“Do not dare not to dare.”
~ C. S. Lewis
We live in the age of the Internet Tough Guy. You know the one; he launches his attacks from the safety of his man cave, boasts of his prowess and his willingness to fight anytime, anywhere, but strangely cannot be found when it’s time to back up his claims.
It’s much easier to be a poser — to affect the outward appearance, but lack the substance. As long as nobody looks past the surface, these guys get the benefits of what they claim to be without any of the risk, effort or expense. As the saying goes, there are 2,500 active duty Navy SEALS, but if you believe the stories told in bars on any given Saturday night, there are more like 25,000.
We see this in nearly every sphere — people pretending to be something they’re not. The workplace seems full of pretenders. Then there are those people who appear to check their brains at the door and remain in neutral. Lucky for them, a leader can give them a push in the right direction. But there is a subcategory that is even more dangerous to the health of an organization — the otherwise capable man who is immobilized by the fear of failure.
No matter what my business card said at any given time, I’ve always considered sales an indispensable part of my work. I still do. Whether I’m partnering with a customer on a solution to his problem, proposing a new initiative at church, or singing a song for an audience, if I’m doing my job correctly I’m selling. Fear of failure — or better said, fear of rejection — is at the heart of the phenomenon known to sales professionals as call reluctance.
As a younger man, I was in prison. No, I wasn’t convicted of a crime, but I robbed myself of opportunities by choosing to live in the prison I built through fear of failure. Perhaps you can relate to this: I’d devote hours to ideas, schemes and plans, but I wouldn’t bring them to fruition because the time wasn’t right, or they needed more work. These were rationalizations I allowed to take root because inside I was afraid of failing.
The cure for me began nearly twenty years ago when I realized there was such a prison, and that I had locked the door from the inside. With God’s help, I decided to take some small steps and let God take care of the outcome. Along the way, John Eldredge’s book, Wild At Heart, exposed the root of this fear for me. He explained that every man’s fundamental question is this: “Do I have what it takes?” If a man hasn’t been initiated into manhood or confirmed in his ability to come through, he will remain in the shallows of life, placing only those bets or facing only those challenges he knows he can win.
In my case, this realization sent me on a quest to recover my heart. Providentially, it came at the right time for me to plan — and execute — a process of masculine initiation for both my sons. It changed my life. I’d be lying if I said that fear of failure doesn’t try to stage a coup every now and then, but I can also tell you that the more I stare it down, the less frequently it occurs.
I tell you these things because so many of you have grown up without a dad, or without ever knowing your dad was pleased with you. This has caused you to doubt your God-given capacity, and has made you a captive to fear. My message to you is that you can get better, and that God can restore the years you’ve lost. If you don’t have a relationship with your father, all is not lost. As I explained to my sons as we concluded their respective initiations, God had been fathering them through me all along — and God wants to be the Father you need. And I’m here to encourage you and to answer your questions, so you don’t have to slug it out alone.
Other practical steps
If you’ve made up your mind to stop dreaming about someday, here are some small steps to get you moving:
- Accept that rejection is inevitable – If “no” is the worst they can say to you, make a game of it and try to become more efficient. See how quickly you can get to no. As someone once said, “A fast ‘no’ is better than a slow ‘maybe.'” And note this: Even the world’s most popular brands aren’t for everyone.
- Be bold enough to ask — Ask for the meeting, for the phone number, for an exclusive distributorship agreement, for a place on the bill for next month’s show. Whatever it is you’ve set your sights on, ask for it. As Bill Hybels and others have said, “Don’t say someone else’s ‘no’ for him.”
- Be prepared enough and thorough enough to ask for the order – I can’t emphasize this enough. When you get the meeting or the interview go in prepared. In these days of LinkedIn and Facebook, it’s a sin not to do your homework. Go further, though — have a list of killer questions. You’ll not only learn important things, your counterpart(s) will think you’re fascinating because you got them talking about their favorite subject. This applies to courtship, too, gents.
- Be courageous enough to approach the woman, and the next woman — For you single men who intend to get married, you’ll never get married if you don’t or won’t approach an attractive woman. We’ll talk more about this in a future post, but I have a friend who met a quality woman at a dance by dancing with the other attractive girls there. She noticed and asked him to dance. Sneaky, but effective. But notice, he had to ask several women to dance first. Note: It’s not wrong to ask a friend to introduce you — in sales, this is called a warm lead.
- Recognize that accomplishment begets confidence — I recommend stepping out and trying something new, just to see what happens. Start by altering your routine. Take a different route to work, or patronize a different restaurant and make an effort to meet some new people. This is a warm-up for real progress. Consider a public speaking, improv or ballroom dancing class. Take up a musical instrument or learn golf or fly fishing. It doesn’t matter what it is, the newness is the thing. This is particularly good for overcoming the fear of failure, since everyone who’s new at something fails repeatedly. A good instructor can model the very way you should behave toward yourself when you fail.
Try these and you’ll find the world is full of opportunities that others — like your former self — have overlooked.
So how about you? What’s holding you back from working at your full capacity? What’s your plan? Add your comments below.