37 In Business Insight

The dangers of YES and being afraid to fail

I’m enthusiastic. almost to a fault. When someone presents me with an idea I like, my gut response is to say “YES! Omg, yes!” and just fall headfirst into it. 





There’s two problems with that.

One, I only have so much energy and time to devote to projects. I can easily overbook myself if I’m not careful.

Two, rushing in to agree doesn’t give me much time to really assess the project and if it’s something I *should* get involved with. And that can lead to guilt and dropping out later, which lets people down and messes with my own self-esteem.


But what happens when I get too scared to say YES?

I can miss life-changing opportunities, and projects that can really propel me and my business forward.

I miss out on FUN.

People stop asking me to work with them.

It gets really boring around here.


So what’s the sweet spot in the middle? Well, one way to assess the risk factor for me is to listen to my fear.

What do I mean by that? Well, usually if I hear something and think “That’s a fantastic idea! I would be really good with that!” and then immediately start thinking of excuses to give if I fail to follow through – I know that *FOR ME* it’s something that I really should get involved with, because I know it’ll be good for me. That little voice that’s whispering excuses? It’s afraid of failure. That’s all that is. If I really, really want to make this project happen, then – barring catastrophes of epic proportions – I’ll make it happen. Otherwise, it’s self-sabotage, and that’s not something I want to feed.

If I immediately think about other obligations that I have on my plate and feel burdened… that’s a more serious signal to me. That’s not my brain trying to shut me down, it’s responsibility talking. However, that’s a voice that can be reasoned with by pulling out a calendar/to do list and seeing if there’s actual room in there for the project in question. And I don’t cringe as much when that voice shows up, because it’s being reasonable, not obstructive.


Derek Sivers has a great post about when to say YES, when you’re feeling over-booked.

Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I’m trying:

If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then say no.

Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” – then my answer is no.



I use my discernment to say “Is this a legitimate feeling, or am I just afraid to fail? And if it’s a legitimate hesitation, how do I genuinely feel about this offer? Because if I REALLY want to do it, if it incites passion and excitement in me, I should be able to make room. And if I really feel like I’m just thinking I’ll screw up and go down in a whimper of non-glory… then I need to buck up.” 🙂


In this spirit, I decided to join in with the #yourturnchallenge that’s being hosted by Winnie, who is Seth Godin’s Special Projects Lead. I’ll be blogging every day for a week, tagging it with #yourturnchallenge, and talking about how “shipping” [that link is a pdf] this project is making me feel and affecting my days. You can follow along here, or join in if you like.
I’ll be honest – my pal Kate of The Yarnicorn and I are big Seth Godin fans, and she asked if anyone was going to be participating in this challenge. And my immediate thought was ME! and then ohgoatsI’msobusy…and I knew then that I NEEDED to say yes. Because I was scared to fail. Eff that. Gotta jump on this idea, because it’ll be good for me! I do love to blog, I have a lot to say and share, and I need the kick in the pants. So there you are… this whole blog post in action. As soon as I said yes, I knew I had to come here and write this. So there you go. I’m already in action.

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  • Reply
    January 16, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    I know the feeling. Sometimes I go ahead and say yes then have to live in fear that my health will not cooperate–and that has happened. Still I have to remind myself that many times especially in the last several months I have been able to fulfill a commitment. And as I celebrate those times my courage builds. Keep your zeal! You can do this! I will be following! #yourturnchallenge

    • Reply
      Xiane K
      January 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Antonia, that’s absolutely another fear of mine! My depression [which is a jerk and lies a lot] often will rear up if I take on too much, so that’s always back there in my head. But you know what? I’m going to go ahead and say YES anyway and just let people know “This is me, and if something happens with my brain, know it’s not intentional. If you decide not to work with me because of brain chemistry, that’s okay.” And let the chips fall where they may, right?
      Thank you for the positive, cheerful support! I just popped over to *your* blog and will be following along there, I like the way you write! <3

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