I’ve recently read a ton of autobiographies of really famous people — celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tina Fey, Steve Martin, Ray Allen, Michelle Obama, Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, etc.
Most of them are millionaires, at least.
And all of them had to look stupid for a long time before they finally got it right.
But they eventually got it right. And the only way you’ll start getting things right is by trying, failing, experimenting, failing, and learning.
The problem is, most people are afraid of looking stupid. It’s painful, embarrassing, and people laugh at you. It’s not a nice feeling.
But if you can train yourself to become someone who is OK looking stupid…you’re going to enter the top 1% of the world, probably very quickly. Because if you live like no one else is living today, eventually, you’ll be able to live like no one else.
First thing’s first: face your fears. Because what’s on the other side of fear?
How To Stop Being Afraid of Looking Stupid
Fear of looking stupid is the #1 killer of dreams.
The worst part? The people who make you feel stupid are usually the ones least qualified to judge someone else’s life. Their own lives are falling apart, yet they constantly tear down others around them.
I was talking with my friend the other day, and he told me about an incident in 1st grade that would shape his life for the next 20 years.
There were several large rocks outside my friend’s classroom. The “cool kid” of the class was showing off, hopping from rock to rock with grace and agility.
My friend saw his classmates’ admiration and awe and wanted that for himself. So, he tried to hop from one rock to another. However, he slipped and fell in the dirt. When he got up, his entire bottom was covered in mud.
My friend told me that to this day, he could still remember the sound of their jeering and laughter at his failure. He said he’s been deathly afraid of trying new, potentially-embarrassing things ever since that day in 1st grade.
Most people are living on someone else’s terms — avoiding ridicule and potential embarrassment. In most cases, this mindset comes from early memories or childhood. It’s crazy how much power these little memories have over us; how much power we’ve given to others, just so they wouldn’t laugh at us.
But you don’t have to be afraid anymore. You don’t have to live in fear, living reactively in a way that avoids embarrassment.
I lived in fear my whole life, always playing by the rules. I did that, so you don’t have to — that route has no happiness, fulfillment, or joy.
Now, I do what I want. I work for myself. I write whatever I want to write about, and I’m not afraid of looking stupid anymore.
I’ve found that there’s nothing on the other side of fear. All those monsters and demons are mostly in your mind. The few monsters that actually exist in real life — trolls and haters — are inconsequential anyway.
Just Because You Fail Doesn’t Make You a Failure
“Even if a man fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting point for future power and triumphs.” -James Allen
Failure isn’t something to be avoided — it’s something to be prized.
Failure is direct feedback. Failure is knowledge. Failure is progress.
Just because you fail doesn’t make you a failure. So much of life is process — getting a little better/smarter every day.
Most people focus on the outcome — getting what they want (and getting angry when they don’t get it). This is a recipe for stress, anxiety, and fear.
In his autobiography, Bryan Cranston described his early acting days, and how stressed/anxious he was at auditions. He was always focused on “getting” the role. But his fear and anxiety always shone through his performance, and after many years, he was still a below-average actor.
Finally, he decided to focus on the process — “giving” a performance, “doing” a job. He stopped worrying about failing, or getting the role, or what the casting directors thought; he just focused on giving a great performance.
That changed everything. He was landing roles left and right. He was becoming incredibly successful. But more importantly, he wasn’t afraid of failing anymore.
Cranston went on to say after he made this mindset shift, he felt much more relaxed and free. There was no longer any pressure because the outcome was irrelevant. “Once I made the switch, I had power in any room I walked into,” he wrote. “Which meant I could relax. I was free.”
Just because you fail doesn’t make you a failure. Don’t focus on the outcome; focus on the process. That way, you feel less anxious and less scared, and you can redirect that nervous energy into being better.
“If someone is better than you at something, it’s likely they’ve failed at it more times than you.” -Mark Manson
The Insane Benefits of Looking Like an Idiot
“The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it was a crazy idea.” -Peter Diamandis
In his iconic Ted Talk, Jia Jiang discussed how he created and practiced his very own “rejection therapy” system, intentionally placing himself in situations where he would look foolish to overcome his fear of rejection.
He might ask his favorite fast-food chain for a free “burger refill” (it’s what it sounds like). Or ask a complete stranger to borrow $100. He knocked on someone’s door and asked if he could kick a soccer ball around in their backyard. In his most famous experiment, he asked a Krispy Kreme cashier if she could create a donut resembling the 5 Olympic rings.
What did he learn from practicing looking like an idiot?
Don’t be embarrassed.
Embarrassment is limiting, and its very nature is to make you hide in the dark, forever avoiding scenarios where you might look foolish. But it’s those exact scenarios where you’ll discover to greatest breakthroughs.
If you want to be successful, you have to shed off this immature attitude and fully lean into being and doing whatever you want without fear or what others might think.
Other entrepreneurs and influencers have recognized just how damaging embarrassment can be, and have actively made steps to break their fear of it.
In his landmark book The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris tells how he began attending high-end parties and events wearing a ridiculous outfit (clown shoes, suspenders, gaudy hats, plastic jewelry, etc.) just to practice being embarrassed.
What Ferris was learning was that embarrassment (essentially, fear of rejection from others) is supremely limiting. Embarrassment will call the shots, if you let it. And those shots always bring you down.
This fear must be destroyed if you want to truly resonate with others.
Embarrassment must be destroyed if you want to be truly successful.
In the past year, I’ve made more money working for myself than I ever did working 5+ years behind a desk.
I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been OK looking stupid. Because I’ve looked stupid a lot! I’ve messed things up. I’ve said things I shouldn’t have. I’ve screwed up customer’s orders. I’ve done the wrong thing at the wrong time.
But for years before I got successful, my main goal was basically to “never look stupid.” I worked hard on my image and looking like a professional. Trouble was, my writing was garbage. It was superficial and lame. No one wants to read a boring, vanilla amateur who’s afraid of looking stupid.
But when I finally decided I was OK with looking stupid if it meant achieving my goals…
Well, I’ve achieved a lot of goals since then.
You will, too.
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