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Fear of failure is familiar territory for many small business owners. Perhaps that’s why many willingly stay there. It’s well-known terrain. Success, on the other hand, is uncharted land with unintended consequences we want to avoid. Because of the unfamiliar road, fear of success is rampant among small business owners.

 Is fear of success causing you to dodge the accomplishments that would carry you to success? Take this quiz and see if you’re afflicted.

This is a Test!

Boston College professors, Donnah Canavan, Katherine Garner, and Peter Gumpert developed and published the following quiz in The Success-Fearing Personality. Although the quiz isn’t fail-safe, it gives you a pretty good idea of where you stand.

If these statements apply to you, answer yes. Then calculate your score below.

  1. I generally feel guilty about my own happiness if a friend tells me that (s)he’s depressed.
  2. I frequently find myself not telling others about my good luck so they won’t have to feel envious.
  3. I have trouble saying no to people.
  4. Before getting down to work on a project, I suddenly find a whole bunch of other things to take care of first.
  5. I tend to believe that people who look out for themselves first are selfish.
  6. When someone I know well succeeds at something, I usually feel that I’ve lost out in comparison.
  7. I rarely have trouble concentrating on something for a long period of time.
  8. When I have to ask others for their help, I feel that I’m being bothersome.
  9. I often compromise in situations to avoid conflict.
  10. When I’ve made a decision, I usually stick to it.
  11. I feel self-conscious when someone who “counts” compliments me.
  12. When I’m involved in a competitive activity (sports, a game, work), I’m often so concerned with how well I’m doing that I don’t enjoy the activity as much as I could.
  13. A sure-fire way to end up disappointed is to want something too much.
  14. Instead of wanting to celebrate, I feel let down after completing an important task or project.
  15. Mostly, I find that I measure up to the standards that I set for myself.
  16. When things seem to be going really well for me, I get uneasy that I’ll do something to ruin it.

Scoring: Give yourself one point for every question you answered yes to, except Nos. 7, 10, and 15. For each of those, subtract one point if you answered yes.

Scorecard: Anything under 5 points means you’re basically okay. Between 5 and 10 points, you’re moderately at risk for self-sabotaging behavior. Between 10 and 16 points, you have a problem.

Fear of success is based on speculative assumptions. “I’ll be overwhelmed. I’ll never see my family. I’ll be buried in my office. I won’t be able to do it all by myself. I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed.” These are a few of the thoughts that run through the minds of small business owners who fear success.

If the fear of success overwhelms you, talk through your doubts and worries with your strategic business coach. Side-by-side, identify the resources you’ll need when your ship comes in and put your unresolved fears behind you forever.

Well-worn habits, like your comfy gym clothes that should have been tossed years ago, are hard to part with. But, when those habits begin to interfere with success, it may be time to re-assess.

Mental Hoarding

is a general term used to describe the behavior of people and animals that leads them to accumulate food and other items during times of scarcity. Similarly, mental hoarding is the accumulation of thoughts and beliefs.

In the case of the small business entrepreneur, mental hoarding takes on the appearance of holding on to thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that have no value or are no longer relevant.

Binge Working

Binge working is a dangerous office trend fueled by fear, economic uncertainty, caffeine, and digital hypnosis. Similar to overwork, and the accompanying burnout, binge workers take working to the next level by toiling for extended periods of time with no breaks and little sleep.

Binge working leads to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, and depression. Clearly these conditions are inconsistent with long-term success in business.

Cerebral Snacking

Rather than thoroughly delve into a topic to advance ones knowledge or business skill, cerebral snackers spend what little spare time they have munching on Facebook, Cheezburger, Instagram, and similar types of meaningless information.

Cerebral snacking overshadows ingestion of a full, rich topic to expand knowledge, keep up with trends, or develop a business skill essential to success.

It’s human nature to fall prey to these habits. Yet, it’s a costly trend that might just be interfering with your success. Given the consequences of such habits, it might just be time to re-evaluate your approach to success.

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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