Marc Nudelberg of On the Ball Ventures On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine


Once we become free from the fear of failure, we can start to invite the opportunities failure brings with it. Perspective, knowledge, strength and understanding all come with dealing with failure. If we are absent of fear, then we can truly accept these gifts.

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 Marc Nudelberg.

Marc Nudelberg is a coach, author and entrepreneur. He leverages his experiences as a Division I football coach and President of On the Ball Ventures to help individuals and their teams adopt the 1 percent better mindset. Marc delivers energy, passion and competitive drive while focusing on the details and developing processes that produce results.

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’?

Thank you so much for having me! My name is Marc Nudelberg. I spent fourteen years training and developing college football players. My career in football taught me so much about leadership, how to develop teams and how to build culture. After I left football, I was not sure what to expect but I was excited to enter into the next chapter of my career.

I am proud to say that today, I work with my dad and my brother as a part of On the Ball Ventures. This truly is the perfect fit for me because in a sense I am still coaching and developing people, it just looks a little different. Now, I’m arming CEOs, entrepreneurs, business leaders, sales professionals, and organizations with the processes and principles that we instill within our own organization.

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?

It’s hard to pick out the most interesting story from my career because there are a lot. But one I like to look back on was meeting Jim McElwain at the coaches convention in Indianapolis. I was introduced through a friend, and we had a great time together, sipping on Coors Lights and talking about anything other than football. It would occasionally creep its way in and then Jim would say, “Hey, no ball”, meaning he didn’t want to talk about football. I had no way of knowing that a year later I would be calling on him to offer me an opportunity on his staff at the University of Florida. But I did, he hired me point blank, no interview or any further vetting. I learned the power of relationships and the returns they can bring you if you invest in them the right way.

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 three characteristics at the foundation of my success were communication, mindset, and discipline.

  1. Communication — I was able to create a lot of value for myself within the organizations I worked for because I understood how to communicate to different audiences. I learned how to connect with people where they were–specifically, getting the most from my players. Not everyone can be coached the same way and understanding each personality in order to adjust my communication was a huge tool that allowed me to have success.
  2. Mindset — I think of this as my filter for how I respond to everything. My mindset allowed me to bring energy, enthusiasm, and passion to work every day. Being able to be the example of what I was asking other people to do helped me shape the culture of my units. I was able to be consistent in the way I approached our work every day because of the way I trained my brain.
  3. Discipline — To me discipline means sacrifice. It’s the consistency of not only knowing what to do, but choosing to do it, time and time again. The discipline and commitment to my work separated me from other young coaches on the staff. It helped me rise above my competitors and created more opportunity, which helped me elevate faster.

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 believe failure is frightening to us because failing tends to be a big blow to our egos and they tend to trigger feelings of embarrassment and shame. Those feelings can be hard to process and can create roadblocks in overcoming them. If we allow those feelings to dictate our response to the failure it can allow that failure to define us, instead of us defining the failure. If we do not know how to deal with failure or have a defined process for it, it can be a scary event.

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

I think it is all about what you do with that fear that truly matters. The fear of failure can oftentimes limit us because it stops us from going after our dreams and pursuing our goals. However, a concept that people truly need to understand is that failure is a necessity to growth. Without failure there is no opportunity for change.

This is a concept that we need to think about more regularly. It seems that it is our human nature to focus on all the ways things could go wrong and therefore, avoiding those things, instead of looking for the opportunity in what could go wrong. There’s a great quote that goes “Everything you ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.” So, why do we place these limits on ourselves? We cannot let our fear hold us back; we must only let it push us forward and make us realize that we can overcome and come out stronger when facing our fears straight on.

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

Once we become free from the fear of failure, we can start to invite the opportunities failure brings with it. Perspective, knowledge, strength and understanding all come with dealing with failure. If we are absent of fear, then we can truly accept these gifts.

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?

My favorite story is from when I was fired early in my career from the University of Cincinnati. I had just finished my first year as a special team’s coordinator. We finished in the top 20 on special teams and I successfully recruited two kids from the state of Florida. I was ready to go into the next year with improvements and adjustments that I knew would take me to the next level as a coach and help us be even better as a team. But I didn’t get that opportunity. I received a call while on vacation that I would no longer be with the team. When I asked why I was being let go and what I could have done better, I was told “You did a great job and are a heck of a coach. This is just part of the business.” It wasn’t my fault, but it was my responsibility. I had to learn that failure wasn’t fatal, and regardless of whose fault it was, I had to take responsibility for finding the lessons and opportunity in 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?

Based on that story I would say the best advice I would give someone who is dealing with any kind of failure or disappointment is that “failure truly isn’t fatal” and many times our failures may even have silver linings that force us to evaluate ourselves and what exactly our goals are for the future. If we let our failures make us stronger and smarter, then in a way, we are stripping those failures of negative power and moving forward into growth.

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.

I am going to go the other way on this question. Instead of thinking we will be absent of the fear, the goal should be to understand how to operate with it. The first thing we need to do is recognize it. Acknowledge the feeling and admit it’s there. Then we need to accept it. “Hey, I have this feeling, I know it’s there and I am not going to avoid it.” Then we need to ask a question about it. “What am I afraid of?” If we can identify the fear and then understand that no matter what happens we will have the opportunity to make more decisions and learn and grow from it, we aren’t becoming free of fear, but actually working with it.

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 agree with Aristotle here. The simple key to success is the willingness to do the work and persistence to show up regardless of circumstance. When you study sustained success those are the common ingredients. So while there are lots of ways to fail, the road to success always involves consistent and persistent effort.

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. :-)

The movement I believe would bring the most good to the greatest number of people would be embracing the idea of change and encouraging individuals to commit to the process of it. I think something that is so crucial to have is patience. We tend to want what we want and want it instantly without putting in the work. If we commit to the process and embrace the idea of change then we get to see the benefits and rewards that hard work can bring. I have learned many times that anything worth truly working or fighting for is even more worth it in the end.

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 a lot of respect for Dwayne Johnson. His ability to transition industries while applying his fundamentals of success and evolving with time has been impressive to watch. I hear more of the insight he shares on the commonalities of success, how he has developed the teams around him, and how he prioritizes his time.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My father, brother, team member Shea and I do the Daily Huddle which is our live LinkedIn show that our followers can tune into every day at 7:58 am on LinkedIn or YouTube. This daily show has been a way in which we have been able to connect and meet so many amazing people that continue to drive new opportunities for us. LinkedIn would definitely be the first place that I would recommend to readers who would like to follow my work and my family’s work as well.

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

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor