Are You Scared of Success?

A few years ago, I held a contest to give away two passes to Shoemoney’s Elite Retire. Those passes cost $5,000 each. The only requirement to enter was to write a blog post explaining why I should give you the pass. You would think a contest offering this kind of prize would draw hundreds, if not thousands, of entries. However, less than a dozen people entered.

Before Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas, Shoemoney held a contest to give away an all expense paid trip to the show. The winner would get the most expensive show pass, flight, hotel and $2,000 of cash to bet on a game of Blackjack. To enter, you had to write a blog post on why you should go, have your post selected as a finalist and then get people to vote for your entry. Again, you would expect tons of people to enter but, like my Elite Retreat contest, only a handful of people entered.

When the question came up on why we got so few people entering our life changing contests, I came up with the follow conclusion: People are scared of success.

You Can’t Be Scared of Failure. You’re Already Failing

I hear the argument many times that says most people won’t try to succeed because they’re scared of failure. I would argue that they’re failing already and I don’t see them being scared of it. Otherwise, they’ll do something to avoid it. What they’re really scared of is not failure. They are scared of success and all the “problems” that it brings. Yes, success can bring some huge problems and I would say the biggest one that makes people scared of success is, “What would my friends think?”

It really didn’t surprised me one bit that the winners of the Elite Retreat contest were Zac Johnson and Gyutae Park, two already successful bloggers and affiliate marketers. It also didn’t surprised me that the winner of Shoe’s Affiliate Summit contest was Lyndon Reid, another successful blogger and affiliate marketer.

I had a friend who once said, “The person who least needs it is always the person who wins it.” and it seems to apply here. Zac, Gyutae and Lyndon doesn’t really need to win those contests to be successful but they won because no one else entered. People did not entered because most are used to having excuses for failing and going to an event like Elite Retreat or Affiliate Summit would remove all those excuses. No more excuses mean they now have to succeed and that scares of the living daylights out of them.

So, while you will see hundreds and thousands of people enter a contest to win a free iPad, the instant the prize becomes something that can drastically alter the chance of success, the only people who enter are the ones who already successful.

52 thoughts on “Are You Scared of Success?”

  1. Michael Kwan says:

    Scared of success, not scare of success. 😉

    1. John Chow says:

      I wasn’t scared to make that mistake. 😛

      1. Everybody is writing about failing lately. I think you are stalking me John!

      2. Michael Kwan says:

        It actually shows up in a few places in this post. Heh. No worries. People get your point.

        1. hahaha…I took a second look at “Elite Retire.” I thought that was a new contest that i didn’t know about…lol

          1. S Ahsan says:

            You guys are funny :).. it is a great detailed post anyways.. i can see your point

    2. I am not scared of success!

  2. What you just said was so true and honest. A lot of people scare themselves out of being scared. I have met many people that did not enter contests or do things out of the norm because they thought that what other people thought would make them feel bad. I have noticed myself the people that when the contest to win tickets to great events or ipads, or iphones NEVER need them but thats because they work hard and is not afraid of being successful. REALLY GREAT POST.

  3. It seems a lot of people are scared to leave a comment here!

  4. Brian P says:

    John while I was reading this I was hoping to see a contest at the bottom of the article….. I guess I will just have to wait for the next one!

    But with all did said the unsuccessful ones are the ones that do not tell their friends and family about how to they try to make money online blogging. I was the same way in the past. And if I did win something and told my family that I am flying somewhere they would probably say what kind of scam are you getting into.

    I think the big difference is when you start making a couple checks from a company people are actually really interested in how this market works. People are amazed that you seriously can make money out of nothing.

    1. “People are amazed that you seriously can make money out of nothing.”

      I was just talking to a good friend about this… there are so many people who still buy into the myth that you need to spend tens of thousands on a college degree to succeed. It’s sad really.

      He was surprised (and inspired) when I told him how many internet marketers are not only doing well over the last couple years in this down economy, but continue to increase their income every year!

      Opportunities never cease for those who go out and make things happen.

  5. I know this since I was scared to venture on a different niche before.

  6. Patrick Curl says:

    Hey John, No offense man, but are you trying to get SEO ranked for a typo: “Scare of success” or something? lol I see you made some changes on here though, but in google reader I rechecked and saw 9 occurrences. I feel like an English teacher or something correcting grammar.

    1. If he was trying, he succeeded… besides the two “did you mean” results… I have this post ranking first on Google for the typo phrase.

      Nicely done. =)

  7. Bill says:

    Hey John,

    Are you sure people are scared to succeed or are you just frustrated with your poor marketing this time because what you call your “evil” link building tactics failed to build hundreds/thousands of back links and instead resulted in only a dozen?

    Also, don’t mean to nitpick your post, but did you write this? So many errors, see below:

    won’t try to succeed because they’re scare of failure
    they’re failing already and I don’t see them being scare of it.
    What they’re really scare of is not failure.
    They are scare of success and all the “problems” that it brings.
    I would say the biggest one that makes people scare of success is, “What would my friends think?”
    People did not entered because most are used to having excuses
    and that scares of the living daylights out of them.

    1. John Chow says:

      Na, it wasn’t an evil link building tactic. If I wanted to do that, I would offer something like review my blog for a linkback that got me to #1 for “Make money online” The reason for the contest was because I was asked to give away two tickets. Nothing more. The same for Shoe’s ASW contest.

      As for the errors, I’m not scare to make them. 😛 But I do try to correct them after they’ve been pointed out.

      1. fas says:

        Big deal with the errors. That is the point here, instead of people taking anything positive from this post, they are pin pointing and wasting their time.

        Common guys get a life and if you are PHD in English, keep it with yourself

        Thanks :p

    2. Patrick Curl says:

      Wow, harsh dude. Sounds like a rant I did relating to another so called guru a month ago. But I won’t go there.

      As for fear of success, I think a lot of it’s also that…w/ success comes responsibility, added work, loss of comfort zone, and success and failure also share another common fear – rejection.

      Rejection and failure go hand in hand, one is tough, add both and it’s sometimes easier just to stay boring and keep the status quo, than go out on a limb, set yourself apart, and create your own destiny.

  8. I think being afraid of failure and scared of success is the number one reason why anyone never get out of the rat race or achieve anything they dream of.

    They never seem to learn to embrace failure as part of a learning process and move on. Rather, they take it as an experience that must be avoided.

    Thank you for twisting afraid of failure into scared of success. It makes a good read and I will definitely share it with as many people as I can.

  9. seo basics says:

    Innovative article! I enjoyed it very much – thanks for writing it!

  10. Healthy Cafe says:

    The point is Be brave

  11. Team Trade says:

    Excellent post. I think a lot of people think success will just fall into their lap without taking action. To succeed in life and business requires people to move out of their comfort zone.

  12. be afraid… be very afraid… hahah

  13. Very thought provoking blog post. Not sure where I am in this, most likely somewhere in between. Leaving the comfort zone and becoming really successful in anything can be scary, no doubt. But getting to the next level can be also great fun! SY

  14. Dhie says:

    Oh! my GOD. When I read this, this article slap my face. Yeah it’s true and honest. At sometime, I really too much worry about what people think of me. So this article make me realize, if we want to success forget what people said about us. Just do it what you believing right… success or failure, everything give a lesson to our life.

    Great post!!!

  15. Dario says:

    Nice post, i agree with that.

  16. Having no way to be successful trumps any fears. People like to say that anyone and everyone can be successful if you just try hard enough but that simply isn’t true.
    Not being afraid of failure or success doesn’t automatically make you capable of success.

  17. Melvin says:

    just same story over and over again.. people always say ‘im going to join this one’ but they dont really did.. this post makes sense to me.. i think people are just lazy and the problem has always been just getting off their asses..

    1. Paul B says:

      Agree with that, most people aren’t scared, just lazy. I’ve pointed people at stuff in the past that REALLY helps with traffic and cash and even though they are free services people sign up and still don’t utilise the opportunity.

  18. The bottom line then, is to not be scared, and to actually try for the seemingly impossible opportunities here on John Chow…….and in life, in general.

    Good one John, and thank you for the perspective. Assumption is the mother of all….

  19. Chris says:

    A lot of people do not believe they can succeed.

  20. “I would argue that they’re failing already and I don’t see them being scared of it.” … I love that line!!

    I think a big part of the fear of success is that for nearly everyone, a certain, underlying dissatisfaction with life always exists, and we’re looking for a way to satisfy it.

    It’s a lot easier to blame this on our failure than to succeed and have to face the fact that we’re still dissatisfied. Because then, we’d have to do the truly hard work of choosing to be happy no matter what level of success we have.

  21. divena says:

    I would have joined this contest if I would live in america but I can´t afford to go to U.S. and leave my family behind. I think this is the main problem most people have – they are not able to travel to somewhere, most people I know even don´t get a visa for U.S. I do not understand why in days of webinars, skype and new media it isn´t possible to do such one-to-one training via skype? Why do I have to go there? I think it would be even more effective for to concentrate on the subject itsself! I am successful with what I am doing and I am never afraid of taking the next step or to meet new people and professionals of my field, I know many great designers by name and call them friends and the creative synergy effects in my small network are very high. I have met some internetmarketers and found out that they mostly are only interested in money – I mean you nearly can´t reach a big marketer when you can´t offer him something he can profit from. So it is no wonder for me that only people who are already succsessful won this contest. Why didn´t they choose someone less attractive?

    1. Good points here. Many people can’t attend these events because they have jobs and a family to take care of. Its challenging doing all of this on top of building a new business. Another reason for not attending could be the lack of interest in affiliate marketing. Most business sell products and services and this type of busines doesn’t apply to them.

    2. After attending a couple of events in person I realized that the quality of information isn’t usually much different, or much better. The thing is, after spending the money to travel to an event, stay in a hotel, and pay for admission, you’ve invested so much that you really pay attention.

      It’s actually pretty silly, but it’s hard to ignore. So while lots of people are providing great training online, you have to force yourself to take it as seriously as you would if you spend thousands of dollars to hear it in person.

  22. Adrian A. says:

    I think it’s much easier to write about your personal experience with an iPhone than about why should receive an expensive trip to Vegas, Many people own iPhones, but few people enjoyed the kind of success needed in order to lose $2000 in a casino without any regret.

  23. Ashley says:


    One thing I think you missed is that to write a blog post for a chance at winning something takes time away from doing real work.

    I entered Shoe’s contest a year or so ago giving away a free pass to the San Diego Think Tank. It took me a couple of hours to write a thoughtful post and then they awarded it to Zac Johnson, who’s entry post wasn’t anything remarkable but he was a friend of many of the people who were judging (which I think was all the attendees). In any event, I don’t bother with these contests anymore because I’m skeptical that the award, and the chance that I’d actually win the award justifies the time. It’s simple ROI.

    Sure, if you want to award me any of these prizes, let me know, I’ll be happy to take any of them, but in the meantime I got work to do!

    1. Really good point. It’s so easy to get sidetracked, especially when it appears you might find a shortcut. Overall we’d be a lot better off to ignore these things and just keep doing the work.

  24. Here is probably the best line of the post…

    “the instant the prize becomes something that can drastically alter the chance of success, the only people who enter are the ones who already successful.”

    So true, those that know the true value of success do their best to do what’s to succeed

  25. This is so true.

    Fear and Greed are the 2 factor that drives most people.

    If you are fearful to take the first step, you will never reach your destination.

    I have left my day job at the age of 25 and seeking for something that can give me the freedom and money to do what I want. People around me advice me not to as they have the fear of what if things don’t work out.

    Today I have a publishing business, an online business and I trade for a living. If I did not take the first step due to fear, I am at most a senior engineer or a section manager of a multi-national company.

    Live your life is all I have to say.

  26. d3so says:

    Elite retire? I think u did that on purpose 😉
    I’m not scared of success, I just have a hard time trying to find it 🙂

  27. jtGraphic says:

    Don’t forget the theme song contest. That was a pretty small pool, with some pretty bad entries. I tried it out. Didn’t win, but I’m ok with that. Maybe next time.

  28. E Brian Rose says:

    My wife always laughs about how I can make money out of thin air. I have friends that say they want to do what I do, but when it comes time for me to show them the simplest of strategies, they back off. I used to think that they were all lazy good for nothings, but then I realized that they are afraid… not necessarily afraid of success, as John said, but afraid of trying something new.

    1. That’s something I also see constantly, people get so excited about the possibilities, but aren’t willing to take the most basic steps.

      It’s sad really, because once or twice could make a difference, but a whole life of living like that is a life lost. They’ll never realize what they could’ve been had those small steps been taken and compounded over time.

  29. Lee says:

    Many people are scared of success, or rather they have limiting beliefs about whether or not they are “worthy” of success.

    For most of us, we are told our whole lives to “play it safe” and “not to take risks” to get a stable job (like there is any such thing these days!), save for retirement and then wait out your 45+ years until then.

    So, it’s no wonder that many people start new projects with all kinds of negative thoughts about how it will never work, how they are wasting their time etc…

  30. I saw the Shoemoney contest and the reason why I didn’t post a blog is because I am still really new in the business and I didn’t know if I was one who deserved it. If I won then showed up and looked like an idiot because I am such a noob, I would have been really embarrassed, and then I would have to run into these people at future conferences. That is what went threw my head.

  31. Free Picks says:

    scared with success :p not at all

    1. Mostly not many are scared of success!

  32. Stefan says:

    Scared ? please !

  33. scott says:

    The reality is that a contest likes this asks people to do work by actually writting something. It’s not about success or failure…people are lazy, and SEO people are always looking for the shortest path to success.

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