In early 2011, I quit my job and started The Workshop Company. It was a simple idea that morphed from my experience working at an events company and from conversations with several friends. The core concept of The Workshop Company was to create and design engaging, entertaining and memorable training sessions that were intensely experiential and interactive.
In 2011- 2012 were such great years for my business, I experienced success. Not only was I the CEO of my company but I was also marketer, logistics, driver, finance, graphic designer, and sales person. I was doing everything and I was slowly burning out but I loved everything about the work and kept at it. Soon I had three workshops running concurrently each worth Kes. 200,000/= (USD 20,000) per workshop.
I started getting offers for partnerships, from big wigs like Eat out and Melvins Tea , through my social media marketing efforts I managed to get myself several interviews with local TV stations and even got featured in a international Luxury magazine. I remember feeling really excited but also really anxious, every time I would run a workshop I would wait to hear I failed! But, I always received positive feedback. Word spread and I had a really good 2012.
At the end of that year, I was going to finish my workshop with quite the bang. I organised a final Film Is Fun workshop out of town complete with make-up, food and models. We only had 20 slots available and we had to turn away some people. It was unexpected and instead of revealing in my success, I ran away from it. Here is where my fear of success crept in, I became anxious all the time and eventually I was so convinced that I was going to do something to sabotage my success that I stopped doing my workshops.
FACING THE FEAR
I came upon a Facebook post by one of my friends and photographer Jeri Muchura who began the conversation about the fear of success and why we self-sabotage. The post garnered several comments from friends and other creative entrepreneurs who had been struggling to understand why or how to break that away from this fear of success I sought those answers myself because we all know how to how not to fail, we all know how to get up when we fail but no one explained to us about how to react to the fear and anxiety brought on by success.
As I was writing this article I looked up how the body responds to fear, and one article I read basically described how I felt at the time. When we sense or feel fear, our brain transmits signals and our nervous system kicks in, causing our breathing to quicken, our heart rate to increase we become sweaty and on instinct we activate fight or flight mode. When we get happy, excited or enthusiastic our bodies react the same way. I realised that the whole point of actually doing something that you really want to achieve and then achieving that goal is mind blowing and equally as scary.
The conversation lead to a meeting with like-minded creatives at a top-secret location facilitated by David Muriithi who trains and mentors creative entrepreneurs. The session largely focused on how as creatives we self-sabotage, especially when things fall into place, we find ourselves holding back or putting off or even unconsciously sabotaging the next step that will allow you to reach your goal. Several in the group agreed when that faced with reality, what was actually holding them back was an unspoken fear of what might actually happen should they succeed.
Most of the time we set deadlines, create to-do lists, write marketing plans, network like crazy and tell people about our incredible ideas. Nothing else is in the way of getting us to where we want to go, except self-sabotage — the pesky excuses why we didn’t get something done, telling ourselves mediocre is good enough or believing that huge goal we set is just too big. This person looking back at you creating the fake list of excuses is the only person standing in your way. When we self-sabotage, you can’t blame your family, upbringing, spouse, kids, circumstances or clients. It’s your fault, not theirs. It’s not because we can’t do the big thing; it’s just because we are afraid of the results. Fear of Success!
WHAT IS FEAR OF SUCCESS?
“Fear of Success” (FOS) is not an uncommon trait among creatives, Martina Horner, a lead psychoanalyst researched widely on the concept and determined that “Fear of Success” (FOS) is based on psychoanalytical assumptions of an unconscious emotional pain – fear- that is holding the person back from goal accomplishment because of the consequences of success. She mentions that the need to do well are intrinsically related with the need for appreciation and acknowledgement of success. Meaning, we all need to be told good job! By someone in order to validate our success or we will be in constant fear of achieving our true potential.
One of the questions that stuck out to me was, “What does success look like to me?”
Success can be an ethereal thing unless you can define it. Getting clear on your goals is key to know what success looks like. You need to be aware of how high you need to reach, what goals you need to achieve to accommodate your ceiling. So why are you so afraid? Because as the owner of your own company, you are only accountable to yourself and your clients but as the CEO of a bigger company, your commitment is no longer to yourself but it is to other individuals who are trusting you to deliver on your company’s goals. That’s the real fear!
During the session, I realised that the real fear of success isn’t a feeling it’s more like a check point on a journey toward achieving those goals. When you actually recognise this, achievement, it beats us up almost as badly as failure because it makes us dig deep, stretch past our comfort zones makes us face our flaws and also face the dysfunction this FOS brings to our lives. This constant thinking that success might bring change, doesn’t allow us to see past the abyss of mediocrity. However, once we begin to embrace the joy of success it means we are now aware that we are willing to pay the price of moving forward and that this will change your life, business, thoughts and days for the better.