I would like to end with this saying, ”The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is right now.” So wherever you are on your success voyage, you still have plenty of time and there’s always time to make it. History is replete with examples of people who make things happen at any given time of their lives. In fact, there are only three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. You get to choose who you want to be of those three.

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 Joseph McClendon III.

Joseph McClendon III has a Doctorate in Neuropsychology and is one of the most sought after Ultimate Performance Specialists in the industry. Having delivered hundreds of workshops to over 5 million people around the globe and coached celebrity actors, athletes, CEOs and even royalty, Joseph has perfected the ability to create rapid personal change that effectively moves people to take more consistent action with their personal and business achievements. At his core, Joseph is an expert in coaching business professionals to overcome behaviors and inner and outer obstacles that may impede their results and affect their bottom line, and now he licenses and certifies others to do the same, using his proprietary methodology and programs. Joseph’s just-launched legacy program now equips students of the Neuroencoding Institute with his cutting-edge methods, so anyone, anywhere in the world may become a licensed and certified Neuroencoding Specialist.

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’?

First of all, thank you for having me. I’ve been really excited about this.

I was born in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, on November 6, 1953, to my parents Joseph and Every McClendon. I’m the second of four children, all raised in Hickam Airforce Base, Oahu, Hawaii.

I was brought up to be responsible, honest, hard-working, and confident, all great qualities for an entrepreneur. For my father, it was extremely important that we had an education, as he didn’t grow up with one. We had to get good grades and stay in school. As a matter of fact, his saying was, “you’ve got to stay in school and keep a good job or you’ll be digging ditches.” My father grew up during the depression, so he stressed the importance of having an education for all my sisters and myself. I understood the deep need to grow, so I became a Doctor in Neuropsychology from The University of Lydon State.

Later, I came to do what I do right now–an Ultimate Performance Specialist, mentor, and coach–by the will of both fortunate and unfortunate events.

At the age of seventeen and a half years old, a devastating experience altered my entire state of being. I was just a kid, minding my own business, riding my motorcycle from Los Angeles to San Jose one day to visit my father and sister. Unfortunately, on that particular evening, I had neglected to tighten the rear chain on my bike and it came flying off the sprocket, leaving the bike out of control. Coasting to a stop, I pulled into a closed gas station nearby to make the necessary repairs. I had been there for about half an hour when an old Chevy pick up truck appeared with three grown men inside. For a split second I thought they had stopped to help me, but all I can remember now is them charging at me, all at once, kicking and punching me in the face and ribs with rage and hate. I felt hopeless, scared and furious at the same time. The experience devastated me. It took my pride and the values I had grown up with away from me. Quite honestly, the beating was bad, but the things that they said to me damaged my psyche. I know now that was where the most harm was done and, as a result, I became homeless. I ended up living in a cardboard box behind an old driving theater. Without knowing it back then, that was actually the genesis of my journey into resilience and personal growth.

What changed my life and what brought me to where I am right now, was a random act of kindness from a random stranger. A kind individual who gave me a book called Think and Grow Rich. I read the book and, most importantly, I did the exercises, and it changed my life. Then I went back to the gentleman to thank him and asked him, “How do I repay you, because what you’ve done has changed my life.” What he said was, “Well, Joseph, you repay me by doing the same thing that I’ve done for you for as many people as you can, for the rest of your life.” Those words set me on the path of helping others and I found my calling. I went back to my education, started learning more about people, and I got the empowerment ‘bug,’ if you will.

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?

The one that comes to mind is my very first therapy session. I had my formal education back then, and I also became certified in Hypnotherapy, Neurolinguistic Programming and Neuro-Associative Conditioning. I was so excited, I had such a fistful of tools, I learned and practiced all these skills, but I hadn’t really worked with anybody before. On the other hand, some of my other friends who went to school were already working full-time, seeing patients, and even had their own private practices open. I remember I would always tell them about this new process I had learned to cure phobias and things like that, and they would always respond to me saying that that was ‘pop psychology’ and that that stuff didn’t really work — at least, long term.

But, as we were talking about patients over lunch one day, one of my friends said , “Well, if those techniques you’ve learned work so well, then we’re going to give you somebody to work with.” So they did. They connected me to a patient who suffered from agoraphobia–which is the fear of open places and being around people. This young man — I think he was about 26 years old at the time — hadn’t left his house for seven years. He was completely incapacitated up to the extent where his own mother would have to come over and take care of him every day.

One afternoon, I went over to this young man’s house — because he obviously couldn’t come outside — and I talked to him through a slot, 6 inches big, with the chain across the door. It took me several minutes just to get him to show his face because he was hiding behind the door. The tricky thing with agoraphobia — as with other types of phobias and anxiety — is that the less you face your fears, the more they fester and get worse. Hence, the best way of overcoming fears and phobias is to face them head on–something my young patient had no knowledge of at the time.

To cut a long story short, within an hour and a half — I was slow in those days — I had the young man out of his house and in the mall, of all places! You should have seen how ecstatic he was. He was running around the place and looked a bit odd to everyone there, but he didn’t care. He went from terrified to leave his house with crippling panic to being able to enjoy walks outdoors and even go to the mall. It was at that moment that I realized Neurolinguistic Programming was powerful. It is really powerful. It made me realize that NLP was something I wanted to become expert in, to help other people make empowering differences in their lives. Again, the ‘bug’ hit me even harder, and that’s why I decided to use Neuroenconding to help as many people as I possibly could.

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’ll start with this. I have come to do what I do right now–as I mentioned before–by the will of both fortunate and unfortunate situations. Prior to the pandemic, you would find me speaking live, internationally, in front of 15 to 20 thousand people every month on how to take consistent action to trigger personal change. That’s how I make my living. Indeed, back in March 2020, my calendar was fully booked till the end of 2021 with seminars, at least, once or twice a month. Then Covid hit and those events started to drop off my calendar. One day — I remember the date perfectly, March 15th, 2020 — as I was sitting in my office, I got a phone call from one of my promoters — I think he was from Singapore — who said we had to cancel the rest of our upcoming events. I agreed because gigs had been canceling left and right up until then. However, that meant there were no more events for me, and my calendar got completely cleared.

To be honest, I paradoxically panicked for a moment. I got really fearful for a couple of seconds and I remember distinctly thinking to myself, “What am I going to do now?” I was terrified! Something came over me. BUT — because I encoded myself to automatically default to my best options, and my best behavior — I immediately ran into my bathroom, took a deep breath, put a smile on my face, looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Joseph, what do we get to do now?”

I went back to my office, sat down and made a list of things I could do. As a result, I wrote a new book, created the studio gear, started doing virtual events, and created the Neuroencoding Institute, which is my legacy project. All of those results came from encoding a resilient, optimistic default. What this means is — going back to Neuroencoding — to train yourself when a challenge happens to automatically default to your best thinking, feeling, and behavior. That’s a skill. When you do it once, then you don’t have to remind yourself again, it happens automatically. That’s the programming and encoding part.

People — myself included — are faced with challenges, big and small, every single day. When we have that automatic ability, skill–or character trait, if you will–that I mentioned before, challenges become the trigger to cause us to be better people. Then life moves further faster, we help other people, and make a bigger difference in the world.

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?

First of all, I would say there are several things that stop us from stepping up in being our best selves and achieving success: procrastination, hesitation, impostor syndrome, self-doubt, self-loathing, fear of failure and even fear of success. These inhibitions run rampant in most people and are actually the thieves of our dreams.

In this light, I would then say that what actually makes people so afraid of failure is that they think of problems and challenges as obstacles instead of as opportunities. What’s wrong is always available, but what’s good is also available. Problems and failures are gifts, they are a sign of life. In fact, you never fail unless you quit. But if you’ve learned something, then you’ve succeeded. Which takes me to yet another point and that is there are two big myths or misconceptions about success.

One is that success is generally something that’s defined by culture and society. Success should not be a socio-culturally defined construct of wealth or fame or whatever. Ultimately, each one of us has to decide for ourselves what success really means to us, what our version of success looks like, and thus define it in our own unique terms. For some people, success may mean having a loving family, running a thriving business or simply being able to help others by volunteering around the globe.

Secondly, success is not linear. It does not come without pain or sacrifice. So be prepared to fail, learn, unlearn and relearn, and take action as many times as needed. And, most importantly, do not compare yourself to others. Self-to-other comparison just equals possibilities. Self-to-self comparison equals progress. With the increase of internet exposure, thoughts of comparison are prevalent. As are beliefs that everyone else who’s achieved some level of success ‘made it’ by taking intelligent, faultless steps forward, while you take two steps forward and one step back, forget why you’re even doing what you’re doing out of habit or autopilot mode, or practice action-taking but fail to truly develop the dedicated consistency it takes to be a ‘megapreneur.’ But here’s the secret: those are just limiting beliefs and impostor syndrome. Let me remind you that success doesn’t come from doing everything ‘perfectly.’ You can engage in massive action-taking to increase your chances of a favorable outcome, but that doesn’t make you immune to challenges or failure. In fact, failure and challenges get a bad rap, but facing setbacks and problems is indeed a sign of progress, because that’s how you learn.

Lastly, I would like to end with this saying, ”The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is right now.” So wherever you are on your success voyage, you still have plenty of time and there’s always time to make it. History is replete with examples of people who make things happen at any given time of their lives. In fact, there are only three kinds of people: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. You get to choose who you want to be of those three.

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

There are many downsides to the fear of failure, but the biggest one is that it leaves people in a state that I usually refer to as ‘the paralysis of analysis.’ People become so frightened of making a mistake and failing that they simply cannot do anything. They become so entangled in their own thoughts and analysis that they are unable to act. This can be incredibly limiting, both personally and professionally, because it stops people from living their lives freely and going after their dreams and goals.

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

Let me pre-frame this answer by saying this: none of us were born and able to walk or talk right away. I use this example because when a baby tries to talk for the first time and goes, “Maaa,” the parents don’t go, “You’re an idiot. The word is ‘mother.’ Kids down the street that are younger than you can say it. You’re unbelievable. I can’t believe how stupid you are.” They don’t do that, do they? But you do that to yourself, don’t you? Now let’s get real. How many times have you walked by the mirror and gone, “Oh God, I’ve gained weight, I’m getting older, I’ve got gray hair,” or something like that. The bad part about it is you keep living those things over and over again. How many times you did something that you then regretted or you made a mistake, and then you lived it over and over again? You keep beating yourself up. You keep hurting your own feelings. The beautiful part is parents don’t do that. Parents do a great job. They say, “That’s awesome. Do it again, say it again!” And by the way, babies aren’t that smart in the very beginning. But they’re smarter than you because the baby learns that all they did was try. They go, “I didn’t even get it right. I don’t even know what I did, and these freaks went crazy and gave me the thing that I’m here on this planet to get more of.” And that is love and praise and appreciation. “Let’s do it again! Ma, ma,” and they keep doing it over and over again until pretty soon–because of Human Physics–they get good at it. It’s the same with walking. When a child stands up and walks for the first time, parents don’t go, “Unbelievable, you little idiot. You need to walk, not fall!” You praise the baby. And when you praise the baby, it is the quickest form of showing love, showing appreciation, showing acknowledgement because it all comes down to progress, not perfection.

By viewing failures as opportunities to learn something new, we can unlock a new mindset, one that’s more empowering and resourceful. Then you become free from the fear of failure and regain control over your own life. You are in charge of your life, your decisions, and even your feelings and emotions.

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?

I could tell you a thousand stories! The one that sticks out is when I was in High School, at the age of 14 or 15 years old, I was a wrestler. I’d worked very hard for some time to train for my first wrestling match. My whole family had come to see me compete, I can remember it as if it was yesterday. I was so nervous, everybody was in the bleachers, and when I went out there and locked up with the person, he pinned me within ten seconds. Seriously — he wiped me out! I was embarrassed, devastated and I wanted to quit. I remember looking at my dad and not quite being able to read the look on his face. Later on, I found out he was feeling sorry and sympathizing with me. But at that moment, I felt like I’d disappointed him. I then had to sit through the rest of everybody else’s wrestling — because I was one of the firsts — and face through the ridicule of my teammates.

But the best part was when I returned home that evening. My whole family had bought me a cake to celebrate my very first wrestling match. I remember my dad saying, “Hey, dude, it’s all up from here.” Just that alone made all the difference. It made me feel supported. It made me realize that this too shall pass; that it was just the beginning, and that I would grow from it. These are the lessons we know are not prominent in our thoughts when we’re challenged.

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 forthright answer to this question is to learn the skill of programming yourself to default to your chosen best self. In order to achieve this, there are some steps you have to follow. Number one, determine how you want to be the person you want to be. Meaning, find somebody that you admire and that you want to model because that gives you a living, breathing representation of your outcome. Find those people and write down the attributes you want, that those people have. Step number two is to practice it or rehearse it. This means rehearsing who you wish to become. In the rehearsal process, you gradually become different. Step number three is to acknowledge your progress or lack thereof. This means that, along the way, I want you to stop and acknowledge yourself for how far you’ve come or the difference you’ve made. Step number four is to adjust yourself along the way. If something happens and you’re resilient — meaning you’ve got the ability to bounce back — but fail to reflect upon why something happened, it means you won’t learn anything. Sometimes, what we were doing is what produced the challenge in the first place. So if you take a minute to ask yourself what you learned from a given situation, you can find out what needs adjusting or doing differently this time. It’s not how many times you get knocked down or how many times you pick yourself back up. It’s what you do while you’re down there that will make the difference. In other words, when you get knocked down, you have to observe what just happened, what happened before, what it is that you can do differently and what would make things better. So next time when you get knocked down, look around, and then when you get back up, duck! Step number five is to develop the habit of praising yourself, of giving yourself credit and recognition for how far you’ve come. Praise, love and kindness are the emotions that make your nervous system release dopamine, which encourages us to want to do more of that activity. To me, this last step is the icing on the cake of encoding yourself.

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.

  1. Reframe your story. Becoming free from the fear of failure implies changing your perspective. Do this by reframing your story and self-narrative. You may not like how things are right now, but it is what it is. So the question you should be asking yourself is “what am I going to do with it?” — not about it, but with it. Reframe your life every single day. When you’re brushing your teeth, look up, look yourself in the eye and say “Your name, I love you.” Watch what happens. You’ll start to believe in yourself on a level that is unconscious, and you’ll walk the Earth with a different perspective. I know you may very well say, “But I’m lying to myself, Joseph,” and I agree. You are. But you’re lying to yourself the other way as well. Which lie are you going to tell yourself the most? If you’re saying to yourself that everything is bad — the three Ps: permanent, pervasive and personal — and saying “It’s all about me, I’m doing terrible,” you’re forgetting how much opportunity is out there. There’s so much greatness going on as well. Napoleon Hill used to say “Within every adversity lies the sea of equal or greater benefit. Look for it! As you seek, so shall you find.” And my saying is, “As you seek, so shall it find you.” Meaning, options will show up if you look for them. Being optimistic and successful is being aware of and thinking about your options.
  2. Know your outcome. Be clear and specific on what you want to achieve. Write it down. Because what you write, you invite; what you don’t, you won’t. Know your reasons why, your motivations behind your aspirations. Or you can think about what you are not comfortable with or dislike about your life. For some people, it’s easier to know what they don’t want, instead of what they do want. To their benefit, success can also be defined in terms of being able to minimize the things that don’t contribute to your happiness.
  3. Take massive action. Don’t wait for motivation or inspiration to strike. Just get going. Force yourself to get through the first step. It’s better to change 10 things by 1% than 1 thing by 10% because that’s very hard for the brain to take. Pick 2 or 3 things until they become a habit and then move on to the next 2 to 3 things. Eventually, you’ll find that you have incorporated 10 to 12 new habits that you don’t need to think about any more because your brain will automatically default to those newly-acquired behaviors. That’s what I call mastering the power of tiny gains.
  4. Check in and make adjustments. Make sure you are on the right track, moving towards the success you’re seeking. If you’re not, adjust. For instance, I freaking love music. It’s definitely part of my soul. My favorite instrument on the planet is the bass, and for a bass to play right, it must be in tune. But regardless of how many times you tune your bass, the strings will still get stretched out through time and use. The more the strings are stretched, the farther out of tune they become. And if the instrument sits on its own with no use, you still get the same out-of-tune result. So what does this have to do with you? Well, it’s precisely the same process for us humans when it comes to getting our lives in tune. The sooner you become tuned in to which consistent actions really embolden you to show up as your best, the better your results are going to be. Why wallow in the pain (a.k.a., the stretch) any longer than you need to? Nobody is simply stuck with where they are, how they are or who they are. Recognise your pain or fear, release it, replace it for more positive thoughts, and realign. You can always realign your values and beliefs with the life of your dreams by revisiting them often, and consistently course-correcting through a simple tweak of those strings. A small habit — when repeated consistently — grows into something magnificent. So, when it comes to re-tuning yourself right, I believe you must go above the image and the beliefs you hold of who you simply are in this moment, and instead focus on who you have the potential to be.
  5. Praise yourself. Repetition is the mother of all skill, and praise is the father. If you want to become free from the fear of failure and speed up the process to success, add praise. Reward yourself by giving yourself a high-five or playing any given song that you choose as your celebration song, because that’s going to teach you to keep on doing what you’re doing — however small — and to do more of it. That’s going to teach you to believe you can, and to see your capabilities clearly.

To me, these five, step-by-step directions are much more than just five ways to become free from the fear of failure, they are actually the lifestyle boosters we all need to grow both on a personal and a professional level.

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?

As I mentioned before, you never fail unless you quit, unless you don’t even try. So “to succeed is possible only in one way” means you have to give it a try, and you have to keep on pushing forward no matter what. Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” But if you take that one first shot–even if you fail–you’ve succeeded. If you’ve learned something, then you’ve succeeded.

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. 🙂

This question is precisely the reason why I created the Neuroencoding Institute. You see, inspiration is great. But influence and empowerment are even better. Inspiration means you feel good in that moment for that moment. On the other hand, influence means you are impacted into doing something, and taking some action. To be empowered means you have your own internal pull. You don’t rely upon anything else, it’s something inside of you. Drive is great, but pull is better. Would you rather be dragged, kicking and screaming from your past or genuinely pulled into the future by your own needs and desires?

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 🙂

Well, yes, there are. Though I don’t know if I can choose just one. Let me pre-frame this answer by saying this: I’m at a stage in my career — which is the reason I created Neuroencoding — that I want to pass on the skills and techniques I know to as many people as I possibly can. I see there are a few people who are influential already and are already magnificent at what they do–Steve Harvey, Will Smith and Kevin Hart–so I’d love to give this to them. Of course, there are more people, but these are just the ones that come to my mind right now. These people are entrenched in inspiring others and giving them hope and advice. However, my foundational belief is this: everyone loves quotes, sayings and inspirational stories, and everybody will agree with the advice that is given as the foundation of that quote. Yet many people may not know how to put the advice from those quotes into practice. They may be lacking in certain attributes — such as courage or tenacity — or they might just be afraid. So, what I’m saying is, let’s tell people how to put motivation into practice as well. It’s a topic I’d love to discuss alongside a meal with those three gentlemen, and share what I have with them.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can go to www.josephmcclendon.com to learn more about who I am and what I do. In terms of social media, I’m most interactive on Instagram @iamjosephmcclendon and also on Twitter @JosephMcClendon. All of the details of my recently launched legacy program, The Neuroencoding Institute, can be found at www.neuroencoding.com. It’s a fully-resourced, expertly sourced program (and it’s truly made for everyone!) so please check it out and feel free to contact me on social media.

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


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.