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How Fear of Competition Can Stifle Success

As a leader, it’s easy to let a fear of failure overcome your hope for success. This mindset stifles your decisions, makes it hard to enjoy winning, and most importantly, quickly infects the people you lead. Here are three lessons I’ve learned that have helped me stay focused on winning.

Author: Jeremy Harrison

May 5, 2016

As a Cleveland sports fan, I’ve grown accustomed to disappointment. The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Decision. I actually saw each of these heartbreaking sports moments on live television. Before long, it’s hard to even enjoy a Cleveland victory, because I spend the whole time waiting for them to find a way to lose.

As a leader, it’s easy to let a fear of failure overcome your hope for success. This mindset stifles your decisions, makes it hard to enjoy winning, and most importantly, quickly infects the people you lead. With bad decisions, tension when winning, and a jaded team, the fear of failure just leads to more failure. A vicious cycle.

“Winning is That Way.” 

Robyn Benincasa is a New York Times best-selling author, and a world champion adventure racer.

In the video below, she tells how, when in the midst of a tight neck-and-neck whitewater rafting race, she kept looking back to check for the competition. Finally, her team leader turned her head forward, pointed to the front of the boat, and screamed, “winning is THAT way!”

Which Way Are You Looking?

When you lead your organization, are you driven by a hope for success, or a fear of failure? Are you in the boat looking forward, paddling toward the finish line? Or looking backward at all the things that might keep you from winning? When you’re looking backward, you are looking at things you can’t control.

Here are three lessons I’ve learned that have helped me stay focused on winning.

#1: Don’t obsess over your competition.

Have you ever been tempted to suddenly change everything you’re doing based on something you see the competition doing? Never let competition or external threats dictate your goals. Instead, create a game plan and stick to it. Set “SMART” goals… Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based.

Set a goal you can hit, and keep your eye on it. Winning is that way.

#2: Identify and filter your “fear fuel.”

There are things in our lives that fuel our fear. It could be media, people or circumstances outside our control.

I’m embarrassed to admit that after the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, I had watched so much cable news that I was almost convinced my business wouldn’t survive a year with Barack Obama as president. On the contrary, the business continued to grow every year. Not because President Obama did anything special to help my business, but because I have far more control over my business’ success than any political leader. Since then, I’ve purposely identified and filtered out things that fuel fear. 

For example: 

  • Today, I am often purposely out of the loop about current events, because I try to isolate myself from things that fuel fear. I rarely watch cable news. I don’t get sucked into online political blogs. Instead, I just get a quick summary on major headlines just a couple times per week, and avoid digging in too deep.

  • I limit time spent with negative people who are constantly worrying about things they can’t control, because it’s infectious.
  • I work with trusted advisors who help me make good choices about health insurance changes, investing and other important decisions, so I can stay focused on my game plan.

Identify media, people and circumstances that fuel fear, and filter it out. Winning is that way.

#3: Don’t let losses turn into failure.

I’m pretty sure that nobody likes to lose. But you won’t always win. How you respond to a loss is key.

Instead of obsessing over the loss, and fretting about the competitor who won, it’s the perfect opportunity to find something you can improve. When you suffer a loss to a competitor, don’t spend more than a minute thinking about the competitor. You can’t control what the competitor does. But while they are celebrating their victory, make an adjustment that will set you up for the next victory.

Over-thinking your losses will lead to more losses, and these losses will spawn a habit of failure. It’s motivating to replace worry with constructive action, as you zero in on success factors where you can make a difference .

Don’t Let Fear Stifle Your Success.

Who knows if my Cleveland sports teams will ever find a way to win? That is hopelessly out of my control.

But as for me, I’m going to get out of bed every morning, and focus on things I can do to win. I’m going to create a game plan based on action I can control. I’m going to filter out “fear fuel” and not let a couple of inevitable losses affect my attitude.

Keep your eyes looking ahead. Steer around obstacles you can avoid, and paddle like crazy.

Winning is that way.

 Don’t let competition, crazy politicians or any outside factor slow you down at our workshop on June 23 in Mansfield, OH.  Tickets are going fast! 

How to Build an Unstoppable Small Business

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Or check out our blog, “How to politician-proof your small biz.”  


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