you end up staying where you are. Nothing changes for you
So here is something for you to go back and reflect upon :
1) What is the real fear you have when it comes to trying something new and what is the underlying reason behind it ?
2) How does it really impact you ?
Complete these sentences :
I am afraid/My biggest fear is _________ ( write your fear ) because______ ( write the underlying reason )
This fear is preventing me to__________( what is the impact of this fear )
If you do this exercise, it will help you understand your fears better and hopefully, it will help you take some action as well
And if you need to have a deeper discussion on how to deal with your fears, drop me a note and my team can help schedule a quick call 
I would be interested to know what came up for you as you read and reflected on this email

Till then
Stay safe and stay healthy


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