Balancing the Fear of Failure and the Drive for Success

I recently read this quote on, of all places, an elevator network screen: “Don’t let your fear of failure become larger than your drive for success.” I didn’t catch the author, but nonetheless what a great thought it is. All too often we allow fear of failure to paralyze us. We allow it to dash our dreams and strip us of potential success. My initial reaction, and maybe yours as well, is that we shouldn’t allow this to happen. But as I thought more about it, I came to realize that fear can sometimes be a good thing.

The key is really in balancing fear and a drive for success. When one becomes larger, or more dominant than the other, we don’t see and evaluate opportunities accurately. Both extremes are dangerous. We need to be able to identify when one is taking control. Fear should indeed sometimes prevent us from moving ahead on bad decisions. A drive for success should also sometimes propel us forward to seize an opportunity, despite fearing failure. Both are required.

Using fear to your advantage

Although fear causes passivity, an aggressive drive for success brings reactivity. It can lead to snap decisions and often disastrous outcomes. When it’s used constructively, fear can provide just the right counterbalance needed.

Here’s what to do. Allow your fear to drive you to ask questions, assess closely, conduct better research and plan more diligently. As fear balances the drive for success, it should lead to improved quality, better products and services and stronger financial performance. Fear of failure should be a force that drives passion and innovation.

The first step in getting these two extremes in balance is to recognize when they’re out of balance. It’s less complicated than you might think. Too many missed opportunities? Fear. Too many failures? Too large a drive for success. Balance needs to be restored when either situation exists.

Fear vs. a drive for success, it can be a delicate balance. But it’s one that must be maintained.

Author: Steve Sonn

Steve Sonn is the Principal of S2 Marketing Communications. He has more than 25 years of marketing and PR experience with health care and business-to-business companies.

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