Fear of Success Anonymous
This is going to sound like a joke but it’s absolutely true. I once joined Fear of Success Anonymous, aka FOSA. This was in Los Angeles; almost all the group members were actors or screenwriters. The group got so popular it had to disband.
I remember driving home from the final meeting, thinking, “I’ve gotta solve this issue on my own. Fear of Success by definition can never succeed!”
What keeps you and me from finishing a book, a startup, a screenplay? I think it’s tribal. It’s not our fault. It’s in our DNA.
Consider the cave man, the foot soldier of the primitive hunting band. (This applies to the cave woman too.) Remember, the tribal era constitutes 99.999% of our evolutionary time as human beings. In the tribe, the greatest terror was expulsion. Getting kicked out of the cave was a death sentence.
What crime would get us expelled from the tribe? Standing out. Being different. This makes sense, right? In a world of fearsome predators, the tribe has to stick together. It can’t afford some crazy guy or gal who’d rather paint cave walls than stand all-night guard against saber-tooth tigers.
That terror of expulsion resides in our bones. It doesn’t matter that we now work at Google and live in a third-floor walkup in Williamsburg. We’re still scared to death of standing out, of being the tall stalk that gets lopped off by the workman’s scythe.
Our novel, our startup, our screenplay … what if it’s REALLY GOOD? What if we ourselves actually possess talent? What if we’re Lady Gaga?
OMG! The tribe kicks us out and we get stomped to death by a woolly mammoth!
Sounds ridiculous, I know, but I swear to God that’s the emotion that flashes across our Unconscious as we tee up the .pdf of the Elizabethan family saga we’ve labored on for four years and our finger pauses over the SEND key.
How do we do it? How do we overcome our terror of finishing, how do we beat our Fear of Success?
The answer, again, can be nothing other than Will. Somehow we have to teach ourselves to jam our eyes shut, suck in a deep breath, and jump off the cliff.