While I was in New York last month, I conducted a master class with SMFA alumni. It was like a mini-SMFA Escape. It was epic. Laughter, tears, breakthroughs, tier-jumps, epiphanies. Awesome stuff!

SMFA NY Alumni Master Class

One of the lovely ninjas said:

Can we talk about this “Fear of Success” thing? I really get stuck when I hear folks tell me (or read Steven Pressfield write) that our biggest fear is that we will succeed. I know there is more to it, but I cannot totally wrap my head around this one. I want to succeed!! This one is a doozy for me!

I said, “It’s not actually fear of success; it’s fear of the unknown.”

We LOVE the known. And when we realize that we may be shifting from the KNOWN (even if it’s mediocre) to the UNKNOWN of our wildest dreams (because they’re dreams; we don’t know for sure their ins and outs, their twists and turns, their reality for us and for those we love), a part of us clamps down on things and chooses the KNOWN because at least that’s something we can wrap our brain around.

There are actually studies about how our brains crave certainty, even if the uncertain option involves significantly more pleasurable experiences! Because the randomness of uncertain pleasure is less tolerable to most than the consistency of mediocrity.

So, it’s not so much FEAR OF SUCCESS; it’s that leap from being sure what we’re gonna get to not knowing what the next tier looks like that scares the bejeezus out of us.

This is a part of the reason I teach red carpet planning to newbies studying Self-Management for Actors. It’s why we’re always talking top-tier issues even when we’re working on the first or second or fifth tier or whatever. Because the sooner you can build a muscle for the BEST EVER OMG, THIS IS WHAT I DREAMED WOULD HAPPEN being *real*, the sooner you can get okay with the “unknown,” because now it’s not unknown… it’s just something you’ve not lived yet. But it’s practiced. It’s REAL.

Reframe any “fear of success” type issues you’re having in this way and you’ll be correctly identifying what’s happening when you feel resistance *and* you’ll feel better with heading into the unknown (because it’s known, on some level). Suddenly all of this will feel more conquerable. 🙂

Leap on!

Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form? Let us get you in gear with some FREE training right now!

I’m so excited to see where you GROW from here!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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  1. Avatar Sean Frost November 10, 2015 at 3:55 am

    Great stuff, Bonnie! The very term “fear of success” has never made sense to me. For myself, I’m not afraid of having a gorgeous house in Hollywood Hills with an Oscar on the mantle; I’m afraid of the shame of being homeless and alone in Los Angeles. But prepping for success, like practicing my art, following that little voice in our heads we know we should listen to and, um, saving money to move smart, is a great way to stave off any future eviction notices and invite more “yes” into my life.

  2. Avatar Sean Frost November 10, 2015 at 4:24 am

    One thing I’ve got cemented now, because partially of this blog entry, is that a good question to ask myself each day is, “What am I going to do today to get closer to the realization of the dream?” Write a few pages? Memorize some lines? Plan a scene. I need to take advantage of whatever opportunities God gives me. I don’t see any other path.

  3. Avatar Margaret Kelly December 21, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Just what I needed to read today. I was a little worried starting the #SMAninjas thinking adding one more thing on to my schedule at such a busy time of year was over reaching. But for me it seems to be all connected in all the areas of my life. “Fear of the unknown”, even writing it down makes it grow a little smaller. Putting it into perspective, taking the fear out of the dark and showing that it’s not such a monster after all. Thank you.

  4. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie December 25, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Margaret — I’m so glad you’re able to join us and that the exercise of writing it down helped distill what’s real and what’s imaginary. Welcome to “Get in Gear” and the #SMFAninjas world. I’m so happy to work with you!

  5. Avatar Alejandra January 4, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    yes! Love this reframing technique. This is such an awesome tool to apply and utilize moving into 2018 and onward! Reframing the fear of the unknown into the giddy -excitement and joy of the known. Like receiving a surprise gift: the giddyness and wonder of the moment before you tear off the wrapping paper!

  6. Avatar Michael L Harris January 24, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    Great info. It really made me think about a lot of areas of my life and some deep rooted fear I have and not just about acting. I was reminded of the principles taught in the greatest success book ever written, “Think and Grow Rich ” by Napoleon Hill. Hill talks a lot about the things that stop our success, alot of the principles in Bonnie’s book are also rooted in the principles Hill taught I highly recommend it as supplemental reading and no I don’t get a cut for promoting Hill’s book, he is now exploring the great unknown on the other side… Thanks for your work Bonnie.

  7. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie January 25, 2019 at 7:49 am

    Yes! Absolutely a great book! 🙂 Thank you for including it here. So glad you’re enjoying your ninja journey!


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