Friday, March 1, 2013

The Fear of Success and/or Failure - An Informal Survey

About three weeks ago I was at a book event.  During the event, I got to talking with another attendee about what they do for a living.  This particular individual, a woman who I will refer to as "R", told me she is a social worker and owns a hotel.  Ultimately, it is her goal to make a enough money by the time she is 40 so she can pursue a career in social work full-time without having the financial strain of having a social worker's salary.  Oh, I didn't mention that she also started a not-for-profit, too.

I have to admit, I was impressed! 

As she was telling me all this, R told me about her reluctance to buy the hotel she did and how she thought about it for TWO years.  As she went into detail about this she ventured off into tell me that she believes woman, more often than not, have a fear of success than they do failure; whereas, men, more often than not, have a fear of failure than they do success.  An interesting theory, I thought to myself.  Though I had never really thought about it, I was intrigued and started wondering how that theory applied to my group of friends.  I was especially curious about this because I happen to know A LOT of attorneys and was curious to find out if any of them feared success (especially amongst the attorneys I know who are guys).  I told R I found her theory interesting and that I would have to run a random poll amongst "my peeps" to see if it held true.

So, the next day I got to work on my random poll.  I texted 5 guys and 5 girls ... (I guess I should say "women" and "men", but in my world we're still all guys and girls!).  The unsuspecting victims participants were:  Girls: J, M, GD, A, K  Guys: P, OD, J, A and E. 

(Yes!  Yes!  I realize I didn't put any names down, but I have this thing about protecting my friends privacy.)

Of the guys, three of them are attorneys, one is a law school student and one is a trainer/author/photographer.  Of the five, two said they feared success.  One I wasn't too surprised said they feared it, but the other I was quite surprised about because it was my friend who is in law school and he doesn't strike me as the type that would fear success.... then I heard his reasons as to why they feared it. (BTW - I just asked if they feared it or not.  Any additional feedback was voluntary.)  Then I asked, via text, if they feared failure.  Two answered yes, and the other three answered no.  This one I was not surprised about at all, but you have to remember this is from someone I know quite well - none of this person's answers shocked me. 

Of the five girls I contacted, one is an attorney. (Side note: This random poll made me aware that I know a lot more guys who are attorneys than I do girls who are attorneys.)  The others are a graphic designer, teacher, author/former teacher,  and copy writer.  All but one said they do not fear success.  Only one of the girls said they fear success.

Some interesting observations I made...
  • Half of the folks I asked these questions to asked me why I asking.
  • My guy friend who feared success said the reason he feared it had to do with the effect their success could have - like people they knew being jealous of their success.   
  • My girl friend who feared success said the reason she feared it had to do with it not being real.
  • Two (maybe three - I'm feeling too lazy at the moment to check my text messages to verify the number) of those poled asked me what my answers to those questions were.
I still think about what my friends who are afraid of success had to say as to why they were afraid of it.  I can see where they are coming and feel they are valid reason for fearing success.

As for me and the question of whether or not I fear success and/or failure.... The answer is no, to both.  I believe there are people who know me well who might think otherwise, but that isn't the case.  I wonder about the assumptions those that were made by those who didn't ask me why I was asking these questions.  Ultimately, I do have my issues with failure; I also have my thoughts regarding success.  However, this is not the post to include them in.

I realize that my results don't really say much in terms of a broad population.  I think this would be an interesting sociological study to conduct.  The conclusion I drew from it was that of the people I know, some of the gender generalization were true while others not.

At this time, I'd like to send a heartfelt THANK YOU to all those who participated in my "informal survey"!  I don't feel the thank you I sent you via text could express how thankful I was for you humoring me by answering all my questions.

Also, thank you to R for giving me the idea.  It's truly an interesting topic to explore!
This week for the Thursday Blog Project, I asked everyone to write about whether or not they were afraid of success and/or failure.  Please take a moment to see what they had to say:

•  Momarock (Sara)

•  Merryland Girl (Melissa)

•  Mom of Many (Susanna)


  1. interesting approach to the topic. i would be interested in you elaborating on your thoughts in a future post sometime.

  2. So interesting! I love that you did a research project :) XOXO

  3. I also like that you did a research project! Lots of great information, women's ideas vs. men's. Great post!