It’s Day 5 of reading Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro and today’s topic is about fear, specifically the fear of failure and the fear of success, and, ultimately, fear of becoming oneself.
In the section we read today, Pressfield goes into great length and detail about what exactly is an amateur and how an amateur’s defining characteristic is fear, most of all fear of becoming him or herself while paradoxically constantly seeking external validation or permission before acting. In this manner, he explains, the amateur knows that there are better things out there but instead they hide. While many people have a fear of failure or experience it, there can also be, at the same time, a fear of success. According to Pressfield, this is what blocks the amateur and it is something that must be conquered in our path to turning pro.
While a fear of failure is fairly obvious – we fear failing something (or someone), a fear of success is the opposite: those who have a fear of success fear what could happen if they do succeed and the outcome of their success, what responsibilities that might entail, etc. The usual action arising from these two conflicting feelings is no action at all, unless one decides to take the bull by the horns and do it anyway. Failure and success are two sides of the same coin; neither can happen without taking a risk.
Though I haven’t necessarily dealt with fear of success personally, I do know what fear of failure feels like and just how crippling it can be, as well as debilitating in that, sometimes, it could be so strong that, to avoid the potential sting of failure, I wouldn’t try at all or even do my best (the latter of which seems ironic; one would logically think the opposite – to do my best – would avoid failure). I’m not proud of it, but I have improved my attitude regarding failure and success and it is still evolving. In fact, it’s in the past three years that I have taken action toward accomplishing personal goals no matter the outcome – the accomplishment begins when I simply take action, whether it was volunteering or commitment to a project.
By facing our fear and taking action in spite of it, we move closer to becoming ourselves. The amateur is closely tied to their ego, therefore that supposed fear of external factors (failure, success) is really a reflection of their fear of how they will change, or the world’s perception of them, and the resultant accountability and responsibility they must take. As Pressfield writes, turning pro is nothing more than growing up, and sometimes part of growing up is learning how to conquer the monsters under the bed on our own.
Catch up on the previous days’ posts in this series: