Inkandescent Entrepreneur Show


Author, consultant, and executive coach Russell Bishop helps us determine "are you afraid of success?"

What if you could actually create the success you say you want in life? Could your fear of success get in your way? “The fear of failure is a somewhat common scapegoat in the world of excuses,” says Author, consultant, and executive coach Russell Bishop.

However, when confronting the myriad challenges we face in life, one oft-overlooked limiting factor might just be what some have called the “fear of success.”

That’s the topic we’ll be talking with Russell about on today’s episode of of the Inkandescent Entrepreneur Show on I’m Hope Katz Gibbs, your host.

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Are You Afraid of Success?

Hope Katz Gibbs: So among your many accomplishments you were a writer and editor for the Huffington Post where you crafted a series of articles on this topic. In them you suggest that fear of success and fear of failure can be very closely aligned. Can you explain why?

Russell Bishop: On the surface, this notion might seem ridiculous — what on Earth could be scary about success? But if you dig a bit below the surface, you might discover some powerfully limiting aspects of your own mindset, of your own approach to life. Let’s do a little digging.

Consider this question: Have you become accustomed to life as it is for you now? What a dumb question — of course you have, even if what you have become accustomed to is not quite what you would prefer.

Hope Katz Gibbs: We’ve all heard of the “comfort zone,” and most of us have been in a discussion or two about the role of the comfort zone in holding people back. But you believe that most people miss the real power of this notion by wrongly assuming that the comfort zone refers to something about being comfortable.

Russell Bishop: I know this may sound a bit nuts, but hang in there a moment or two. As you think about this for a bit, you may realize that you are typically most comfortable in surroundings that are most familiar.

Even people who engage in dangerous activities like rock climbing will attest that while it’s not so physically comfortable out there hanging off a rock wall, and while the risks can be high, the experienced rock climber can still be quite comfortable, both with the lack of physical comfort as well as with the inherent risk. Why? Because she is extremely familiar with the environment and what it takes to succeed in climbing that sheer wall.

If you don’t particularly like your job or some other aspect of your life, you may also find that you have become comfortable with it if for no reason other than the fact that it is familiar. If this is you, if you grouse about your daily circumstances yet keep returning to them, then you may be a member of what I call the “ain’t-it-awful club.” Members of this club love to engage in “one-downsmanship”: “You think that’s bad, wait until you hear this one.” You may also know this one as “misery loves company.”

Hope Katz Gibbs: You also believe that settling for less is a very individual set of choices and definitions.

Russell Bishop: Right, and if you have the sense that you have settled more than strived for what you want, then it might be worth your while to explore how your fear of success is in the way.
As much as you may complain about the job/company/boss, have you become comfortable or familiar with what it takes to get by in your current circumstance — not necessarily to succeed, but to at least get by? Breaking out from the familiar, from what got you here, may not be very comfortable, and it may conjure up some fears or risks in your mind. Giving up membership in the ain’t-it-awful club and letting go of weevily peanuts may have any number of risks associated with them, but the risks have more to do with new success behaviors than they do with the fear of failure.

Hope Katz Gibbs: What are some of the downsides to success?

Russell Bishop: What would happen if you were to achieve the success you think you would prefer? What if the job changed dramatically, the income surged, the relationships were vastly improved? Look beyond the obvious (“I’d be richer/happier/better off”) and ask yourself, “What demands would there be on me if …? What would I have to do or be differently?”

This is where it gets interesting. Let’s take a promotion as an example: If you did rise to a higher level in your job, what behaviors or skills would you have to evidence? What would others now demand of you? What would you have to do differently? How would you have to interact differently with co-workers, family, or friends? Are these skills or behaviors that you already have, skills or behaviors with which you are already comfortable? There’s a good chance that the answer is “no.”

Hope Katz Gibbs: In your career coaching managers and executives in businesses large and small, you must have often witnessed the changes that befall the person who wins a promotion, especially when someone moves from co-worker into a management position or from middle management to senior executive.

Russell Bishop: Indeed! Co-workers who used to be buddies somehow begin to distance themselves, and the newly minted manager needs to resign membership in the ain’t-it-awful club. No longer is grousing about the boss acceptable; the challenge now is to fix rather than complain. Fixing and complaining are different skill sets. Are you more complainer than fixer?

Hope Katz Gibbs: What do you tell yourself before you start?

Russell Bishop: Have you ever entertained thoughts about what might happen if …? Imagine telling yourself a story that goes something like this: “Well, first I’ll be the one with the office. Then I’ll be the one making decisions. But what if the decisions don’t work out? What if I don’t know what to do? What if I’m not very good at it?

“Now I’m going to tell them what to do, and then I’m going to have to do their performance reviews. How will my friends/co-workers respond to me being in charge? What if they start complaining about me? What if they abandon me?”

These negative “what if” scenarios may sound pretty darn close to fear of failure. However, underneath them lies a precursor fear: “What if I get what I say I want and I’m not prepared to handle it? What if I’m just an imposter pretending that I know what to do?”

The subtle little twist here is that while you might be able to imagine success and even create it, the doubt remains that you will be able to handle it. The fear of success then often shows up as self-doubt, as an inner voice reminding you that you probably can’t handle the success you want.
Fear of success might be in your way. Keep asking yourself what you want out of life and why you want it. What have you told yourself about taking the risks necessary to create what you want?

Hope Katz Gibbs: What have you found useful in overcoming obstacles, in creating your own version of success in life?

Russell Bishop: That’s where my “Nine Tips for Stepping Out of Your Fear of Success and Into the Life You Deserve” comes in.

Hope Katz Gibbs: Yes, and these are great guidelines. Let’s talk about the top 3, then refer people to our interview online so they can ponder all nine on their own. Tip number one is if you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.

Russell Bishop: Right. Get yourself as clear as possible on where you are going and, more importantly, why you are going there. Everyone has had the experience of wanting something, busting their tail to get it, and then wondering why they ever wanted it in the first place. Keep in mind that what you are really after is the underlying experience — for most people that’s a combination of joy, freedom, security, expansion, and love. Click here to for more information and perspective.

Hope Katz Gibbs: Next, imagine success before you even start.

Russell Bishop: Begin with the end in mind — we all know that one. If you know what experience you truly seek, make certain that you begin by imagining yourself succeeding. What will it look like? What will you feel like? What will it be like along the way?

Keep imagining that positive outcome. The more you practice succeeding in your mind, the more familiar success will become for you — a new comfort zone will begin emerging, one where success is the new normal. And the more practiced you are at being successful along the way, the more observant you will become on choices you can make along the way that will help you get to the outcome you seek.

Hope Katz Gibbs: And tip number three is perhaps my favorite. You don’t get what you deserve — you get what you focus on.

Russell Bishop: If you don’t think you deserve success, then you will focus on the roadblocks, what can go wrong, and myriad other issues, all of which will add up to encountering all manner of challenges, perhaps even self-defeating challenges, along the way. And you may wind up telling yourself that you were right — you don’t deserve success or that people like you don’t win — why else would all of these problems keep showing up? So, keep your focus on those images of success and positive feelings that come with them.

_Thank you so much Russell! To find all of Russell’s great advice, including the rest of his “Nine Tips for Stepping Out of Your Fear of Success and Into the Life You Deserve,” visit and click on the June 2016 issue.

And be sure to check out Russell’s book, Workarounds that Work.

To learn more about the book, Russell’s workshops, and more, log on to”:

You are listening to the Inkandescent Entrepreneur Show on the Inkandescent Radio Network. I’m Hope Katz Gibbs, your host, and as always it was a pleasure talking to you. Be Inkandescent!

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