Being Afraid of Success…A Few Thoughts

Me in Dublin, TX - in front of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Companys located there

Me in Dublin, TX – in front of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company located there

Over the past few months, I have been doing a lot of meditations and long-thought processes over who I am, where I am on my own Path in life, and why I am. Not exactly light topics to say the least. There are parts of my past that I am not very proud of.  The days of hard-drinking, trying to forget myself in a bottle.The manner in which I chose to separate myself from the United States Air Force — I could have done so far more elegantly than I did. The poor relationship I find myself in with my blood relatives – though the reasoning for it is very sound, and puts me in a far more positive place than the alternative would have.  There are parts of my Path in life that leave me very happy for what I achieved. The day I pinned on my Non-Commissioned Officer rank. When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree – nineteen years after I finished high school next to last in my class’ overall GPA rankings. When I graduated with the first of my two Masters degrees, becoming the first member of my blood-related family to achieve a graduate degree.  But those are merely moments that help comprise who I am today.

Every morning that I wake up, I am a culmination of everything that has happened to that point.  Good, bad, indifferent. Each of those moments have helped me become the person I am today. And each of those moments help me mask who I am from the world around me. That’s right, there’s more to me underneath all of that – and that’s what I have been focused on for the past few months. So, let’s take a little look at a piece of all that which I feel needs to see the light of day. And its not something I am overly proud of.

Underneath all of the wrappings, underneath all of the various accomplishments that I have had – and underneath all of the failures I have achieved as well – is an individual that is frightened.  Scared to death of success.  I can hear some of the laughter arising from folks over that statement.  What the Nine Hells do I have to fear about being successful?  Doesn’t every person dream of achieving success at the things that they do? I know – it sounds like something completely stupid. Enough so, that I have told myself over the decades (I am nearly 50 ya’ll) that my fear of being successful was just my way of justifying failure.  And to be honest, there may actually be something to that.  Its a part of this that I have not yet fully explored – and am not sure I will ever truly know the answer before I pass beyond the veil. But it is there, and its something I live with constantly.

I hate being praised openly. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. I don’t have desires of being THE person in my company at anything. I have desires of being the anonymous face in the crowd that keeps things running and doesn’t get noticed for what is done. I am far more comfortable talking in terms of “team” than I am in terms of “me”. In today’s “me”-centered society – I realize that I am an outlier in the bell curve – so to speak. I am happiest when a member of my team – other than myself – is singled out for accolades and applause. I m extremely proud when that happens, and tend to be the biggest cheerleader of all during those moments. But when its just me, thrust into the white-hot spotlight, I have a tough time of it.

I hear from a lot of people that I have leadership qualities – and I agree, I do have that. However, I am not a jump out and charge forward type of leader.  I am the kind of leader that talks to people quietly, and steps forward WITH them, not in FRONT of them. Going forward means we step forward TOGETHER, not as individuals.

And yet, here I am – talking about this openly. Stepping out – in a slight manner of speaking – into the spotlight.  Well, of sorts.  The internet makes it easier to be somewhat anonymous. So my being ill-at-ease with this is lessened to a greater degree. I still get nervous when I do the podcast — I sometimes feel uncomfortable in front of the microphone on my computer – and all I am doing is just talking. Even in the classroom, I have felt somewhat twitchy standing in front of nearly thirty students – talking about computers, the internet, data, and databases.

So, I have sat for the last few months and thought about this.  I could stand up, pump my fist in the air, and proclaim that I am going to wipe the floor with this feeling!  I am going to kick its ass to the curb and move forward in a positive manner in my life! And while those words look great – the reality is that I would still have that feeling – being scared to succeed. Some may say that I have already managed to succeed just by writing this blog post. Perhaps that’s true. But I still have the fear of success.

There are tangible things, in my mind, to worry about with success.  Much of that comes from money. After all, in western society, we are taught from a young age that success and money go hand-in-hand. If we are successful at what we do – money gets thrown down upon us, like some ticker-tape parade that trumpets our triumphs to the world. But to be honest, that does not happen nearly as much as a lot of people think. People can be successful at what they do – and still receive a pittance of pay for it. Which lets me breathe a sigh of relief. I have no desire for large sums of money – I merely want enough to be comfortable. Able to pay my bills, groceries, gas, and have a little bit leftover to do other things with my spare time. I have no desire to live the life of a rich person – purchasing things that I have no need for. I just merely want to be able to afford what I need – and then a small amount more.  Nothing extravagant. Nothing outrageous. To me, that would be financial success, but that’s only part of the equation.

Perhaps its just me growing older, but I define success far differently than I used to.  Success is being able to take time off from my job – and head out into the woods for a weekend, where I can look up at the stars on a clear night. Success is being able to take trips to places I have always wanted to be – experience the Spirits of the Land there, and possibly meet with friends I have only talked with online. Success is just being who I am meant to be — and that has nothing to do with job status, or how much I get paid. And in thinking along those lines – I am not as scared of being successful.

To be honest, I will also be a little twitchy about meeting people who read my blogs and hear my podcast episodes, and describe themselves as “a fan”. Perhaps, I need to change my perception of that moment – and see it as an opportunity to have the person see themselves not as “my fan” – but rather as “my friend”. Sure, its a manner of semantics – a little word play, if you will – but in the end, I would rather have friends than fans – though people I meet could certain fall into both categories…that is if I wanted to play the “labels” game….


One thought on “Being Afraid of Success…A Few Thoughts

  1. Some of it is you being older.. Some of it is the “image” that is connected with the Word. I am have a simlar issue with the training class I am in for a new job. They call it “soft sales”.. but it was what I grew up with as Customer service. and all the “sales” buzz words are driving me crazy and to be honest making me unconformable. I seriously don’t consider myself a Salesperson in any form. So the “power” of the feeling is with the use of the word.. and everything you associated with it. Find another word that is simlar and doesn’t have the bad vibes for you. At least that my 2 cents on the topic. Personanly I think you well rounded.. have common sense and very thoughful. so that make you a success in my book. most importantly be happy with yourself. As for getting up in front of people to talk. lol.. my first “public” talk way presenting some changes to the VP of the bank I worked for. that was so much fun lol. Just keep working on it.. you will get over it. It not much different than leading a ritural.. just in how the people are standing/sitting.
    Blessings Tommy.. hang in there.


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