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  • Frank Fortner

The Secret To Destroying Your Fear of Failure


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I've got a secret to share, but it's not for everyone. For example, if you are a narcissist, please don't waste your time reading this. I'll spare you a few minutes and you can get back to the business of ... well, you. For everyone else, I'd like to let you in on one of the best-kept secrets that will not only help you smash your fear of failure but allow you to be more successful in whatever you put your hand to. As a bonus, I'll get right to the point. This simple and time-tested secret, in the moment where your fear of failure stands to sabotage your success, is to take your focus off of yourself and put it on those you are serving. Let me explain...


While traveling for a consulting engagement this week, I learned that my Uber driver was also an aspiring stand-up comedian and we got onto the subject of how some folks (even comics) can experience stage fright. I told him that I also did a fair bit of public speaking in business and also in my personal life as I lead the singing/music in my church on Sundays. That means that I stand in front of a large group of folks on a weekly basis, talking, singing, praying, playing the guitar. There's a LOT that can go wrong, and when I was younger, like many, I would get nervous every time I spoke or sang in public. I remember my hands literally shaking as I held the microphone. What if said something dumb? What if I sang the wrong note? What if I did a "Nick Jonas" on the guitar? (poor guy) All of that could be terrifying AND crippling because it took the focus off why I was there and put it all on me.

That all changed one day, and I wish I could say it was in my twenties, but unfortunately it took many years for me to stumble across this secret which I'm freely giving to you now in the hope that it will save you some time. The bottom line is when my desire to serve the group I was speaking/singing to outweighed my fear of failure, there was no more fear of failure. Read that sentence again to let it sink in. When I focused on them, on their needs, on why they were in attendance, and what they were hoping to take away, I didn't have any time left to spend worrying about what could go wrong with me because I was consumed by how I could best deliver what they needed in the short time I had their attention. From that moment on, it was like a switch was flipped.


The other amazing thing about this well-kept secret is that your intention automatically comes across to an audience, and so not only do you destroy your fear of failure, but your success is also likely to increase! James Muir, in his book, "The Perfect Close" talks about how good intention is far better than good technique. This is because people can sense your intention as your body language gives it away - amazingly, even if you try to hide it! There is a lot of science behind this that I'm not credentialed enough to explain, but every one of us has experienced it in another person because our brains are wired to pick up on the subtle ways our bodies convey intent. If I sense you are "for" me, I'm likely going to be for you.


Back in the Uber... I told my new comedian friend that if I were in his business (which isn't going to happen because I'm not that funny) I would still take the exact same approach. I'd watch as people came into the club/venue. I'd look at that young married couple who seem a little bit stressed after a long week and think about what their story might be. Maybe they have a new baby or young children at home and this is the first time they've been out together in months. Maybe they desperately need some time away (together) and to just relax, and to laugh and remember they're not only caregivers, but they're humans too with their own set of needs. Odds are, many people walking in on any given night could be in a tough place in life, and maybe they picked a comedy club because they needed an escape from the gravity of their circumstances. More importantly, they're trusting ME with their precious time - which may be the ONLY leisure time they're going to get for another few months. This isn't about me anymore. I want to help them. I want to serve them. In some small way, I want to leave them better than I found them. Now, where is there room for me to be thinking about me?


My driver was blown away by the concept. He admitted to never having thought about it in those terms, but it was clear he was going to be chewing on this for a while. What about you? What are you afraid of failing at? How is your fear getting in the way of your success? My advice (and there is no downside here btw) is to stop wasting time on negative thoughts of what could go wrong and instead concentrate your thoughts and energy on how you can best meet the needs of those you serve. Be empathetic to why they need your services in the first place. Your intention will shine through. You will be successful, one way or another. Finally, don't be surprised if someday, some curious person asks you what your secret is.

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