Aflac’s Andy Glaub On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
10 min readNov 13, 2022


Any time we step out of our comfort zones, we feel anxious or scared. Our minds tell us to go back to where it’s safe and comfortable. After all, it’s much easier to be comfortable. When we challenge our natural instincts, we open ourselves up to fear, but we also open up endless possibilities for growth.

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 Andy Glaub, Senior Vice President, Director of Sales, Aflac, Inc.

Andy Glaub began his career with Aflac in 1985 as an associate. In 1987, he was promoted to district sales coordinator in northern Indiana and later that year was promoted to regional sales coordinator in southwest Michigan. In 1990, Andy took over Michigan South as state sales coordinator prior to Michigan being joined together again as one state under his leadership. He subsequently progressed through the ranks, serving 22 years as a state sales coordinator before assuming the role of vice president; North territory director in 2005.

In July 2015, he became deputy director of Aflac U.S. Sales before being promoted to the role of senior vice president and director of Aflac U.S. Sales. In this role, Andy is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the sales force, developing programs and initiatives to enhance U.S. sales strategies and advance Aflac’s sales throughout the United States. Throughout his career with Aflac, Andy has consistently met and exceeded his sales goals and earned nearly 60 of Aflac’s most prestigious accolades and awards.

Andy attended Hanover College in Southern Indiana.

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?

I grew up in Plymouth, Indiana, a stone’s throw away from “Heaven on Earth,” the University of Notre Dame.

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and having a family business was important to my dad. At the age of 11, I began working at our family’s grocery store before and after school. It was there that I developed my work ethic and my gift of gab.

I always assumed I’d follow in my dad’s footsteps, until one day he informed us that the store was closing its doors at the end of the month after 68 years in business. I was in my early 20s, and I was at a crossroads.

About that time, a gentleman named Rick Derff walked in the store. Rick and I hit it off immediately. He offered me a job selling insurance at American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, now known as Aflac. I had never sold anything before, but I trusted Rick. It was the best decision I ever made.

I worked as a sales associate in Michigan. I loved everything about being an entrepreneur — the flexibility, the growth potential and being my own boss. But my passion has always been coaching and leadership. I spent 23 years leading sales teams in Michigan. For the last seven years, I’ve been blessed to lead Aflac’s U.S. salesforce. Even after 37 years, I still get excited to go to work and see my Aflac family. I guess, like my dad, I always wanted a family business.

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?

In 2015, after spending nearly all of my career in a 1099 sales role, I was ready for another challenge. As fate would have it, I was offered the role of assistant director of U.S. Sales. The plan was, in six months, the director would retire, and I would assume the role. It was a dream opportunity to make a positive difference for the company I love and in the lives of the men and women who sell our products.

It was also a big step up in weight class — going from a $40 million sales quota in Michigan to a quota of more than $1 billion. Even though it was a daunting task, I felt confident that with a six-month ramp up, I would find my way.

After a whopping 16 days on the job, I got a call. My boss had just resigned, and I was to be named director of Sales the next day. I looked at my wife Annie and said, “I hope I’m ready.” She smiled and responded, “You don’t have to be ready. You only have to be you.” What she was telling me was that someone believed in me enough to offer me this role. I needed to believe in myself. The first few months on the job were a beautiful blur, and we got through it thanks to some great partners and more than a little prayer.

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?

Empowerment. I firmly believe a leader is only as good as the people around them. There’s a saying that, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” I don’t have to ever worry about that, because I’ve made a point to surround myself with brilliant, talented people who bring their own unique skill sets to the table. I trust them to make important decisions because they’ve proven time and time again to be incredible leaders in their own right.

Compassion. One of my employees recently lost his father. As soon as we finish this interview, I’m catching a plane to attend the funeral. Though I have 1,000 things to do here in the office today, none of them are more important than being there for someone in their time of need. Sending a birthday card, writing a note of congratulations, or calling an employee who is caring for a loved one may seem like insignificant gestures, they’re actually quite the opposite. I call it making emotional deposits. Think of it this way: If you and I have a relationship — either personal or professional — and I’ve made emotional deposits with you over the years, you’ll have no doubt that I care for you. So, if we ever need to have a tough conversation, you’re going to be much more receptive because you know I have your best interest at heart. There are many ways to lead, but you’ll never convince me that a compassionate leader isn’t more effective.

Accountability. People won’t follow you if you apply high standards to them and not to yourself. I realized early in my career that I needed to be more prepared, have more energy and be willing to do more than anyone else on my team. As a leader, it starts and ends with you. You set the tone and the example for everyone else in your organization.

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?

I’m not so sure its failure we’re actually scared of. I think it’s a fear of not measuring up or wondering if we have what it takes.

There’s a very real psychological component to it. We all have a fight-or-flight response that’s been finely tuned over time. In essence, we have fear hardwired into us.

Any time we step out of our comfort zones, we feel anxious or scared. Our minds tell us to go back to where it’s safe and comfortable. After all, it’s much easier to be comfortable. When we challenge our natural instincts, we open ourselves up to fear, but we also open up endless possibilities for growth.

What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?

Is there anything more limiting? If a fear of failure prevents you from trying, it robs you of your potential and robs the rest of us from benefiting from your gifts. Everyone loses.

For example, Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, and Steve Jobs was fired from his own company. How different would the world look if either one of those gentlemen gave up because they were afraid to try again?

In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the fear of failure can help improve our lives?

When I look at someone who tries again after coming up short, I don’t see failure, I see someone who refuses to quit. It’s how character is developed.

Honestly, what’s gratifying about success if you didn’t have to overcome adversity to achieve it? Anything worth striving for is going to be difficult, and that means you may not get a desired outcome the first time around.

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?

Early in my career, I was laser-focused on becoming the Michigan State Sales Coordinator. I was relentless and put everything into getting the job, which I did in 1990. I learned quickly that it’s one thing to achieve success, it’s another thing to be able to sustain it.

My first year ended and I missed my sales target. At the time, if you didn’t hit your sales number two years in a row, you would be removed. I began to question everything, my leadership methods, my strategies and my team.

It was the first time in my life that I had to face the prospect of something being taken away after I worked so hard to earn it.

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 decided to take my pride out of the equation and honestly examine my processes and my leadership style. In doing so, I realized that while I had done a decent job establishing an infrastructure for success, I needed to become a more effective communicator. Starting then, Monday mornings at 5:30 were reserved for leader calls. That created an opportunity to listen, share success metrics and vision cast.

We picked ourselves up and made our sales number the next year and for the 11 years that followed, growing a $2 million operation to over $45 million. I learned that success can take time, and a leader can never over-communicate.

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.

Clearly define success. The first step of becoming free of failure is setting yourself up properly for success. That means having crystal clear goals. One of the things I love about sales is that it’s not subjective. You have your targets laid out for you every quarter. This gives you ample opportunity to examine your strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments as needed.

Shift your mindset. Kobe Bryant said, “Failure doesn’t exist.” Thomas Edison said, “I’ve not failed, I’ve simply found 1,000 ways that did not work.” I love these quotes because every day, every challenge, every goal that you’re trying to achieve are opportunities to grow and to learn.

Don’t go it alone. Having a strong support system is perhaps the most effective way to combat a fear of failure. Life can be difficult. It’s even harder if you try to do everything by yourself. I have a personal board of directors. These are friends and colleagues that I lean on when times get tough, who’ll be completely honest with me and hold me accountable when I slip up.

Adopt an attitude of gratitude. When the doubts start to creep in, don’t sit idly by. Take action. Start the day by writing down three things that you’re grateful for. Do it every day for a week, changing your list each day. You’ll quickly see how many blessings you have in your life. Gratitude is the enemy of negative thoughts.

Own it all. When our children fail, we tell them, “It’s ok. No one is perfect.” But the reality is, we often give others far more grace than we give ourselves. It takes a lot to look in the mirror each day and have confidence in yourself.

Ultimately, you have to be yourself and own all of your success and all of your failures. It’s what makes us who we are. The most liberating feeling in the world is when you realize that just being you is enough.

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.

I’d create a culture of giving back. I mentioned gratitude earlier. There are so many ways to make a difference.

Being involved with the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. If we all made a commitment to finding a cause that we’re passionate about and using the talents we’ve been blessed with, the world would look markedly different.

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’ve always had so much admiration for Condoleezza Rice. I’ve followed her career closely, and not just because she’s a Notre Dame alum! I think it would be captivating to learn how she overcame adversity, prejudice and stereotypes in her life to become such an influential and respected leader.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), Journalist, Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor