Who is afraid of success?


Biliana Vassileva

Becoming an entrepreneur is neither easy nor straight forward. It is a complex and meandering journey. In fact, it is more than one. It encompasses parallel journeys that overlap. While some of them are obvious and well defined, others aren’t. I would like to draw your attention to an intangible journey. A journey through the territories of The Mind. Its starting point is not-being-successful-yet, while the endpoint is being-successful. Anna Vital calls it the journey through the Anti-Success Mentality.

What goes on in The Mind between the start and the end? If you are like me, the short answer is fear, the long answer is – many fears. In case you’ve already rejected this idea, stop reading. This article is not for you. You are one of the lucky few, who don’t lose time, mental nor emotional energy to become successful. But if you haven’t rejected the idea, please continue. You might discover that we have some things in common. So let’s begin.

The territory of the Mind’s journey is a complex network of fears. Interwoven fears, that don’t come in a particular order. And, which don’t promise to disappear once you’ve dealt with them. They are flexible and agile, able to re-surface in different shades and forms. When embarking on the entrepreneurial path, one of the first fears that show up is: I am not good enough. 

I call it the “blessing in disguise” of self-doubt. It is good to notice and take advantage of. While it can paralyze, it can also be a great driver for self-improvement and growth. A cool-headed check-in can do miracles. But, this is not usually the case, at least for me. I rarely manage to keep a cool head in the presence of self-doubt. My habitual reaction is freezing, hiding and ruminating. It takes me time to dare to show up again. And, this makes sense, because self-doubt links to the next stop on The Mind’s Journey.

Competing with others

As long as I am convinced, that I am not good enough, I need to know my bearings. Who is better? Who is not? Where do I stand? What are my leverage points? What are my disadvantages? The mental space defined by these questions keeps me on the watch. It hinders my ability to trust and connect. It prevents me from building healthy and collaborative relationships. The antidote to this way of perceiving oneself amongst others is empathy. Empathy helps recognize that they too go through similar turmoils. This realization helps us to connect. It helps us reestablish a common ground, and trust. It helps build collaborative synergies, instead of lonely and gated micro-empires.

We all know it. Right? We know that micro-empires don’t last. Do they? Hence, another great reason to fear. This time:

Fear of uncertainty, of the unknown

How long is my gated micro-empire going to last for? What will I do if it falls apart? When will it fall apart? The mental space created by these questions makes me freeze and feel anxious. The treatment against anxiety and the fear of the unknown is curiosity. What if instead of asking the questions above, I would ask myself, “What else could I create?” Once I start asking myself this question, I switch gears. I start innovating. I give myself permission to be creative, experiment and even be innovative.

Bright? Right? Yes! But No! Because experimentation and the fear of failure are two sides of the same coin. To be able to successful experiment, we need to be able to face and deal with our fear of failure. We need to be able to manage it. To define it.

Dear Fellow Entrepreneurs,

Define failure! Don’t let it define you. By defining failure you will be able to save time, mental & emotional energies. Not all failures matter equally. Know what matters & ease around what doesn’t. Once you’ve defined your failures you will be able to bounce back faster.

The conclusion

The great news about this complex network of fears is that each and every one of them is an entry point. An entry point into our habitual ways of thinking. It is an invitation to dig a bit deeper, and think critically, “Is my habitual way of thinking useful?” “Does it help me get to where you want to be?” To change our ways of thinking, all we have to do is notice what fear shows up to meet us.

The thing about fear is that it can only survive in darkness. It can only survive when we are in its grip when we hold on to it without being ready to look into its eyes. How do we look into the eyes of fear? Here is my simple three-step process:

• Name it! To tame it!

• Remember that fear and excitement trigger the same chemical reactions in our bodies.

• Change your questions to change the journey your on.

I hope this mapping of the territory of fears is useful. I hope it helps you move faster from not-being-successful-yet to being-successful. If nothing else, I hope you’ve realized that you are not alone on this journey. I am on it too. 

Biliana Vassileva 
Founder Swiss Failure + Academy