Success And Fear Of Failure

Do you enjoy the feeling of success?

Earlier this week, the University of Connecticut won the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. Maybe you’re a fan, maybe not. But if you’re a college basketball coach, this is as good as it gets.

At age 68, Jim Calhoun is the oldest coach to ever win the championship. He’s battled health issues, and many speculated that he might retire. His post-game comments didn’t leave much room for debate.

“I intend to continue teaching and coaching basketball as long as that fire and that edge remains. When I lose that edge, I’ll know it’s time to quit.”

Someone asked about the nature of “that edge.” Where does it come from?

“That’s easy,” Calhoun replied. “It’s fear. You fear failure more than you seek success. When you lose that fear of failure, it’s time to quit.”

I think that’s incredibly sad.

I heard an interview the following day in which Calhoun expanded on his thoughts. He believes every big-time coach, and in fact every person who achieves great success in any highly competitive field, is primarily motivated by fear of failure.

He said he’s talked with leaders in business, politics, academics, and (sadly) religion. He believes that those who succeed at the highest levels are driven first and foremost by fear of failure.

I hope he’s wrong, but I suspect there’s too much truth in his words.

Fear is probably our most powerful motivator, at least in the short term. Figure out how to create enough fear and you can get people to do just about anything. Fear gets results.

What’s wrong with that?

If it works, if it creates success, wins championships, and gets you to the top, why is that a bad thing? What’s a little fear if it gets you where you want to go in the end?

I’m wrestling with fear this week. More about the specifics tomorrow, but for me it boils down to one simple fact: fear is always short-term. Fear tells me to ignore long-term consequences. Fear says there’s no right or wrong, there’s only whatever diminishes the immediate fear.

Fear is the enemy’s tool. He desperately wants us to focus on immediate results.

The opposite of fear is …

… courage? That’s close; courage is the will to do what right in the face of fear, but the Bible seems to say that the roots of courage spring from something deeper.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Fear is short-term, love is eternal. Love values principles and long-term consequences. Love completely ignores immediate self-interest.

Whenever I act based on fear, I’m playing the enemy’s game with the enemy’s rules. It’s exactly what he wants, because he understands the simple truth.

Even when I win, I lose.

Are you facing fear right now? What’s the immediate temptation?

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site

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