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As a trained psychologist, I’ve always had this little internal “clinch” each time I hear someone say they fear success. It’s come in various forms over the years, most of the time as a way of explanation for why someone hasn’t achieved a certain goal or attained a particular milestone.

It came up for me today while I was at the gym, getting in my minutes of cardio. I couldn’t help but overhear one woman speaking to another (she was really loud) and the woman who was speaking (loudly) was sharing in detail, and at some length, about how and why she wasn’t that successful in her business.

She cited many reasons- lack of marketing knowledge, being ‘forced’ to take work she didn’t like in order to meet her expenses, that she ‘hated’ to market herself- and so on. She also cited a belief that people should see the inherent value in her products and just naturally want to buy. She ended this litany of reasons by saying, “Oh, and yes, I’m also afraid of success.”

Now, for my part, Thank God I was at the end of my workout and the treadmill was slowing down- because I just about fell off the machine when I heard this.

Without stepping into a place of judgment or criticism of her- I do want to note that out of everything she shared, ‘fear of success’ seems to the least likely of her troubles. Her business work habits are not supporting her- either personally or financially- and capping this off with a trite rationalization like, “I’m afraid of success.” is incredibly unfortunate.

In my experience, people who may have a fear of success usually demonstrate it unconsciously- leaving projects to the last minute, not spending enough time marketing, not asking for the sale- and so on. In these cases, these people may not know that they are uncomfortable with the prospect of being successful and so, somehow, always seem to sabotage it. Stated another way, these people may be more comfortable traveling the road than reaching the destination.

If you ask these people, they are more likely to say that ‘Yes, they do want to be successful, but something always seems to get in the way.’

This is very different than someone who says, “I’m afraid of success.”

I think the only reason I’m mentioning it is that it takes a bit of hard work to own and run your business. You must be able to demonstrate discipline and resilience. Sometimes you’ll end up doing work you don’t love to do. You might have to stretch out of your comfort zone to ask for the sale, or to follow up in order to make the sale.

The good news is that marketing knowledge is readily available. You always have a choice of what work you accept. You must market yourself if you want to be in business- period- and no product, no matter how good, can thrive without some marketing and sales skills.

My guess is that my gym-mate would feel very differently about her ‘fear of success’ if she was willing to take the steps to be successful.

Fear can not exist where action is present. Once you start taking action, your fear naturally changes.