Are You Afraid of Failure?

I recently heard that the President of Pixar has said, “Failure is the inevitable result of trying something new.”

Wow, that statement is so true.


Most of us fear failure. We don’t want to fail. Often, we don’t take risks. Instead, we stay in our cozy comfort zone to avoid failure.

Here is my question: How do you define failure?

  • Is failure falling short of your own goals for your project or book?
  • Is failure losing money on a project or book?
  • Is failure only doing part of a project (or one or two books in a longer series) before being forced to quit due to lack of consumer interest or finances?
  • Is failure poor reviews of your book?

Often, we are afraid of failure, but we don’t take the time to define what failing would look like. We have an idea of what success would look like, and so anything that falls short of our idea of success we end up calling failure.

But, is not reaching your own or society’s idea of success truly a failure? After all, isn’t simply writing a book or publishing a book a success of its own? If we learn something from our project or book, even if it doesn’t perform as well as we expect or desire, isn’t that also a form of success?

The book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Harford seems to imply that all success starts with failure. I don’t believe that this premise is true. However, I do believe that failure can lead to future successes if we let it.

Failure is not just “lack of success”. Failure is also a great teacher. When we don’t reach the success we want (what we call failing), we can take the lessons we learn and use them to change our course.

This, of course. is the point in Tim Harford’s book. We must adapt. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure puts forth three essential steps for successful adapting:

  1. Try new things with the knowledge that some will fail.
  2. Make failure survivable since some of the attempts will surely fail.
  3. Make sure you know when you have failed.

Again, defining failure as well as success is important when you embark on a new project.
The old adage “Nothing ventured, Nothing gained” still holds true. If we sit in our comfort zones, we won’t fail, but we also won’t experience success.

If fear of failure is holding you back, maybe it’s time to define what failure would be. After all, following what we feel God is calling us to do is, in and of itself, a success.

Related Posts:
What’s Holding You Back?
Indecision: A Success Killer
The Iceberg of Success

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The Iceberg of Success

Success. However you define it, it is what most authors and publishers strive for.

I love this word picture by Syliva Duckworth that I recently stumbled across. It so adequately depicts success. What people see of success is only a small part when compared to the work that goes into becoming a success.

SuccessThe one thing I think the bottom-half of this picture is missing is prayer. As a Christian, I believe that prayer is an essential foundation of the iceberg of success. Can you achieve success without prayer? Yes. However, if you want to have success and remain successful, I think prayer must be a foundation.

I Samuel 18:14 in speaking of King Saul says, “In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him.” What happened to Saul when he stopped following God’s ways and did things his own way? He lost that success.

Too often, I have seen authors, pastors, and other Christian leaders reach a point of success and follow in King Saul’s footsteps.  In their success, when their books and message are reaching and touching many lives, they stumble. That author or pastor is caught in a sinful scandal, wiping out much of what he or she has accomplished.

May we always remember the words of Isaiah 26:12. “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Yes, you will work hard to achieve success, but through it all, remember where your praise should lie.

Related Posts:
Indecision: A Success Killer
How Do You Define Success?

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Three Principles for Self-Publishing Success recently ran an article on Clint Greenleaf, founder of Greenleaf Book Group, a publisher and distributor specializing in the development of independent authors and the growth of small presses. Clint Greenleaf is another great self-publishing success story.

clintClint Greenleaf told his friends that writing a book wasn’t that hard. His friends called him on it. To meet the challenge, Clint wrote a 30-page book titled Attention to Detail: A Gentleman’s Guide to Appearance and self-published it. He posted a free ad for the book in Bottom Line/Personal magazine offering his book for $5.00. Within a few months, Clint was collecting a hundred orders daily for his book. This led to his decision to launch a publishing company. He started Greenleaf Publishing Group in his parent’s garage. Today the company has far outgrown its humble origins and boasts annual revenues around eight million dollars.

Clint Greenleaf’s first book never made it to the New York Times Bestseller list, so how did he manage to achieve his success?

I think Clint understood three basic principles that every self-published author needs to succeed.

1. Write a book to fill an ongoing need.

Every man wants to succeed. Most men understand that appearance is an important aspect of success whether it is in business or in personal relations. Few books have been written to address this issue for men. A handbook that tells men exactly what they need to do fills their need. Writing a book to fill a need is the first key to success in self-publishing. Remember, your chances for success decrease based on the number of competing titles on your subject matter.

2. Price your book right.

A $5.00 book is a bargain. Consumers love a bargain and can spot one a mile away. If Clint had priced his book at $8.00 or $10.00 he would not have received as many orders. People are willing to gamble a small amount of money on something they think they need and only a larger amount of money on something they know they need. Keep price in mind when self-publishing your book. Pricing your book at the sweet spot is the second key to success in self-publishing. Don’t price yourself out of the competition.

3. Know your target market.

Knowing your target market is key to success in marketing books. Clint knew his target audience. One well-placed ad for men brought him the sales he wanted. Research your target audience. Learn how best to reach them and use those methods to get the message about your book in front of your potential customers. Knowing and reaching your target audience is the third key to success in self-publishing.

Take a lesson from Clint Greenleaf’s success story. It could be yours if you follow his example.

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