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Frode H

Hi Steve, a good post as always! Hope all is well "over there".

I was thinking today why people fear failure, as it is a opportunity to learn - see twitter :) and it is fun that you wrote about fear of success. And it is so true. And the Marianne Williamson-quote is my favorite quote. Just had to say, and have a great day Steve.




I recently have had the pleasure of landing a job that has entirely changed my life. You know when you have that instant cultural fit/match and all of your talents are used to full capacity (and you are pushed to new and exciting heights...)

I've been experiencing a lot of this and one of the pieces I take the most seriously is the what you had said about friends. This has been a great inspiration. I hope to come back in a few months to share the wisdom of what I discovered.

One of my colleagues just wrote a very cool article on leadership and the difference between arrogance and confidence There is certainly some relevant wisdom there on how one can get to this point.

Thanks for the amazing insight!!

Paul Williams

Editor: Any way to anonomize this post?

How about fear of looking like a self-promoting simian? For me, it's hard to "toot the horn" because I feel like great accomplishments should speak for themselves. This appears to be unfortunately not the truth.

Also, a lot of my best accomplishments have been on projects that are failures. For various reasons I was able to make great progress in an environment where the deck was stacked against me. If I try to bring this up, I'm afraid that I'll get blamed for the failure in spite of my accomplishments.

I'm afraid to look like the whiny child "Look, I won 1st place! I won! I WON! Why aren't you taking me for ice cream?"

Steve Roesler

Hi, Frode

There are probably as many individual reasons for fear of failure as there are individuals. And there may be a combination within any given person.

The two things that I think I see most of the time is:

a. Fear of punishment or something punitive as a result of making a mistake. Further probing has shown that, frequently, these are people who have grown up in an atmosphere where there was little or no forgiveness or grace. Or, they've learned that there is little forgiveness or grace in the organizational culture in which they find themselves.

b. What you mentioned, which is viewing mistakes as opportunities to learn. People who are genuinely smart realize that they learned more from examining things that have gone wrong than coasting along while things are going right.

Thanks for taking time to add to the discussion, Frode.

Steve Roesler


Pleased to hear you are having a good experience. It's encouraging to all of our readers to see someone have a positive, life-changing experience as a result of the right match of talent and culture.

Thanks for the link as well--I recommend it to the ATW community who take time to read the comments.

Steve Roesler

Paul, I'm not sure how to make it any more anonymous than it is now. However, I believe your situation is one faced by many and is probably helpful for others to see.

A lot of us are taught not to toot our own horns but to hunker down and simply do a good job day after day. The often unspoken assumption is that if simply work hard and do the right things, you will be rewarded. The fact of the matter: that is not always true. Frequently, bosses need to be reminded of the accomplishments of their people. I've found that the best way to do this and avoid the uncomfortable "horn-tooting syndrome" is to:

a. Sit down at the beginning of each month or each quarter and have a discussion with your manager about specific goals.

b. Agree on a time to have "how are we doing" conversations along the way. That gives you a chance to make adjustments, if necessary, and reminds the manager what you are doing and what is also going very well.

c. Have a goals accomplished meeting at specified times. In this way, you can lay out what was agreed, what you accomplished, and what you may have done over and above the original goals.

By doing this, performance and accomplishment become a natural part of the business process and no one has to find a way to upstage anyone else or jump up and down like a fourth grader at a spelling bee.

Thanks for weighing in with this one. It's a universal issue.


Hi, Great post to read. I was able to relate this to a few circumstances when I felt guilty even to succeed.
But should it be that I have to fear to do the right thing as a consequence of unexpected achievements? I felt , at least by doing the right things I would be able to justify myself on my successes rather than cultivating guiltiness which would not allow me to march forward.
And still , why doesn't it motivate a person further to make himself qualify to that position that he has achieved or will it just slow down the momentum to act?

Steve Roesler

Dear Gssujeetha,

It sounds as if you have not only experienced some of these, but that you also have given this topic much thought. While I cannot answer these for you, I believe that your dedication to self-knowledge and honest assessment will lead you to the learning that you desire.

Thank you for taking time to contribute to the discussion. I am sure others will benefit from your personal experience.

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