Aug 24, 2010

Fear of failure or fear of success?

I have a healthy fear of failure. That's why you don't see me cliff-diving.

But in other areas of life I've decided failure is easy. It's comfortable. It's success that requires work. Success brings expectation. Like writing a book and subsequently having it published. Work, expectation...and people-you-know will read it. I fear that.

First-time author Elana Johnson posted about the fear of success today at her blogspot. She received copy edits and talks about seeing her book in an almost book-like form. We dream of that day, right? But I understand her fear.

On a little bit of a different bent, today I read a blog post by agent Chip MacGregor (posted last March) where he said, "There's this myth in our culture that your mettle will somehow be tested by failure. Baloney. All of us experience some failure, some rejection, some times of being ignored, and we get over it. We have to, since the world keeps going. I don't think our souls are tested all that much by failure...they are tested much more by success." He mentions how the Bible has a myriad of warnings for the rich and powerful, but for the poor and ignored, not so much. (Read blog post here.) So he's saying maybe there's reason to fear it because success will most certainly be a test of our character.

All I know is I'm not worried about my character as much as I'm worried about you reading my book. (Well, not you, but all those other people.)

Which is it for you? Which do you fear more--failure or success?

[and if you missed my Monday (8/23/10) post at, go check it out. I promise it will make your day]


  1. I'm completely scared of doing well.
    I know that right now sending out queries is terrifying, but a polite rejection from an agent will sting a lot less than a scathing review.
    Also, with success, comes this weird amount of entitlement that I hope to ALWAYS avoid.

  2. Hmmmm I think age helps. At this point I fear neither since I've had both.

  3. I have thought about this a lot in my life. You hit it right on the nail. Success is scary, and I share your same fears. In fact, my first year at the conference LDS Storymakers I was pretty much petrified-scared. I kept thinking, all these people are going to know I write now, and I just know I'm going to fail. And you start to think, and what if I succeed? What if I actually write a book? Then I have to talk to publishers. I may actually have to TALK to people about my book. As I've sat through writing classes I've often had the thought, you know, it would be so much easier to just clean my house and go to playgroups. (Boy, I've almost talked myself out of writing :) I think part of that fear of success is the fear of the unknown and getting out of our comfort zone. I'm starting to see writing is a lot like preforming on stage--with experience the stage fright starts to go away, and that fear of success does too. After a while (I'm hoping) like playing an instrument, it's something we do because we love it and we don't really care who is sitting in the audience.

  4. Thanks for the great quote. I'd like to explore this concept further since I don't understand it completely.


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