Prioritize — Know where you need to meet yourself at any moment. This means having the priorities of what is important to address for a certain situation versus feeling like you have to for fear of letting others down or feeling down on yourself. Prioritize where you are mentally and take care before diving into anything before you feel you are ready by using the previous steps.

The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds peo ple back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Aunia Kahn.

Aunia Kahn is the CEO of Rise Visible. With 24 years in the field, she is a highly sought after digital marketer, strategist, public speaker and digital influencer. Rise Visible has been named Top-Ranking Woman-Owned Digital Agency by Clutch, Best SEO Agency in Eugene 2022 by Expertise, and is a certified disabled and woman-owned business. She is also an internationally recognized and awarded visual artist, photographer, author who has shown in over 300 exhibitions in over 10 countries; at places such as San Diego Art Institute, iMOCA, and the St. Louis Art Museum. She founded Create for Healing and the Oregon Disabled Business Owners Association. Aunia also identifies as a disabled business owner surviving and thriving with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Type 3), Mast Cell Disease, Dysautonomia, and POTS, PTSD, etc.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I did not expect to be or plan to be a disabled woman in tech. That was not where my passions were leading me. I had deviated from one path to another one — which is where I am today.

I still think about being a therapist, but I know I just care too much and would have a hard time keeping distance without emotional investment. So, it is good the other road showed up — as unexpected as it was.

This path led me to move from Michigan to St. Louis in 2001 and was studying psychology. In Michigan, I worked as a dental assistant to pay my bills while in school, so I continued this occupational direction and applied for dental assisting jobs once I arrived in St. Louis.

I had a hard time finding the office since I was new to the area but once inside the medical office, I felt strange. I think most people who start a new job feel a little weird for the first few days or even weeks as they settle into the new setting.

Within an hour of being there, I heard someone yelling from the break room — this was 9/11. As everyone sat watching the TV in disbelief, I became more and more uncomfortable surrounded by strangers. So, I asked to leave and never came back. In one day, one moment, my life changed its trajectory most unexpectedly.

Trying for months to find work after the events of 9/11 was nearly impossible. To add to the difficulties, my health was also failing and I needed to figure out how to navigate that as well.

I started thinking about the secret skills I had that I had never even considered as a career path. Going back to 1998, I was given a computer with a ton of computer programs on it and had learned website design, graphic design, and marketing. I did it for fun and had a pretty extensive portfolio.

An unforeseen opportunity had presented itself to me and I reached out to a few people I knew in the industry. With that, I was able to secure an interview at a local agency. It was a quick no. I felt crushed. Yet, I still had the fire to find a way to drum this type of work up as something that could perhaps make me a living and help me balance the care I needed to have for my declining health. I began to ask friends, family, and people I knew for referrals. In time, my business started to grow to a tiny solopreneurship.

This brought me where I am today. 25 years later and with many more unforeseen twists and turns under my belt, I could not be happier. This might not have been my original career path, but sometimes the universe takes you off your path and puts you right where you are supposed to be. Right here and now.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I think the most interesting story is now — this very moment. Over the last 25 years of my career, I spent those years surviving, not thriving.

In the last 2 years, I have had the biggest change in my health and business. I had been previously diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. Finally last year, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Dysautonomia as well as a plethora of other wonderful health issues. Thank you gene mutations! However, with this diagnosis and treatment, my whole world has changed and expanded for me.

I started to step into owning being a disabled business owner, especially as a disabled woman in tech, which was something I hid for a very long time. I felt it left me vulnerable. The truth is, for me, hiding this fact was not healthy. Being able to be open up about it has brought me much vitality and the ability to connect with and empower a community I am honored to be a part of. The disability community is filled with some of the most amazing people because sometimes just making it through the day is a victory and not everyone understands that.

So, my current story is my most interesting to share because so many exciting things are happening, and I am incredibly grateful to be where I am right now.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I appreciate you saying that. I feel being a successful leader is about being a team player, building community, and creating opportunities for others. The three characteristics that I believe have been instrumental to my success have been perseverance, communication style, and openness to learning.

First, perseverance has been a large part of my life since I was a child. Growing up in a challenging home environment, as well as being mercilessly bullied through my school years, I had to persevere.

Once I hit my teen years, I started to struggle with my physical and mental health, which again brought perseverance to the forefront in my life. Followed by the last 18 years of my life, I dealt with numerous undiagnosed rare diseases. Through those years, I had doctors tell me it was all in my head, I was crazy; they even laughed in my face. I needed strength and perseverance at that time more than ever.

At one point I ended up on a feeding tube formula and almost dead. With doctors that are supposed to help you and not believing you led to friends and family starting to think that you’re crazy because there’s no proof that you’re not. When you’re the only one that knows the truth, the only thing you can do is persevere or give up. So, I kept swimming. It was not easy and time and time again I did consider giving up, but I had a fire in me to keep going.

Secondly, communication is a very important part of my success. Over the years of trying to explain symptoms in 100 different ways to 100 different people, you start to learn creative ways to communicate. You also learn a lot about how to communicate with different types of people.

I also feel that growing up in an extremely challenging home environment made me more apt to pay attention to communication. You start to learn a lot about verbal and non-verbal skills when you need to protect yourself. In these situations, you are often caught off guard which has given me the gift of improv. For example, when I do podcasts or audio/video interviews when people give me interview questions beforehand, I won’t read them.

The reason for that is that the other part of my communication style is all about being organic, transparent, and authentic. I don’t like things to be scripted. I feel the more we step into our true selves and don’t worry about how other people perceive us, it allows us to step into our superpowers. Communication is also a powerful tool that helps improve the lives of others.

Whether in business or personal life, being able to understand other people and communicate with a good communicator or a poor communicator is vastly important. We all communicate very differently so being open to all types of communication and being willing to adapt your communication to the communication styles of others helps.

Third, learning is one of my favorite things. When I was younger, I often had a difficult time holding a job for a long time because once I would master the job, I would then become bored out of my mind and quit to look for something new to learn. Working in the field of web design as well as SEO and all the other components of what I do are ever-changing. I never get bored.

There is always something new to learn. I remember a few years ago, a good friend said to me, “There’s something wrong with my car. Do you know anybody who could look at it?” When I told her I took an auto shop class in high school and I’d be happy to look at her vehicle, she shook her head and said, “What do you not know?” I’ve always been a seeker of knowledge and at times I feel like I don’t have enough hours in the day to learn all the things I want to.

I do try my best to stay focused on the handful of things that I love, but one thing that is important to my success is being able to flow between numerous things and find ways that they can all work together seamlessly. A good way to explain that would be a person who plays many instruments and then turns them into an orchestra. Lastly, I’m always looking for a new instrument, although I love all the ones that I have.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?

From what I have learned over the years exploring my reasons for fears around failure and the fears of failure that others have shared with me — it is often wrapped in personal and outside criticism. We learn early on that failing at something will have people laughing at you and criticizing you. Think back to being in school, either you were being laughed at, or you were making fun of others, or you watched it happen.

We have all seen how the world looks at people who trip and fall or make a mistake. You can watch hundreds of videos online of people failing at the simplest things and people love to laugh and make fun of others’ misfortunes. So, going back to failure, as people it is hard to want to put yourself on the line to be the one being laughed at or made fun of.

There is also a deeper motivation for avoiding failure and that is that we are tribal creatures, and we need each other for survival. In the simplest terms when the tribe does not want you and you are extracted from the tribe, it creates a fear of death. Belonging is not just a human need to feel good being a part of a group, it is in our DNA to help us survive. The idea of doing something that will remove us from the tribe, like failing, can bring upon us fears that are deeper than our psyche can understand. it’s visceral, but it is real and understood.

What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?

Being afraid to fail can limit people in so many ways. In truth, if we are not making ourselves a little uncomfortable from time to time and taking risks, we are not growing as human beings.

Fear of failure limits us because no matter what, failure is a part of life. We do not get to avoid it — it is a human experience. Finding a new mindset around failure and how to attach meaning to it can change the limitations and avoidance of trying to do something we know we might fail at.

When we don’t try things that are beyond what we know we can successfully do, we do not give ourselves an opportunity to succeed in something new. If we limit our life and experiences to only safe experiences that we believe we know the outcome — we are missing out on a valuable part of life.

As children, we learn to walk and fall down a lot. When we fall down it provides our brain information on how to do it better next time and we do it again and again until we become experts at walking. From a very young age and until the end of days, falling down figuratively is how we gain new information to adjust how to act, interact and move through life. We need the contrast to help us grow.

In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?

Changing your mindset about what failure means is number one. The word “failure” itself feels uncomfortable and makes one shy away. Who wants to fail? Most people would not answer “Me, please!”. Yet, when you change your mind set about failure and understand that failing is actually a success, you are more apt to want to try something that might lead to failure but when you fail, it’s just a measurement of what to do next, not a reflection of your worth or value as a person.

Another way to become free of failure is knowing that sometimes when something does not work out the way you want it to, perhaps there is a better way, and the failure is pushing you in that direction.

Lastly, look at failure as exciting. If you failed it meant you tried and trying is more than most people do sometimes. Often people are paralyzed in fear, but if you try, you have moved past that fear and that in itself is a success. If you fail, so what, get back up and try again or do something else. Failure does not define you or anyone else for that matter.

We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?

There was a time when I experienced a failure that changed everything to my core as a person and in business. I had partnered with a client for 3 years and felt that our relationship was not only work-related, but we built a friendship and comradery.

Our relationship went from intermittent work of a couple of small jobs a month to 20–30 hours a week for a full year and was integrated into their team. I spent time in team meetings and not only worked closely with the owner, but also with the team on projects here and there.

I put my heart and soul into their business. When I work with someone, I give them my all, 120%.

This client was 80% of my income. I helped them build their brand from the ground up. I created their logo, brand guide, website, and all marketing collateral. I built a full education platform on their site, edited videos, ran their social media, wrote and created a bi-monthly newsletter, built out complex automations, filled in as a ghostwriter for blogs, and helped them move into a content management system.

Out of nowhere, the owner called me and let me know that the work we had scheduled for the next few months was on hold indefinitely, that the social media I managed for the last year needed to be passed to the intern and that the branding shift in colors and voice I was slated to do was being now handled by an unnamed outside source.

As I was listening and processing this newfound information, I tried not to panic. I could tell they were uncomfortable telling me this. I told them that I respected whatever they felt best — truly. I don’t like to be reactive, so I took the weekend to think it over.

On Monday, I reached out asking what work I would be focused on for the next couple months. They said, “You will be training the intern how to do social media and we do not have many other hours available for you”.

I was unprepared for the harsh reality before me. In a matter of 72 hours, I went from 20–30 hours of steady regular work hours per week to almost zero with no warning or lead time while being instructed to pass off my work to others or teach them my job while I still worked there.

During that time in my life, I was very dedicated to clients. I was willing to bend over backward to help someone else succeed. In that, I failed myself as I set myself up for people to take advantage of my goodwill, my loyalty, and my trust. The adage of “Invest in people, not companies” rang true and I was able to understand I needed to position myself differently going forward.

I decided the next day to write a letter explaining my confusion and letting them know I was needing to focus all my attention on finding work to fill the devastating and unexpected gap in financial resources.

Their response, in short, “I understand, I respect you. It was not my intent to end services. Please send the final invoice”.

That was it. 3 years of a relationship and 80% of my income gone with zero explanation and no willingness to even address my confusion.

To be vulnerable, I did not sleep for a week. I kept wondering why and what I did wrong. I felt like a failure to not only myself but the family I provide for. It greatly affected my health, and my relationships and put me in a panic for weeks trying to replace that income. This felt like a deep failure, but I knew I would recover and be better for it.

I now know I am not alone and will always strive to ensure I care for myself and others in business and in my personal life with the same degree of compassion I had wished someone had given me.

How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?

I think the hardest part for me is just how easy I was just pushed off after all the years, loyalty, dedication, care, and true heart I put into our relationship, business, and success. Then I realized in all of this, that was the issue.

My level of moral caliber, my values, my loyalty, and my diplomacy would never allow me to do this to anyone — even if I felt they were not a good match for my team any longer. So, in truth, as people in business, we did not match as much as I thought we had in those traits.

I moved on in good faith and raised my energy since I do not believe in retaliation or revenge, and I wished them nothing but great success. A valuable lesson would be how much it showed me how important a core value system needs to be the foundation of personal and professional life.

An example is how after almost two decades of a devastating loss due to a debilitating illness, I can manage and run a business which makes it easier for me to bounce back from professional losses. I deal with personal loss with my health daily, so I am no stranger to having the rug pulled out from under me.

I started to put all my energy into my own company and took all of that fear of failure energy into making things happen for myself. I want to say it wasn’t easy, but another trait of mine is true vulnerability and transparency. Was it worth it? Yes!

Shortly before this experience, I had started to put a little extra effort into our company. During the month I was let go and the month after, I ended up with almost 30 pieces of press, our business was ranking #1 on Google for numerous keywords locally and we began connecting with colleagues and clients that were aligned with the values I hold and the values that Rise Visible holds. To connect in that way in business while holding ourselves up to the standards of ranking in our industry was wonderful. We are the people who help people rank, so we are great at ranking ourselves — it’s a very competitive market even locally. We then went on to sign our first 5-digit job.

I learned so many things from this, it truly was one of my biggest life lessons.

  • I learned that failure is all about how you react and adapt to it. It might suck, but if you can find a positive way to react, adapt, etc. You win. Sometimes doors close for a good reason.
  • I learned that you never put more time into your client’s business than your own. A sense of balanced dedication is important.
  • I learned that even if you think that you have value (especially when you are told this) and bring solid skills and a deep dedication to the table — that you are still replaceable.
  • If you come from a different demographic of people, people will judge you.
  • Money will change people. It just does. How many times have we heard the story that someone was there on the ground floor and helped someone build empires and once they were successful, they just let the person go?
  • Even if you think someone will not pull the rug out of you — don’t be naive. Protect yourself in all relationships.
  • Sometimes even if you are kind, empathetic, and loving with the best intentions in the world, you may be a target for people who view those as weak traits. They are not weak traits, but again you need to protect yourself.
  • Always have a backup plan. Never feel any situation is too comfortable to not have a backup plan in mind. This applies to work and finances equally.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Step 1: Identity — Understand where the fear is coming from and how it can help or hinder you. Use this information to get better at identifying that which causes fear presently and in the future until it becomes a skill.

Step 2: Perspective — How you first see what you fear may be a response to past experiences or fear of the unknown. Sometimes it is fear that impacts our identity, so we need to address new ways of seeing. Flip the perspective. Try methods of action and build new thought processes to shed light on why exactly this fear exists and how we can address it differently, so it is manageable to our current situation.

Step 3: Forgive — Give yourself grace. For each step you take or fear to take, be forgiving for what you have a hard time with and know it’s okay to pause, reevaluate and try again.

Step 4: Strategize — Take the information you acquire to come up with a game plan you can access easily to build the process of new thoughts and dealing with the fear as a new habit. Mental exercises, positive self-talk, and researching inspirational people are a few examples to help achieve this.

Step 5: Prioritize — Know where you need to meet yourself at any moment. This means having the priorities of what is important to address for a certain situation versus feeling like you have to for fear of letting others down or feeling down on yourself. Prioritize where you are mentally and take care before diving into anything before you feel you are ready by using the previous steps, for example.

The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?

My thoughts on this quote fall in line with my own philosophy that being willing to fail, perhaps many times, is itself the means to success. We have to be willing to fall down over and over but with the one constant trait of getting back up and going forward — always.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I feel if a movement of Altruism in Business could exist, I would lead that movement of good to the greatest amount of people. There are so many lives that could become success stories if only more people used their influence or abilities to offer compassion and help for those who cannot do it alone. To be able to carry unified values to help others succeed as we succeed ourselves sounds kind of perfect.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Joe Dispenza is one of my all-time heroes. He went from a traumatic injury that could have cost him his life to helping himself heal and has helped others heal. Changing the lives of many people.

With a better understanding of neuroscience and brain plasticity, we are learning that we can heal ourselves in ways we never knew we could — with scientific proof! As well as that we can make ourselves sick, but we can change that too.

Just listening to him speak is an amazing experience. He is kind-hearted, smart as a whip, and revolutionary for his time. His book “Becoming Supernatural” is one of my favorite books. He’s remarkable and it would be a dream to spend real human time with him.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thanks for asking! You can find us at as well as @risevisible on all social media platforms.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.


  • Savio Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.  He coaches cancer survivors to overcome obstacles, gain clarity, and attract media attention by sharing their superpower through inspiring stories that make a difference. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. 

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad.  His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.