Debbie Pace On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Create a strong support/accountability network. If you’re someone who has difficulty following through on commitments to yourself, this is a key step to overcoming the fear of failure. Get a coach, ask a friend to hold you accountable for showing up, or create some method of support and accountability that will help you stay on track with your goals. Ask your network to remind you of your “why” often, to help prevent the tendency to give in to the fear.
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 Debbie Pace, CEO of Debbie Pace Global.
Debbie is a former Navy journalist, author of the Journal to Freedom, host of The Show Up! Show podcast and a national-award winning broadcaster-turned visibility and expert, who helps entrepreneurs overcome fear and self-doubt to show up and powerfully share their soul-based message with the world.
Through her coaching and healing programs with journaling as a foundation, Debbie draws from her experience surviving a painful divorce, a business bankruptcy, and having no home for her and her two young children, to remarrying her husband and completely turning her life around. She pulls from her life experience to help others break through fears keeping them from leading fulfilling lives, stepping into their power and purpose, and articulating their message in a way that naturally and effortlessly attracts their desired community.
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’m pretty open about my story of growing up with a violent father the first five years of my life, before he passed away in a car accident. I didn’t understand growing up that I was born a highly sensitive person (HSP = heightened sensitivity to pretty much EVERYTHING), so the effect of growing up with violence impacted my emotional and physical health pretty deeply and was woven into a lot of my fear-based decisions as a teenager and young adult. It was well into adulthood that I was being led by fear in every area of my life.
In an attempt to escape from that life, I joined the U.S. Navy as a journalist in 1991– to find the thing I thought existed outside myself that would fix everything. It turns out, though… you can’t outrun yourself. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the next decade of my life I moved from one broadcasting, journalism and marketing job to another, overachieving, winning awards, and still… struggled with the fear that I wasn’t good enough.
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?
My journalism and broadcasting career started more than 30 years ago, and there are some pretty interesting moments, though if there was one story specific to fear of failure that I would highlight, it would be when I was a fairly new Navy broadcaster in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 1993.
I was working a normal Sunday shift alone at the base radio station and received a call that a mail and produce plane had crashed on the other side of the base. I had to record the wreckage. I was terrified to not only see what the situation looked like over there, but also to have the responsibility of recording the investigation video. My anxiety was extremely high as I headed over to the crash site, and before I knew it, I was on the scene. The team informed me that the crew didn’t survive, so as you can imagine, I was experiencing many different emotions at once — including fear.
There was one single moment when I just took a deep breath, remembered WHO I was and WHY I was there, and hit the record button before I realized it. The skills and training I had learned up until that point were vital, and I was able to record a very thorough and professional video. From that incident, I recorded my first radio news story for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) that was aired at military bases around the world. It became a breakout moment in my military broadcasting career, and my response earned me a letter of commendation from the base commander.
The big takeaways from that incident for me were: 1) You can do it afraid; 2) Proper training and experience can get you through some difficult moments — especially in times of fear; and 3) When you move through the fear, there are likely greater rewards on the other side than you may be able to see at the time.
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?
The top three character traits I believe have been most instrumental to my success are:
- Resilience — This has been the theme of my life, and more specifically, when I first became a coach I released many programs that failed to launch. Resilience kept me from completely walking away from my coaching business, which ultimately led to the creation of several successful fear-busting visibility programs.
- Naïveté — I tend to see much more possibility than those around me do, and I’ve been called “unrealistic” many times. However, this naïveté has ultimately led to more successes than failures, including writing the Journal to Freedom in 18 hours, reconciling with my husband after a divorce, running a half-marathon six months after knee surgery, and so much more. Ignorance really is bliss in my world, and I’d take it any day over practicality.
- Insatiable drive — Through many failed business launches, a business bankruptcy, and many of the above scenarios, the one thing that kept me going was an inner drive to be, have and do better. This strong internal drive has been the difference between accepting certain failures in my life as truth versus turning them into successes — no matter how long it may have taken.
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?
In my experience running dozens of fear-busting programs over the past six years, I’ve found that the fear of failure is often based in a person’s past. I do a lot of inner child healing with clients, and for many people, succeeding — which could also equate to pleasing their parents, peer groups, etc. — was seen as a matter of survival or the difference between feeling/receiving love, or not.
As an example, I’ll use my own story of my father having violent outbursts when I was a little girl. One Christmas morning when I was about three years old, I opened the wrong present under the tree. I couldn’t read and had accidentally opened a gift that was my sister’s. My dad yelled at me, and it upset me so much that in that moment that my child mind decided I wasn’t going to ever make a mistake like that again. As a result, I spent a good part of my life seeking perfection in everything I did and was afraid to take risks when I couldn’t see a positive outcome.
Many children learn to people please or not say anything at all in order to avoid a perceived threat and keep their parents and others happy. As they get older, it turns into avoidance of risk, which is often seen as fear of failure. This is a simplified version of what I teach in my courses, though the overall idea is that the behavior is often learned at an early age from information processed by an incompletely developed mind making decisions based solely on ensuring survival.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
Being afraid of failure can keep people from taking actions and risks that will help them achieve the life of their dreams. They tend to play it “safe” instead and accept the status quo. Many times, the fear of failure results in inaction, and this causes a person to feel stuck because their situation isn’t changing even though they desire something drastically different for their life or business.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?
Freedom from the fear of failure is a muscle-building exercise in resilience, faith, confidence, and so much more. When you are no longer inhibited by that fear, you make more aligned choices in life that help you move in the direction of your desires. When you’re no longer afraid of having a failed program launch, for example, you’re more willing to put more programs out there and have a much higher possibility of launching one that will be successful, versus stopping at the failure and never reaching the point of desired success.
My favorite quote is: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” It’s so true and is such a clear example of how a fear of failure can drastically limit your potential, and how overcoming it can create a life of unlimited success.
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?
Yes, and it’s a story that was a little embarrassing for me to admit for a long time.
In 2011, I was at the final training for my coaching certification, and I was paired up with a man that I had to coach around a difficult situation. Every time I brought up something that would create leverage for a change, he denied that it was true for him. After a few failed attempts, I began to feel very defeated, and I convinced myself in that moment that I was NOT meant to be a coach and that I didn’t have what it took to be successful at it. So, I didn’t pursue coaching at that time.
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?
It wasn’t until 2016 — after being strongly encouraged to own my power by several successful coaching colleagues — that I began calling myself a coach. I realized that I hadn’t been acknowledging the dozens of success stories that resulted from my coaching sessions over the years. When I came to terms with how many more people I could help by showing up and fully owning that I was, actually, a very successful coach, I found leverage to move through the fear of failure that I had been holding onto all that time. I also realized the value in coaching those who are a good fit, and being very selective about the qualities in the people I coach.
My biggest advice around moving through fear of failure would be to get deeply connected with your purpose and reconnect with it every day to keep yourself on the right path. And, get a coach! Few people can see your blind spots like a great coach, and having the right support over the years has helped me stay connected with my core purpose, making a huge difference in the way I’ve shown up and created success after some pretty significant failures.
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.
Five steps everyone can take to overcome the fear of failure include:
- Train yourself to see success — even when it looks like a failure. Let’s say, for example, you have a business and are looking for a six-figure program launch, but you only make $10,000, $40,000, or maybe even $80,000 — something you would normally consider a failure. Instead of going down a rabbit hole of negative emotion, you can train yourself to see success in any number during the launch, and you’ll recognize that making five figures on a launch is still quite an accomplishment. Plus, it’s perpetual. The more success you look for, the more success shows up.
- Rewrite your story around failure. Many times, people feel an intense fear of failure, but never dig into where that fear is actually coming from, so it continues to have a silent power over them. One of the most effective tools I use with clients is a process that digs into where that fear began, exposes the truth behind it, and rewrites it into a more empowering story. For example, if your fear of failure came from a traumatic childhood experience, you would go back to that experience, take a deeper look at what truly happened and why, and rewrite the story in a more positive light that removes any blame or shame.
- Don’t take anything personally. Going back to the business launch scenario above, understand that someone choosing whether or not to purchase your program or product has no bearing on your value as a person. It could just be a matter of needing to tweak your messaging to help them understand the value of the product or solution you’re offering, or maybe they just aren’t ready to take the next step in their own life. It could be any number of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with you.
- Build your resilience muscle. A valuable growth lesson in life is learning that you can fall down, get back up, and still create the life you really desire. Just like a child falls down and scrapes their knees but gets back up on the bike again, adults often need to learn that they can fall, feel a little pain, and still get back up and have a great ride.
- Create a strong support/accountability network. If you’re someone who has difficulty following through on commitments to yourself, this is a key step to overcoming the fear of failure. Get a coach, ask a friend to hold you accountable for showing up, or create some method of support and accountability that will help you stay on track with your goals. Ask your network to remind you of your “why” often, to help prevent the tendency to give in to the fear.
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 don’t consider myself a philosopher, so I’m not certain what Aristotle meant in that statement. Personally, I believe the only way to fail is to actually quit — to stop showing up. I’ve not found Aristotle’s statement to be true in my own life, as there have been many definitions of success for me. Also, the only time I feel I’ve ever really failed was when I’d truly given up, which hasn’t happened very often.
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. :-)
This is one of my favorite questions! The movement I would inspire would help everyone in the world understand that even undesirable behavior is rooted in love and protection of the self, so they would then communicate from love and understanding in a way that empowers and builds up others, versus criticizing and shutting them down.
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 had this vision for years in my meditations that Oprah Winfrey comes to my house, and we talk about creating projects based on communicating from love. We would spend the time sharing thoughts and ideas on how to bring this movement out more quickly into the world in tangible, actionable steps.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find the Journal to Freedom and The Show Up Show online, as well as stories sharing my journey and coaching work, sound healing album, and more at https://lnk.bio/debbiepaceglobal.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
Thank you so much for having me! I wish you continued success and expansion as well.