I had a revelation recently.

fear of success

New years

The end of the Annual JobMob Guest Blogging Contest always coincides with the beginning of the fall and Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Growing up in Canada, my dad the businessman would also talk about the beginning of the fiscal year. Any way you put it, it's a good time to take a look back at what you've accomplished in 12 months and what you can accomplish in the next 12.

The recent look back was troubling for me, to say the least.

The just-completed guest blogging contest was a resounding success and helped revitalize JobMob, but it's rarely a big revenue generator for the site or for my business and that was true again this year.

During the previous 12 months, my main revenue stream – advertising – had begun to dry up and the startup I briefly told you about had to be frozen due to lack of funds, forcing my partner-to-be to move on.

Also during that time, I had started or restarted a number of projects, including some from before 2012, but none of them were completed to my satisfaction, and when I say that, what I really mean is that most weren't completed at all.

What was irritating was the feeling that I hadn't done anything in the last year that had truly impressed me, combined with the lingering thoughts that I've still only scratched the surface of what I can potentially do for both myself, my family, and you.

Worst of all was the recognition that I'd been in the same spot a few years ago.

Frustrated isn't the word.


You know that feeling when you learn a new word or discover a new topic, and then all of a sudden it seems to appear again and again?

It turns out that's a real thing, it's not just you 🙂

Called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or as the joke goes, “I just heard of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon and now I'm seeing it everywhere.”

When that happens, it's often because that new word or topic had been present all the time but until you were sensitized to it, you just hadn't noticed.

Likewise, fear of success on the job search is fairly common, something that comes up all the time when I'm helping job seekers. But I hadn't thought to shine that spotlight on myself until a springtime conversation with an old friend who caught me off guard by turning the tables on me with the same advice I was giving him.

That chat stayed in the back of my mind all summer, until my recent look back at the year, when I realized that the problem I was having was a fear of success.

And that got me googling.


Lifehack.org has a handy list of Behaviors of Success-Fearing People:

  • “You don’t complete your projects (this could be at work or at home).”

See above.

  • “You talk about what you are going to do more than what you actually do.”

See above.

  • “You work furiously on several projects at once, not really focusing deeply on any one of them.”

See above.

  • “You still have exactly the same things on your vision board that were there five years ago.”

And there are more.

See a trend?

I did.

Subconsciously speaking

The article continues with the suggestion that a fear of success may be due to one of three subconscious fears:

1. “Fear of Appearing To Be Unspiritual”

Problem: the perception that whatever you're trying to achieve will make you look bad, uncaring or even a sell-out

Solution: be a giver who doesn't expect or wait for anyone to give back

2. “Fear of Standing Out”

Problem: concern that success will bring more attention than you can handle, or even want

Solution: practice public speaking (such as by offering to speak for free at local networking events) and make an effort to be more open with your thoughts. Take it slow at first.

3. “Fear of Change”

Problem: the classic fear of the unknown, especially when you're comfortable where you are today.

Solution: you can't control change, but you can manage it by charting a course. Getting lost in the forest isn't so bad if you always know how to get back to the path you came with. Set very specific goals, a way to reach them and get support from people with similar goals.

In my case, the first two don't ring true at all. JobMob has been popular for years and I've helped and been helped by many people throughout, so it must be the third possibility, a fear of change, that's been blocking me.

Which is strange, because for years I've been warning people against being too comfortable in their careers, in their roles, in their habits, etc. One of the reasons job search is so hard is because it usually comes when you aren't ready for it or even expecting it. Comfort in your last position does that to you.

I can immediately tell when I start to feel too comfortable in a situation because I start getting bored. The challenges that appeal to me have all been overcome, and the ones that remain seem to have no purpose, like playing a video game too many times. There isn't really anything new to learn, and you just start going through the motions.

Beat the rap

The last time I felt this way was Summer 2012, and the course I took was to do my now-frozen second startup.

It's too early to tell what will happen this time around, but this is what I'm working on right now:

  • Visualizing very clearly where I'd like to be with my business by this time next year
  • Gathering my thoughts and notes to brainstorm with the quick goal of discovering a few possible paths I could take to make that visualization come true
  • Reaching out to you and my other audiences to decide which path makes the most sense to try first

For more on overcoming fear of success, an inspiring clip from Dr. Marty Hauff talking in part about his leaving a recent job:

Subscribe to JobMob via RSS or email and follow me on Twitter for more ideas on how to rethink your job search obstacles.


Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

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