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Confessions of a Mad Journalist (Part 2): Overcoming the Fear of Failure

May 11, 2009

Continued from previous post

Oftentimes, my journal acted as a sounding board for my career – a personal assistant of sorts, to help me think through major issues, or grapple with risk. Sure, being an executive can be fun, you are thinking. You get to make big decisions. People respect you. You get to tell others what to do. And, let’s see. What else? Oh yes – the fate of the entire organization rests upon your shoulders. That’s not completely accurate, but it sure feels that way sometimes.

After working so hard for many years clawing my way to the top, I relished in those first few years of making it to the executive suite. Confident. Bold. Full of conviction. That’s the image I wanted to project. That’s what you would have read in my journal those days. But soon enough, the glimmer wore off, and I was faced with the daunting realization that everyone expected me to make some pretty tough decisions, and to get them right. Owning those major decisions took some getting used to. What if I made a mistake? What if I was wrong? What will happen if I make a twenty million dollar boggle?

When it came time to actually make those big decisions, I frequently would have cold feet, and second thoughts. “Do you really know what you are doing?” my journal would ask. That’s what I would be thinking on the way home from work, or waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. “Who do you think you are? I’ll tell you who you are, you are a big fat Loser who is trying to fake everyone out with your fancy business plans and big ideas. They are on to you, boy!” Those same thoughts crossed my mind as I drove past the construction site of an enormously expensive project that I had recently launched. A project that I had fought for and wrestled with for three years, doing market research, studying the competition, building a business plan, getting advice from experts, and then victoriously convincing the Board that it would provide a superior return for the investors, giving us a formidable edge in the industry. But sitting in my car a few weeks later watching the steel going up, I suddenly felt a lump in my stomach. “Dear Lord in heaven, what have I done?” I thought to myself, gripping the steering wheel with white-knuckles as the friendly construction workers smiled and waved at me. In a brief moment of desperate panic, I secretly reneged on all of my bold predictions for growth and profits. All I wanted to do was run and hide. It all crumbled before me in an imaginary meltdown, as I pictured myself standing before the Board, trying to explain the massive failure of my plan.

In moments like this, I need to step back, to gain some perspective, and to be less emotional – more objective. I need a helping hand. I turn to my journal, and let it all out in a flurry of cries and pleas to God, followed by a good deal of man-to-man straight-talk. It calms me down. A few months later, I go back and read through those escalating crazy-man thoughts, and I chuckle. “Ha, Ha, wasn’t that funny how I got so worked up over that little thing! Oh, Ye of Little Faith! Sheesh!”

A few months after the fact, it is now so obvious that any dummy could have seen how God was with me then. He was there the whole time. Everything worked out just fine, even though it was a little touch and go for a while. I had done all the right homework; I received plenty of input and advice. I was not being arrogant and cavalier in promoting my ideas. So why did I panic?

I think about that Woody Allen quote, the one that says “Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” That’s all God wants from me, is to just show up every day and do my job – at home, at work, with my kids, with my friends and church. And if I’m doing it right, if I’m stepping out in faith and taking calculated risks once in a while, there might be times when it feels like what I am doing is crazy. It’s like an old saying I heard once from a youth leader in high school: “God can’t steer a parked car.” It may take a while, we may fumble around and bump into things at first, but He’s got to start somewhere.

I’ll bet that in God’s playbook, one hundred percent of success is based on just showing up. And to be honest, some days that’s barely all we can manage. But, really, what other choice do we have? We wake up, turn over in bed, and sooner or later we are going to have to get up and start moving around. That’s when the Holy Spirit can sneak in and start doing some good work with us. He can prod and push us, nudging us along a little at a time. “So, now that you’re up, why not make that phone call?” He might ask, in a cheerful, encouraging voice. You might as well go and talk to that person you were thinking about. And it wouldn’t hurt to organize that meeting you’ve had on that list for a while. A little at a time. Things start getting mobilized. And before you know it, God is doing something in your life that you didn’t even expect.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2009 6:56 pm


    I love your honesty. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story.

  2. May 11, 2009 6:58 pm

    i wonder how many people keep journals.
    the paper and pen kind.

    do you ever find yourself writing something down that surprises you?

  3. May 13, 2009 9:03 am

    Nice story and a great exhortation, Bradley.


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