3 Phases of Succeeding You Wish You Could Avoid but Can't

Guest Writer
Former Journalist, Current PR Guy (wielding an MBA)
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It seems that everyone has some version of "The Secret to Success." If you Google the phrase "how to succeed" more than 158,000,000 entries pop up.

We intrinsically know most of the elements of success: hard work, dedication, vision, ideas, applied talent, character, loyalty, teamwork, strategy, execution, drive, adaptability, accountability...etc.

However, there are at least three counterintuitive elements that are absolutely essential if you want to succeed---but they are rarely considered.

1. Fear

Most people have plenty of fear but they typically don't see it as a stepping stone toward success.

In fact, fear of success is one of the main reasons holding people back. We're afraid that we may lose our friends, people might be jealous and resent us or that expectations of future success will be even tougher to achieve. There are so many ways and reasons that fear can restrain us if we let it.

However, when viewed through a different filter, fear might actually be a directional tool. If you're afraid to call a prospect, launch a product, apply for a new job, start a new franchise or whatever, take a moment to look at where the fear might be pointing. Don't engage or listen to the fear but look at what it wants you to avoid.

That initial resistance is a good indication of the general direction you need to move and work toward. Entrepreneurs live this experience every day and use fear as a form of GPS.

No one is successful without some degree of fear and the ability to forge ahead despite the fear.

Related: 7 Ways to Think Differently About Fear

2. Failure

One of the most significant fears we must face is the fear of failure. Underlying this fear is the fact that most people are more inclined to keep what they have than risk losing it pursuing more. This fearful compunction to avoid loss and failure trumps the drive to gain more. It's further compounded by the worry that others will think less of us or won't love us if we don't achieve our goals.

But failure is another essential element of success because it helps eliminate unworkable options, sharpens focus and clearly directs next steps. In fact, failure is the underlying principle of the scientific method --hypothesis, test, fail, repeat until a solution is found. 

The overused example of Thomas Edison is a good one. He tested and failed 9,999 times while trying to find the correct filament for the incandescent light bulb. He's famously quoted as acknowledging none of those were failures but instead helped him find the correct workable solution.

There can be no success without failing first at some level.

Related: Failure Is Not the End. It's an Opportunity to Learn.

3. Frustration

However, an unavoidable aspect of failure is frustration. We're human. 

It's completely natural in the face of relentless and repeated failure to become frustrated and discouraged. Often we have very little control over the causes of failure and frustration,  but we have absolute control over our response to those externals.  

You can choose to let frustration beat you down, or you can choose to let it build mental toughness and perseverance within you. There has never been anyone who has achieved meaningful and sustainable success without mental toughness.

The key to leveraging these three counterintuitive elements of success is re-framing them within your own mind. Recasting fear as a directional steer, failure as a test tube and frustration as a tempering agent will only bring you closer to success.

Related: How to Recognize the Good in Every Situation Without Kidding Yourself

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