Give yourself grace. It took me a long time and a lot of failing to get to the point where I no longer fear its possibility. I still sometimes catch the feeling creeping up on me, but I only have to remind myself of these five tips to take that chance.
The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people 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 Caroline Tanis.
Caroline Tanis CDFA MBA is a financial advisor and strategist that specializes in helping highly ambitious women and their families build a plan for their dream life. She is an advocate for women building wealth and increasing financial literacy in future generations. After spending half of a decade at one of largest banks in The United States, Caroline made the jump to start her own practice to create a place where women feel heard, understood, and welcome to fully pursue their dreams.
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’?
My story started in Charlotte, North Carolina, but the majority of my life was spent in central New Jersey. I was lucky enough to attend the University of Delaware, where I studied Financial Planning and Wealth Management. Go Blue Hens! I then received my MBA with a concentration in Finance from St. Joseph’s University. My most valuable lessons, however, were learned working the field. As a Financial Advisor at a nationally renowned bank, I was able to build and grow my own wealth management practice. Through my time there I learned so much about myself and the type of advisor I wanted to become, but through these experiences I knew I needed to make a change.
Earlier this year, in a leap of faith, I moved my wealth management practice out from under the bank where I was employed. Tanis Financial Group (TFG) was born. I was incredibly blessed to have all of my clients join me on this journey. At TFG, we specialize in working with highly ambitious women and their families to create a financial plan for their dream life. I still reside and run my practice in New Jersey, but am an avid traveler, reader, and coffee drinker.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
This story is about the most defining moment of my career. I remember it was in my first few years working for the bank. An older woman, she had to be in her early 80s, came into the office. She was, you know, small and frail and shaking, and she was devastated because her husband had just passed away. She had brought with her a thick envelope full of statements and said, “My husband just passed away. You and your team are his advisors. We’ve never met before and I don’t know what to do.” At 80 years old, she was now responsible for all of their financial decisions. She didn’t know where the accounts were at the bank or what kind of accounts they had. So in what supposed to be the easy days of her life in retirement, she suddenly had to learn how to take care of her finances.
From that experience, I shifted my entire vision for the kind of service I wanted to provide. It shouldn’t be that women in their later years of life are only just starting to learn about finances while needing to take care of themselves, especially because women often outlive men. It has been my mission ever since to work one-on-one with Gen X and Millenial women to make sure that they start their financial literacy and planning journey earlier in life. I want to change the way women manage their finances and the relationship and education that they have with money.
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?
My leadership formula: Equal parts resilience and stubbornness, combined with dreams and passion.
The leadership formula will look a little different for everyone. I believe that leaders are a mixture of traits they are born with and those that they actively develop during their lives. I was born a very stubborn child. I am sure my family and my friends would unanimously agree. But turning that stubbornness into resilience has played instrumentally in my success.
I’ve also been a dreamer since childhood. However, I’ve learned dreams are inactionable without passion to field them. I am not only passionate but obsessed with helping women become in control of their finances and learn how they can use money to build their dreams. I use this mission to fuel my own daring dreams — that I will expand my practice and create tools to help more women.
Leaving a steady position at a major-player bank was a decision I made in order to follow my dreams. Although I was confident in my vision, it was scary to leave much of my support behind. I am grateful to have preserved through the hard parts of launching a business so that I could find the success I have now.
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?
I think that people are so afraid of failure because society has put such a negative connotation around the concept. It starts early. When you failed a class or a test in school, you would be more likely to get a talking-to than a bit of grace and an offer of help. Then as you grow older, all of a sudden those same people are asking you, “what did you learn from that failure?” It’s hard to process the positives when you’ve been told it was a negative your entire life.
It’s not just that easy to flip a switch. It takes time to unwind and rewire your brain to see failure as something that can be good. I think some of the biggest times in my life that I have failed, I have learned the best lessons. And I can sit back now and look at those times when, you know, I thought that I failed, but it was really the world redirecting me. It can take people a long time to get to this point of understanding.
I’ve even come to love the concept of failing earlier in the creative process. I want to know all the things that can go wrong. How can I mess up and speed up the process of failure so I can have those lessons in order to grow and be better? Yes, it’s frightening to think that something could go wrong or to imagine that we could lose, but if you change your lens, failure becomes a welcome teacher.
What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?
I think that the biggest downside of people being afraid of failure is that they don’t live up to their full potential. I know that sounds harsh, and I might be putting it to an extreme. But I think that when you’re daring to risk, knowing risk comes with failure, you set yourself up to have some of the most incredible experiences and grow in ways you never thought possible. If you’re afraid of failure, you’re not going to step out and start that new business or tell that person how you really feel.
There are of course going to be people that laugh at you and challenge you. But the real question is, how do you feel? If you fail, will you survive? Will you make it past those trials? And if that’s something that you believe you can make it through, you have no reason not to go out and try.
There are so many other things in between business and relationships to which this applies. Fundamentally, it applies to the self. People who are afraid of failure are hiding in a shell. Instead of hiding, we have the capability to be big, brave, bold people and to change the way things are going in this world. You can achieve greatness, whatever that looks like to you.
In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the fear of failure can help improve our lives?
When you free yourself from the idea of failure you start to become your most authentic self. I find that with less fear I am willing to take bigger risks. And as we know the bigger the risk often the bigger the reward. People who fear failure would see taking a big risk as a big way to fail. However, when you reframe the way you see failure you are able to focus on the potential rewards and you understand that if you do fail you will learn an even bigger lesson.
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?
Let’s call this a lesson rather than a failure. During my first six months at the bank I was working for at the time, I was paired up with a team that was not the right fit. It was one of the largest
teams in our office, and our office was the largest in New York City. When you do the math, this was one of the biggest producers and wealth managers in all of Manhattan. With that said, we were not meant to be working together. It was not just personalities, but also morals and values that didn’t align. When you’re running a wealth management practice, you need to become a very cohesive team. If there’s a piece of that puzzle that doesn’t fit, something has to change.
I approached my manager and voiced concerns that this wasn’t the right fit for my personal growth and the growth of the wealth management practice I was building. The manager told me that there was something wrong with me and that if I couldn’t make it work with this team people in the office would look down on me and no other advisors would want to have me. Instead of helping me find my place within that team or introducing me to another, I belittled for my differences. I felt so defeated. The person who was supposed to be advocating for me was choosing to blame me.
After this talk, I took a couple of days to think about the words that had been said to me. I realized that, first of all, I was not the problem. I was only seeking belonging and the sharing of a common goal. But I was still scared to act. Then my second realization hit. I knew in my gut that this was not the right fit for me and if I never took the risk and walked away I would come to regret it. The fear of being ostracized by other advisors was dwarfed by the fear of never being able to live up to my true potential and work toward my true goals.
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?
The hardest part of this situation was that I thought I was doing the right thing by standing up for myself and trying to make a change, but I couldn’t be certain in the moment. Looking back at it, I know I made the right decision.
I was put in a box and made to feel like such a failure for having different ideas. The memory of how that made me feel still sticks with me to this day. Every once in a while I wonder, what would it have been like if I had stayed? But then I go, and I look back at the whole situation, and I know that it was meant to make me stronger and meant to teach me a lesson.
I’ve learned it’s all about perspective and how we let other people’s perspectives affect our lives. It’s taken me many years to unwind from that situation and realize that maybe this person viewed my actions as failure. But to me, I only grew. I gained the experience of standing up for myself, of digging into my own roots to figure out how to advocate for me becoming my best self.
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?
a. Reframe the way you look at failure. Failure isn’t a negative.
b. Ask yourself, “what is the worst thing that could happen if I did fail?” Work through all of the different ways that the situation could fail. (Spoiler: you’ll realize that your world won’t spin off its axis if things go wrong.)
c. Allow yourself to fail. You read that correctly. The more you allow yourself to fail, the more you become more comfortable and find lessons in it.
d. Ignore the opinions of others. Sometimes we do something that is only a failure in the eyes of others. You will know what is best for your success. When I left the bank, several critical family members made me feel bad about my decision. However in my eyes I wasn’t failing. I was growing and becoming the leader I was always meant to be.
e. Give yourself grace. It took me a long time and a lot of failing to get to the point where I no longer fear its possibility. I still sometimes catch the feeling creeping up on me, but I only have to remind myself of these five tips to take that chance.
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?
a. I agree with the first part of that quote. There are many ways in which you could fail or a situation could go wrong. But I also think there are many ways in which you can succeed. It’s more similar to that saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” One person’s definition of being successful in a situation can differ from others’.
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 want to change the way women think, feel, and are educated around money and building wealth. In today’s society women are criticized for not knowing enough about personal finances. This is despite the fact that there are fewer resources for women to learn about these topics. Let’s change that. Women should feel just as comfortable and empowered to take their finances into their own hands. I am working to offer more resources and be a guidepost for others in their journeys.
In addition, you are told that “a man isn’t a financial plan’ (and I agree he isn’t) but if you make too much money you are greedy or work too much and don’t spend enough time with your family.
It is time to change the narrative.
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 🙂
a. Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In, has led honest conversations and created communities around the advancement of women in the workplace and the setbacks we face. One of my life goals is to have dinner with her one-on-one to learn how I can continue carrying out her mission in my daily life.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
On Instagram @TanisFinGroup or
My website: Tanisfingroup.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.