I Can’t Do That! by Steve Dailey

Steve_DaileyWhat is the remedy for “Fear of feeling foolish”? There is only one thing that can derail our most genuine commitment, our best intentions or our most ambitious goals…


Remember when you were a teenager? We were consumed by what other people thought of us, weren’t we? Clothes, hair, language… it rolled up to whether we were connected or included or not. And then there were the all-too-frequent opportunities for us to be introduced to something new, something that we weren’t yet adept in and we were faced with either exposing ourselves to the critical snickering or mockery of our all-too-disloyal compatriots or simply declining the opportunity. Declining was the easy choice.  NULL It was at the school dance where the boys were lined up on one side of the gym and the girls on the other… or the invitation by the speech teacher to volunteer first to present our homework… or the challenge by the PE teacher to test our strength on the rope climb. All opportunities for us to either step into new domains and risk humiliation by those that we so desperately wanted to like us – or play it safe. Typically we chose to play it safe and said, “Aw…I can’t do that.” And that decision to play it safe is one of many fears that derail ambition and success. This fear is called “Fear of looking Foolish”. You know what’s weird? That clumsy, acne-faced, hormone poppin’ kid is still in us, still desperately desiring to be included and accepted and – at all costs – avoid looking stupid. Meanwhile we are conflicted with a desire to succeed.

As an adult, we must do those things that are new and challenging and difficult because that is where success lives.

Without doing those things that others won’t, we end up with only what others have… and that’s not nearly good enough. So here is the conflict – the conflict that comes from fear of foolish. Whaddya do? What’s the remedy for Fear of Foolish?


I know, it sounds way too easy, and maybe it is easier said than done, but here’s the good news: as an adult, we can see it coming. When we were kids, it never crossed our mind that we’d risk spontaneous hilarity by our attempt to look good on the dance floor. After all, it looked so easy on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. But as an adult, we have life’s perspective to tell us what is coming. We know that phone calls, presentations and negotiations in front of our friends or tough prospects all contain opportunities to mess up. As adults we have the perspective of life’s experiences to see these things coming. So why wait for it to hit us in the face like the PE teacher’s challenge to climb the rope. Practice! Get out an MP3 recorder and talk into the sucker – play it back and critique yourself and erase it so that you can do it again, better. Ask a trusted peer to critique your presentation or to role play an unreasonable prospect.

Practice, prepare and practice again. It’s the key to overcoming Fear of looking Foolish. C’mon, are ya chicken? Practice!



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Steve Dailey
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