Fear of Success Vs. Brad Warner and the Force

I think this is my 3rd or 4th time reading Brad Warner‘s Hardcore Zen and I get something new from it every time. Sure, I get the Zen message, but it’s like the concept of never stepping in the same river twice. I’m not the same person when I re-read it, and different parts resonate differently.

This time through it was the idea of the “fear of success” in the “If Only…” chapter.

I’ve felt that “fear of success” before. It’s part of my narrative about what has held me back in my life. I feel like I never do anything about it, so I’m just as stuck as everyone else. (That’s not true, though – I got my master’s degree and I’ve played an open mic night semi-recently.)

This time reading the book, I really took to the line “Maybe it’s not that people like this fear success so much as they fear discovering that success really isn’t success at all.”(p. 57) And the sentence that followed that one: “We want to keep our dreams our dreams.” Brad follows with a bit about how our dreams, once realized, aren’t as thrilling or fulfilling as we thought they’d be.

That’s not it for me, though, that I would be let down by success not being ~SUCCESS~!! “Success” for me would be like Andy Partridge from XTC – making music and never having to tour. (This is also not true, I don’t have the stage fright Andy did and I do love performing, but I also love hunkering down with recording software or a 4-track and noodling for days.)

I do think that there’s something to “keeping our dreams our dreams” for me, that if I never try, then “success” is always a possibility. I clung for years to the fact that Andy Summers joined The Police when he was 35 years old. That milestone came and went for me without even a shrug. I knew that there were older people who’ve gotten “successful,” who’ve “made it.” I could always try later.

And that’s it. If I don’t try, then the dreams are still at arm’s length and I don’t have to fear the success *or* the failure.

So now that I’ve learned this (thanks, Brad!), I’m making an effort to try. Or, as Yoda would suggest, an effort to do. There is no “try”.

What does my “effort to do” look like? You’re reading it. There will be more to come.


Do you procrastinate or have dreams of “success” that scare you? Leave a comment or just send me an e-mail. We’re in this together.

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I'm the owner of Tenzo Media. We design, operate, and create content for YourOlderBrother.com and DietaryDignitary.com. Please let me know if I can help you.
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One Response to Fear of Success Vs. Brad Warner and the Force

  1. Kurt says:

    Hey Sam, enjoyed your musing about a book I really enjoyed. Made we want to give it another reread. It’s been too many years since I took a look at it. I’m with you on the idea of Dreams. Although, I think I see what Warner is getting at when he says that people “…they fear discovering success isn’t success at all.” To me, that sentiment might pertain to people who contemplate making the jump from dream to reality and realize that things might not be as cut and dried as they seem with just a cursory look. Or, maybe they just seem harder or different when it comes time to make them happen. I feel like I don’t actually ever intend to do the things I label dreams. Dreams are just dreams. There a really nice escape from reality. I would love if they happened to me without any effort. Maybe that feeling is partly what you have in mind when you say if you don’t try there is still a chance at success. Or, maybe not. I like to think that if we really wanted to make dreams into reality we would probably call them at least an ambition and probably a goal. Thanks for writing something that let me use my brain. Keep the writing coming!

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