The Fear of Success: What Do You Really Want


You want people to read your book. You want people to watch your movie. You want people to hear your music. But when it comes right down to it you’re not prepared to put forth the effort to obtain your goal.

That’s because you don’t want to be successful. You romanticize the idea of success. You think, ‘Well, it’d be really neat if someone read my book,’ but you do nothing to put it in front of their faces. You expect them to find it in the publish-on-demand dungeon of trite that is Amazon’s eBook section.

People want to be writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists, the list goes on… These are all difficult careers to become successful at, but it is not impossible. You pitying your own work, or not thinking that you’re good enough, is not going to get you anywhere. It takes passion, a willingness to learn, a certain amount of brains, a lot of cleverness, and plenty of networking just to get noticed.

Wanting something grandiose and settling for a smaller version of it is nothing to be ashamed of. Most people do just that. But ‘most people’ is not ‘all people’ and there is a way to escape mediocrity.

In order to be successful at anything you need to build friendships and connections. Building genuine reports with creative individuals who you not only like as people but believe in is very important. Everyone needs a foundation of support and no one can go it alone.

Unfortunately when you’re part of a team project–whether it be a film, a writing anthology, a band, or anything–people who are serious about what they want out of life will partner with people who merely think they’re serious about what they want out of life. More often than not, the latter group is not self-aware enough initially to even realize that they are not mentally capable of carrying the workload. And that’s where it becomes a problem.

You’re an actor, and your friend wants to make a movie with you in a supporting part. He’s been filming every single day for over a month and has Sunday open. He wants to film with you that day but… you’re working at Dairy Queen six days out of seven this week and were really looking forward to sleeping in late on Sunday. You’re not going to make it. And not only are you not going to make it but your lack of desire and will-power to get what you want is ultimately going to hurt those who are depending on you. So cut the bullshit.

If you’re involved in something and your excitement is at half-mast then bow out while there is still time. Do not sit there with your thumb up your ass, expecting it to go away because you feel like it’d be awkward to send a text saying, “Hey, sorry, something has come up and I really don’t think I can commit to this at this time.” Stop wasting other people’s time because you’re unsure of yourself.

However… if you think you’re capable of carrying the workload, and you want to reach a point of success in whatever it is you’re interested in doing–heed my words. Putting yourself in the right state of mind is the first step.

It’s important to actually believe in your abilities. Many young artists will be quick to tote themselves as poor at the craft or inexperienced prior to presenting their work. And that’s a huge mistake. If you don’t respect your work then why should I? What am I going to see here that you, the creator, hasn’t seen already? If you truly think your story sucks or that your painting is awful–why put it out for public consumption? You’re telling the audience how to feel because you lack of self-confidence and think that trashing yourself or your art will let you off the hook in case they don’t like it. In actuality, you’re sabotaging yourself.

Once you stop doing that and actually give yourself up to your passion, then you can begin to work on what it is you’d like to create. If you can see an ‘out’ to what it is you’re working on and do not view it in a black and white sense where you must complete your project, then don’t even bother.

Doubting yourself and lacking confidence at times is normal—it happens to everyone. What you must avoid, at all costs, is a feeling of complacency. Are you content with a perpetual state of limbo? Do you like the habit of going to your keyboard, opening Microsoft Word, and typing for a while before getting distracted by Facebook–or do you want to get shit done? The sooner you figure that out, the better.

If you manage to bypass distractions and block out overly-critical thoughts to the point where you complete what it is you set out to do–be warned, your work is not over. We all have different measures of success. Different things we want out of life. But they all require work.

You must operate multiple angles. Always be on your toes. Your dream can slip away if you’re not careful or observant enough. Study the foundations of others but also realize that no two paths are the same. The most you can do is hope that you’ll fall into a similar stream of luck as one of your influences.

And even after all that hard work–nothing is guaranteed. But that’s life. If you derive a simple pleasure from sitting down at your keyboard and adding to a manuscript that’ll never see the light of day–more power to ya. But if you thirst for something more than that… If you want to be good at something and be recognized for that, and have people absorb your thoughts and ideas through art, then you better prepare yourself for disappointment, hatred, anxiety, exhaustion, and a bucket of other negative emotions just to obtain that one moment of incomparable, absolute satisfaction where you can say, “I did it.”