What Becomes the Long Way Home

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When setting goals, creating marketing plans, or moving boldly in the direction of innovation, there is a strange force that holds some entrepreneurs back-that repeatedly makes the long road home more becoming. That strange force is simply fear.

Fear is what stops many entrepreneurs from actually achieving the level of success they state they aspire to.

It’s an odd and somewhat counter intuitive notion really. On the surface most entrepreneurs are fearless, if they weren’t they would have stayed in the comfy confines of the cubicle.

But, entrepreneurs don’t suffer from a fear of failure; they suffer more often, in my experience, from a fear of success.

And this fear manifests itself in self-defeating behaviors such as failing to move in the direction of a true point of differentiation – to stand out and be noticed for being different than everyone else in their industry.

  • Grabbing onto the marketing idea of the week instead of building a marketing strategy and brand through a solid and consistent commitment to proven tactics.
  • Starting down one path of innovation only to give up on it before the idea takes shape enough to support the brand.
  • Allowing the unimportant, the seemingly urgent, to crowd out strategic marketing work
  • Continuously swooping in to derail the flow of work from employees
  • Abdicating the full understanding of the cash, financial reporting, and accounting metrics to a numbers person
  • Holding on to work, and sometimes a sense of worth, that should be delegated
  • Thinking you are too credible to ask for help
  • Dismissing new technologies as something too hard for you to grasp
  • Eating, sleeping and drinking too much – or any other behavior that keeps you where you are today, or in other words – Taking the long road to the point where it becomes the only road.

So, do any of the above statements make you feel a little anxious? Are you perfectly comfortable right where you are?

I actually hope I’ve pissed you off because then maybe you can start to explore ways to embrace some change and chaos in your life as tools to fight the fear of success.

There are plenty of reasons the fear of success lingers, even as you strive for your goals. For many it’s simply not really knowing how they will handle success, or who they will become. Sometimes there are people in your life that secretly don’t want you to achieve new levels – are you trying to please one of those?

I really didn’t intend to get all Dr. Phil on you today, but I’ve seen people finally grasp this idea and all of sudden they realize there’s a shortcut they’ve been overlooking for years. Success is the ultimate inside job and until you understand this, it will elude.

This first step is to accept this problem may exist. Then, and only then, can you begin to craft a vision of what true success looks like for you and what you are willing to stop doing in order to achieve it.

Next, find someone or something that can hold you accountable. For some this may be as simple as setting and clearly defining goals and action items. For others, this may mean finding and engaging a coach or mentor.

An accountability measure like an executive coach, marketing coach, success coach, mastermind group or whatever you want to call it, can be the difference between staying stuck where you are and moving forward. There’s something about knowing someone is going to be checking up on you and calling BS when you don’t quite get things done.

And finally, create your success plan, your picture of where you are headed, document it and add real numbers, milestones and action steps then give that plan to someone who is committed to pushing you past your fear of success and showing you the secret path home.

And now I would like to issue a challenge as a way to get you thinking toward making 2009 different.

Pick one simple thing you know you need to do to achieve marketing or business success and publicly state that will do it – right here in the comments. Use the readers of this blog as your first accountability booster. Stretch a little and make sure that your commitment makes you sweat just to think about and you’ll be on the right path.


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  1. One of the most difficult things for me to do is write on a consistent basis. I have always been a “doer” not a writer.

    My goal for 2009 is to complete my first book! That is a stretch but by the end of December I am going to have an outline and a mindmap drawn of the entire book. I know it will change as I dig deeper but most plans do, don’t they!

    I was thinking about this looking at the snow outside and got your tweet, how appropriate. Thanks!

  2. @Joe – okay then, I’ll hold you to it – I’ll hang on to this post as the comments come in and do a follow-up one year from today!

  3. Great post, John. When I get anxious, I try to separate myself from the anxiety and analyze where it is coming from. It usually signifies that I’m on the right track and something great is about to happen! My business coach has helped me tremendously in the past month to work through these issues.

  4. The research on commitment shows clearly that if you write down what you are committing to and share it publicly it changes your behavior, so this is great idea to have people write in on these commitments. I just finished writing a book (follow up on person above who said that was what the were committing to) — Neuro Web Design: What makes them click (www.neurowebbook.com) and it started when I woke up one day last April and said, “I’m going to write a book on principles of persuasion applied to web design”, and then I sent several emails to friends saying I was going to (public commitment). That was 2008’s commitment I guess. To respond then John to your call for public statements, I’ll say that in 2009 I am going to learn how to effectively use online networking, blogging, viral marketing etc. I need to master the medium! Thanks for your post.

  5. i’ve had the best financial year ever in 2008. I sold my online business profitably, and that was a 10 years old business I’ve built. I just want to go over this in 2009. I want to make my blog my next business. Already made a scaffold for this: why I should write about, how often and in what style. I just need the metrics…

    So:

    1. I will go over 10k feed subscribers in 2009 (now 200).
    2. I will go over 50k monthly visitors in 2009 (now 4.5k).

    On the other hand, I just outlined my own definition about being successful.

    Thanks for a great post!

  6. Great post John

    Small businesses are in a much better position than they realise. There is usually a much short path between the “thinkers” and the “doers” – if fact they are often the same person.

    I’ve spent time inside and outside the corporate world. Small business should realise that being able to have an idea one day and being able to implement it the next is an extremely powerful advantage.

  7. Okay, this is pretty powerful article. I’m not sure that I’m at the fear of success stage personally (yet) which probably means I don’t have enough at risk in my life. My business and marketing services business has been operating for 7 years; this year I started my website. I am not a technical wiz, but I am a fast learner. My commitment is to write and publish a book within the next 8 months; and to sell it to 2% of my online and offline markets. Phew.

  8. Very good post. Fear of success is indeed a crippling affliction that we all have to battle at the best of times. Having primarily been self-employed over the past fourteen years, I can share many stories, but the gist remains the same.

  9. John, what you described are the characteristics of ADHD, an enigmatic, organic, disorder. Contrary to popular thought, it does not simply fade with age.

    (read between the lines)

    So, yeah, fear is a possibility. But it’s not the only one.

    As H. L. Mencken stated:
    “There is always an easy solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.”

  10. Definitely “exploring new technologies” has been my stumbling block and it is one that I’m determined to squeeze the fear out of. In fact, I embraced something new just today: Odiogo – a technology that allows people to subscribe to my blog feed and listen to the posts…it is so cool! It’s still a bit robotic sounding but the benefits of being able to offer a way for people to listen to a blog post when they might not have time or ability to read it is awesome. Kind of turns every blog post into a podcast.

  11. Many people give up before their idea reaches its 1st potential. It’s tough to keep on going. Even right now I see myself not being as satisfied because of the amount of people who view my blog. 6months ago I would be thrilled with how many new people are seeing it.

    Everything is about consistency and time. I know I’ll make it someday and if I think about I know I’m on the right path. So why the hell am I complaining!

  12. I agree with the statement that entrepreneurs often suffer from a fear of SUCCESS rather than a fear of failure. I have experienced this in my own business development. I think most people are afraid that if their business grows, they may not be able to keep up! I’ve been using John Assaraf’s kit Having It All to firm up my goals, and successfully achieve them. Here’s the website: http://www.johnassaraf.com/hia. Let me know what you think!

  13. John, I think a lot of people (many of my clients included) are afraid of criticism. They don’t want to upset someone by writing a controversial blog post, sending out edgy marketing, or simply deviating from the status quo. To be truly successful, you have to stop standing in the shadows and start creating your own shadow.

  14. I do 2-3 of them. I don’t consider them as fear of success. I think they are my laziness, inertia, personal weakness, etc. Whatever the reason, I need to get off my butt and change that:-)

  15. Yes there is an underlying fear of losing control. I ve had that happen with a offline business when I doubled my customer base overnight. Life became hell. With an online business, however, its much easier to put the tools in place first and go out sourcing as soon as the business takes off. So don’t be afraid of succeeding big time.

  16. I will dedicate myself to cycle of planning and executing. And my big goal for 2009 is to turn my love of procrastinating into a passion for being early.

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