May 2015

In This Issue

Failing to Succeed

   Fear of Success

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Welcome to the May 2015 edition of Pathways to Success. I recently had the great opportunity to be at events where I heard from Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter; Tim Campos, CIO of Facebook; and John Danner and Mark Coopersmith, professors at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Their perspectives on leadership, taking risks, and challenging themselves to get beyond one's comfort zone were inspirational. These form the focus of the articles found in this month's newsletter.


It is my wish that these monthly writings inspire you to be better leaders. Please forward this email to colleagues and friends. And, if you haven't done so already, please sign up on my website to receive continuing editions. Thanks for your continued support and interest. Enjoy reading!




Steve Terusaki, President of SEIDO Consulting
Steve Terusaki  
SEIDŌ Consulting

Failing to Succeed 

Leaders become better leaders through adversity. In the entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley's technology world, there is a new right-of-passage for success: failure.


Recently I had the opportunity to hear Dick Costolo, CEO for Twitter, describe the value of unconventional paths and leadership.Growing up in a family firmly entrenched in the automotive industry; Costolo took the opportunity to attend the University of Michigan to take an assortment of seemingly random courses. Although Costolo's undergraduate degree was in computer science, he took up acting and stand-up comedy in his senior year. After graduation, he left not for Silicon Valley, but for Chicago and the renowned Second City improvisational comedy troupe. He formed lasting relationships with then-burgeoning performers like Steve Carell and Rachel Dratch, and learned valuable skills that helped prepare him for the tech industry, among them adaptability and the ability to listen. It also solidified his mindset to constantly move out of his comfort zone and try new things.


Implicit in this mindset to move out of the comfort zone is the concomitant mindset that failure is something not to fear, but more importantly something to learn from. This approach is captured in a recent book by UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business professors, John Danner and Mark Coopersmith, "The Other "F" Word." In their book they promote the idea that failure can be a game-changing strategic resource that can help and encourage greater success than anything one can originally crave. Nobody wants to fail, but failure is a fact of life. Most treat it as a regrettable, even shameful event that is best overlooked. Danner and Coopersmith articulate how to take best advantage of these memorable and meaningful events. They state, "Failure's like gravity - pervasive and powerful. Whether you're a leader or team member of a startup, a growing business, or an established enterprise, failure is today's lesson for tomorrow."


Danner and Coopersmith have developed a model for learning from failure: The Failure Value Cycle: Seven Stages Where You Can Leverage or Flunk Failure. It is the cycle of the seven "R's."


In the Failure Value Cycle, there are 3 R's that should occur before failure happens. These 3 stages are:


Stage 1: Respect

Acknowledge the gravity of failure. In this first stage it is important to be forthright about what failure can mean to the venture or effort. The role of the leader is to be a straight talker and be mindful about what can lie ahead.

Stage 2: Rehearse:

It's not just about fire drills but rather it is important to prepare when a failure may occur. In this stage it is important to anticipate and set up systems and establish benchmarks to monitor the business. In this stage, the role of the leader is to be a tenacious coach.

Stage 3: Recognize

Pick up the signals of failure earlier. In this stage, it is important to use the systems and benchmarks from Stage 2 to identify the signs of an imminent failure. The role of the leaders is to encourage watchful monitoring of the business.


During the failure it is important to focus on the following R:   

 Stage 4: React 

As a leader and team captain it is imperative to quickly deal with what is happening. Having the benefit of recognizing early signs in Stage 3 allows the leader to make strategic decisions quickly to stem the impact of the failure.


Finally, after the failure occurs, there are 3 R's that turn the negative of failing into a future asset:  


Stage 5: Reflect

Turn failure from a regret to a resource by digging deep into the reasons why the failure occurred. As a leader, it is important to become the inquisitive student.

Stage 6: Rebound

Taking the lessons learned from Stage 5, it is important to retake the initiative by pivoting and reinvigorating the effort. This effort requires the role of the leader as a "field general."

Stage 7: Remember

The ability to take the failure event and turn it into a future resource requires that it be imbedded in the culture of the organization, or the team. The event must be communicated and re-told as a lesson learned with an emphasis on the benefits of failure. As a leader it is important to be a proud storyteller, initiating an open and productive conversation about failure across the organization and instilling failure savvy as a cultural norm.


Failure is an inevitable result of taking risks and moving out of one's comfort zone. Incorporating the Failure Value Cycle as a strategic process within your business or your team efforts will ensure that failure becomes a valuable future resource and asset that harnesses failure as a catalyst to drive innovation, improve performance and strengthen culture.


Fear of Success

Many people never set any goals because of a phenomenon known as "fear of failure." They are paralyzed by the fear of not succeeding. However, there is another major fear that is even more widespread and probably has stopped you from achieving your goals. It is often overlooked. In fact, you may not even know you have it. It is the state known as "fear of success."


Fear of failure will lead many people into inaction: unable to make a decision or take action for fear of rejection or negative outcomes. This mental state is easy to identify. There are many tools in the personal development industry to help combat this "fear of failure" and reprogram the mind for success. However, the "fear of success" is much more subtle, harder to spot, and also harder to eradicate.


Perhaps you have this tendency in your life. Here are some indications of a fear of success mentality:

  • Studying and trying to implement self-improvement techniques and/or personal development tools but your life does not improve or may even get worse.
  • You settle for less than you feel you deserve or are capable of achieving.
  • You start new projects full of enthusiasm and optimism but wane in your efforts or stop short before you have completed them.
  • You expect things to go wrong no matter how well the situation appears to be at the moment.


Can you identify your own patterns in the any of the above statements?


The fear of success can also make you behave in ways that hold you back. Look at the list below. These are other symptoms of the fear of success.


  • Procrastination. Are you putting off what needs to be done or not doing what you know will bring you closer to your desired result? Everyone suffers from this inner 'demon' at some point although some of us suffer from it more than others. Procrastination is a 'success killer.' How can you expect to reach your destination if you do not take steps towards it? Strive to do little things each day that are small steps that allow you to move closer to your goal. A personal development plan that identifies these small actions is an essential ingredient in the fight against procrastination. Take action, any action! Refine your steps as you go along but do not sit and do nothing.
  • Can't see the forest for the trees. Are you stuck because you can't see the bigger picture; are you focusing on each small task without a large perspective on where these small tasks should be headed? The aforementioned saying is well known but have you ever given it real consideration?
  • Focusing on the process more than the desired goal. By acting as though the plan is more important than the end result will create missed opportunities to alter the path and reach the end goals more quickly. Remain flexible.
  • Thinking that the time is not right. Have you ever waited until the timing was perfect before starting a venture? Have you ever waited until you had more information or a better plan? Again ACTION is the key to the door to success. Taking small steps forward is better than taking none or waiting to see if your foot is landing on the right spot! Even if your actions take you away from your goal you have at least gained insight and knowledge about what does not work.
  • Being a perfectionist. Similar to waiting for the time to be right, being a perfectionist has the same effect: not moving forward. We can become immobilized by waiting for the final product to be perfect. No matter how good, it can always be improved upon. One has to accept that it is better to move forward than to wait for perfection. In many situations, the imperfections that are part of the final product make the end result even more valuable and memorable. A classic example is Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." This song is hauntingly beautiful yet Mr. Simon never felt it was good enough.
  • Seeing only problems. How do you use your focus? Do you constantly see only problems? If you are so inclined, you can often become overwhelmed. However, you can use this mindset to your advantage to acquire an opportunistic frame of mind. Look at the problems and prepare a plan to deal with each of them. Every time you overcome one, congratulate yourself. Use them as a gauge for your achievements. If you keep seeing more problems, remind yourself of how well you dealt with the others. Look at how far you have come!


Enjoy the journey, follow the above guidelines, and you will achieve success. Eventually your fear of success will dissipate and you will have moved a long way forward achieving the results that you desire.