I think for most of my life I have struggled with a fear of failure. It started to develop around age 15 or 16. At that time, I became more aware of my basketball skills and the realization of being one of the best players in the country (Italy) for people my age added an inward expectation that was very high and that didn’t allow the possibility of failure. I was also away from home and had very little family support around me. In addition to the distance, my family understood little or nothing about the sport and in general they seemed more afraid of what the potential success could have brought on my life than then being excited. Therefore, I looked to the basketball community of teammates and their families to give me feedback on my performance. I never looked internally. I didn’t have a “true north” to measure myself. Looking for feedback from the crowd is a bad place to find affirmation. It’s fickle. It’s worthless.
Recently, having started this new venture with Booy Insights, I’ve have a vision in my mind of what I want to do accomplish. Yet, I notice that the fear of failure continues to lurk around. Here is an email that I sent my pastor after he asked me how things were going with the new business:
“Have you ever worked on an art project that you really didn’t feel like explaining to others because you weren’t really sure where it was going and you weren’t sure others would understand and you were pretty sure you couldn’t really explain it well anyway? Or because you didn’t know if you would be able to finish it and succeed (whatever version of success you have in your mind)?
When I’m asked about work, that’s where I find myself.
I’m convinced what I’m doing today is what I’m supposed to do today. It may change tomorrow, but based on my efforts in looking for other work, my experiences leading up to this point, the success of my trading, my conversations with people in the industry and my natural desire to know more about “stuff,” this is the clearest path that I can find. I think I have a responsibility to work hard in that direction, manage money wisely, and trust in [God’s] provision.
Underneath this intellectual and spiritual conviction there is a ton of insecurity: do I really know what I’m doing? What business model should I pursue? How do I get started? Who will buy this stuff?
I have the big picture in mind, but the devil (and the insecurity) is in the details and in the fear of failure. Failure to not be able to finish. Failure to provide for the fam. All of that.”
All of that is real. It can be paralyzing.
My former boss used to say, “the first step to neutralize fear is to name it!“
No truer words were ever spoken. I’m naming it. For now and posterity. Fear is real and today, it’s fading.