Make a list of all the things that fill you with gratitude. It’s likely there are many people in the world with far more challenging circumstances that will be seen as failures. It can be easy to forget this fact. If you think about it, you have lots of things going for you. Make a list and add to it often.

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 Keith Allen West.

Keith Allen West has won several Best Actor Awards on the festival circuit. He is a dynamic, complex and authentic actor like Matt Bomer, but with the comic, quick-witted humor and timing of Melissa McCarthy.

West has worked with multiple actors and directors from Academy Award winning films including Kody Smit-McPee (“The Power of the Dog”), Forrest Goodluck (“The Revenant”), Basil Hoffman (“Ordinary People”) and Ernest Dickerson (“Do the Right Thing”).

He stars in a new award-winning comedy pilot “Deeply Superficial” and has a lead role in the film “Third Act”. His career includes Paramount + “Interrogation”, “Half Brothers”, BRAVO’s “Untying the Knot”, HGTV’s “You Live In What”, “Hell or High Water”, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”, “Better Call Saul”, “Longmire” and many more.

West is represented nationally by Carissa Mitchell of Mitchell & Associates Talent at, [email protected] and 505–262–9733.

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’ve lived a lot in my 50 years and becoming fearless is the best outcome! I navigated a new life after hurricane Katrina took my livelihood in New Orleans. I survived an attack from five lions on a safari in South Africa. I am most proud of my divorce where I emerged from a 24-year abusive relationship. Healing was a process that taught me to really like myself and to overcome the fear I had of not being liked or needed by others.

I have been a dreamer since childhood. An only child until my sister came around when I was six, I spent most of my time with Matchbox cars and my imagination. Growing up in a small trailer park in Ohio, I specifically dreamed about living a better life. I remember hearing Elvis died and thinking he must live in the southern part of Trade Winds Trailer Park since I did not remember meeting him.

My childhood was great. By second grade I knew I was gay, but I did not have a word for the feelings I had. I knew it was different and to keep it to myself.

I had a loving family, but I knew what I wanted the life. I saw what others had when I watched tv shows. In fourth grade, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I got a mentor and worked toward that goal until the day I asked, “what does a teacher make?” I can’t remember the answer, but my response caused a stir “I can’t live the life I want on that.”

In high school, I decided to audition for the musical “West Side Story.” It would never be done today, but my school was so white that I got cast as a Shark! Me as a Puerto Rican? It was the 80s, so I guess no one questioned it. My one line was “you’d better get rid of your accent!”

From there I decided to be happy I needed good grades, a college degree and to become a “businessperson.” I was drawn to Hollywood, but any thoughts of that being a way to make a living never got past my internal desire to be “a successful businessperson.” Even my best high school experience of being in West Side Story never made me stop and think “Can this be a career?” Now when I want to have a great part in a movie or tv show I know I can write and produce it!

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?

My first feature film “Third Act” was just released to film festivals. Not only did I get hired as an actor in the film, I was also became the film’s Executive Producer. Had I ever produced a movie? No. But the fear of not being successful was less that the disappointment I’d have felt if I didn’t even try.

It is a great ensemble comedy. After being given news of their pending eviction, a lovable and talented theater company plots a heist to pay their rent while filming at a local bank.

My character Leo is a flamboyant, snarky gay actor missing his youth and being sure to overplay his importance to the theatre group, but you can see his love for the art and his team.

The film has been selected for several film festivals including the Global Film Festival Awards, the Awesome Film Festival, and the Couch Film Festival. It has already won multiple awards for everything from the original score by Chris Walsh to the ensemble of actors. Each major scene in the film was rehearsed and filmed without any cuts or editing. Known in the industry as a “oner” the longest scene filmed in one take was over 22 minutes and included over 500 choreographed camera movements.

The movie was written by Doug Montoya, co-owner The BOX Performance Space and Cardboard Playhouse, and it was co-directed by Montoya and Phil Griego. “Third Act” is the first film Montoya wrote and uses an ensemble of New Mexico’s best actors.

Third Act was a perfect opportunity to get a trial-by-fire approach to movie making. Not only being an actor in my first feature film but to learn everything on the production side.

I learned so much from my great friend Basil Hoffman. He said “Keith, you should always be looking for a way to say ‘yes’ to any project that comes your way.” Basil Hoffman was an iconic Hollywood actor that appeared in over 100 films and worked for ten Academy Award-winning directs. He passed away last September at 83. He took a fearless approach to his career and that inspires me every day.

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?

  1. Persistence

Perseverance is a choice I make each day. I succeed because I am willing to persist. Fast results may feel nice, but major achievements are worth working for. I take satisfaction in finishing what I start. My goals are too important for me to abandon them. My time is too precious for me to waste.

I remember my motivation. I think about the purpose behind my activities. When I am committed to a project, I want to make the most of my abilities. I keep things in perspective. I stay on track regardless of how I am feeling.

I welcome setbacks as an opportunity to learn. I make good use of each experience. I evaluate my progress and adjust my plans as needed. I think about how my actions affect others. I am reliable. I show others that they can trust me not to quit when the going gets rough.

I search for inspiration. I watch how my personal role models refuse to give up. I read about historical figures who accomplished great things because of their determination. I tell myself that if they can do it, so can I.

I got the top agent in New Mexico because I would not give up. After meeting Carissa Mitchell I knew I wanted to sign with her. She busy and picky about the actors she represents. I reached out to one of the top casting directors in New Mexico, Marie McMaster and had her reach out to Carissa as a reference for me. Agents want to keep the casting directors happy so I knew that call would get through.

2. Vulnerability

Whenever a situation arises where someone requires assistance, I always try to help. Providing aid to others broadens my own horizons.

I might learn how to do something new. I may experience new feelings. I even stand to make a new friend. Most of these things happen to me in an average day because I help others whenever possible. There are times when others decline my help. That is okay with me because I know that, at least, I made some effort to assist them.

Sometimes, people directly ask me to give a helping hand. I am pleased they look to me for support. My life is enriched because I dedicate part of myself to helping others. Sometimes, I learn a new skill by assisting others. Then, I feel confident and proud.

The person I am today exists because I extend my hand to others. As a giving person, I set a good example for those around me. Regardless of the situation, I can step in and make a difference for someone else, as well as myself, simply by helping others.

Today, my plan is to focus on observing others around me to determine when and how I can be of service. Because I am filled with positive feelings each time I help another person, I vow to keep helping others as often as possible.

Deciding to be an actor is the ultimate act in vulnerability. We put our souls into every audition. It is placing ourselves into the hands of the casting chain of command and hoping you get picked.

3. Enthusiasm

It’s best to be prepared for bumps in the road just because you’re bound to hit them from time to time as you go through life.

The best thing you can do is work on your skills to boost and maintain your enthusiasm. It’s such an important skill to have because it’s your driving force that strengthens your will to succeed. To this end, today’s lesson gives you strategies to shore up your motivation during tough times.

Here is what I do to sustain my enthusiasm:

Picture the resolution. Visualizing yourself overcoming your challenge can provide you with a ray of sunshine while you’re dealing with the storm. Avoid getting caught up in the struggle itself, or your mind will get used to a negative pattern of thinking. When you keep your mind on success, or at least getting through the current struggle, you can then make a clear plan to get you back on the road to achievement.

Minimize stress. Make an active effort to reduce your stress. Stress can cause you to dwell on your struggles. If you’re too focused on your struggles, you’ll have more trouble getting out of them, which could put a damper on your enthusiasm. A stress-free and clear mind is more likely to lend itself to the enthusiastic person that you know you can be.

Stay focused. Work on maintaining your focus. You’ll find that it’s easier to sustain enthusiasm when you always know the direction in which you’re headed. Focus can help you overcome your struggle, and focus can get you to success. Keep things fresh. If you allow your life to fall into a stagnant pattern, that can become a struggle in itself. Vary how you do things and take time to brainstorm new ideas. You can keep enthusiasm going with fresh thinking.

Avoid procrastination. It’s important to keep yourself moving. If you feel that procrastination is creeping up on you, make an active effort to get rid of it by taking action. By taking action, you can get your enthusiasm back. Keep an open mind. Strive to keep your mind open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Creative thinking is often backed by enthusiasm. Many great and successful people were creative thinkers with some amazingly enthusiastic attitudes.

Don’t sweat the little things. When you’re dealing with small setbacks and little things that get in your way, remember that these things will not matter in the long run and the grand scheme of things. Simply redirect your focus back to your plan and you’ll find that you easily overcome these small annoyances.

Remember, the greatest feeling of success comes from conquering great struggles. When you have a lot of obstacles to overcome on your way to the finish line, you’ll feel a tenfold increase in pride and satisfaction when you achieve your success. After all, your success will be oh-so-much sweeter!

No matter how low I feel at any point I just have to remind myself that I felt that same way right before I got a call from my agent saying I booked a role. That keeps me focused on what good might happen today, tomorrow and in the future.

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 blame our family and society! Most of us have a longing for acceptance and perceived success. We all grew up looking for love and learning that “successful” people are championed and people that “fail” are pitied. The issue comes down to our own definition of success and failure.

We have to stop and really think through what failure in a certain situation would mean. Would I lose my job? I can get another one. Would my spouse be mad? I can explain to them what happened. When we do a deep dive into the real outcome of a failure it is never as bad as our mind pictures.

Our brains instinctively pay attention to any potentially dangerous situation as part of the biological imperative of survival. Our brains are designed to constantly scan the horizon for potential threats.

Anything we perceive as failure is processed as a huge threat no matter how real the size of the threat is. Since threats are more important to our survival than other information, we pay more attention to the negative things than the positive.

Anxiety and stress are the byproducts of uncertainty about the safety of the environment. Uncertainty triggers the desire to search for information to feel more in control. When we search for information in this state, we are particularly sensitive to distressing or emotionally threatening news.

When your spouse says “Your Mom wants you to call her.” We immediately think of 50 things that might be wrong that Mom wants to talk about. We very rarely think “I wonder what amazing news she has to tell me.”

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

It’s unlikely you have any issues in your life that weren’t created by fear. You might not think that your financial or relationship challenges are rooted in fear. However, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably realize that many of your obstacles are caused by your fears and your inability to deal with them in an appropriate way. Consider these examples:

Relationship issues: Fear of abandonment is a common fear. It’s also common to fear the loss of autonomy or freedom. Trust issues can also be fear-based. You might be afraid that you won’t be accepted fully.

Money issues: Many people deal with fear and anxiety by shopping, which can create debt. Some simply fear discomfort and are unable to let go of that expensive car or morning coffee.

Procrastination: Procrastination can be caused by fear of failure or the perceived discomfort of performing an unpleasant task.

For example, you might fear you’re missing out on something exciting and check your email instead of working.

Stuck in a job you dislike. You might be afraid that no other decent jobs exist for you. You might be fearful of giving up your benefits or getting a new job that pays less. You might be afraid of going through the application process and competing for a better job.

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

Realize that fear is uncomfortable, but it isn’t a good reason to avoid doing something. Fear is helpful if you’re considering doing something physically dangerous. But at the end of the day, fear is simply a feeling.

There’s no reason to let fear guide every decision you make.

Think about the fearful activity and simply breathe. Your body is unable to maintain a fear reaction in the long term. There’s a psychological technique called “flooding.” In flooding, a person is exposed to their fear without being allowed any reprieve.

Think about the activity that makes you uncomfortable and focus on taking long, deep breaths. Notice how you start to feel better.

Make a list of the ways that fear is holding you back. If some part of your life is in complete turmoil, it’s likely that you made poor decisions in the past. How did fear affect your decision-making abilities at that time?

Remember the times you were fearful and still made a good choice. You’ve likely had times where you felt fear but managed to take the appropriate course of action anyway.

Remind yourself of those times and remember how strong you can be.

Practice dealing with discomfort. Take a situation that you find mildly uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s eating peas or talking to an attractive member of the opposite sex. Force yourself to deal with small doses of the discomfort and increase the level of exposure over time.

Although it’s challenging to give up the habit of avoidance, you’ll be surprised at how much you can tolerate.

Realize that discomfort and fear are frequently good things. If you’re not doing anything that makes you uncomfortable, your life is likely to stay the same. It’s only when you push your comfort level that new things can begin to happen.

Fear is the most common cause of challenges in life. Learn to work through fear and gain the ability to make positive choices. You’ll boost your self-esteem and enjoy a happier life. Learn to embrace discomfort as a positive sign that your life is about to change for the better.

When you’re trying to find a solution to any challenge in your life, you may feel uncomfortable considering the direct approach. These solutions often require more self-discipline, courage, and stamina than we’re used to demonstrating.

However, most of us also know at our core that if we could just get ourselves to follow through on a direct course of action, our challenge would be resolved.

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?

Fear of failure kept me in a bad marriage. I didn’t want people to perceive that our relationship failed. Even though my spouse was physically and verbally abusive to me, the fear of what life would be like alone kept me from looking for a way out. After 24 years with someone you lose sight of life alone and you have a hard time finding happiness in that thought.

Thanks to therapy I was able to debunk the incorrect belief I had that adults can always make a relationship work if they want it bad enough and work hard enough. Once I changed that thought I could see my own happiness was a stronger success than staying in a bad relationship. I took my decision to leave that relationship as a win!

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?

It may be difficult to believe in yourself when everything around you seems to be crumbling into pieces, but keeping faith is the only way to trudge through the hard times and see yourself clear to better days.

Try these strategies to help you remain steadfast when you’re feeling the pressure of tough times:

Reflect on the past. Surely, you’ve encountered seemingly insurmountable situations in the past. How have you succeeded in the most unpleasant scenarios? Clearly, your ability to overcome these situations speaks loudly for your strength and abilities.

In some situations, you may be able to emulate your past solutions by adapting them to fit your current situation. Other times, you’ll be able to learn what not to do from past trials and tribulations.

The past needn’t dictate your future. It’s possible to reflect without working up old, unresolved feelings. This is a positive exercise. If you begin to feel negative emotions, move onto another technique, which can help you increase self-confidence in your abilities.

Act immediately. Rather than retreating into your personal cocoon when a situation becomes intimidating, address it immediately. The longer you allow a situation to sit without attention, the more urgent it will become. A perfect example is debt.

Avoid cornering yourself with urgency by creating a proactive plan now. Or, better yet, have a just-in-case plan before the event ever happens. It’s okay to take a few hours to create a plan of attack. But, if you’re still brainstorming weeks from today, you may be stalling.

Only you can be the source of a solution. You are in charge of managing your life and ensuring its success. Take pride in this power. After all, you’re free — no one commands you! Your life is what you make it. And you can use your power to start off on the right foot each and every day.

Believe it. You will make it through. You’ve found your way out of a tough situation before. You’ll do it now and again sometime in the future. There is always a way to get your head above the water — always. You’ll get better at it once you gain experience.

You have a fan base of supporters. Your children, spouse, and extended family are cheering you on every day. Chances are that no one doubts your abilities the way you do. In fact, they have faith in your abilities because you’ve proven your strength time and time again.

As Bernice Johnson Reagon once said, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

Everyone encounters hard times — it’s simply a part of life. And a very major part of how you will address these hard times is dependent on your mindset and your ability to believe in yourself, even throughout the toughest of times.

Your mindset can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you allow your mindset to shift into negative territory, you’ll end up with negative results. Remember, you attract the energy you exude!

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.

These five actions leave me free from the fear of failure and give me the ability to see success over the horizon.

  1. Let it go. If the outcome is inevitable, does obsessing over it ever help? This might feel like giving up, but how intelligent is it to continue with something that can’t possibly be won? Make the decision to let go and get on with the rest of your life. There is at least 50:1 odds of an audition becoming a booked role for an actor. If I spent time worrying about the auditions I did every week I’d be drowned in uncertainty. Unless we book a role, we don’t get feedback in the audition process. Once an audition is filmed, I just let it go. I am sorry if that gets the song from Frozen stuck in your head.
  2. Embrace your emotions. Hopefully, you already know several healthy ways to make yourself feel better. Perhaps you feel better after a long exercise session. Others feel relief after a good cry. Maybe having dinner with a friend will boost your spirits. I find the answer inside. I’ve learned through therapy and hundreds of self-help books to stop when things get me frustrated and ask myself “how am I feeling right now?” Once I have identified the real feeling I can then come up with an action I can take to make that become a better feeling. I am mad that I didn’t get that role in the film, so I will set aside some time today to work on my script Caution Flag which has a complex character I can play.
  3. Enjoy yourself. Now might be the perfect time to visit your favorite restaurant, take a walk in the park, or see a movie with a friend. Just because life has thrown a curveball doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Have a good laugh and forge ahead. I learned that I needed to surround myself with creative and happy people. I also know that spending time with my pet potbelly pig Priscilla always makes my mood better.
  4. Create a plan for the future. Looking forward to an interesting and exciting future may be the best way to move forward. If the future seems bleak, it’s hard to be happy. Allow yourself to be open to the possibilities and create a compelling future for yourself. Then take one small step towards making that future a reality. This kind of goes back to emotions for me. When I am feeling I have failed as an actor I stop and go back to my acting business plan. Most actors don’t have a plan do making one gives me the feeling that I have vision and power over my future.
  5. Make a list of all the things that fill you with gratitude. It’s likely there are many people in the world with far more challenging circumstances that will be seen as failures. It can be easy to forget this fact. If you think about it, you have lots of things going for you. Make a list and add to it often.

Gratitude is how I start every day. Well, it actually starts with a cup of stoing coffee which I am grateful for. Then in my planner the first thing is to answer “Today I am grateful for:” Then I write the first thing that comes to mind.

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?

On the surface I disagree with that! So many of my so-called failures have pushed me much further in life and to what I call true successes. For example, my marriage failed but that allowed me to get in contact with myself and to help others overcome domestic abuse. That is a success.

The quote’s purpose is to make us rethink and redefine what we consider a success. What we immediately see as a success can really be a failure and vice versa.

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 work every day to empower women and girls around the globe through We cannot eradicate poverty and achieve social justice while inequality persists. Discrimination against women has negative implications for global security and development, economic performance, food security, health, climate adaptation and the environment, governance, and stability.

Gender remains one of the most fundamental sources of inequality in the world today. Across nearly every country globally, women earn only a fraction of what men do, and trans/non-binary people are disproportionately impacted by poverty and denial of fundamental rights. Gender-based discrimination fuels food insecurity, safety risks, and exclusion from life-saving services and opportunities. Globally, one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence, most often at the hands of an intimate partner. More than 60% of the world’s hungry are women and girls; at the same time, women and girls disproportionately bear the burden of meeting their families’ food and care needs.

CARE is committed to supporting equality across all of its work. More than that, CARE acknowledges that this work is inextricably connected with race, class, ability, sexual orientation and gender identity, and other identities. While the disproportionate impact of gender inequality on women and girls is clear, it is also clear that CARE and its partners must learn from and support diverse women and girls to challenge injustice and work toward equality. CARE does this through meaningful partnerships with social justice movements, and supporting solidarity groups among women and girls. CARE also tackles harmful gender and social norms, working to mitigate, prevent and respond to gender-based violence, engaging men and boys, and taking steps to hold itself accountable to its commitments.

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 🙂

I always want to meet people that inspire me! I just read an article about the hell Chuck James went through as a gay assistant in Hollywood. Now, he wants to make sure the next generation doesn’t have to swim with sharks

When Chuck James began working in the mailroom at William Morris in the ’90s, it was the best of times, the worst of times at the storied talent agency. It was the “heyday” of Hollywood when agents were as famous as the clients. Personal relationships and schmoozing, through an endless stream of lunches and cocktails, pumped movie-making lifeblood. And for the assistants who worked for these power players — James was hired as one at ICM after William Morris — it was a nightmare for him every other day.

Today, James is one of the most influential agents in Hollywood; he is a founding partner at ICM Partners, which, pending negotiations and a probe from the department of Justice, will soon merge with Creative Artists Agency, a powerhouse of acting and writing representation. His A-list clientele includes Regina King, Megan Fox, Meredith Vieira, Karamo Brown, Lana Condor, and Bob the Drag Queen.

The change he advocates for is not only internal. Hollywood productions can influence the world, and James is overjoyed to witness a seismic shift in how the industry treats projects and people that center LGBTQ+ visibility.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Instagram: @keithallenwest

Twitter: @keithwest

Facebook: @keithallenwest


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.