In my work I help people stay in action and get more done, so I’ve spent a lot of time seeking to understand why people don’t do what they say they want to do.

People don’t like to admit it but I believe the number one thing holding them back is fear.

Most people just assume that the fear could be one of failure but my experience tells me it could be fear of success as well.

In my studies, I’ve found in many cases the problem is not that people don’t know what to do.  Rather, it’s that they just don’t do it.

They sit back passively and wait for something to happen.

And the only thing that happens is they get more frustrated with themselves.

From what I’ve seen, people often have a clear overall idea of what they are supposed to do, but they often lack the step by step plan of how to go from Point A to Point B.  Or they may even have a plan, but haven’t figured out the steps in sufficient detail to know how to execute them… Perfectly…

In other words, people build up incredible expectations of themselves as if they are afraid to fail – when in fact they are setting themselves up for “failure.”

But I’ll go you one further.  I think people are secretly afraid of success.

What do you think?

Take a moment and put your thoughts in the comments below.


102 Responses

  1. sam charoen

    I guess this might qualify as “stumbled onto”. I was looking for the book that is offered under the page with the ‘7 Free reports’, I think it’s called “being unreasonable” which I am very interested to purchase and read. Being student of AWAI since earlier 08 and have procastinated until now and still have not completed the courses yet. I must say that your comment on the ‘fear of success’ hit me like a ton of bricks. I came upon your wisdom following Daniel Levis off Clayton Makepeace e mail, guess this is a lucky stumble (even though I don’t believe in such a thing as luck). Thanks Paul for such great prompting, am looking forward to knowing you & your writing more.
    Thanks a millions,

  2. Andi Mac

    Hi Paul,

    What a great topic. You inspired me to write an article on our blog that goes into this with a medium-size, fine tooth comb from the point-of-view of working with what we all have available internally.

    What appears to limit forward movement in any area of life, is worth examining for many reasons! If you were on a trip and found yourself on a road that leads to a dead-end, you wouldn’t just stop and say, “Well, that’s it. I’m done. This is the end…” There are always answers. They show up when we’re asking the right questions.

    Great question Paul. Kudos for bringing up this topic and thank you for the inspiration! If you’d like to read my related article – you can find it here:

    – Andi

  3. Debra Eloise

    Greetings, Paul –

    Thank you for the insightful information. I was referred to you by Andi Mac from the Inner Code School after reading her article called “Why-people-don’t-do-what-they-say” where she referenced your article! It is fascinating to read the different perspectives on how humans behave and interact. I would have to agree with Andi based on my personal experiences and turning observations around several times that the challenge is great than fear itself or fear of success….it’s conflict! In my business relationships as an entrepreneur I even find myself occasionally getting “stuck” and unless I stop myself and start observing the conflict that is occurring (often I don’t even realize it), I may feel the fear, but once I realize the conflict then POOF! the challenge tumbles down like an old brick wall.

  4. Jennifer

    this must be a hot button for a lot of people. i have been giving this some thought lately on my own behalf, and i agree there may be a fear of success. but where does this come from and do i overcome it simply by the “feel the fear and do it anyway” theory?

    • admin

      Jennifer – after repeated applications, yes. In other words, it may take a while for it to go away. The key is to recognize how you operate, and then take small steps to get results. Over, and over, and over.

  5. Debra

    Fear of success has indeed been prevalent since the dawn of time and is not new revelation. However, it is succinctly interesting how subtle it may operate in one’s subconscious. In my experience, when I found myself buried in ventures and ideas – some I had not even begun to initiate – yet kept accummulating (signing up for more), I knew something was wrong. In my self-analysis, I realized (and had to admit to myself) that deep within I undoubtedly was fearful of success and the changes/challenges that would accompany it – the unfamiliar. Since then, I have found time management skills to be very helpful as I learn to focus, be consistent, and build momentum through determined and disciplined commitment – one venture at a time.

  6. Cory Popescu

    Well, with me I do not know if it is fear of failure or fear of success, as I fully jumped in my first (not quite very first) business without thinking too much at the daily expenses, etc, but at the major goal I had, setting up my own schedule producing a lot in a short period of time without having to report to some kind of a boss, why I took 1.5 h lunch instead of 1h although I was doing not paid / not free time in lieu overtime at my “full-time” job!

    I noticed with time that I am bad in pursuing long-term goals, it is also the process, not the goals, I can set up goals very quickly! Also to set up process, not difficult for me, but I do not want to set up too many steps. A lot of steps it is what kills me! I am very good in accomplishing short tasks that require 5seconds- 5 minutes, etc. But when it comes to putting in hours, hours & days, well … hard.

    Now, you may laugh at me, I have a very long term major goal which is related to space exploration. In order to achieve it, I will have to certainly build a step by step process with phases, etc, and then I can get to shorter tasks that I am very happy to achieve.

    In fact I did not notice my deficiency of “difficult to achieve long term goals” for me, it was not that striking until recently when I took a quiz that pointed out that was my deficiency!! Then, I guess I’ve got to work on this….

  7. Anne

    One aspect of ‘fears’ is having a support system around you that helps you ‘remember’ who you are and what you are wanting to accomplish. It seems to me that you are addressing a person who stands alone, or feels as if they are standing alone. I see you are planning something further, I suspect the idea of an accountability partner, a support team, a ‘board of directors’, a networking group will be part of your solution!
    Thanks for getting the conversation going!

  8. Renate

    Hi Paul,

    You call it fear of success, but I think in our minds it is fear of failure. It takes alot of courage to jump of the treadmill of a comfort and step into the unknown. It seems that this is in part driven by society’s conditioning, to “hang in there” because things will get better. In most cases they don’t and people don’t take the bold step. They wake up one day and wonder for how many years more…. then its too late and society checks you into an old age home.

    As a society we need to experiment more and see failure as a temporary set back but a valuable training ground. If you can stand up and move along, you have eliminated one of the options on the plan. Personally, I have learnt more from my failures, which has allowed me to move on to greater things.

    • admin

      Hi Renate,

      The successful marketers and entrepreneurs I know tend to experiment lots. They all have failures, maybe as many as successes, but when they do, they keep moving. Also, they learn how to test at an affordable level, so failures don’t hurt as much – if at all.


  9. Sarah

    Sometimes I wonder if it is the fear of success or if it is the fear of pigeon-holing yourself into a new role and thinking that this new role eliminates all of the other possibilities.

    Think on that for a minute.

    When I was younger, I had no problems being “successful”. Academically and sportswise, I was very successful. I liked it. When I had to go to college, I had to pick a major. It was one of the toughest decisions I ever made just because I felt that by making that decision, I’d cut off all of my other options. Needless to say, I changed majors several times, but never achieved a degree. Again, I think that I thought I’d be stuck in something I might not like.

    Fortunately, I fell into a career that I love, pays well, and continuously piques my interest.
    I still need more money. I’ve learned about marketing for about 4 years now, but have never had any success with it. Am I afraid of the success? I don’t really know. Am I afraid of looking stupid if I fail…somewhat, though the longer I delay implementation of anything the “stupider” I look anyway.

    So, if you can figure out what I’m afraid of…let me know! Inertia is keeping me where I am. I even think that I’m afraid to pick a niche to really work hard on just because, in my mind, it closes off all of the other niches and what will I do if I find the niche I love and am stuck in a different one?

    I know that sounds muddled, but you should try living in it!!

  10. Spark

    Hi Paul,

    It’s really true on this. And this did happen to me even till now. I believe it’s the fear of success more than fear of failure that causing people not doing most of the things..just wait and imagine things to happen..and as you mention -> they do have plans and the end result goal but they just dont know where and when to start!

  11. wandy

    guess you’re right. people are afraid of moving on from their comfort zone, hence the fear to achieve success out of their wildest dreams! they feel that they don’t deserve to achieve that, i.e. the fear of success.

  12. Pamela Sotir Beaudet

    Hi Paul-
    We met a few times when I was a business coach for StomperNet. This is great food for thought. I tend to think it’s more ‘fear of failure,’ or as you put it “fear of having to give up certain comfortable conditions as a result of being successful.” I also agree with Christine (above) when she says that people just don’t want to do the work necessary to succeed.
    I have so many friends who are coaches that have no clients. They’re great coaches, but they have a total lack of understanding about what it takes to be successful.
    It takes hard work, sacrifice, doing stuff for free sometimes, learning something you’re not comfortable with (in my case running a website and blogging- wasn’t my thing and now I’m doing it, thanks to my friend and a fan of yours, Lizzy Jamieson from the UK), and doing that occasional impulsive, bold move that could land you flat on your face.
    When I took the job with SN, my coach friends thought I was insane- they would NEVER take on upwards of 60 clients for a fraction of what we’d make in private practice. That workload nearly killed me, but it was ‘coaching boot camp’ and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have so much more experience which, in turn, builds confidence. I impulsively made a video that was posted on, promising to get 100 coaches to offer pro bono coaching to people who had lost their jobs- I could have failed miserably and it was out there for the world to see, but I did it and I succeeded.
    How can we push our clients to challenge themselves if we’re too lazy or scared to push ourselves?

    Thanks for a great post, Paul. I still have the notes that I took when I heard you give your F5 presentation. I loved it when you said “Amateurs think about strategy whereas professionals think about getting stuff done.” Perhaps amateurs fear both failure and success?

    Pamela Beaudet

  13. Dreamweaver Training Online

    Hi Paul,

    Just got your email though my hotmail account, read it and could not help it but follow the footer link to your blog because your words of wisdom pierce through my shield. I am one one those people who have great ideas, get excited about it then wait for the appropriate day to put things in motion. Well there is never a better day to start than today. Needless to say, six months later I realized I could be far ahead reaping the fruit of my labor but for lack of action now I hate myself.

    Judging by the lenght of comments before this one, I am not the last Mohican but I seriously need to move to a more proactive tribe and stop procrastinating.

    • admin

      I’d say you’ve nailed it: not the last, but certainly one of those in need of taking the next step… Today.

  14. Mike Singer

    Hi Paul. Funny, I was just thinking this morning that often what I perceive in myself as a fear of commitment is actually a fear of not following through. (Which is a fear of failure, but focusing on the role I have in that failure, as opposed to factors beyond my control.) This is actually a fear of success, because more success implies more work to achieve it (and therefore more possibility of not following through!).

    Of course, this “more success = more work” belief is clearly not one stemming from a STRATEGIC approach to a successful outcome, in which many if not most of the potential stumbling blocks can likely be mitigated via delegation, outsourcing, or good planning.

    When I went through Rich Schefren’s GPS program a year ago, I had nothing concrete to apply all the strategic thinking to. Now that I’ve gotten myself into some projects that are pushing the limits of what I can and want to be doing with my own time/skills, this erroneous thinking is creating all sorts of challenges for me. Time to apply what I learned …

  15. Ronnie Braun

    This article has some very interesting points, I concur on many points, have you considered this. Foreigners come here and buy up business after business and are successful at building those businesses. Truth be told here in the USA we are inundated from youth to get an education get a job, stick to that job retire and let the system take care of the lose ends. We want, expect someone else to take the risks of building a business that we can come in having a guaranteed income, benefits and a retirement package. If one could start a new business, make profit enough to sustain them the first week and be guaranteed an ongoing profit and success, without question many who hang on the side lines who never start, would dive right in. The other thing is costs. What little money we have we fear losing or being scammed out of as these times of scarcity have most folks trembling in their socks. I call this fear of the unknown. The saying goes if you receive a Million dollars you need to learn to be a millionaire or you don’t get to keep the money. It’s a mindset that we have been trained, and accept as concrete. Change that stinkin thinkin and you change the perceptions of the man. until something breaks that chain of thought man continues along the same disabling thought patterns. Hopefully this is food for thought. Thanks Paul

  16. Mike Chudej

    Hi Paul,

    I believe that it’s all have to do with 2 things that stop people from doing something

    – the fear of change (not many people like change neither for better or worse)
    – the fear of success has a lot to do with the way people perceived about money and being rich.

    Most of us afraid of being rich which we perceived as bad (rich people are selfish, taking advantage of the poor, people will not be sincere with us if we rich they just want our money).


  17. Anna

    hey, I totally agree – we can be afraid of success – I am facing this right now myself – I come from a background that did NOT celebrate my intelligence or ability to succeed, and unfortunately made the classic error of marrying somebody who managed to reinforce those damaging beliefs – so having recently left this partnership I am now faced with having to actually step out, believe in myself and get something off the ground! Rebuild my life completely.. For those of you that are skeptical, this as somebody else commented is not particularly new stuff – and unfortunately there are plenty of people that are struggling in life. My own background of family abuse followed by a marriage with domestic violence is unfortunately not uncommon. The figures in Australia are 1 in 3 women will have a domestic violence experience in their lifetime – and I know the figures in the U.S. are similar. These are things of course that we don’t particularly want to think about perhaps, but I just wanted to add my 2c in, as I think you would find that there are a reasonable amount of readers out there who’s lives may not be as protected, safe and free of psychological damage as you might want to assume is the case. I think the author of this blog is absolutely correct in his assumption that some may have a fear of success, but would add that there are other reasons why people may not be able to fast-track their road to success also. I find it encouraging to read a post that begins to address this kind of problem, so thanks to the author, and I hope you can all remember that life is not equal for everybody out there. Although the opportunity is there for all, there are handicaps to be worked through and I think anything or any blog that even begins to address some of these issues should be applauded. I think it’s a step into a larger embrace of some people’s reality, and will be extremely helpful to some if it’s done correctly.

  18. Dan Nichols

    As a lay psychologist specializing in the psychology of the entrepreneur I can say I have studied this in depth. At the end of the day the fear that drives the bus is that of death. Next up the chain is fear of the unknown which is likely the closest to both the fear of success and the fear of failure. When you really boil it down, the fear of failure is not so much about the failure it’s about how it makes us feel. How we feel, not how we “think” per se is much more powerful than the hyper-anlaysis of all this stuff. Growth itself demands discomfort and people, me included, are creatures of habit. The most important habit is breathing and anything that at some level seems threatens that possibility, real or imagined, is usually trumped and/or usurped by the stronger of the emotions. As Fannie Lou Hamer said, being sick and tired of being sick and tired is a strong motivator but it has to win by an emotional landslide for us to step beyond out current reality into a new one. OK… I’ve got a whole 2 cd set on this stuff so I could keep going if Paul had the room!!!!!!!! I love you entrepreneurs, keep reaching…

  19. Liubov

    From my coaching practice I know fear of success is even more common than fear of failure. When you fail you are a victim and many people would meet you with compassion. Oh, yes, that all about circumstances, not responsibility…

    No, you are “not responsible” for a failure, but you ARE responsible for success… And what to do with this responsibility, if you are not ready for that? That’s the question…

  20. Jesue Walker

    Wow Mr. my favorite Lemberg,

    I have loads to share on this so here goes…Meeting you in person immediately I felt I had to stop what I was doing and get to doing. I got this awareness in our first morning session and since then when you come to mind it is a reminder to DO! So just wanted to give you kudoos for embodying what you offer and not just selling stuff. Many I should say are good at punishing ourselves so discipline becomes the first reach when setting out to achieve set goals. I find with my clients and self that reward and play are the two things unattainable. Dreams and passions if approached in a containment of exploration (play) and discovery perhaps can unlock our predisposition or at least reveal it so we can see our blocks. Linguistic reconstruction often reveals master assessments believed as facts that then support our not moving forward until syndrome…Paul, my blocks have stories and boy are they believable to me. I’ve had to do for myself what I’ve taught and coached others to do. These days I’m not taking my thoughts so seriously and remembering intellect and emotional intelligence are two different things and the body holds the later in such high regard until we follow it. Money isn’t our problem and neither are resources…it’s us believing false explanations appearing real. Much of what we hold to be true just isn’t true! I’m launching a program next month that is so close to this subject of doing that it scared me and I had to read this! Sorry for rambling. Your the best.

    • admin

      Hi Jesue – thanks for saying so. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to selling stuff soon. Sorry we didn’t connect around the last mastermind group. (Next one in the spring!) -pl

  21. BradL.

    This is a huge social anxiety that we tend to self-impose. Sure, situations arise where it is set from an environmental standing as well but most of it reflects back on how we let others control our own image of ourselves by what they think they know of us and how they make judgement on our actions they see…be it a great success or a horrible failure.

    All a success or a failure alike, are simply experiences, both showing us the way to move forward to our goal. If we look at them in that perspective, it will change mindsets in an instant. A well known example of this in action is the story of Thomas Edison and the creation of the light bulb. A reporter asked him ” How does it feel to know you create X number of failures before getting it right on inventing the light bulb? ” and he simply responded ” I didn’t fail at all, I simply discovered X number of ways NOT to create the lightbulb and one way that did. ” …or something to that effect.

    In your own life, allow me to give this advice. Think about when you were a child, close your eyes and visualize those memories clearly. I guarantee you when you were learning to ride a bike, swim, you would fall off, sink or bob like a cork. It’s during those times, you would get right back on that bike or right back in the deep end of the pool, every moment you had the chance until you made it without falling off or sinking under.

    Then, the next level of doing tricks, skids, dives, cannonballs, etc. Everytime you didn’t focus on anything but figuring out how to master that new skill by doing it and adapting along the process, ‘ WHILE IN ACTION.’ The key to overcoming a fear of doing something isn’t to try to figure out the perfect way to do it, but to list the action steps and nothing else to follow but action of achieiving those set steps…that’s all you have to do.

    I know this is a long post, sorry, Mr. Lemberg.

    I will leave you with a test I use on myself everytime I need to break the ” what if ? ” mindset.

    Pop open your favorite notebook or text editor and simply write down your memoirs of today, as if it was 5-10 years in the future and you are reflecting back on this situation. Write out the details of whether you achieved the task by working through it, or if you regret not doing it because you passed it over to do something else all together.

    When you are done, you will have a clear and present image in your mind that you have already done it. Push through with a clear mindset of new possabilities to complete it,because it is already completed in this memory. You can take this as an extremely unique chance to change your past with a glance, as if you have your own personal time machine, where you can replace that regret of not ever attempting the task in the first place with the action taken, knowing in your mind that the result is already the outcome of what you have written about it in the positive projection.

    Give that a test run on your own. I assure you that because no one wants to EVER write about their failures or mistakes, you will write the perfect success story of this event for yourself. Replace the fear with enjoyment on an emotional level and mental level.

    The principle point of fear is a primal warning system that makes us protect ourselves from the unknown. Hoever, we have gauged something overwhelming, such as a siren for a bombing raid, when all the instinct is telling us is ” be aware of your surroundings and don’t bump the rock in the corner of the cave. ”

    You are incharge of the situation by responding accordingly to it with the right focus. Write your own outcome and then you will no longer be in the unknown. You will have the map right infront of you.

  22. Josh

    In my work with clients, which is similar in nature to yours, I’ve seen the same thing.

    People have a certain self-image, and any radical or swift departure from that self-image is often emotionally threatening. Even if it is a sudden leap of success, or in income, or whatever… if it comes too quickly, people are prone to self-sabotage.

    Breaking habits is one thing, but people do indeed possess a fear of success. It isn’t just a behavioral thing. It’s highly emotional in nature.

    “Growing You, Growing Your Business, Engineering Your BREAKTHROUGH.”

  23. Ronak Shah

    Anger aka Hatred / Guilt / Self-Blame
    Fear aka pain
    Expectations aka demands

    This is what these 3 mean as per me.

    If you can really help me a person remove these 3 in life believe me everyone will overcome everything in life. Can you bet a billion $$$$$ on this one! LOL…

  24. Ronak Shah

    I always thought of being completely perfect according to not only my expectations but other people’s expectations.

    The hardest truth to accept for me is: I have made a BIG mistake “trying to be perfect” according to everyone’s expectations.

    There is even a harder truth that I am not able to accept which is to fulfill my family’s expectations. I can’t take it down my throat.

    Everyone thinks so differently that their definition of perfection is never a complete definition. However, everything is so imposed on us: social customs, taboos, protocol, rules, regulations… that we even forget our own self and feel miserable about our own self. Then we start calling our self a loser and a failure just because we couldn’t meet someone’s expectations (demands). It feels miserable and we’re left heart-broken. What can we do? that’s when we start demanding from ourselves that we’ve to fulfill the whole world’s expectations and we’ve to be able to fit our self within everyone’s imagination perfectly.

    Such an illusion that we experience every day that we feel we’re left nowhere…

    And hey we’ve fears of losing what we’ve already with us… like wealth, health, etc & some of which we can’t see such as “our character” .. strengths, talents, qualities, virtues, etc…

    That’s exactly what we call “fear of failure”. It just feels like we’re nowhere and there is nothing that can stop us from failing in life. Probably we may never become complete as we always dreamed and we amy never be able to fulfill our dreams. However, the problem lies with people not realizing who they really are. Who are you?

    Do you even “realize” WHO you really are as a soul?

    Until you don’t realize who you really are, you will never erase neither the fear of failure nor the fear of success…. fear of success itself is a fear of failure. The problem with most people is that really don’t know who they are and they keep criticizing themselves endless for NOTHING. NOTHING. JUST NOTHING.

    It’s called feeling of unworthiness. Or self-ignorance. Or illusion. Or REJECTION. CALL THAT LACL OF SELF-ACCEPTANCE. The problem most people have is to connect with themselves to be able to love themselves. But there is no one to guide them on their real potential.. that’s when they start procastinating because they have lots of shocks, fears, disbeliefs about themselves.. like “I can’t believe this” “Oh! this is not possible” Oh! you can’t do this to me” “how can you do this” “Oh! I am bad that I did this to you, I can’t do this to you Can I?”… etc etc… meaning I am NOT good enough according what people say think feel imagine visualize believe…

    My biggest problem is to figure out my expectations, fears and anger that destroys my life from within my mind, body, heart & soul.

    And there is only answer to it… Self-realization. You got to feel who you are really as a human being. That’s the only way out. Through positive focus and meditation we can heal our minds and empty those spaces filled with anger, fear & expectations. Yoga is the ultimate way to go to discover who you are as a human being. It supports you in every possible way and makes you believe your self.

  25. Ely

    Fear of success certainly exists, although it’s not the only stumbling block. As Pam said above, a lot of times that’s plainly health issues produced by overwork, stress and other workspace factors, often mental health issues resulting with a person unable to think clearly. Still, I agree, preventing fear of success with something better than “mind videos” would be helpful for a lot of people.

    • Ronak Shah

      People define success differently.. there is not one definition of success

      what you think of success may not be success as per my definition.

  26. Yvonne

    Many times that fear to succeed starts as far back as childhood. If you lived in neighborhoods where high middle class or better lived and you attempted to associate with their children as a child but were constantly told you weren’t good enough, your family didn’t have the right “stuff” to really be here and please lets not forget the cruelty of children that don’t want certain other children around unless they want something at your expense; usually a good laugh making you feel horible. Yes, many times the child becomes aware that success makes people act worse then animals and don’t care who they hurt in the process. What the child doesn’t understand growing up is that it doesn’t have to be that way, people don’t have to let money go to their heads, and they usually act that way out of fear themselves; Fear of loosing their money and in reality are miserable people because of it. As a child hearing it often enough you believe the lie and sabotage yourself against the success you could have had. Unfortunately by the time the child is old enough to realize the problem it’s usually too late to do anything about it. It’s a hard road but it can be overcome with self awareness of who you are and your potential.

  27. Heather

    From my own personal experience, the fear of failure is probably the first hurdle to overcome, since we tend to take it so personally. The possibility of looking stupid is enough to scare many people from the first attempt at living their dreams.

    I think the root of the fear of success, on the other hand, is the fear of change, or fear of the unknown. It is far easier to keep the status quo, the soul-sucking job, the painful relationships than it is to take the leap.

    Here’s a tip for those wishing away their lives: Once you make the decision to begin what you wish to do, the changes that take place in your life make it better!

    HL, Agent for Positive Change and Creative Living

  28. Bart


    Yes, I think “fear of success” is spot on. In fact, I think people are even afraid to say they have the “fear of success” as that would mean they are even more of a failure….make sense?

  29. Craig

    Hi Paul. Thanks for the great content, I have always enjoyed your stuff, looking forward to more of it.

    So this is where I am at. . . I guess I don’t understand what it means to be “afraid of success”. I don’t think it makes sense. Why would I be afraid of moving from failure to successful. I have heard this principle taught a lot, and I don’t really doubt its validity, but it does not compute with me. Ironically I am beginning to wonder if this is my problem and maybe I just call it something different.

    Again not sure if my problem is what you would call a “fear of success”, but I certainly have some sort of mental block when it comes to success in business. I know that I want to succeed, I even often know what it takes (or at least I have read, or watched, or listened to what it takes) to succeed. Yet, still I don’t. I have bought and gone through more how to business products, and Internet Marketing training than I can remember. I have also started and not finished more projects than I would ever reveal to someone I know. To be honest it is embarrassing. I am guessing my first problem is I have entrepreneur A.D.D. Though -maybe my problem is what you are talking about, sometimes I think maybe I am just lazy, though I put in massive amount of time between my day job and my business efforts..

    I know I am entrepreneurial at heart, I have been since I was a kid. I am in a 9-5 that I do not want to be in, and I moonlight as an aspiring internet based business owner, affiliate marketing business wanna be, or whatever the flavor of the month is. I feel in my core I want nothing more than to break free of being someone else’s employee, and to blaze my own trail, but again I seem to have this mental block when it comes to actually doing it. In addition, I do not feel that I fear the sacrifices that might come with success, I’m already in debt, I already work to much, and I already have a low income- it would seem that the trials of success would have to be better than what I have now. =) -(please note that I do not say this for pity, or to shuck any blame for my situation- I fully accept that my problem is me and my situation is my doing)

    My wife is super frustrated with me, as I have been in the same low paying job for the last 5 years and we have been on this start a business path for two plus years. She has quit believing me when I say I think we can do this, success is around the corner, you know the drill. I can’t blame her, I really have managed to allude success! Yet again not sure if it is because I am afraid of it, or. . .

    Sorry I am rambling here. But I thought it might be helpful to share my struggles in light of what you are talking about.

    So my question is. . . Do I sound like the classic case of “fear of success”? or in your business and coaching experience wisdom do I fit in somewhere else?

    Thanks again.
    -Embarrassed but not giving up.

    • admin

      Hey Craig, I’m quoting myself here: “Maybe it would help to call “fear of success” something like, “fear of having to make the changes in life that success will bring,” or “fear of having to give up certain comfortable conditions as a result of being successful.” Something like that.”


      • sanjiv

        You are correct in identifying your present status, but as i see it (i could be wrong)
        – You are over analysis the situation – you’re going thru the paces of a new start in your mind and at the end of it you are for some reason resulting in a loss/failure which is causing you to be inactive and no do anything beacuse you think your action will lead to failure/loss(which you call laziness). break the habit and make a plan which leads to a sucess, bounce that plan off with someone you trust ( including your wife) and from that make a daily plan as to what you want to do to get to your goal

        – I am not sure this helps, but thats what i did to kick my own ass to move it into a gear

  30. Mike Boles

    Why aren’t we all successful? Most of us have paid for the e-books, the online courses and the training dvds. Most do a good job at taking us from point A to point B.

    So what’s the problem? I can tell you from my own experience where I struggle and I think most of us are the same in this regards. I get all excited when I buy the new course promising to change my life and bring me riches if I just follow their simple plan. So I get about half way between point A and point B in their program and then I’m asked to do something way outside my comfort zone. So I step away and go and give the cat a bath, wash the car and clean out the garage.

    There, I had a productive day and never felt uncomfortable doing it. Most of us are just way too comfortable and content with our lives and circumstances to ever change. We are creatures of habit. We want to be successful and be the same person that we are right now. It won’t happen. You have to change by stepping out of your comfort zone. It’s the only way. There is no magic e-book or training course that will allow you to have all the wonderful things you want in life with out making you uncomfortable in the process. Change is good!

    • Ronak Shah

      See. I can perfectly understand what he thinks is perfect according to him is not exactly perfect as per his training DVD’s. That’s when a person procrastinates and resists going into that ZONE = feeling uncomfortable.

  31. DocMercer

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for sending the direct link. I was looking unsuccessfully around the bookmarked blog.

    As my personal life philosophy evolved over the decades, I came to the conclusion that all lack and limitation is founded in fear. As we descend into the well of fear, it becomes fear of this and fear of that such as rejection or failure or even success.

    Determining that fear is “core cause” is the easy part.

    Translating fear into the specific, i.e., failure or success, is a little more challenging.

    A practical and effective “how to fix it” is the most elusive part of the equation.

    So Paul, while I readily agree with you that fear of success is a quite real limiter for many, what do you have on the “fix it” side?


      • DocMercer

        Okay, while I figured this is some kind of meaningful, as in marketing, exercise, the soon part has me more interested… and I have to caution you.

        Paul, while I know you’re a capable fellow and one of the very few speakers I can tolerate listening to, you’ve bitten off a huge chunk with this one.

        I was a full time alternative (chiropractic, naturopathic, Native American Medicine) practitioner doing side research into the mental/emotional causes of physical sickness and disease. I managed to open the door to a barrage from some ugly demons that came screaming to the surface with a vengeance.

        That took me down… all the way down a deep and dark hole… hard. For about three years it was homeless and borderline dead.

        The eventual diagnosis turned out to be Vietnam combat-related post traumatic stress disorder.

        I started the climb out inch by dreadful inch. Things are different now although I have struggled since, hit a stalemate and, even though I have been consciously on a spiritual path since leaving Vietnam in 1968, I have been unable to get past this last barrier.

        So Paul, whatever you’ve got… for “the fix”… is gonna have to be real and if you get it past me there is no doubt it will be.

        Now here’s where it gets interesting.

        While too many people seem willing to sacrifice ‘real’ for commerciality, in some way I know that you are capable of pulling this off… ’cause it’s a part of your own path as long as you’re willing to go the distance.

        I’m anxious to see what you got, Paul.


      • Kaitlin

        Hey DocMercer,

        I know of one possible fix for you. Ever heard of Emotional Freedom Technique?

        I could explain it all for you here, but Gary Craig, the EFT founder, does a much better job than I could over at his web site, where he provides a manual for free download. Check it out here:

        For serious trauma, like you’ve had, it is advisable to seek out an experienced professional to help guide you through the process.

        I’ve never worked with one, but have found remarkable positive changes when using it to address less serious issues on my own. For example, after slicing my finger with a bread knife, and getting six stitches, I developed a strange phobia of knives. I could barely look at anyone using one without panicking.

        One day, when I went into a panic because my sister was cutting bread, I suddenly thought, “Wait a sec, I should try EFT.” So I did a couple rounds of meridian tapping, and by the time I was done I could watch my sister without any fear! I could barely look at her before tapping.

        It is also helpful for getting over fears of success, and fears of failure. I use it for those reasons, and need to be more disciplined in continuing to do so.

        I hope you will be able to find relief from PTSD soon.

      • DocMercer

        Hi Kaitlin,

        You have a pretty name.

        I’ve heard of Gary Craig. I’ll check it out.

        Thanks for the reply and enjoy a bang-up weekend.


  32. Steverex

    I have been helping people learn to trade/invest for nearly two decades, mostly by showing them when the “time” is right to be owning stocks or funds, and alternatively, when to be short or move to cash. Some get it and do well, many stay stuck, and just keep watching.

    The problems you describe fit well here too.

    People are “afraid” to take action perhaps due to unreasonable expectations, or fear of past mistakes. Consequently, they wait. They wait until they feel perfectly safe to get in.

    Unfortunately, their “feeling” couldn’t be more wrong. It is precisely the time when smart money is already selling their profitable positions to the late comers.

    While I estimate about 20% of those who I teach actually invest and report some big returns, the rest seem “frozen” and want to just keep “learning”.

    Rather than take responsibilty and USE the methods to take control of their future, they keep asking if I instead would do it for them. No wonder fund managers make millions.

    The amazing thing there too, is that fund managers tell me, as long as they don’t LOSE too much of the clients money, their clients stay year after year, while managers keep making their 1-3% on an account that isn’t even growing. It’s crazy.

    But it does point out pretty clearly to me, that desire isn’t enough. Learning isn’t enough. Believing in the outcome isn’t enough. Being prodded isn’t enough…

    I think it boils down to this: Doing “it” as if you had no choice. Do it or die perhaps.

    Maybe like a new skydiver, who was just nudged out of a plane…pulling the ripchord to the chute isn’t an option or something to “think about” or learn how to do anymore. You just do it. If all goes well, it’s easier next time…

    • lil african boy

      Steverex my friend you have said it right. What we all need is the “DO IT OR DIE ATTITUDE!” as we say in my home tongue, walasa mudala

  33. Sean Breslin

    Lets not forget the financial comitment to success, you can visualise till the cows come home! But if you need Y to achieve X and can’t afford Y or don’t know where to get it for less? or another tool that would achieve the same effect, that you can afford!

    Then no action will be taken, not through fear just, the lack of funds at that point in time, to take the desired action.

    Economics controls action as much as a possible fears.

    • admin

      Good point, Sean. But there’s a big gap between getting it together to survive versus transforming oneself in such a way as to prosper. That often takes people too far outside their comfort zone, coming smack up against you know what. -pl

    • Partha Bhattacharya

      Great point.. I guess the 3 pillars of getting success are knowledge, finance, and of course ‘action’ as Paul says in this article. Action comes only after knowledge and finance are already in place.

      On a different note, Paul, could you point out how to implement this tree-like comment system! Sorry for asking personal favor. My sincere thanks in advance.

      • admin

        Partha – I’m pretty sure that I did not say that Action comes only after Knowledge and Finance are in place. It’s the other way around: Knowledge and Finance only come after Action.

        (The comment system is a part of wordpress)

      • Partha Bhattacharya

        – Knowledge and Finance only come after Action.

        Paul, in a way you’re right. Unless I want to learn how can knowledge come to me. So there a certain ‘action’ precedes knowledge. But my comment was in response to what Sean said above. There are moments in life when you have the minimum knowledge to want to do something but lack of finance prevents you to take action.

        Of course I always remind myself that there is never an end to learning, and generally speaking, that learning comes only because of action.

  34. Mott Williamson

    Studies show that avoidance of pain/loss is a big motivator for us. The research indicates that we are at least twice more likely to avoid a loss as to seek a gain in any specific situation. What happens is that the anticipated pleasure for achieving the goal has got to be huge, or else we won’t commit to the pain of doing the exercise.

    What also is at play here is a failure to define those particular things that are most important to us. Without that explicit ranking of priorities, we wander through successive storm-tossed seas and never set sail toward the harbor of our dreams. In other words, we lack a particular focus for our actions so we do nothing but take care of those things that merely show up.

    Blessed are they who know exactly what they want. Truly they shall inherit the kingdom because this focus will overcome the pain of getting there.

  35. John D. Fogleman

    My father was an extremely aggressive man. We had a bitter fall out and he told me years ago that I would always be a failure without him in my life. I have struggled for years and every time I started a new venture, I crashed when obstacles came up that I believed were insurmountable.

    I finally have realized that I accepted his proclamation into my psyche and I am proud to say that I have finally realized that I am the one that controls my destiny. I now know that I have to block out the negative and team up with successful people like Paul, Zig, John Olsteen, Simple Truths, and others to constantly fill my mind with positive input. I can readily testify it is working and it is a process that happens over time.

    After all, I did it the other way for many years and I know now the change in attitude is something that can be achieved over time. It simply is a process of training yourself to process the positive into your everyday life in everything.

    I.e. – I quit getting up every morning and watching the news which focuses on the negative aspects of humanity. I also have trained myself to read something positive first every morning. I made it a new habit. Habits, as we all know, take at least 28 days to establish. Jim is right about the laziness thing. When we can overcome the bad habits we have established with good habits and realize this will only happen over time if we recognize and admit we have been lazy! That is not as easy as it seems, but it can be done.

    I am now starting my new venture with much enthusiasm as a Franchise Adviser and for the first time in my life, I get up everyday with an anxious spirit.

    Thank you Paul for devoting your life to help people as myself and I commend you on your work.

    • admin

      Gosh John – Thanks for being bold. But who in their right mind would watch television news… Ever? -pl

      PS – gratuitous unsolicited advice: if you’re father’s still alive, get it together with him. You don’t have to like him, but it really helps to be complete.

      • Ronak Shah

        how do you remove hatred from your heart, mind, body & soul Paul? how do you remove regret and complete the incompletion’s right from childhood?

        I hope everything becomes complete for me. I hope.


      • TwoLeftFeet

        I am just a common person but feel I need to respond. There is probably alot of pschological stuff that individuals can say but here is my two cents.

        You do not own his words or his actions. They are his and his alone. Be thankful that you are not him. Be thankful for all the blessings you are receiving now and know they are yours. Be saddened that he will never know them. Take responsibility for only your actions and your words. If you have done wrong ask for forgiveness. Give forgiveness to others its not for them its for YOU.

        You truely cannot walk forward while looking at the past you will stumple. When it is over and done leave it behind that means your hatred, anger, rage, disappointment all of it. Look forward.

        I have always lived by two motos maybe they will help someone

        “Fear of failure is the kiss of death in the courtship of Success”

        “No just means nothing changed so go ahead and ask the worst that can happen is nothing changed- the best is that you will get a YES”

  36. Martin

    Speaking from my personal experience… I have only just got a breakthrough in forging ahead and DO IT. Its more of fearing failure rather than success. I have the overall idea of what I have to do but I was held back by overthinking and perfectionism. There is forever more “pre-steps” to complete before I get to the main steps.

    Once I break free of my old mindset and let go, I am able to make progress easily. So my advice is Just Do It. Think Later.

  37. Tony Arnold

    Interesting question Paul – fear, regardless of what it’s based on, is the great road block that can prevent even the most exquisitely engineered vehicle (us – with all our skills and talents), travelling on the most perfectly planned route (excellent tools, methods and strategies), from ever reaching (or even coming close to) its ideal destination.

    Could it be that most of us are more invested in keeping the hope of success alive more than the reality of it? Without hope we tend to be at our most miserable. Often, because of a “scarcity mentality” we may see a particular option as being the only one available to us that can really make us successful.

    But what if it fails?

    If that fails then we have nowhere else to go – and therefore no more hope. So we don’t try. That way we can always try it sometime later (when conditions will be more “ideal”) and then we’ll be even more successful. And, most importantly, we keep our all important hope alive!

    You see this principle in action with losing financial traders who would rather hold onto an obviously losing position in the hope that it will turn around and be a winner, rather than take a small but certain loss. It’s as if they believe (at least at that moment) that they will never have another opportunity to win again.

    A good example of how the emotion of fear can override logic in a potentially destructive way.

    Have others experienced anything like this?

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.




    • admin

      Tony thanks for your comment. Have you read Dr. Alexander Elder’s “Trading for a Living?” – pl

      • Tony Arnold

        Yes I have. Another good book on the subject of execution psychology is The Disciplined Trader by Mark Douglas. Do you trade?

    • Brenda

      BINGO. You hit one of the hot buttons. Unfortunately I have many reasons to fear success and I can parade them out as needed.

  38. Gary

    This came through my email at the most perfect time. Sitting at my comp. contemplating and procrastinating anout a project I need to do but am afraid for some reason and freezes me from doing anything, If I can just get on the phone and make those contacts I know it will eventually become easier. I thaught it was interesting how your email on this subject showed up exactly when I was styphened by fear.

  39. Glenn

    I will admit a fear, whether of success or failure, I am not sure. A fear of leaving the known for the unknown? I know my job (not that I really enjoy it like I used to), but I know I could do better. So, why don’t I do it? Why do I keep accumulating information, trying to find that “idea” that will get me started. Is it because I have failed in the past with something new?
    I am recognized for being good at what I do. . . . Is it that I fear losing that recognition?

    It’s almost the “R.D. Lang in Knots” syndrome.
    “There is something I don’t know that I am supposed to know, and yet I don’t know what it is I don’t know.
    Therefore I pretend I know it.
    This is nerve-wracking since I don’t know what I must pretend to know.
    Therefore, I pretend to know everything.
    I feel you know what I am supposed to know, but you can’t tell me what it is, because you don’t know that I don’t know what it is.
    You may know what I don’t know, but not that I don’t know it.
    And I can’t tell you.
    So you will have to tell me everything.”

    Something needs to change. . . .

  40. Jim Hennessy

    I certainly understand how “fear of success” can be defined and attributed to one’s failure to achieve their goals, dreams, aspirations… However, I would take it one step further by stating that the root cause of that fear is laziness, pure and simple. Mankind is motivated by two driving principles, “Avoiding pain,” and “Seeking pleasure,” in that order. And most of us see the pleasure in success, but also see the pain in getting up off our fat butts and doing what has to be done to achieve it. Thus, we continue to be a nation of dreamers and procrastinators.
    In Dr. Scott Peck’s landmark book “The Road Less Travelled,” he ascribes laziness to “Original Sin.” Adam and Eve disobedience to God’s command was not only an act of pride but also of laziness…they simply were too lazy to ask God, “why can’t we eat that fruit.”

    • Jean M.

      I’d like to add that perhaps there’s also a sense of obligation and reality to the world we live in. For example, I’d like to leave my job – I probably could do something very different and be very happy/successful with it – but the reality is that I can’t because of home and family – that’s not fear or being lazy, just a trade-off. Compromise and balance – it’s the name of the game we call life.

  41. Greg Vining

    Yea Paul,
    I’ve actually struggled with this issue myself for a long time. And I think it is a fear of changing. We all have a story of ourselves that we are subconsciously attached to. And that story keeps us going in circles until we decide to rewrite it. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. We must commit to a process of imprinting a different story into our subconscious, which is not something that takes effect immediately. So when we don’t see results right away, it’s very easy to give up. But we must keep our eyes on the prize if we really want to change our lives. John Kehoe’s “Mind Power” program is a great tool that gives you a step by step process for doing this. Anyone struggling with issues like this should check it out.


  42. Kathleen Fuller Ph.D.

    Michael – interesting article. I work with people to clear the fears from their psyches in many different ways. I am an expert eating disorders specialist and my blog and website offers my 1# besting amazon book. Check out my articles because everyone knows a family member or friend who has eating problems. Once the denied issues are healed any goal can be achieved. Go to http//

  43. Nick

    I have relentlessly managed to evade success (financially) all my life and am well aware that something about it scares me. The problem is that the cause of the fear has so far remained hidden in spite of searching with a variety of tools and methods that are designed to help get to the root of such things. I am nevertheless very happy with the by-products of my so-far failed attempts to make a fortune.

  44. Stephen Gregory Guillen

    Dear Paul – I think you hit it on the head. And I think that it is in “expectations” that fear of success really plays itself out. You may have just ILLUMINATED my stumbling block. Thanks!

  45. Terry Green

    I really think “Fear of Failure” is the biggest obstacle. Leaning to except failure or setbacks as part of the road to success is not in our nature especially if we are perfectionist. The most important key to success was best stated in Chet Holmes book Ultimate Sales Machine, the one thing you need most is: Pigheaded Discipline & Determination.

    • admin


      That’s exactly the kind of thing Chet would say, and it works very well for those who are, in fact, Pigheaded. It’s a seductive idea, and works very well when you can maintain yourself in that zone. Unfortunately for most mortals, this kind of thinking just leads to one more failure.


  46. CEOgolfshop

    I don’t think people are inherently afraid of success, although that’s probably contrary to numerous books on the subject. I do think they lack a “step by step plan of how to go from Point A to Point B.” So for many, they just get excited about an idea, and lack any real effort to implement a plan to achieve a specific goal. Additionally, they won’t get off their duff to do the actions needed to achieve the goal. Inertia sets in. The person doesn’t want to get out of their comfort zone and do the tasks needed because they lack faith in themselves and their abilities.

    • admin

      Hi Christine, Thanks for this. Maybe it would help to call “fear of success” something like, “fear of having to make the changes in life that success will bring,” or “fear of having to give up certain comfortable conditions as a result of being successful.” Something like that.



  47. Jay Estis


    It’s an interersting concept, and I am sure in some cases it is accurate. So my question to you is, how does one know this is their fear (of success)? Are their tell tale signs people exhibit when they have a fear of success.

    For myself, I know I do not fear failure. I have already failed, although I am not sure that is the right word. As I once heard it said, “Failure is not in the falling down, but in the staying down”.

    I do not consider it failure, but rather it is one step closer to success because now I know that way wasn’t the right way, so I must be one step closer to finding the right way.

    For myself, I have always felt confident I do not fear success. I think about what success means to me, and I try to do things each day that take me closer to reaching that success. Have I reached it yet? No, but I am still trying.

    So again, how does one know if they fear success, and if they do, how do they overcome the fear?


  48. Captain Obvious

    Duh….. Fear of success is pretty well documented and is hardly a new discovery.

    If only someone were selling a product that would help people with this. Gosh I wish something like that were available. Hmmmm.

  49. Jeffrey Meier

    I do have a clear vision of what I need I need to do, but the step after A is often a big one, and many of us, get involved with so many projects, that we never complete the main task we started. Also there is the part where we are doing well, but hit a road block and that stops us, and instead of seeking out someone to help us, we just set it aside, thinking we will get back to that later..but later never comes..could be fear, I think we all have feelings that we are afraid to make mistakes and look bad, so we do not put ourselves in that awkward position. I am defintely not afraid of success, I just have a fear of being called a failure…

    • admin

      Jeffrey – great point. I think fear of not looking good is a big one for many folks. My prescription is take Step A. Then, take the next Step A, and so on. But start. – pl

    • Jack Dillon

      I would stop right there when you said roadblock on step B. That would be a wonderful thing, just having to address that. Then comes ADD. I was moderately successful in my business that I ran for almost 20 years, especially when I had to come out of a bad partnership that put me in a 1/4 mil hole. But that’s a story for another day. I think one of my biggest problems is the roadblock, and that is quickly trumped by the ADD. Sometimes that leads to abandonment, no matter how much I want to do a project.

  50. Gary Deacon

    Hi Paul
    The Perfectly is right on point
    Two things
    One — Procrastination
    Two — Keeping it simple and not thinking you can take on everything in front of
    you, especially if you are a one man show / it leads to being overwhelmed and
    back to inaction and procrastination!
    I think have to choose your battles / prioritize
    You had a list in StomperNet F5 for just that approach

  51. Jim Stephenson

    It is not just fear of success, it is also fear of unmet expectations. We assume, probably right fully, that once we reach an increased level of success, that more will be expected of us. We are afraid to make that next step due to not wanting to fail at the next level.


      • Ronak Shah

        It’s the habits that we’ve been taught to have in our lives such as:

        Expecting our self to “perfect”

        Expecting from other people

        Below every expectation that is a fear that has been inserted in our minds and above every expectation is an anger that rages violently.

        The seed is self-ignorance. Our ignorance causes us to fear everything because we feel uncertainty which further causes pain and pain always recreates fear. VICIOUS cycle!!!!!

  52. Pam Dodd

    As an organizational psychologist, I often take a 30,000 ft view of things.

    Over the years I’ve been struck by one basic assumption that underlies most of our theories about human productivity – that we’re mentally and physically healthy. These days, with more and more chronic illness showing up, sadly this is not the case.

    Sometimes, perhaps more than we know or want to admit, it isn’t either fear of success or failure that saps our productivity. It’s our health.

  53. MichaelC

    Great blog post Paul – This is the first time I’ve come across someone else saying this.

    I call it ‘scared of success’ – this being the idea that your life may change because of the success. So it becomes a fear of the unknown (“What will life be like?”) and/or a simple fear of loss (Thanks to the success you will lose something else)

    There’s an interesting psychological phenomenon known as ‘Secondary Gain’ which can be summed up as the hidden benefit in NOT doing something. If that perceived hidden benefit outweighs the perceived benefit of the success… then nothing happens.

    I think, in a way, scared of success falls into this idea.

    Great post!

    Is this the number one secret for growth?

    • admin

      Michael – I agree – I’ve wrestled with this “fear of success” issue – like what it really means for people. And the issue is one of “secondary gain,” or perhaps it’s “secondary loss,” meaning what will they have to give up as a result of becoming successful. Something to chew on.


      • paul weinberg

        Good post.

        What I’ve seen is that what you give up in being successful, bit by bit, is giving up your world–of friends, of familiar habits, of stories about what it will take.

        What it takes, I suggest, is not just the specific actions of becoming successful, but a new image of oneself and one’s world. Can be scarey stuff and sometimes a temporarily lonely place out at the edge of what you do.

      • admin

        Dr Weinberg — I know you can do it with NLP swish patterns. Got any other tips on shifting that image? -pl

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