Are you afraid to fail?

Maybe not afraid, but want to position myself so I have options; instead of burning all my boats, hiding at least one in the weeds.

Well, that won’t get you anywhere sir; you are likely to be mired in mediocrity for the rest of your life then.

I just don’t want to outkick my coverage like I did in my marriage so I’m sensitive to this.

Do you know professional baseball players fail more than 7 out of 10 opportunities at bat? Does your job allow those kind of results? Swing away Merrill.

I was listening to a sports radio show and they had Joe Flacco’s college coach on the air talking about their relationship. Joe will be the starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens when they play in this year’s Super Bowl. Joe was a lightly regarded quarterback at essentially a non-football school and not many expected him to have much success; certainly not as a pro quarterback. However, he is the only pro quarterback in the history of the NFL who has won 6 road playoff games. He’s taken his team to the playoffs every year he has been in the league. I would say he has been successful.

He was visiting his college coach and the coach asked him “Joe, when kids come through here and ask about you, how you did it, what should I tell them?’ It only took him a few seconds to respond, he said “I was not afraid to fail.”

Wow, I guess he’s burning all the boats then.

Would you jump off a cliff?

Does your life situation dictate how bold you might be, or if you have that mindset, does it even matter where you are in life?

What if you have a wife, kids, a mortgage, and car payments and you are about 10 years into that gig? Are you apt to be as bold then?

I think we know the answer; most will say ‘no.’

You certainly want to be able to provide for your family and if your boldness puts that at risk, would it make you think twice before taking that leap? Knowing you are in a rut and something needs to be done, but also knowing it could be disastrous for your family, are you being selfish to even consider it?

It sure would be a much easier decision if it was only you that you had to worry about, huh?

Can you do both?

Most don’t set out to fail and sometimes factors out of your control like being laid off dictates what your survival mode looks like. Sometimes it’s not pretty because it looks a lot like desperation. But then again, if you are so desperate you have nothing to lose…who knows…

I see some in social trying to gain momentum hopefully building up a sustainable online business so you can tell the boss man to “take this job and shove it.” Most aren’t quite ready to make that leap and that is why they haven’t burned all of the boats; but is that holding you back? Does common sense take away some of your boldness?

Better to be pro-active and have a marketable skill-set I suppose; it usually works out much better when you control your destiny as opposed to leaving it in someone else’s hands.

Where do you draw the line?

How bold is bold? How deep is deep?

I’m in outside commercial insurance sales, I know what failure looks like and even though I’m a grizzled veteran at this point those defeats hurt now just as bad as they ever did. I also know what success looks like too however, and it makes getting up every day and going into work worthwhile.

Whereas I am an owner at Lanier Upshaw, I am not the owner and at this point, never will be. About 10 years into this gig I could tell just by the way the transfer of ownership was going I would never be the guy. That was my crossroads to decide if I ever want to do my own thing, now was the time to cut the cord. However, by then I was that guy who was married with children, a mortgage and two car payments. If I walked away I would be completely starting over from ground zero.

I couldn’t pull the trigger, but in hindsight I can say I did not make a bad decision. Even though I do not have a guaranteed paycheck as I live on 100% commission, I have never missed a paycheck. And I will say, insurance has been a pretty sweet gig for me.

If someone was considering choosing sales for a career, insurance would be my choice. Everybody is going to buy it….and it renews, again and again.

I have total freedom to come and go as I please in my job and don’t have to get down in the weeds with operational and management decisions. And there really is no cap on how much money I can make, so just show up, right? Sounds like my MO anyway.

I truly have the best job ever; was I afraid to fail?


42 thoughts on “Are you afraid to fail?

  1. Not from where I am standing. Personally, one man’s idea of failure is not anothers. We all take risks in life regardless of their severity and frankly your choices make you who you are. I am sure you have failed plenty and as long as you learned from that you are golden.

    Failing is one thing but if you never find your calling have you succeeded?

    • Yes I think you need to look inward and don’t use ‘keeping up w/ the Jones’ as a measuring stick.

      Finding your calling is illusive if you are stuck in a ‘job,’ right?

      Good to see you Ralph, hope all is well.

  2. You’re right, Bill, I have learned more from my failures than my successes. The important thing is to learn from your failures.

    Your blog post in December about almost losing your client was very inspirational to me. You really took lemons and made lemonade.

    Everybody fails. It’s what you do with that failure that determines success.

    • Some lessons ‘hurt’ more than others, but most I have learned from. Every once in awhile I will repeat something I should know better, but usually ‘right’ the ship after getting ‘stung’ twice. Sometimes those lessons really need to be drilled into you, huh?

      It’s what you do with failure that determines your success; yes indeedy.

  3. This post slapped me across the face a bit this morning.

    Over the last 18 months I’ve given up a 15 year career with a Global 250 corp, joined a start-up and now am launching two of my own businesses. Interestingly, during the planning stages of one of those businesses, I heard that other had tried to launch companies that do what we are doing. My response was that none of those people burned their boats. And yet, here I am not burning mine either (hence the second company).

    Every day I wake up TERRIFIED! I’m absolutely afraid to fail. But that fear has not and will not prevent me from taking action. Instead, it’s that fear that drives me to do what must be done to succeed.

    Thanks for the reminder this morning Bill! Great post.

    • Whoa yes, jumping off that cliff with a very, very small parachute indeed. If you don’t let the fear paralyze you, then it will certainly keep you focused on the task at hand and what needs to get accomplished.

      Good to see you Sean, thanks for taking the time to stop by.

      Best of luck w/ your endeavors.

  4. Love the quote. If you are afraid to fail, then you will never get anywhere. However, failure doesn’t always have to be huge; you don’t have to burn your boats Cortez style.

    Risk should always be tied to reward. We all see a lot of people taking big risks (quitting careers, etc.) for low probability, small potential rewards. The people who succeed doing that are very rare.

    I think that you have done it right, which is why I still want to be like Bill. 🙂

    • Yes, sometimes the ‘small’ failures can still ding you up and provide all the ‘life lesson’ you need. When I decided insurance sales would be my career I had never sold a thing in my life. I had no idea if I could make it go or not. I think the one thing I fell back one was the mantra EVERYBODY will buy insurance, EVERYBODY. I figured if I wasn’t too big of a douche-bag about it I could make it work.

      As my book of business grew, I also developed a little more ‘walk-away’ power and didn’t have to keep getting beat up if it wasn’t going to be a good fit.

      I want to be like my kids, they have it made……..:).

  5. I think what Carolyn said is spot on: “Everybody fails. It’s what you do with that failure that determines success.” And as far as you go, I think you are all too aware of that. I think many of us – at least, those of us who admit that failure is an option (because it always is) – are frankly both afraid to fail as well as not afraid to fail. I quit my big agency job to go back out on my own.

    Some say I’m fearless; and yes, in a way I suppose I am willing to take risks, but they are calculated ones (in fact, you alluded to this in an email when I made my decision known). But I’m also s**t-scared of “failing” – which means that I can’t let myself get complacent. I don’t think you do either – get complacent, that is. Because you know you have to “hunt what you eat,” as it were, you make damn sure that you do just that, and then some.

    Also I think everyone’s definition of failure (and success) is different. For someone, it might be not making a certain amount of money. For someone, it might be something else. I think that’s the other thing we have to remind ourselves of. We need to hold ourselves to *our* definitions of success and failure, not someone else’s.

    • I admire people like you and Gini with true entrepreneurial spirits and come hell or high water will find a way to get it done. Even though I still have to hunt what I eat (and I’ve seen many fail at this business) I am somewhat insulated by being part of a larger group.

      Every once in awhile things will be occurring that will take my breath away, but usually by dawn’s early light all things become ‘all right’ and it’s time to just keep moving forward.

      I do try to be more inward thinking and be grateful for what I do have instead of always wanting for more. However, I do want enough ‘want to’ to keep me motivated and be rewarded for my successes.

      Hey Shonali, thanks so much for stopping by; I hope all is well with you.

  6. Must be in the water Bill. Last night’s episode of “The Girls* ( yes I watch it as a middle-aged dude) covered similar ground…..I would say your staying with the firm was probably a great decision recognizing you still call the shots in many ways…..but sometimes the adrenaline rush on the other side is pretty fun too! Oh and Flaco is a freak….I hope he now get the props he deserves.

    • I don’t think I’m familiar with ‘The Girls,’ maybe I better check it out, huh? Chicks are cool……..:).

      I would say the majority of the people who have left our firm to strike out on their own, I know of only who who achieved greater success than they were enjoying while at LUI. Most I see moving because they refuse to admit maybe insurance sales just isn’t their gig but they don’t know what else to do and they are just staying one step ahead of the pink-slip.

      It looks easy on the outside, but you really do have to work hard, but it can be done.

      This is Flacco’s contract year; I think he will be in line for a big contract now, hopefully it’s Baltimore that will be paying him.

      Good to see you sir.

  7. Bill,
    First, I burst out laughing at the comments (Shonali’s), Boy, do I ever know how it feels, to hunt to eat. Next ~ I don’t see you being afraid of anything, including “failing.” Isn’t “failure” not trying? Not trying again if something doesn’t work? Not trying again if you fail 99 times?

    This is a pretty scary one for me to answer, Bill. (I think I may have to follow up with a post….)
    I am scared to death. Utterly. I am exhausted. Stressed. Holding on with numb fingers to the knot at the end of the rope… and like once before, I will just have faith my fingers are tightly fisted and that they wont open. I will not quit. I will not ignore what scares me most… pretending everything is just hunky-dorey and write blog posts all day…. never having to worry about really “doing it right” and BE-ing who I say I am… who cares, right? I’m tired. My kids want to know why I am on the computer all day. My eyes hurt from staring at my tiny laptop screen for about 18 hours a day for the last two years.

    I am all in. Everything. And it is terrifying. And you are right….I don’t think I would be quite (quite) this terrified if it was only me. Instead, I am a single mom to a 14 year old genius and a very interesting, if slightly ornery, 5.5 year old mini-me (that’s what the gang says, not me). Pioneer Outfitters is a family owned and operated business. Since 1924. Master Guide Terry Overly (Dad) has over 6 decades doing exactly what his father started. As it stands, because of the way the concessions in the National Park operate, the actual foundation of Pioneer will not continue after …. well, enough said. So, yes, it is terrifying.

    I know that what I am learning, if I learn it well enough, will change that. I know it could open a future to my own children.

    I cut and burned every other bridge a long time ago. When I turned away from what would be an incredibly sweet career offer to move from New York to Alaska into a deep bush area, reachable only by aircraft, many of those bridges were burned from the other shore. At that time (More than 20 years), the only means of communication was a thrice daily radio report called “Caribou Clatters” to receive messages from the outside world.

    Lots has changed. Much has improved and now we have some of the same, some new worries. Blessings happen every day and the internet has been a personal blessing as well, for me. I will keep working, keep listening, take another tylonal and get back to work. Did I fail?

    • No, you did not fail, you jumped out there and gave it all you had. People keep moving the cheese in my world too, but we are survivors and we will figure it out, right?

      So good to see you and obviously you have a lot going on, a lot on your plate. If anybody can survive, I know it’s you.

      Thanks for stopping by and best of luck with whatever the future holds for you and your family.

  8. My common sense does keep me from turning in my two week’s notice. I have diabetes and a house payment and a student loan. I can’t mess around with those things. I also made a commitment to get my current day job through their time at an expo, and I believe in keeping my commitments. I’d love to say “Screw it, I’m going to risk everything,” but I’m just not in a position to do that. I have to have some idea of how deep the water is before I leap.

    • Yes, there is a difference between bold and crazy, huh? Sometimes you have to take baby steps to the end of the diving board before you take the plunge.

      Good luck with your journey and thanks so much for taking the time to stop by.

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  9. Afraid to fail? I don’t think so, Bill… most people turn that yellow/ green color when they hear ‘commission only’. It takes balls to step out and get paid for what you actually do/ produce.

    Most folks are looking for a nice guaranteed paycheck at the end of the day 😮

    When I was in my early 20’s I had my first 7-figure year… on a two and a half percent override nonetheless. I was offered a nice salary or a percentage over sales in the company.

    I took the commission only override and as a result, made $2.5 million dollars my first year instead of the $100K they offered me.

    My income didn’t start off that great as the company was just launching, however, it grew dramatically in short period of time and was paid for well for getting results.

    Did I mention I totally bullshitted my way into the job – yikes! Lucky for me, I discovered I had a talent for leading & managing people.

    Needless to say, I developed a love for commission only and as a result of that experience, have never allowed anybody to limit my earning potential from that point on.

    I decide what I’m worth. If I make a little, it’s on me. If I make a lot, that’s on me too.

    The bottom line is I’ve always on the profit side of the business, not the overhead. I like it there.

    Great post, sir!

    • Did you say you had a knack for manipulating people?…….:).

      Our gig was somewhat similar; they would take what you had on the books last year and base your pay for the coming year on those numbers. Therefore, you always knew what your paycheck would be. I didn’t like that because if you made a big sale in January, you wouldn’t get paid on it for a whole year. I was the first to jump out and say I preferred commission only based on what was booked/invoiced on a month to month basis. Of course, that means I never have two paychecks that are the same, but you get used to it.

      It took me about five years to hit six-figures, but I have never dropped below that since then, so yes, I’m ok w/ commission only. The other beauty like you alluded to is, if you want a raise then it’s entirely up to you.

      It’s not rocket science that’s for sure, but I see more people fail than succeed which I always find interesting. Half the battle is just showing up prepared, and I can do that pretty well so maybe that’s the formula to my success.

      See you at 2 pm today.

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    • Absolutely and if you want to see epic fail, follow me around a golf course……….yikes………….

      Learning is the key and as long as the failing is not fatal and only a flesh wound, it will only make you better and stronger.

      Thanks for dropping by, always a pleasure.

  10. Hi Bill

    When you have something and you are holding on to that security, it is hard to let go. So we tried stuff and it failed, again and again. Then the housing market took a nose dive. Then I was laid off. So now we are living on a wing and a prayer as one might say. Thank goodness for some other funds that are coming in. But it has given me the attitude that there is no other way but to keep building this online business for both of us. As long as we can keep the wolves away from the front door, we will survive! Can’t give up or nothing will get better and our optimism is really strong and since all the cards are laid out the stress is gone.

    I just remind myself how grateful I am and even though things are no where near I had ever thought they would be in this time of my life, I have it so much better than many others. Living each moment and not worrying about what has not happened yet. It has been quite a revelation as to how much strength you can actually muster up when need be.


    • Yes, for some, the last 3-4 years have been a disaster. I’ve seen it and felt it, but fortunately not to the same extent as some. However, more people than not have made the same comment on not expecting to be where they are at this point in their lives.

      All we can do is keep the past in the past and figure out a way to make it happen going forward. We will all be survivors one way or another, right?

      Good luck with your journey and hopefully you will have some positive traction in 2013. Thanks so much for your thoughts and presence.

  11. I think “failure” and not being a superstar are not the same thing. People can be successful in a lot of ways. Owning the mountain isn’t the only thing we ought be concerned with.
    I worked for a great man who risked everything and started hugely successful business. He mortgaged the house when his wife wasn’t looking to fund it. He found a way to make it work, but I know it was at great personal sacrifice. Was it worth it for the money? I don’t know.

    • I know a couple of people who have jumped out on that little limb and the limb broke and they literally lost it all. But they came back and enjoyed even greater success than they previously had. It would have been easy for them to just pack it in, but all it did was make the come back more determined.

      It’s a mindset right? I guess I’ve tried to keep it somewhat between the lines, hedging my bet somewhat, but that probably suits my personality more.

      I really have no regrets or complaints; I’m certainly thankful for what I do have.

      Good to see you sir; hope all is well.

  12. I’m happily failing at everything I do looking after my daughter at home.

    Thankfully I’m learning from everything that goes wrong.

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  15. A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. I have a bachelor’s degree in the social services field. For several years, I have worked with children who have been diagnosed with mental disorders. It is upsetting to see children victimize at an early age and even more disturbing to see them as predators as early as 5 years of age, however knowing that I am doing my part to assist them in becoming functioning youths and adults is rewarding. The empathy, confidentiality and maturity of a medical assistant are definitely needed in this area. I enjoy establishing a rapport with these clients and helping them to find adequate coping skills to deal with their disorders, therefore I would like to work for a psychiatrist.I would not like to work for an emergency physician for several reasons. I will explain a few. Patients who come to the emergency center typically have serious injuries or trauma. I would not like to have my mind constantly focused on who is coming thru the door and how sever the prognosis is. Knowing myself, I know that would be my focus and I would not be very productive. Also, in the emergency room the staff has to be prepared for anything, I would prefer an area that focuses on a particular specialty. Most importantly, I do not wish to see excessive amounts of blood loss on a regular basis. Actually, not even a minimal amount of blood loss on a regular basis. Giving my opinion and thoughts about this specialty, I would not be an effective employee.

  16. Since there is so many fields of specialties that I have a choice of, I still really can’t choose one. So I am going base on my personal experiences. My original goal back in high school and maybe even before that, was to work in a Neonatal ICU! I had a brother that passed before he had his first birthday from heart complications, and that year I spent a lot of time at hospitals with my parents. My goal the first couple of years was to work with babies just like him. That was until I had my own children, I would of still loved to have worked in that career field but the heart ache I would most likely endure when one of those babies did not make it home. I could not have handled!On to more positive experiences, I have worked with the elderly and Geriatrics interests me very much. Being surrounded with people that have lived a fulfilled life is so much more rewarding. Even though at times it is the ending stages of their lives, and it is sad when someone does pass. It’s less of a heartache to know that most of the time they are ready to move on. They are still very dependent on you and when you are able to help them with their needs that’s the most rewarding of all, plus you form a special relationship with the patients and their families.

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