Reflection: My Encounter with the Fear of Success

[3-Minute Read + Video] Out of the blue this week, I had an intense urge to Spring clean—never mind that it's Autumn. Why the odd behaviour? I crossed paths with a new mental foe.

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Reflection: My Encounter with the Fear of Success

Out of the blue this week, I had an intense urge to Spring clean—never mind that it’s Autumn. Why the odd behaviour? I crossed paths with a new mental foe.

VIDEO INTRO: Kirrily Dear chats about her encounter with the fear of success.

I know the fear of failure.

I’m on first-name terms with the fear of failure. For 46 years, it lurked in the shadows of my bold plans, ready to pounce if I ever appeared vulnerable. Its steel claws would dig into my confidence, making me doubt myself and lose sight of my goals. It thwarted my progress with procrastination, hesitation, and avoidance.

I now have a daily routine that has removed the fear of failure from my life. It goes like this.

I take one small step, learn from it, and then repeat.
One small step.
Learn one thing.
One small step.
Learn one thing.

The small steps reduced the risk of progress and increased my learning. As I practised the method, the iterations became faster, accelerating my productivity and rate of achievement.

But a puzzle caused a new foe to rise.

In 2020, an idea captivated me.

I wondered what it would take to have a business where I could invest $1 and, within a week or two, have $1.25, $1.50, $2.50, or more back in my pocket.

Answering that question would require me to build a business vastly different from the ones I had developed before. They were all service-focused, with slow-burn, long-term returns.

I set boundaries within which the answer had to reside:

  • it had to be legal
  • sustainable
  • congruent with who I am
  • add value to people’s lives, and
  • low overhead.

The scenario presented a challenging puzzle, and my brain loves puzzles.

I explored a wide range of product ideas, from jewellery to diaries and everything in between. I investigated accessing populations larger than Australia, such as North America, right at the time that COVID-19 caused horrendous shipping issues. It was like living through a masterclass in risk management on my laptop!

For years, I have had pieces of possibility and remnants of ideas scattered across my desk and mind.

I worked out what I could offer, the product’s structure, how to position the value, the target market and how to acquire leads. I learned to test before building and to simplify relentlessly. Week after week, I kept forging ahead, building, learning, and improving.

Developing a business with all my must-haves felt like tackling a 1000-piece puzzle without the box cover. Yes, other companies offered sparks of inspiration, but that only got me so far. It painted a vague idea, an outline, but the success would be in nailing the fine details.

Then, yesterday, I finally drew a picture of how the pieces fit together. I saw the end game for the first time.

And that, I found out, is a scary prospect.

It’s a weird feeling.

As I stared at the culmination of my three-year-long effort, anxiety tingled under my skin.

I downed my notepad, beelined for the kitchen and began scrubbing. Me! Scrubbing!

The pantry had been screaming for a Spring clean since, well, Spring, and it’s now Autumn. The fridge shelves wanted scrubbing, too. I could feel tears welling behind my cheekbones, ready to shoot up into my tear ducts and expose my self-doubt.

The fear wasn’t of the answer being wrong, no. It was the overwhelming realisation that I had cracked the puzzle. I stared at the solution, ready and ripe in front of me, and the implications scared me.

I wondered if it’s the same feeling physicists get when they work on a formula for years and then, with one stroke of their chalk (okay, I’m visualising a romantic version of the scene), the answer appears before them.

At that moment, it felt like the Earth had tilted on its axis, and a new Season begun. It was beautiful, perfect, and full of promise, yet it also carried with it unpredictable weather.

That feeling sent my mind reeling.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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