The Single Greatest Threat To Your Success

The Single Greatest Threat To Your Success

The world is filled with threats to your success, but the greatest of these is much closer to home than you might think.

I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses during my career, and in all of those interactions one thing is the greatest determinant of success, the founders ability to overcome their own fear of achieving success and happiness. Yes, it sounds totally counterintuitive, but stick with me for a few minutes because what you learn may well be the most important lesson in achieving success.

The easiest thing to walk away from is our dreams. It’s easy because we always wait for the rest of the world to somehow line up and provide the assurance that we are right; that the time is right, the people are right, the feeling is right, the trust is there. Yet, the only thing that we can control is our perception of what is right. I’ve seen people who were seemingly in the right time and place, had everything going for them, and still couldn’t make it work. And then I’ve seen others who had the deck stacked against them, who came from the worst circumstances, were only marginally prepared to take on the challenge they had set out to achieve, faced incredible challenges, and somehow they did make it work.

Bending The Universe

The difference between the two groups was that those who succeeded did not wait for the universe to pave a smooth road to support their dream, but instead had an amazingly deep, almost irrational, attitude that they would bend and shape the universe around their dream.

Yes, it sounds very warm and fuzzy and new age-ish. It’s not. What successful people ultimately overcome is the not the enormous pressure of existential threats to their dreams but their own fears that they somehow lack the power to make their dreams come true. Sometimes that comes across as arrogance, naiveness, or bullheadedness. Call it what you will but it’s there, it’s consistent and it’s palpable.

“What successful people ultimately overcome is the not the enormous pressure of existential threats to their dreams but their own fears that they somehow lack the power to make their dreams come true.”

I know, you’re thinking, “Hold on, I am confident, capable, and convinced in my dream.” Of course you are; most of us are. After all it’s our dream! But a conviction in what might be is not the same as believing in what will be.

Successful people say, “Sure, I am terrified of doing what it takes, I know uncertainty will be present, I get the risks, and the steep price of failure, I know there are no guarantees, but I’m doing it anyway.”

Toss The Safety Net

This is not a simple semantic difference, it is a deep belief in your own power, that you will endure despite the fears you have, that you refuse to walk the tightrope of life with a safety net. Sounds frightening, right? Damn straight it should. However, in my experience successful people are those who have the ability to dredge up their fears, overcome them, and find assurance not outside of themselves but within themselves. Ultimately this is the only way any of us grow, challenge ourselves, and move closer to success. To put it bluntly, we go after and we get what we truly believe we deserve.

There’s a great quote from Marianne Williams in the movie Invictus that sums it up better than I ever could:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Words for all of us to live by; conquer the threats within and those outside are easy in comparison.

Tom Koulopoulos is the author of ten books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc 500 company, which focuses on innovation and the future of business. He is also an adjunct professor at the Boston University Graduate School of Management, an Executive in Residence at Bentley University, the past Executive Director of the Babson College Center for Business Innovation, and a frequent keynote speaker. The late Peter Drucker once said of his writing, that it challenges not only the way you run your business but the way you run yourself. Tom’s latest book is The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping The Future of Business.

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