How to Stop Sabotaging Your Success

Embrace fear.

Image credit: Branden Collum

Turning toward the fear and playing full-out

Early in my professional speaking career, I was hired to keynote a group of about 300 small business owners at a networking conference.

At the time, this was the largest group I had spoken to and, as you might imagine, my stomach got tight just thinking about it.

“Will I be good enough?” and “I hope I survive” were the first two thoughts I had.

Until I realized I was about to sabotage the very success I wanted to achieve!

Here’s Why

The way I see it, no matter what your goal, you’ve got 3 choices:

Play to win.
Play to lose.
Play to “not” lose.

Wait, aren’t “winning” and “not losing” the same thing?

Nope, not really.

If your goal is to “not lose” you will never reach your full potential.

You’ll hold yourself back.

Not losing means you are focused on the negative, what could go wrong, or how you could fail. And that means you set those up as possibilities in your mind. Because you’ve made them possible, there’s a good chance they’ll happen.

Not losing means you are focused on the negative, what could go wrong, or how you could fail.

You set those up as possibilities in your mind and because you’ve made them possible, there’s a good chance that’s exactly what’ll happen.

Playing to win means there is no other option.

There is no alternative, back door, way out, alternate choice, acceptable fallback position, or runner-up status. It is your only choice and the only thing you focus on.

It’s full out.

We’re not going to just dance up to success, lightly pat it on the head, then slink out when it starts to get uncomfortable — that would be like aiming at mediocrity.

The goal of someone playing to win is to succeed.

The goal of someone playing to “not lose” is to avoid fear or pain.

  • I’ll play, as long as I don’t get hurt.
  • I’ll work my business as long as I break even.
  • I’ll give it a shot but if it gets hard or uncomfortable I’ll find some excuse to justify quitting.

These people go all the way out to the edge of their comfort zone…and then stop! When you play to not lose, you let fear stop you dead in your tracks.

Fear of rejection, failure, success, disapproval, not measuring up, being uncomfortable, being judged, making a mistake, getting hurt, or looking foolish.

Anytime you hear yourself say, “I can’t,” what you really mean is, “I’m afraid.”

Confident people play to win.
They love winning more than they hate losing.
They focus on winning. They don’t focus on “not losing.”

Here’s a secret most people don’t know.

Wildly successful people are scared all the time. In order to be so successful, they must live outside their comfort zones.

They are always taking risks, trying something new, leaning into the fear. In some cases, turning full circle, facing fear dead on and staring it down!

Fear doesn’t go away, they just get used to feeling it.

So what about you?

Everything you are going after is just outside your comfort zone. Every time you do something that scares you, you are playing to win.

Do. Not. Hesitate.

Dr. Ann Vertel is a leadership and success expert who, after 20 years as a Naval Officer, now speaks, trains, coaches, and consults on how to take charge and lead your life, your career, and everything in between. Want her to speak to your organization? Learn more.

Turn toward the fear and play full-out!

Before you go…

If you’d like a few simple steps to start leading with executive presence, you’ll find 3 unusual ways to lead with confidence right here.

Originally published at on August 19, 2016.

Originally published at

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