Fear can be a limiting factor to your success—if you let it.
Most often, facing your fear means facing the risk of failure and learning to take failure as a learning opportunity rather than the end of the road. The greatest rewards come from the greatest risks, and being able to face your own fears and forge past them will help you achieve your highest potential.
Fear of failure keeps many of us from taking those big risks that can really move our careers and our businesses ahead. But if we listen to our fears, understand where they come from, and tackle them head-on, they can be powerful drivers of success.
I have failed many times across my life and my career. I have learned from each failure, big and small. My greatest lesson has been not to let my fear hold me back. By embracing fear and facing it, I’ve found I can channel even more energy into moving forward—whether that means getting up and speaking in front of 16,000 people in an arena, having a difficult conversation, or tackling a bold business challenge.
Make the most of your fears
At the 2016 Worldwide Partner Conference, partners and I shared our stories of experiencing fear at the Women in Technology charity luncheon, hosted by the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) Women in Technology. Our guest speakers generously shared their stories of fear and how they overcame, went around, tunneled under, and blasted through it to become powerful leaders.
You can hear my story and the speakers’ stories on our on-demand video of the WIT luncheon, but in the meantime, here are some of my favorite golden nuggets of wisdom from our time together:
The idea of boldness came up several times during the luncheon. Not aggressive, not fearless, but bold. To me, being bold means acknowledging that your fear exists, identifying and assessing the reasons for it, making a plan to overcome the risks, and moving forward with confidence in yourself and your plan. Now that’s a recipe for success.
As accomplished as she is, Sarah Gray, Senior Director of Global Channel and Retail Marketing of Jabra, admits to suffering from self-doubt, like all of us do. But Sarah has developed a formula for being bold and achieving her ambitions that has propelled her to the top of her field, which she shared with us at the luncheon:
Know your goals. Small and simple or big and scary, accomplishing goals gives us a belief in ourselves. Have a plan to get you where you’re going, and don’t let the hurdles hold you back.
Have supporters. Build a network of family, mentors, and colleagues who encourage you to be bold. Find them, leverage them, let them carry you through bad times, and return the favor when you can.
Pay it back. Help others achieve their goals. Sarah says she looks for the shining stars in her organization and helps them identify and reach their potential.
Celebrate success. As Sarah pointed out at the luncheon, it’s easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel of constantly taking on the next challenge without taking a moment to celebrate our victories and the victories of others.
Have an ambitious growth mindset
Jo Burston, Managing Director at Job Capital and Inspiring Rare Birds, has a vision to inspire one million more women entrepreneurs globally, and a mission to give every woman the opportunity to become an entrepreneur by choice. And, she’s got the credentials to help make it happen—with all she’s done, it’s hard to imagine Jo ever being afraid.
Here are some of her personal lessons on being ambitious and having a growth-oriented mindset as an entrepreneur:
Listen to your ah-ha moments. I completely agree with this. What we think of as instinct or gut feeling is just another kind of intelligence, trying to make itself heard. Listen to it!
Ambition is not defined by job title. Jo talked about ambition as either a very self-centered “hungry ghost” that you chase or as being fueled by a purpose and a desire to have a positive impact. I love the idea of putting our ambition in service to others, not just ourselves.
Ambition isn’t just what you feel. According to Jo, ambition also comes from what others see in you. It’s so important to surround yourself with people who will challenge and inspire you to be your best.
Ambition is behind what you see. It takes a lot of work and resilience to achieve big goals, and that’s where ambition really lies—in that commitment and persistence to doing that hard work.
Mistakes happen, so grow from them. Success doesn’t come easily, and the journey to reach our goals isn’t always pretty. We make mistakes—sometimes big, loud, expensive mistakes—but we can learn and grow if we give ourselves space and forgiveness to do it.
Don’t fear growth. Jo challenged us to ask ourselves, who do we want to be as we grow? We’re all always capable of growing more, and this question helps remind me that every day is a new opportunity for growth.
Use fear as a guide
Finally, Leasa Mayer, President of CRG Events, the organization behind much of WPC’s logistical success, took us on a transformative journey. We thought about a time when fear paralyzed us, silenced us, held us back. I could vividly remember how I felt when it happened to me—not just the fear, but the disappointment I had in myself when I let my fear control the moment, and me.
Then we talked together about how that moment would have been different had we faced that fear head on, and Leasa offered us a challenge to do just that. For the next six months, instead of regarding fear as a limitation, a black hole we might fall into, or a dragon we had to fight, we should think of fear as a “clarion call of opportunity.” We should rush in rather than away. For the next six months of the “Fear Experiment Challenge,” we should see fear as a signpost pointing us in the direction to go (or not to go).
Like everyone else in that room, I committed to Leasa’s challenge to use my own fear as a guide, not a limitation. Will you?
Our customers, our marketplaces, our industry is changing—and we must change, as well. If we are willing to be bold and change with it, then success is within our reach. As our luncheon host, Julie Simpson, said at the conclusion, “There is nothing more indestructible than a determined woman.”
I think that applies to all of us, men and women alike. When we harness the power of fear, we become bolder, we grow, and we eliminate limitations.
How do you use your fear to drive your success? Share with us in the comments below!