So don’t fight it, says CNN's Max Foster. Treat it like an asset.
WHEN I MEET AND interview highly successful people, I am reminded of how they’re mostly regular people who have just found a way to break through. They have the same hopes and fears as the rest of us. They are nervous about appearing on TV, even more so in fact because they have more to lose if they mess up. They want to know what I am going to ask and where we are going to sit and I get a glimpse of their vulnerability in that moment which those around them rarely see. That gives me a unique insight into their character and what I sense in successful people is fear but also someone who refuses to be cowed by it. I see strength, courage, resilience and, over time, I have seen how all of this can be learned.
What is hope without fear?
Hope is a reaction to the things we fear missing out on - financial security, job satisfaction, power, popularity and so on - but it doesn’t mean anything unless you combine it with ambition and drive.
Successful people choose not to compromise. They know where they want to be and the steps they need to take to get there. It might be the politician who’s coming on my show to raise his profile ahead of an election or the CEO lobbying for a merger to will increase the size of her empire or the actor promoting the movie that she hopes will make her an A-Lister.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that you need to know exactly where you want to be in five- or ten-years’ time but you do need a broad sense of direction. There’s more than one path to success and you can’t see them all right away.
What is ambition without fear?
Successful people also choose their own path. It might mean they have to step out of their comfort zone and challenge the established order but, as I write in my book, I have yet to meet anyone with clout who wasn’t also a disrupter.
The book’s based on people who left an impression on me and none of them lacked ambition or drive. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs spoke of seeking ‘enlightenment,’ Tracey Emin wanted recognition as a ‘seminal artist’ and Donald Trump appears to be looking for self-affirmation.
What is drive without fear?
Steve Jobs opened up about his ‘fear of failure,’ Emin is haunted by men who taunted her as a teenager, Donald Trump reminisces on how his father warned him against taking on the ‘big leagues’ in Manhattan. All three proved their detractors wrong. They succeeded because of their fear of failure, not despite it.
Fear isn’t a problem in itself, it’s our negative response to it that can causes the issues. When we sense a threat, our bodies react as if we are still cave dwellers. It’s fight or flight. But we aren’t fighting of lions and wolves anymore. Civilised society has presented us with a third option which is to embrace the fear, tame it and use it to propel us towards our dreams. The greater your fear, the greater your potential.
Where is my drive?
We all have a stage in life we didn’t enjoy, where we lacked hope and felt at a dead end. It might be where you are now.
Where is your place of no return? You will know when it comes to you because you will sense the fear of going back there and feel mobilised. There’s your drive. Successful people can pick it out pretty quickly in my experience. I explore what successful people are afraid of in my new podcast series and my guests often surprise themselves with their responses. They’re more focussed on where they are going than where they have been but their demons still lurk at the back of their minds. The more successful they are, the more they take on the added fear of not completing their journey.
What is success without fear?
Shortly before I published my book I spoke to a group of senior executives in London and one of them came up to me afterwards to ask why he had lost his drive. He said he had been out for dinner with a group of friends, all of whom were now ‘financially secure,’ and they all felt the same way. He’d answered his own question. If his fear was financial insecurity then he had overcome it. That’s what success feels like.