Adrian Rashad Driscoll of Collimation On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Stop trying to avoid the fear of failure, embrace it for what it is, misguided excitement. The Amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, also processes excitement. Once you understand that this fear is just an opportunity to be excited, your response to said fear will change as well.
The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Adrian Rashad Driscoll.
From the small city of Barstow CA, (yeah, the pitstop on the way to Vegas) Adrian Rashad Driscoll followed his dream of becoming a professional actor and moved to Los Angeles. After 14 years of great weather and bad traffic, he now makes his living as a filmmaker and Immersive Media consultant. With a dedication to storytelling and quality, his company (Driscoll Entertainment) has created many phenomenal visual immersive experiences.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thanks for having me, honored to be here. I’m from a super small city called Barstow, in the middle of the desert. I was raised by a single mother and Barstow is one of those places where if you don’t stay busy, trouble will find you. So, at 6 my grandmother enrolled me in church theatre. I had an impeccable memory and that landed me larger roles early on. I was naturally a ham so being over the top wasn’t a problem for me. Throughout the years I continued acting in school all the way through college. When I hit 21, I decided to take my talents to LA and moved out on my $1400 tax refund. I was confident that I would be a great star, but Hollywood wanted more. They didn’t care about my theatre credits, they only cared about film. Even non-paying short films wanted previous screen time, so I had to shoot my own reels. This actually worked and I started booking (extremely low paying) gigs. People started noticing this and requested that I did their reels as well. I would write, shoot, direct, edit, I had to learn it all. I would do this in whatever free time I had that wasn’t dedicated to doing background acting gigs. I didn’t mind the background work as I would take exhaustive notes on what the Director and Crew would do. Unfortunately, the money was so low, $64 for 8 hours at the time, I had to supplement the income with Promotional Modeling. I got a gig at a VR company called Oculus and fell in love. From there I combined my knowledge of TV/Film with what I was learning about Virtual Reality. My narrative first approach was a fresh take that the industry needed. Fast forward 8 years and I’m a world expert in Immersive Media and Storytelling. Wow, this story still feels wild every time I say it.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Typically, I would talk about being homeless or how I had to learn to have multiple revenue streams, but my perspective is different now. The most interesting moment was when I discovered that I had Impostor Syndrome. I realized that I had spent years discounting the work that I had done and the position that I had earned, for fear of being considered a fraud. I discredited the fact that I had worked 7 days a week for 10 years. I downplayed the fact that most of those days I was working from 5a-5p. I hid my fear of success and disguised it as humility. I would miss important meetings and auditions, but strangely it wouldn’t be because I didn’t think I would get the gig or make a great first impression. My self-sabotage was all because I wanted things to stay the same, I wanted to keep the same friends and home and lifestyle that I was accustomed to. I was convinced that if I moved to the next level then I would lose everyone around me and then eventually I would lose my position and end up at the bottom, alone.
I didn’t even understand what I was doing, I would sit and wonder why I hadn’t moved forward in my career despite all of my hard work and then it finally became clear to me through a book I stumbled across “Own Your Greatness” by Lisa Orbe-Austin. It identified the terms like “Impostor Syndrome” and “Survivor’s Guilt” that I didn’t even realize that I had.
This came with many takeaways but the main realization that I had was “You’re not helping anyone by hiding your trophies.” This isn’t in the book, but it was more of a revelation that came about after years of downplaying my achievements so other people didn’t feel bad or see me as boasting. Now I understand that you can (and should) celebrate your victories. Don’t dim your lights for anyone.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Yikes, that’s a hard question but I’ll take a shot.
- Empathy — I think the reason that I have become so likeable (to some) is that I truly care about people. I want to know what you’re going through. I offer advice and help. It’s not to get anything in return, it’s just because I would love if when I’m having a bad day for someone to listen to me.
- Being a student — Bernie, a good friend of mine, and I were having a conversation about lighting (Bernie is a master of set lighting and has been doing it for as long as I’ve been alive). I mention that he is a master, and he quickly corrects me and says, “No I’m a student of lighting.” What a profound statement. He understood that no matter how much you know, you can always learn more. I use that to this day; it helps keep me grounded and hungry to know what else is out there.
- Recognizing Rocking Horses — I have coined a phrase “Avoid Rocking Horses” it spawns from the homage “Don’t mistake motion for progress”, I have found that discovering the work that you do to “feel” busy is often the most pointless work of all. It’s really easy to jump on a rocking horse expecting to get somewhere but the truth is you’re often right back where you started. Focus on the real and solid work, the work that is getting you closer to where you are trying to go.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?
Failure opens the door for embarrassment. You know how you used to hear people say, “It was so embarrassing, I could just die?” That’s not just an over exaggeration, a lot of people truly feel that way. People would rather die than to face their naysayers (often times well-intended friends and family) and receive their well earned “I Told You So.” People would rather just not go for it and stick to what they know well. Our brains are actually wired to keep us from danger and often times, we associate embarrassment with danger (weird I know). So, our brains go into overdrive to keep us from doing anything embarrassing. The wildest thing about all of this is IT’S NOT THAT SERIOUS. I’ve failed a LOT of times, the embarrassment lasted for a few minutes, and I moved on. It’s really about how you recover and learn from said embarrassments that sculpts the person you aim to be. In addition, we are unfortunately programmed to do what we are told. We (sadly) aren’t taught that we can do whatever we want in life. As children, we explore everything and at some point, we are taught not to. We should be more like children in that way.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
I mean nobody wants to fail. I believe if you don’t have a healthy fear of failure, you won’t put real effort into your work. It’s the crippling fear of failure that you must avoid. The fear that makes you not make the attempt. This is the true limiter. Once you admit to yourself that you are afraid but you’re going to do it regardless, then you have freedom and can achieve great things.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?
I think once you tackle an issue or two that you are afraid of, the fear of failure starts to become less intense. Yes, it’s still there but it’s manageable. This will translate to other parts of your life as well. It’s not about not failing, it’s about failing better. It’s also about finding the lessons that will keep you from repeating the same failures. Again, it’s not that serious. Once you understand that, you allow yourself to try different tactics and ultimately you will find successes.
We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?
I was homeless from January 2nd to February 15th, 2015. For a portion of that time, I lived in a shelter on Skid Row in Los Angeles. I had failed. I have failed my company, I had failed my goals, I had failed to plan, and I had failed to see it coming. The thing is nobody knew. Most of my friends are rich, borderline wealthy. But when this happened, I couldn’t ask for help because I was too embarrassed. I couldn’t face what would’ve come from me revealing my situation and allowing myself to be vulnerable. So instead, I suffered.
How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?
I did what I knew, I worked. The public library was right up the street, so I took the bus or walked and was there right when it opened. The computer lab had a time limit for each guest, so I would have to use that time to find new gigs and answer emails. What ever remaining computer time I had, I did research. I was at the library, so I checked out books on marketing and business management. From there I studied and planned. I set micro goals that would bring me closer to my main objective. I thought back to old clients and people that owed me favors. I then did something that I had never done before, I took a self-inventory. What was I really good at? What talents had I buried all this time? Turns out my impostor syndrome had me overlooking a lot of what made me successful in the first place. I was so afraid to be myself, that I was operating at 10%. To make money I went back to my promo modeling. This was very deliberate as I needed to do a job that would sharpen my communication skills and provided flexibility. I emptied the bucket every day. I gave my all and would often end up walking down to the shelter at midnight. I wouldn’t recommend it but walking down Skid Row in a 3-piece suit at midnight is a really good way to change your definition of the word “fear.” In February, I took my tax check and started all over again.
Key takeaways from this.
- Hiding your failures from your friends is idiotic. My friends were appalled that I wouldn’t come to them for help. My family was too. It wasn’t view as this noble act of independence, it was viewed as what it was, stupid.
- NEVER work with NET-90 terms
- Sometimes it takes a shock or traumatic experience to make you even better. Don’t let the initial pain dictate your response.
- The longer you say you’re in a bad place, the longer you’ll stay in said place. You don’t have time to stop when you fail, this is the time to move.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Stop trying to avoid the fear of failure, embrace it for what it is, misguided excitement. The Amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, also processes excitement. Once you understand that this fear is just an opportunity to be excited, your response to said fear will change as well.
- Set the main goal and then focus on micro goals along the way. It’s very important to have your eyes set on where you want to go. But it still takes understanding the smalls steps to become successful. If you only look at the main objective it will seem insurmountable, if you look at completing one milestone at a time, before you know it, you’ll have completed the mission.
- Pain is temporary. Yes, it’s embarrassing for the moment, but we are resilient creatures.
- It’s not that serious. Most of what we worry about is insignificant. Most of what we think people are thinking about us isn’t anywhere near true. Relax and enjoy your life.
- Look for the lesson. I never lose, I win, or I learn. Once you stop seeing every “failure” as a loss, you can discover the important lessons that will ultimately lead you to victories.
The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?
I think he was trying to say that there are commonalities found in all successful people. I would have to agree with that aspect of the quote. I wouldn’t say there is one way to become successful. I think there are a number of ways to go about it. I would even say that there are commonalities in unsuccessful people as well. So, I don’t think I would personally agree with the quote without some added context.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
We are at a weird time right now. I think everyone is looking for expression and there are too many rules to how they can express themselves. I think these rules have created an atmosphere of insecurity and hypersensitivity. I think everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as it does not negatively affect another person. At the same time, we as people must be responsible for trying to police the things that we allow to negatively affect us.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
I have learned a lot from Jay-Z, and I would love to have a sit-down lunch with him. I also would love to speak with Gary V. His books have offered great insight to my life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Let’s connect. I typically only post in 3 places:
My company website is Collimation.tv
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.