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Making Your Desire for Success Stronger Than Your Fear of Failure

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
steve smith

Steve Smith

It’s amazing how often we encounter real life examples of opportunity lost, simply because someone was afraid to ask. More about that in a minute. Here’s a personal note that brought this to mind for me again recently.

At the time of this writing, my mother, 95, is gravely disabled and in a skilled nursing facility.

During a recent meeting with one of my three brothers, I suggested that we approach the facility about adding another layer of care for our mom, due to her unique situation.

“Oh, they’ll never go for that,” he said, to which I replied, “Well, there’s only one way to find out for sure and that is to ask. Asking costs us nothing.”

What is remarkable is that my brother and I weren’t discussing cars or sports or food, we were talking about our mother’s health. Even then, he was hesitant…afraid of rejection. I was stunned at his response. I just do not understand the hesitancy so many people exhibit when there is absolutely nothing to lose.

Sadly, he is not alone. A severe fear of failure or rejection has a clinical term: kakorrhaphiophobia.

But it’s extremely common for people to hold back on even harmless issues where, truly, there is no genuine risk—and much to be gained—from simply asking a question.

Here’s an example: If you are located in a medical office building, there are probably multiple opportunities to cross promote your services with a non-competing colleague. All it would take is for you to walk in and offer to exchange a stack of your brochures or business cards with a stack of theirs. Most people don’t, not because they think it’s a bad idea—they actually like the concept—they’re just afraid that they’ll get a “No, thanks.”

And so what if they decline? Is that a measure of one’s worth? Of course not. But that no-cost marketing exchange question is rarely asked. It’s a simple strategy, but it’s low cost and mutually beneficial.

If you are not in a medical office building, you still have countless opportunities to partner with other businesses in your geographic and demographic area…and grow your business. But it simply takes someone to ask.

It’s hard to say exactly what we imagine will happen. Perhaps a “no” or “no thanks” would be taken personally, or it’s a fear of looking (or feeling) stupid, or a mild anxiety about change. Simple requests are nearly always risk-free, and any fear is perceived and not real.

There’s a personal development activity that recommends “embracing rejection” as a growth exercise. By learning to deal with the fear, even a minor reservation has no power in our interactions with others. [See Businessweek: Rejection Therapy: A Hundred Days of 'No.']

If you are uncomfortable asking the no-cost/high return questions because you anticipate rejection, it is normal and understandable. Consider it a therapeutic exercise and just ask. You are likely to be surprised that you can capitalize on many opportunities.

Let us know how it works out for you. We’d love to hear your story. And for related posts, see: Opportunities to Partner-and-Prosper and Like-Minded Businesses Want to Build Your Organization.

Comedian Bill Cosby once said, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” Only that time, he wasn’t joking.


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