Success is what YOU define it to be in your life. Get clear on your goals in life, accept that failure is part of the journey, be kind to yourself along the way, surround yourself with support, and work your plan!

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 Laura Casselman.

Laura Casselman, CEO of JVZoo, climbed the corporate ladder by mastering the rules of the “old boys club.” More often than not, she beat them at their own game. She’s been published in Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur, and her book, Trust Your Increments, will hit the bookshelves on March 7, 2023. Laura’s companies have also been featured on the Inc. 5000’s list of America’s Fastest Growing Companies four times.

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 isn’t the standard corporate ladder climb. My background is performing arts and I was a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall, but I also had interests outside of theater. Selling Girl Scout cookies as a young girl had shown me that I had a knack for selling. In New York City, I built both my resumes at the same time — my performance resume and my corporate resume. I started at the very bottom with both and worked my plan to both become a Radio City Rockette and a C-suite executive. I was good at identifying cost effective ways to grow income while reducing expenses as well as building happy work environments with strong teams. I took over the role as CEO at JVZoo in 2016. In 2020, I also co-founded my media company, Vidastreet.

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

A few years after I was named CEO of JVZoo, I was attending an industry event. During a break, a group of people were gathered in the lobby and a colleague and I walked up to a group to say hello. Immediately, the men in the group turned to my colleague, shook his hand and started talking while ignoring the fact that I was standing there. Eventually, my colleague said “You know Laura Casselman, CEO of JVZoo, right?” and one of them turned to me embarrassed and said “Oh my gosh, Laura? I just assumed you were somebody’s girlfriend!” It was bizarre! As if being female made me less valuable to the conversation. Even if I was “just” a girlfriend, why assume I had no knowledge of the industry? My take away from that experience would be to never fear being direct or joining a group of people by extending your hand first to either introduce yourself or say hello.

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?

Determination, Grit, and Self-efficacy are certainly instrumental character traits in my success. Consistent success requires perseverance and the ability to hold tight to one’s goal and that’s where determination comes into play. When you combine determination with direction, you have grit. Also, believing in your own abilities to see the goal to completion no matter what obstacles stand in your way or self-efficacy is what I consider to be the most important trait for continuous success because if you can’t see yourself reaching that goal and believe that you will, you’ve already lost. All of these traits come in daily when I’m setting company revenue goals, or even goals towards winning awards, like being listed on the Inc. 5000 list.

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 feel people are afraid of failure because they view it as a permanent place. It’s frightening if you look at it that way and rarely, is it truly a permanent condition. Perhaps if you’re attempting a life or death feat of walking a highwire with no safety net, then it is permanent, but generally speaking, our failures are either stepping stones or minor setbacks.

Another issue I see, causing many people to fear failure is the expectation of other people’s judgment. Oftentimes, people wrongly expect harsh, outside judgment from others when in reality other people aren’t actually paying that much attention to them.

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

Too much fear of failure can result in people never attempting to chase their dreams, or trying to accomplish goals that would bring them immense joy. Many times, the journey to a goal brings far more happiness or fulfilling education than the final outcome does anyway. Allowing fear of failure to prevent one from even beginning could limit people from not only accomplishing their goals, but experiencing those unexpected experiences and knowledge that would be learned along the way.

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

Fear of failure in small doses is a good thing. It’s what gives us that nervous feeling when we embark on a journey toward a new goal. Those nerves mean we truly care about the goal. Finding the balance between debilitating fear of failure and not caring at all. It’s a sweet spot of just enough fear to keep you motivated when things get tough, but not preventing you from getting started. Once you know how to find that, even if you don’t reach the goal you started out with, you’ll still achieve more than you ever would have if you never started at all. And again, failure itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We can learn from failure and try again with more knowledge. Learning how not to do something can offer tremendous value.

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 have countless stories of failure. For every success story I have, there’s probably at least two or three prior attempts towards that goal that would be labeled as failures. One of my first major failures was my first audition with the Radio City Rockettes. I was cut after the first round of auditions. It hurt. I cried. It motivated me more. I spent the next year training smarter, rather harder. I trained in areas I never had. I incorporated pilates into my training to have better posture which allowed me to hold myself taller.

I’ve interviewed for several executive positions before I landed my first as a VP of Operations. Not getting those jobs could be considered failures, but I viewed them as lessons in interviewing.

You can fail or you can learn. I choose to learn, therefore turning my failures into stepping stones. There’s that self-efficacy character trait I was referring to earlier!

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?

Rebounding from failure is different each time. Sometimes it’s very calculated. I make a list of the things I can improve upon and immediately start working on it. Other times, I need a moment to be emotional and feel the loss of not reaching my goal on that attempt. I limit my time for being sad over failure, though. I don’t want to ignore my feelings, but I do want to get back to things that I can control.

The single biggest lesson about failure I’ve learned is that it is only permanent if you allow it to be. I’ve used my failures to learn what I can improve on the next time. Mindset Masters will tell you to evaluate what was great, what was good, and what you can improve upon. My advice would be to find the lessons in failure and try again with more knowledge in your arsenal.

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. Accept that failure is part of the journey. Until you prepare your mind for failure, you’ll continue to harbor too much fear of failure. There are many ways of doing this, but for me, it was looking at people I admire who didn’t get it perfect on the first try or even start until later in life. For example: Episode 4 on “Limitless” with Chris Hemsworth, features Ernestine Shepherd, a competitive bodybuilder who didn’t begin training until the age of 56 and won her first competition at 71. It’s that kind of knowledge that helps me to understand that there isn’t a time or age limit on reaching our goals. We can start whenever and fail as many times as it takes to learn what is necessary to win.
  2. Evaluate failure. For each failed attempt towards a goal, evaluate what you did that was great. Take note and celebrate what went as expected and was executed perfectly.
  3. Evaluate again. After celebrating what went right, review what can be improved upon. A friend of mine, who happens to be a Level 3 Mental Mastery coach, taught me that the way we frame things matters. Rather evaluating what went wrong, reframe that into what can be improved upon next time. In order to remove the fear of failure, we have to stop beating ourselves up over it.
  4. Build a Supportive Network. Whether that means having a mentor/coach, family and friends who support you and your goals, surround yourself with people that support you, your goals, and those who can assist you in achieving those goals. Naysayers, at most, belong in a limited space in your life. Also, it’s important to have resources — either people who have done it before themselves, successfully mentored or coached others to the goal you’re looking to achieve, or have knowledge about a crucial piece of the pie that you currently lack. You don’t need to be an island on your journey to success and it’s far easier when you have a supportive network and resources to help you reach your goals.
  5. Commit to the journey and the outcome. This is where determination and grit come into play. You have to be willing to fail, learn, and keep steady on your goals. No one cares how many times you fail when you end up a winner. In fact, the “failed X many times before achieving Y” story sells far more books than a story with no ups and downs. It’s the journey that builds character and if you’re lucky, brings far more value than the initial goal.

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?

I believe Aristotle was saying that one of these is easy, while the other is hard, but anyone who has truly cared about a goal and failed to reach it will tell you that failing isn’t easy, at least not mentally. Quitting is easy, but failing can be tough if you allow negative thoughts to take over. That’s why it’s important to have control over your mental game and reframe those negative thoughts.

Also, while it’s hard to succeed at reaching massive goals, I’ve found there are many ways to succeed. For example you can have the goal of reaching the Olympic podium. There are three levels of success there and they come in the form of bronze, silver and gold medals.

Likewise, you can set large goals for success and have milestones along the way. Maybe you have a goal of a certain amount of revenue and profit for your company. Along the way of reaching that revenue goal, you also set a milestone of being listed on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in America.

This is what I do in business and speak specifically about how small, consistent steps can lead to massive success in my book, Trust Your Increments.

Success is what YOU define it to be in your life. Get clear on your goals in life, accept that failure is part of the journey, be kind to yourself along the way, surround yourself with support, and work your plan!

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. 🙂

Take responsibility for your own happiness. If you don’t know what makes you most happy and brings you the most joy in life, then make it a priority to figure it out. Once you know what makes you most happy, find a way to work into your life frequently, daily if possible. I believe that happy people do most everything better and happiness spreads. I feel strongly about this, I’ve dedicated an entire chapter of Trust Your Increments to this topic.

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’d love to sit down with Marie Forleo and talk about how she brings fun to work. I find her both inspiring and easy to listen to (and I’m a reader, not a listener) so that’s a huge feat. With our dance backgrounds, maybe we could dance while we discuss business?

How can our readers further follow your work online?

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), #1 Best-selling Author, Syndicated Columnist, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset.

    Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio 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. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head ?, heart ?, and gut ? — in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.