Do It. Or Do Nothing?

success_by_dhuusarahHow many times have you wanted to do something but for whatever reason you never tried? What held you back? Was it the fear of failure? Maybe ridicule from your friends and peers? A lack of support from your family or significant other? Maybe you thought about an idea so much that it started to sound stupid and you talked yourself out of it? It’s OK – I’m here to tell you that we’ve all done these things. We’ve all had ideas that have come and gone, and for whatever reason they’ve never been pursued. Most of the time, it’s based on some form of fear. Obviously, nobody wants to fail, but isn’t it better to try something than never try at all?

If You Don’t Try, You Fail

I am in no way the model  of stepping outside the box and following every passion and dream. Fear of failure has and still does hinder me. Many people believe it’s safer to never try and follow their dreams because that way they’ll never ‘fail’. But I believe this is a backwards way of thinking – and that if you never try something, if you don’t pursue that idea you have, you’ve failed.

I think one major thing that holds us back is that we get into our heads that we’re not good enough. I’ve got lists of blog ideas, business ideas, designs, domain names, and so on. But I know that there are hundreds of better designers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs who have been around for years and have already established great sites, large communities, found a niche in the market, and so on. I ask myself, how could I ever be taken seriously? How can I ever hope to compete?

Be Yourself

Maybe it’s not about competing – but instead, about realizing your own inner potential. We are better than we think we are – each of us has something to offer. Where do you think the industry leaders started? It all starts with an idea, and from there, shaking off the fear of failure and just doing it.

Every entrepreneur feels vaguely disreputable. Maybe you drive a crappy car. Maybe you never went to prom. There are enough stuffed suits in this world to fill fifteen Wall Street Journals a day. As anyone who watches American Idol will tell you, what this spun-out, over-hyped world is absolutely famished for is a little genuine personality. And, outside of your technology, it’s probably the only thing you have. So stop trying to be like IBM and just be yourself. -Guy Kawasaki

If we look inside ourselves, each of us can see that we have something to offer – some idea that (may have already been done) but can be improved upon. There is innovation and creativity inside each and every one of us.  It is inevitable that every single thing we do, that every idea we have, isn’t going to be the next big thing. We’re not always going to be successful. I’ve tried my hand at blogging and pod-casting many times in the past and each one has been a bust – but through each past experience, I’ve learned something – I’ve learned that you don’t have to focus on just one topic, I’ve learned about the importance of showcasing personality through your writing, and I’ve learned how to better connect with an audience and encourage discussion. Now, I have a blog that I love writing for, and I’ve connected and networked with an outstanding community of people. It’s a small-scale example of overcoming the fear of failure, but an example nonetheless.

How Do You Get Over Your Fear?

There is no magic answer for this one. It really is about just doing it. And not only getting out there and doing it, but thinking about why you want to do it. Sitting on the sidelines and watching can be a good learning experience, but you really won’t get far until you walk up to the coach and tell him to ‘put you in the game’. All of us want to be starters, no one wants to be a bench-warmer. Don’t be someone who talks about what they want to do, be someone who does what they want to do.

Getting started is the hardest part. Mistakes are going to come, but failure is the key to success. With each failure, you’ll learn what to do (and more importantly what not to do) and you’ll be one step closer to understanding what you need to do to succeed. That domain name you’ve been sitting on for a couple years – do something with it, launch your idea, tweet about it, spread the word, get some feedback from your friends and peers. Start a blog, write about the things your passionate about, don’t worry about your audience for now – it will build in time. Write a business plan for a start-up idea you’ve had. (If) you’re in a comfortable enough situation – quit your job and devote all of your time to your own ideas. Take risks. Whether you idea is small or big, challenge yourself to look inward and take a leap of faith. In your later years, as you sit in your rocker on the front porch and look back at your life, it would be much better to be a ‘Has been’ than to have been a ‘Never was’. They say you should live without regrets – and while this might be impossible to do, at least live a life knowing that you at least tried.

Michael Jordan, one of the all time greats, was quoted with the following on failure/success:

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.

DISCUSSION: What is something you have always wanted to do but never tried? What’s one idea that you can commit to pursuing. What fears do you have? What’s holding you back from trying? What inspiration can you provide to someone who may be reluctant to take the first step?


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22 Responses
  • @NashvilleBen Reply

    for me, it’s easy to become attached to stability/security. when i find it i tend to grasp it tightly and not try new things in fear of losing what i’ve already got. but i think these desperate times have caused us to be uncomfortable and instable. although we often see this as a bad thing sometimes, it ultimately enables us to return to our roots when we’d do anything to do what we love because we no longer can grasp stability since it has left our world temporarily.

    • Matt Reply

      Hola Ben! I think it’s common (and easy) for all of us to become attached to stability. Change requires effort; change requires establishing new habits and commitment. And sometimes, we just want to get by – maybe we’re not as happy as we could possibly be, but we’re content, and to a lot of folks, that’s fine.

      But you make an interesting point in that the times have caused us to lose that sense of security and stability – no jobs are safe, we can try to predict what the economy will do but nobody really knows – so what do we have to hold onto? That sense of desperation is leading a lot of people to try new things, take leaps of faith, and put themselves out there – which isn’t a bad thing. But I don’t think we should rely on difficult times pushing us to pursue our passions – we SHOULD be able to look within ourselves and find the drive to do it without outside motivation. Easier said than done, right?

      • @NashvilleBen Reply

        agreed. you make good points. i enjoy reading your stuff and look forward to what’s ahead for LWP.

        • Matt Reply

          Thanks Ben. I’m glad to have you as a part of the Life Without Pants community!

  • @NashvilleBen Reply

    for me, it’s easy to become attached to stability/security. when i find it i tend to grasp it tightly and not try new things in fear of losing what i’ve already got. but i think these desperate times have caused us to be uncomfortable and instable. although we often see this as a bad thing sometimes, it ultimately enables us to return to our roots when we’d do anything to do what we love because we no longer can grasp stability since it has left our world temporarily.

    • Matt Reply

      Hola Ben! I think it’s common (and easy) for all of us to become attached to stability. Change requires effort; change requires establishing new habits and commitment. And sometimes, we just want to get by – maybe we’re not as happy as we could possibly be, but we’re content, and to a lot of folks, that’s fine.

      But you make an interesting point in that the times have caused us to lose that sense of security and stability – no jobs are safe, we can try to predict what the economy will do but nobody really knows – so what do we have to hold onto? That sense of desperation is leading a lot of people to try new things, take leaps of faith, and put themselves out there – which isn’t a bad thing. But I don’t think we should rely on difficult times pushing us to pursue our passions – we SHOULD be able to look within ourselves and find the drive to do it without outside motivation. Easier said than done, right?

      • @NashvilleBen Reply

        agreed. you make good points. i enjoy reading your stuff and look forward to what’s ahead for LWP.

        • Matt Reply

          Thanks Ben. I’m glad to have you as a part of the Life Without Pants community!

  • @factor77 Reply

    Matt, it’s all about taking the plunge. You’ve got to get your feet wet sometime. People aren’t afraid of failing they are afraid of getting laughed at. Mitigate the people in your life who will criticize you and have thick skin, b/c the criticism will come regardless of failure or success!

    • Matt Reply

      It really is about ‘just doing it’ but it’s one of those things that is much easier said than done. I think establishing a solid group of friends is really important. Having a ‘support group’ who won’t sugarcoat what they think, but who will be supportive and who want you to succeed is SO important. Being able to bounce your ideas off of someone and receive honest feedback can make all the difference in the world!

  • @factor77 Reply

    Matt, it’s all about taking the plunge. You’ve got to get your feet wet sometime. People aren’t afraid of failing they are afraid of getting laughed at. Mitigate the people in your life who will criticize you and have thick skin, b/c the criticism will come regardless of failure or success!

    • Matt Reply

      It really is about ‘just doing it’ but it’s one of those things that is much easier said than done. I think establishing a solid group of friends is really important. Having a ‘support group’ who won’t sugarcoat what they think, but who will be supportive and who want you to succeed is SO important. Being able to bounce your ideas off of someone and receive honest feedback can make all the difference in the world!

  • Jun Loayza Reply

    I have always wanted to take a road trip across the nation. Haven’t done it because I lack funds, but more importantly, I’m afraid that my gf would break up with me. Why? Because my roadtrip is planned for a 6 month to a 1-year experience.

    I can commit to pursuing a life of “realness.” I commit to just being myself and not worrying about pleasing other. (which kind of contradicts my point above because I’m trying to please my girlfriend. I’m working on it!)

    I am afraid of failure and not making a million dollars by the time I’m 27. I’m afraid I won’t be able to buy my dad a HUGE house or by my mom the Jaguar she wants.

    Nothings holding me back. I’m working my ass off.

    If you don’t do it yourself, no one is going to do it for you.

    To great, extraordinary things or else no one will remember your name.

    – Jun Loayza

    • Matt Reply

      Jun! Wouldn’t a cross-country road-trip be amazing? That is a passion and a dream of mine someday – but I would actually like to make that journey WITH my girlfriend – so breaking up isn’t the issue. I guess the issue for me would be survival. Money makes the world go round, right? And without it, a 6-12 month journey and ‘spiritual awakening’ of sorts would be difficult.

      We all have fears – I have many – where will I end up? What do I want to do with my life? What if I never amount to anything more than a guy working in an office and blogging on the side? I guess my fears are a little more broad, but they are still fears nonetheless. The fear of failure is inside us all – but that same fear can drive us, motivate us. Is there anything better than hearing ‘You can’t do it’ then DOING IT, proving everyone wrong and saying ‘What now?’

      Great, extraordinary things are…great, but to me, it’s more personal. It’s not about how many people will remember me, it’s about how I’ll remember myself, it’s how the ones I’m closest with will remember me. What legacy will I leave behind? That’s what drives me, that is what motivates me.

      Awesome comment Jun!

    • Cheryl Elizaga Reply

      Hi Jun and Matt!

      Jun, I’m responding to your comment because what you said – “I’m afraid I won’t be able to buy my dad a HUGE house or by my mom the Jaguar she wants” – reminds me a lot of myself. I love your sentiments for taking care of your parents – perhaps the way they’ve taken care of you. I know I want to shower my parents with gifts and luxuries because they’ve spent their living breaths and resources putting ME through school and supporting MY dreams. I want to buy my mom that Coach purse she can’t afford and I want to pay for my parents to go on a cruise to support my dad’s wanderlust.

      However, I want you to know that no material gift could amount to how proud you’re making them by living a life of success. Now, I don’t know what you may think of when it comes to the word “success” – perhaps, as you mentioned, making a million dollars by the time you’re 27. I think success for their children, according to awesome parents like mine are and I’m sure yours are, means happiness and a lifetime filled with love. Speaking from my parents’ point of view: Yes, I bet that purse or that trip would be great gifts, but the one thing parents can’t get enough of is their child’s love and everlasting appreciation, shown by a simple “Thank you” and “I love you.”

      So don’t worry about saving money to buy them something temporary (cars die and making a home is more important than living in a house) when having a great son who loves and cares for them is all they could ever want :)

      Cheryl
      @CheElizaga

  • Jun Loayza Reply

    I have always wanted to take a road trip across the nation. Haven’t done it because I lack funds, but more importantly, I’m afraid that my gf would break up with me. Why? Because my roadtrip is planned for a 6 month to a 1-year experience.

    I can commit to pursuing a life of “realness.” I commit to just being myself and not worrying about pleasing other. (which kind of contradicts my point above because I’m trying to please my girlfriend. I’m working on it!)

    I am afraid of failure and not making a million dollars by the time I’m 27. I’m afraid I won’t be able to buy my dad a HUGE house or by my mom the Jaguar she wants.

    Nothings holding me back. I’m working my ass off.

    If you don’t do it yourself, no one is going to do it for you.

    To great, extraordinary things or else no one will remember your name.

    – Jun Loayza

    • Matt Reply

      Jun! Wouldn’t a cross-country road-trip be amazing? That is a passion and a dream of mine someday – but I would actually like to make that journey WITH my girlfriend – so breaking up isn’t the issue. I guess the issue for me would be survival. Money makes the world go round, right? And without it, a 6-12 month journey and ‘spiritual awakening’ of sorts would be difficult.

      We all have fears – I have many – where will I end up? What do I want to do with my life? What if I never amount to anything more than a guy working in an office and blogging on the side? I guess my fears are a little more broad, but they are still fears nonetheless. The fear of failure is inside us all – but that same fear can drive us, motivate us. Is there anything better than hearing ‘You can’t do it’ then DOING IT, proving everyone wrong and saying ‘What now?’

      Great, extraordinary things are…great, but to me, it’s more personal. It’s not about how many people will remember me, it’s about how I’ll remember myself, it’s how the ones I’m closest with will remember me. What legacy will I leave behind? That’s what drives me, that is what motivates me.

      Awesome comment Jun!

    • Cheryl Elizaga Reply

      Hi Jun and Matt!

      Jun, I’m responding to your comment because what you said – “I’m afraid I won’t be able to buy my dad a HUGE house or by my mom the Jaguar she wants” – reminds me a lot of myself. I love your sentiments for taking care of your parents – perhaps the way they’ve taken care of you. I know I want to shower my parents with gifts and luxuries because they’ve spent their living breaths and resources putting ME through school and supporting MY dreams. I want to buy my mom that Coach purse she can’t afford and I want to pay for my parents to go on a cruise to support my dad’s wanderlust.

      However, I want you to know that no material gift could amount to how proud you’re making them by living a life of success. Now, I don’t know what you may think of when it comes to the word “success” – perhaps, as you mentioned, making a million dollars by the time you’re 27. I think success for their children, according to awesome parents like mine are and I’m sure yours are, means happiness and a lifetime filled with love. Speaking from my parents’ point of view: Yes, I bet that purse or that trip would be great gifts, but the one thing parents can’t get enough of is their child’s love and everlasting appreciation, shown by a simple “Thank you” and “I love you.”

      So don’t worry about saving money to buy them something temporary (cars die and making a home is more important than living in a house) when having a great son who loves and cares for them is all they could ever want :)

      Cheryl
      @CheElizaga

  • Kristina Summers Reply

    I have always wanted to live somewhere other than Georgia, but have always held back for one reason or another, finances, love-interest, college, kids in school, work…

    I tend to have little fear of trying new things, (I sky-dive, white water raft, walk around in 2000 acre burn sites in the mountains and eat flowers in the field) but re-location just hasn’t been something I can do. Go figure.

    I think that deep inside I am afraid to leave the only place I have real roots. I keep moving farther and farther away from my hometown, but can’t quite make the leap across the state line.

    I am committed to living a life that makes me happy, by being true to what my heart wants. I will leave this world a little better than I found it, and with a smile on my face.

    No one can live my life for me, I have to be willing to take a few chances and trust that I will like where I end up.

    I like your blog. Looking forward to reading more from LWP. :)

    • Matt Reply

      I think we all are afraid of leaving our roots. Some more so than others. But I have to say, you sound confident and you have a positive outlook on life – you know that you are living the ‘good’ life, and you know that you’re in control of your own destiny. THAT’S HALF THE BATTLE! So many people get caught up with a lack of confidence in themselves – but you’re already there!

      As for moving – you’ll know when the right time is – maybe you’re just comfortable staying in Georgia, maybe moving really isn’t what you want. And if it is – just do it! If that’s where you see your future, don’t delay your plans, if you can move, make it happen. I know it’s easier said than done, but you don’t want to be 5, 10, 20 years down the line wishing you would’ve moved much sooner.

      Thanks for the comment, I’m happy to have you as part of the community here!

  • Kristina Summers Reply

    I have always wanted to live somewhere other than Georgia, but have always held back for one reason or another, finances, love-interest, college, kids in school, work…

    I tend to have little fear of trying new things, (I sky-dive, white water raft, walk around in 2000 acre burn sites in the mountains and eat flowers in the field) but re-location just hasn’t been something I can do. Go figure.

    I think that deep inside I am afraid to leave the only place I have real roots. I keep moving farther and farther away from my hometown, but can’t quite make the leap across the state line.

    I am committed to living a life that makes me happy, by being true to what my heart wants. I will leave this world a little better than I found it, and with a smile on my face.

    No one can live my life for me, I have to be willing to take a few chances and trust that I will like where I end up.

    I like your blog. Looking forward to reading more from LWP. :)

    • Matt Reply

      I think we all are afraid of leaving our roots. Some more so than others. But I have to say, you sound confident and you have a positive outlook on life – you know that you are living the ‘good’ life, and you know that you’re in control of your own destiny. THAT’S HALF THE BATTLE! So many people get caught up with a lack of confidence in themselves – but you’re already there!

      As for moving – you’ll know when the right time is – maybe you’re just comfortable staying in Georgia, maybe moving really isn’t what you want. And if it is – just do it! If that’s where you see your future, don’t delay your plans, if you can move, make it happen. I know it’s easier said than done, but you don’t want to be 5, 10, 20 years down the line wishing you would’ve moved much sooner.

      Thanks for the comment, I’m happy to have you as part of the community here!

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