The Only Thing We Have to Fear

Posted By on Nov 18, 2013 | 12 comments

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I love to read the comments in each of my posts. It helps me better understand where you, the reader are coming from, what you’re thinking and feeling, and where you want to be in life.

I recently received a comment from my Happy Shoes post. The person seemed skeptical about the possibility of everyone in the world finding the perfect job for them. They also mentioned that I left out the downside of pursuing your dreams: the high potential for failure.

This comment resonated with me so much, I decided to address it, because the reader was right. There are thousands of blogs out there that talk about living the life of your dreams, quit your job and do what you want, riches and happiness are right around the corner. Those blogs often forget to address some big realities.

The biggest reality is that we have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and hopefully a little vacation every now and then. How can we risk the security we have with our careers or jobs to pursue something that may or may not work out? What if we walk away and then fail at what we try?

There it is. A fear of failure.

This fear is driven by a deeper, very conscious concern that we will not have our needs met if we fail. And we should fear that to a degree! That fear of not having our basic needs covered keeps us moving forward. It also keeps us from doing ridiculous things.

However, we should not let that fear of failure keep us from trying to better ourselves and our lives.

If you are miserable at your job, it is actually more insane to keep working there than to try something new. But you gotta eat, right?

That is why I am a big believer in part-time entrepreneurship. I believe you can, and should, try to start doing something you love, care about, or feel strongly for while you are still working your normal job. I know that for most people, time is a problem. After all, some of you may have families you need to spend time with.

I get that. So, here’s a little transparency to show you that time should not be your problem.  I work a full-time job at a school that is 45 minutes away from my house. That means I have to wake up fifteen minutes early every morning to get a little writing done. I take a little time and my lunch break to write. And when I get home, I try to put in an hour if I can.

It’s hard. But by squeezing little bits of time here and there, I am able to keep writing books, blogs, and interacting with my awesome community when I’m not working. As a result, I have written six books, and over a year’s worth of blog posts on my site and others.

By doing things in my spare (very spare) time, I have eliminated the worry of failure, but have been able to slowly build something I love.

There is one other point I would like to make about failure. While we should have a healthy fear of not having our needs met, we should not fear failure itself.

What do I mean by that?

See, failure is an important part of the process. When I wrote my first book, very few people bought it. I could have stopped right there and given up, but I didn’t. I went on to re-write it, and create more books to follow it.

Thomas Edison created the lightbulb over a thousand times, failing every time until he finally got it right.

Push through your failures, see what you’re doing wrong, and do it better.

I believe that everyone in this world can reach a place in their professional lives where they are happy. For some, that means they are working in a cubicle, running reports, filling in data sheets, or doing whatever it is that people do in a cubicle. For others, mowing lawns makes them happy. Some may enjoy building homes. Others could get satisfaction from starting a business.

Whatever it is that will make you feel complete, energized, happier, more fulfilled, that is what you should do. It won’t always be roses and lemonade. But failure is part of the journey that leads to a better reality.

I’d love to hear what you think. What are some failures you’ve had? What are some of your fears?



  1. I’ve definitely had some fears/failures with my business, wondering if I’m going to make it, losing high paying clients because we couldn’t agree on contract terms, etc etc etc. But I keep trucking because it’s what I want to do and each failure leads to a good lesson. Great post, Ernie!

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    • Thanks Cat! Not sure if you know this but you are one of my heroes. 🙂

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  2. I got fired from my well paying job in March of
    2012. I had a heart attack & they told me I was a liability to them because of my health. I’ve been using my retirement savings to live on but now I am broke. I am disabled but must look for work or end up living on the street!! I have no idea how I am going to manage this & still keep a smile on my face??? Ernie! Help!!!

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    • That is a tough run, for sure. In the post, I meant to include how I got several pay deductions and ended up going through a foreclosure on my house a few years back. I was very close to moving in with my parents, and instead moved in with a friend.

      It’s difficult to get through those times. I will send you an email direct, if that’s okay. 🙂
      Let’s see what we can figure out.

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      • I’m thrilled you answered me! I’m not whining but my whole life I did get my dream jobs!! Failure was not in my vocabulary! I’m just tired after ice already worked for 40 years @ my dream jobs!!

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  3. My biggest problem is figuring out what I want to do. I am notorious for second guessing myself….on everything. I need some serious direction and then I think I would be able to take steps. Right now I don’t know which way to go. I feel like I am in the middle of the ocean in a raft, and there is a rescue boat just out of sight, but I don’t know which way to row! I won’t drown because I am in a raft but I won’t get anywhere either. I have read alot of books and blogs on finding your passion and they were all full of awesome advice but I never know how to answer the questions they give you to help direct you. My first reply is always….well, it depends. I know it is a sickness but I do that all the time. I do it in personality tests and “find your style” tests etc. They always say….don’t think about it, just go with your first instinct, but that IS my first instinct. I can’t help it. What I need is someone to talk to me and pull the info out without me knowing. Is that weird?

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    • It’s not weird at all.
      I have read a ton of blogs and books about the same kind of things. The funny thing is that they all talk about “taking action” but aren’t specific enough about what those actions should be.
      Granted, a lot of people probably get what they are talking about and can move forward.
      But there are a lot of us who need a little more guidance. I totally get what you’re saying.

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  4. Ernie,
    I needed this article on fear because I am dealing with it.
    It is great timing for me

    Thank you

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  5. When I was growing up, my parents never seemed to have a happy marriage. My Dad has always been a grumpy, stubborn and cranky person. He never knows how to communicate effectively with my Mom, or really, anyone. And he wants everyone in the family to listen to him and do what he wishes and approves – sadly, I’m the only child. My Mom has told me all along to just be careful with what I say and what I do around him, basically to please him, just as what she’s been doing in this marriage. There it is, I have grown up to be someone who doesn’t know what a happy marriage is like or what it’s like to be in a happy family. My parents fight all the time and my Dad had once not spoken to my Mom for 3 months! I walked into my one and only relationship 5 years ago doing exactly the same – compromise without principle and trying to please him by sacrificing my own happiness constantly. That was a total failure. Lucky enough I’ve got very wise friends around me and helped me realize that it’s not right and now I’m single again and living my little happy life.

    Still, when I date now (which rarely happens as I spend most of my spare time doing different exercises & sports:), I still have this horrible forced habit carried on from my childhood to try to please the other person and ignoring what I want/like. Or fear that he may not like me because I’m not good enough at something even though I don’t even like him that much. I’m aware of the fact that I’m an intelligent, well educated, independent and good looking girl who is in general attractive, but I also know that there’s a long way to go before I can conquer those stupid fears and really become confident and love myself for who I am.

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    • Thank you for sharing that, Serena. Always be true to who you are. It is good to be unselfish but it is also necessary for us to never be stifled in a relationship. If we are not doing the things we want or love, and are not having any fun, why are we doing it?
      It’s like that in things outside of relationships as well.

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  6. I am behind on reading my emails. Sometimes I am so busy I forget important things I want to be good at: being a mom, a grandmother , a friend and a spouse ( not necessary in that order). Many times we can live with less but we decide we need more and loose sight of what is important. Professional success does not mean successful life.
    I understand wanting to be more comfortable and bring able to pay bills but many times we just want more: the bigger house, the nicest car , etc. it is hard to keep it all balanced. I had work my whole life to accomplish what this world sees as success. Now I am going to retire with 1/4 of my present income and about 75% less living space.
    We were thinking about retiring later but then we decided we want it small and I pray we can make it.

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