Don’t Let Fear of Failure Prevent You from Starting

May 18, 2012

We all enjoy success and the desire to succeed over failing is definitely a motivator, but we shouldn’t let fear overwhelm us or limit our growth, either. If we are going to stretch ourselves and reach new heights, we need to push our limits -- without getting in over our heads.

There’s a balance that needs to be struck. We need to have far-reaching, motivational goals, but we shouldn’t be placing self-imposed limitations on our potential. We need to nurture our ambition to scale new mountains without reaching for too much, too soon, because being overwhelmed can cause us to give up.

You can’t make the cut from novice to expert in one leap. But you can develop expertise over a period of time through dedicated effort and coaching from others who have developed expertise. And yes, you’ll experience some failures – let’s call them setbacks – along the way. Some of those setbacks may be out of you control while others will reveal your current limitations. It is up to you to reflect and learn what you need to do to expand your capabilities to move past them. Success doesn’t happen by accident (most of the time); you need a game plan.

Defining success and planning for it is critical. For example, do you define success as publishing a book or publishing a best-seller? These days it is an easy thing to self-publish – which meets the success criteria of “publishing a book.” It is quite another goal – a more ambitious one that requires greater planning – to publish a best seller.

You could start pecking away at writing your book now, putting everything that you have into it. If you lack any prior writing experience, you could be setting yourself up for failure. You’re trying to make lightening strike – not that it doesn’t happen every once in a while, but the odds are not in your favor. Very few first-time authors make it big on their first try.

Instead, you could channel that ambition by writing some articles (or blogs, or both). This gives you the opportunity to develop your writing talent while you simultaneously learn about what appeals and sells to your target market. In doing so you will receive candid feedback early and often so that you can learn and adapt – an opportunity that you won’t have by writing a book in isolation. Plus you’ll be building name recognition along the way that will contribute to your overall goal of writing that best-seller.

Don’t be afraid to dream big, just don’t be afraid to start! Be honest with yourself and seek to reveal your current limitations, then reflect and determine what you need to do to improve and moved past those limitations. It’s not about limiting your potential or your aspirations; it’s about realizing a long-term goal in stages, evolving and improving our capabilities over time to reach that new place. Whatever you do, don’t be left sitting on the sidelines watching and wishing that you had taken action!

I’ve found that I really enjoy writing, and I feel that I’ve been refining and improving my writing these past few years with this blog. And while I’ve published some articles here and there the past few years as well, my current aspiration is to increase my work as a professional writer. This means writing more articles and writing a book or two (I have some ideas). My plan is this:
  • Since I’m still working and time is scarce, I need to cut my posting to once per week on this blog. (In order to do new things, it helps to make room to do them.) I’m going to shift to Wednesday postings.
  • I’ll continue to post once per month on VersionOne’s Agile Management Blog.
  • I’ll start writing and publishing articles, targeting to publish half-a-dozen per year.
  • I’ll write a small eBook and self-publish that before the summer is out.
  • I’ll develop an outline and a few sample chapters of another book by the end of the year.
I don’t expect to publish a best-seller, but I do hope for modest sales, and my goal is to publish a book that readers find valuable. That’s my game plan, what is yours?