Melanie Spring On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Look at the fear. Where does it come from originally? Was it something your mom said to you as a kid? Did it come from a traumatic experience? Is it there to protect you from something harming you?
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 Melanie Spring.
Melanie Spring has over 20 years of experience helping others build their personal and professional brands, giving them the tools to show up and show off. Melanie is a dynamic international keynote speaker, leadership development expert, and speaker trainer who works with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and CEOs. Learn more, here: www.melaniespring.com and here: https://confidancia.com/
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’?
Absolutely! I’m Melanie Spring — My back story is that I’m a web designer turned marketing expert turned brand strategist turned international keynote speaker. I had a full career in marketing and branding in corporate America and as an entrepreneur. 5+ years ago, I transitioned out of my brand strategy agency to become a full-time public speaker and now consider myself more of a Brand Storyteller. Brilliant Rebels come to me now to help them find “celebrity” in their industry and I help them at my in-person retreats with speaker training, personal brand strategy, and full expression. I have way more fun than I ever thought was possible at work.
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?
I was asked by my last boss what I would do if he couldn’t pay me anymore and I said, “I’d work for myself.” His answer in return: “Great! You have 30 days.” Looking back at that whole scenario, I’m grateful for the question and also for later noticing that I would wait for other people to make decisions for me. I had this happen numerous times before finally asking myself the ultimate question: “What would I do if I only thought about my own happiness?” That question sounds selfish, yet it ended up being one of the most selfless questions I could ask.
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?
I like to say that a confident human is unapologetic, unfiltered, and constantly evolving. I believe leaders must be confident — and in order to do that, we have to stop apologizing for showing up and asking for what we want, first and foremost. Next, we have to take off the filter and stop people-pleasing our way through our lives and work. Finally, we must stay on top of our own personal growth — and continue to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
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 is such a loaded word. Most of us are more worried about what other people will think, not actually the failure itself. We worry about looking bad, having others say or think negatively about us, or even never recovering in other people’s eyes. We know intrinsically that failure is something we can recover from, but the human aspect of it — that’s the tough part to get past.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
It keeps us safe — which keeps us small. We tend to not do the things we know we can do just because we’re future-projecting what could happen if it doesn’t work out. Fear is there to keep us safe, yet it ends up keeping us where we are, which is not successful. Trying things and failing is how we find success.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?
Focus on the belief that you will be successful — even if you fail in the meantime. Then notice how it feels when you think about that success. Staying with the feeling of being successful will allow you to embody the success — even if you fail before you succeed. It will keep you going.
I would also suggest focusing on what YOU think about the thing you’re attempting, not worrying about what other people think. If you stay focused on your own ideas and thoughts instead of others, you stay in your own body and it allows you to become the success you desire.
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?
Way too many immediately pop to mind. I recently walked through a fear of turning in the first draft of my book manuscript. It’s taken me more than 5 years to finally get it out of my system. My fear of failure kept standing in my way — worrying over and over how many people might hate the book or me because of what I write. Then all of my fears came true when I turned it in and my publisher said that it was subpar — way less comprehensive than I believed it to be. And that we would have to add a lot of time, effort, and money to the process. Soul-crushing response to one of my biggest fears.
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?
First, I sat with every single one of my feelings. Elation for turning it in on time, excitement for other people loving the concept when I told the world that I was finally on my way, frustration when I was told that it wasn’t good, anger when I sat with that news, sadness that I wasn’t as good as I expected to be, and then resolve to try again.
When I uncovered what was really under all the feelings, I found that I was writing the wrong book. I had been unknowingly following my fear of failure instead of what I knew my soul needed to write. So, when I turned in the book, all my fears came true and I was able to say “see! I was afraid for a reason.” The energy of failure had written itself into the book for me. After feeling all my feelings, I sat down with my publisher and talked through what I really wanted to write and we saw a new path forward together. One without fear, doubt, or worry. A path of success and bliss! I’m now writing my second draft, except this time I’m writing from my soul.
Every one of us is a beginner at things we’ve never done before. Even if we think we’ll be good because we have experience in other ways, we might not be — and knowing that we’re walking in with a beginner’s mindset always helps us move through the feelings faster. I suggest that you feel your feelings as you’re doing it. Feel them all. Journal about them and allow them to pass. They’re just feelings. Then have a conversation with yourself about why you’re feeling them, where they come from, and what you’d like to be feeling instead. That’s where you’ll find the path to success and bliss.
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.
1. Look at the fear. Where does it come from originally? Was it something your mom said to you as a kid? Did it come from a traumatic experience? Is it there to protect you from something harming you?
2. Say “hi there, little fear! Thank you so much for coming up and letting me know you’re there.” Maybe give it a name and talk to it like it’s a person. Ask it questions and see what it’s trying to tell you. Thank it for showing up and reminding you to stay safe.
3. Ask the fear to sit quietly while you move forward. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this. She lets her fear sit in the car with her on the “road trip”, but it is under strict orders not to touch the radio or the snacks. It can be there to warn her but otherwise can’t speak up.
4. Start moving forward with your project. Know that fear is there for the ride, but you’re in control of your success or failure. Neither is wrong or bad, they are just there to show us the path.
5. Notice when failure is coming. It’s not the end, it’s just part of the testing process. You are already successful because you got started. Keep going knowing that you’re a big success.
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?
It’s true that it is possible to fail in many ways, yet it is also true that success comes in many ways as well. There is no one way to be successful. There are lots of paths to success, I believe we each have to find our own and walk it with confidence. I know Aristotle meant well, but he was originally a scientist and yes, science usually has one answer. He was secondly a philosopher, and he knows that there are many paths to success — I appreciate the quote though.
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. :-)
My book is called Brilliant Rebel because I am starting The Brilliant Rebellion. It is to show humans that they have the ability to start a movement by standing for or against something that will impact many. Each of us has a brilliance inside of us and it isn’t that we can’t shine, it’s that we choose to stay safe and that, in turn, keeps us small. Sparking a Brilliant Rebellion allows us to create change in our communities, our industries, our work, our homes, and our world.
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 :-)
Yes — Rob Bell. I love his theology, his full expression, and his wisdom. I also love that he shows a new way of thinking in a world where most people follow along. I’d love to have a private conversation with him, but mostly to convince him that we should be in each other’s inner circles.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
melaniespring.com or on the socials as Melanie Spring
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
Thanks so much for having me!