The Fear of Success

I love roller coasters — from when I was a little kid to now. I have always loved the thrill and the ride.  Even when I was scared out of my mind. I’ll never forget when I went on a roller coaster with my mom, I think in Busch Gardens, in Virginia where we lived. It was the kind of roller coaster where they just have that little bar that only goes down as far as the biggest person.  I was little then, my mom is little as well.  Yet, I was smaller than she was to the point where the bar came down and it hit her thighs and it didn't quite touch mine. Obviously, this is not a roller coaster that goes upside down or anything crazy like that or you'd have a shoulder harnesses. But I was young enough, small enough yet big enough to go on the roller coaster, but small enough and shrimpy enough that it didn't quite touch my thighs.  So I white knuckle held on to this bar as we went around in loops. At the end of it I was shaking.  I said to my Mom that I really felt like I was going to fall out that whole time.  I ended up… let's just say needing to go to the bathroom after that.  I was that scared.

My favorite roller coaster experience was at Six Flags.  It was my favorite because it was, at the same time, liberating and terrifying. This was a roller coaster that did not go upside down, not to my recollection, but it had this sort of open car.  There was a large bar that went out of it so my legs, arms and upper torso could be free. That alone was kind of terrifying because, you know, it comes down into your pelvis and hips.  You're secure in there.  There's something to be said about the freedom of your arms and legs. The whole point was to not be contained. So we're going up, the usual clinkity, clink, clink up the hill and anticipation is building. I get to the top and just before I go over, you see the beautiful trees for miles on all sides.  It's a warm summer day, and the sun is shining beautifully. I'm there with some of my best friends… And then the drop comes, It was thrilling and terrifying because of course I put my hands and my legs up.  I was free.  I felt I had to grab the pelvic girdle.  I had to grab it a couple times because, “Oh my goodness.” It felt so crazy to have that much mobility in a situation where you are going up and down and to the side and around. It was awesome and terrifying. 

That's kind of like our careers. We have these up and down moments.  We have these times when we are in a new situation and we are trying something that we've never tried before. In one sense, it's very liberating and it's what we want. It's the experience that we literally have paid for in time, blood, sweat, tears and effort. 

My very first job in music theater was in a dinner theater with a stage and three doors. For those who are old enough to remember, it was almost like “Laugh In”.  It’s a dinner theater and the stage was tiny.  The entrances and exits all happened through these three doors. It was crazy, but awesome.  I go from that to doing things in college, and then being on American idol (and the ups and downs there), and then finally being on Broadway. Now, I'm in this place where I'm about to launch a new business of my own and I am frankly terrified to succeed. We often hear about the fear of failure. That's commonplace. I think there's a misnomer there.  I think if we really truly were terrified of failure, we would do everything we could to not fail. Think about all the things that you're terrified of and how you go out of your way to avoid them. Whereas, “oh, I'm afraid to fail”. Very often when we are afraid to fail, we fail and we fail all the time. It may not be huge life altering failures, but their failures nonetheless. So, if we really truly were afraid to fail, we would be doing everything and anything to not fail, Yet, why do we then fail or have some sense of failure.  It might not be a total loss or failure. Whereas, I think we might be afraid to succeed. Terrified to succeed because what comes with success? Yes, of course you have more money usually, but there's also a terrific amount of change, more responsibility. The impetus for growth and having to maintain a higher standard. It's easy to maintain a low bar for yourself. It’s easy.  We’ve all been there, we've all done it. Some of us are still doing it.

It's easy to kind of just check out. In order to have the type of success that we want, in order to have the type of success we see our peers having, who we like and sometimes grumble and say, well, this person gets all the roles. I mean, I always make the joke, when I'm doing a role and, and I did this thing for CBS once.  It was a workshop in front of the big CBS big wigs who would determine whether or not this show would go to air. It was another one of those live musicals. So they were flirting with that. Oh, I'm sorry it wasn't, CBS, it was ABC. So they were flirting with a live musical.  At the end of the musical, we’ve sat there and worked and the ABC people have seen it and we're in front of the big wigs and I joked to the writer, I'm like, “Man, you know what? This is going to be great when Jeremy Jordan plays this role. I can't wait to see him play my role.” It's that thing, you know like Jeremy Jordan, bless him, he's fantastic and he gets all the work.  Those kinds of people and we want to have success like them.  Like the Jeremy Jordan's of the world. Like the Emily Ashfords, like this Sutton Foster.  You plug in whatever name you want to plug in those people who are just everywhere all the time.

Then that takes a great deal of change, a much higher standard, greater responsibility. As we have heard over the years, this passage from religion, from the Bible….putting aside childish things. The time has come to put aside childish things. That's a paraphrase.  I really do feel terrified for this business to succeed. I'm excited for it, but I know and can acknowledge within myself that I am a bit terrified for this to succeed. If it does succeed or I should say when it does succeed, i’m really doing everything I can to make it succeed as well as continuing to be an actual working artist.  

I've turned down a significant amount of work to the chagrin of my agents, to the chagrin of my family in order to pursue this.  Which is how serious I am about it and it has required me to change and to grow. I go to bed at 10:00 PM, I get up at 5:00 AM.  It's actually six something in the morning right now as I'm doing this. That's a big change. My wife and I have three kids and our only time to really be together is that sort of 8:30-9 o'clock to 10 o'clock zone where our little kids are not up. Even then, our 14 year old comes and hangs out with us. I mean, I love my baby.  We’ve had all this time taking care of two crazy boys and this wonderful 14 year old girl and we just want to hang out and we don't even get to do that sometimes. And that's life. I'm not complaining, but what I'm saying is that I normally would stay up 11 or 12. My daughter would go to bed and then that would be my time for my wife and I to hang out.  I have to sacrifice that in order to get to where it is that I want to go.

Change, growth, putting aside childish things that don't serve me or only serve to keep me sedated. My wife and I, we could go out and we could have the 14 year old babysit, meaning just be at the house while our kids are asleep and we can go to the bar. I wouldn't want to, but we could. We could participate in that form of sedation. They’re people who will smoke weed every night. There are people who will just stay up late.  Do things that don't necessarily serve their success. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with any of those things, whether it's drinking or legally or I guess illegally smoking marijuana or anything that sounds so dumb.  You know what I'm saying? There's nothing wrong with that. I don't have a problem with any of that. But my question to you is…Does that really truly serve you in the path?  Now of course it does serve people. Both of those things serve people to relax, just to chill.  Whatever reasons you have, totally fine with me. But do those things serve you on the pathway to the kind of success that you want to have? I wonder.  It's a question to ask yourself. I don't know what the answer is. There are certainly plenty of people I know who do all kinds of things that wouldn't serve most people but happened to have a great deal of success. So to each their own, no judgements here.  But, I am on the edge of a huge expansion in my business and in my life. When you do things like that and when you go places like that…there’s a phrase that says “New level New devil”. It's true because when you start to put aside those childish things, when you start to change, when you start to grow, when you start to maintain a higher standard for yourself, there are a whole new set of challenges that come with that.

If you play guitar or have ever had a piano or played piano, you’ll know that stringed instruments don't necessarily like to stay in tune by themselves. You play your guitar once and you've got to tune it up a little bit. The strings for guitars, especially the strings, will only last so long. I mean you can keep guitar strings on provided they don't break for a year. You can keep the same set of strings on your guitar for a year. I have an old beater guitar that I haven't changed the strings in forever. I can pick it up and the sound is so dull in comparison to the other guitar that I have that I actually changed the strings on regularly. So what it means, it's a higher standard, right? I change the strings regularly because eventually they wear out.  The same patterns, the same sort of things that we do eventually just get old and they don't serve us anymore or they keep us in the same dull place that we've been in. Are you picking up what I'm putting down here? In order to move to the next level, it's like changing the strings on the guitar or piano. It's like you gotta keep re-tuning.  Every six months you got to tune it up. Piano strings obviously last quite a bit longer.  You have to have some come in and tune it up because maybe this octave is in tune, maybe the octave above is in tune, maybe that octave is in tune.  Then you start to lose something down in the lower octaves and it gets muddy and mushy.  That, in essence if you think about it, it's like your foundation. You've got to check in with that. You got to check in with your foundation. Maybe everything on the outside, that everyone can see, the bright notes, all the clickety clickety sounds are great, but there's something going on in the foundation of your body. There's something going on in the foundation of your spiritual connection, or there's something going on in the foundation of your relationships. There's something that's going on in the foundation of your business or skill sets that's not quite right. And then, if you don't tune it up and if you don't figure out what that is and fix it, it's going to begin to start affecting the rest of the system.

I'm on the way up and I'm strapped into that roller coaster seat and it's just me because this is my business. It’s not just like a business, like a side hustle, this is not my survival job. This is something that I'm putting together as my legacy...as my legacy. It is that deep and this podcast is certainly part of it. It's something where I want to add massive value to my community. To you, who is listening to this, to the people in the future who will listen to this and who will come into our tribe…. The Warrior Artist tribe. 

And so right now it's like I'm on the way up and that clink, clink, clink, clink clink, clink, clink. You know the sound. If you've ever been on the roller coaster, they're all the same. It's like they make them all sound the same when you're on the way up before the drop. I've never heard one that was like super smooth. I mean, unless you're talking about those magnetic ones.  Then it just sounds like you’re being shot out of a real gun.

I’m now that clink clink, clink, clink, clink, clink, clink, clinking, going up and that ratcheting sound is the ratcheting up of my anticipation.  My need to tighten up my own strings and to be better and to put aside those childish things that don't serve me. To make sure that I understand marketing, that I understand business systems and advertising and sales and psychology and the problems that I want to help solve in our community. The wisdom and the things that I want to share and the things that I need to learn about.   What it is that we do, how I need to be better and how I need to go to my own new level. Not because I'm not going to be a guru. I mean I don't think I'm going to be a guru. That's not my aim. My aim is to be a thought leader in our community and at the same time also to be a working actor. So many of the people that, and they're wonderful, so many of my teachers, so many of my gurus, so many of my people that I go to for advice are no longer working. There's nothing wrong with that. There's a huge amount of wisdom that they have, but I want to break that mold. I have been through almost 20 years of high level success in the entertainment business. Whether that's on television or in the music industry or on Broadway.  I have not had any awards. I've won an award, but not one of the major ones that you would know. I have not had a successful album. I haven't had a successful movie. I've been in successful Broadway shows for sure, but along the way, I have gained a tremendous amount of wisdom and tremendous amount of skill and it's just a matter of time. I think in yesterday's podcast I talked about your window of opportunity closing and that's a myth.  I've had phenomenal success below the radar and now my desire is to share all of that because you don't need to be Jeremy Jordan. You don't need to be Sutton Foster. I love them both dearly. You don't need to be the face, the name out there in order to have tremendous success, in order to have a career that sustains and supports your life and lifestyle. Fame is no longer the thing that it once was. It is no longer the stock and trade.  It is no longer what you need to have in order to be successful. I've had it, I've lost it, I've had it again and it doesn't necessarily affect my bottom line, nor will it affect yours. So I am terrified to succeed, not afraid to fail. 

I've “failed” plenty. Really. It's not that big of a deal once you have a bit of perspective on it. It's never failure if you learn from it and correct the mistakes and don't do it again and/or learn from it and make better choices the next time. But I really do focus in and am focusing in on that terror to succeed because when I succeed, I am going to have to be bigger than I've ever been before. I am extremely interested in how much I can expand and how many people I can positively impact. In order to do that, I have to put aside childish things.  Continue to put aside childish things I have to do and behave in ways that serve me and serve the greater good. Not just me, but the people around me. I have to sacrifice time and effort and money in order to build my legacy. I'm ready. I'm ready to do it. I've been on the roller coaster enough to know that instead of just riding the ride, I could actually be the operator. Not only can I be the operator, I can manage the entire park. Not only can I manage the entire park, I can own the entire park. Not only can I own the entire park, I can own multiple parks around the world. That belief and that certainty comes from doing the work, from upping my skillsets, changing my skillsets, growing my skill sets, growing my mindset, changing my mindset from being an employee to a business owner. 

If you have not read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, please pick that up. I would encourage you to read that and then read Cashflow Quadrant, which is his next book after that. Now these are books that if you had come to me eight months ago or so and said, here, I want you to read it. I got these books, i'm talking 10-12 years ago I had these books.  I was just like, what business?  Okay. Money and investments, what okay?… I'm an artist.  I wish I'd read them then because it would have saved me a lot of financial heartache.  It would have helped me to understand on a much deeper level what we all understand and some sort of way as performers. I'm doing what it is that I love. I went to school for this. To sing, dance and act and now I'm out. I'm looking for jobs and I’ve got my agent, i'm going to auditions and boom.. I book this job. If you pay attention, you'll begin to realize that at the end of the day, take me for example.  I am starring in an awesome national commercial campaign where I get to be the star and it's this great character for a great product. Working with a great company and working with a great other cast and production company and advertising agency and crew and everybody is amazing. But at the end of the day, I'm just a highly paid employee. When they don't want to do the campaign anymore…..I’m out of a job. 

I have no say. That's just what we are when we are in our shows. We're just employees. We're the hired help and if the show doesn't work or if they want to fire us or they want to replace us with somebody.  It's like Wicked…. amazing show. I was Fiyero #12 or something like that.  They gave me a nine month contract and then they were like, okay, great. Thank you very much and onto the next Fiyero. I had no say in that. They didn't renew my contract. They were happy with the stuff that I did, but they wanted just to change it. To keep it fresh or for whatever reasons they had. So when you read the classic Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, and when you then read the next book, Cashflow Quadrant, you begin to see, oh my goodness, I am in the rat race with everybody else in this wheel. I'm being told that I'm actually going somewhere. But at the end of the day, I'm just running in a circle. Some of you will hear this. Some of you will not. For those of you who are ready and you don't have to be a business owner, but I at least want you to be aware of what's really going on because you might make the choice to take control of your own destiny. To take control of your finances in a way that you have never done before.  So that you can be free and not be beholden in the way that so many of us are to other people just dangling coins over our head. The whole point is, that it's okay to be afraid to succeed. Where in your life do you feel maybe instead of being afraid to fail, that you're afraid to succeed?

How can you begin to make the changes, the adjustments and grow your skill sets and change your mindsets so that you can achieve that next level? Because it takes work. It takes effort, but it is so worth it, I promise you!