Be selfless. — I know being selfless is difficult in the age of social media when everyone gets attention for anything, but if you want to be free from fear of failure–which is rooted in the fear of being judged, people-pleasing so you can be validated–you have to learn to be selfless. To mature, genius needs freedom and being a people pleaser or being afraid of scrutiny is not going to help you channel genius.

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 Murielle Mobengo.

Murielle Mobengo is a poet, storyteller, publisher, and cultural strategist. She co-founded The Polymath Agency M/L, a counseling practice specialized in cultural leadership development and created The Polymath, a program to help poets and artists fight fear of failure. Murielle is also co- editor in chief of Revue {R}évolution, a polymath review of poetry and art based in NYC with branches in London and Paris.

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 am a proud New Yorker, a poet of Bantu descent, a native from Bordeaux, France, and a Hindu soul.

I graduated in multilingual translation a long time ago and ended up doing something else (laughs).

I am the blessed mother of two multi-talented artists and wife to a Canadian mathematician. I am a world citizen! Poetry, art, philosophy, and mythology are the love of my life.

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 most interesting story of my career comes from the poets and artists I get to interview in our podcast QELP, The Poet’s Life Podcast. Though at different levels of their professional accomplishment–some of them are performance oriented, others are more discrete, some are internationally acclaimed, others enjoy or suffer from anonymity–they have enormous vibrancy and are committed, dedicated. Passion works wonders when directed. Also, I learned carving your own pathway is essential for a creative.

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. Curiosity: I have always been curious about human nature and motivations. This curiosity led me to a point where I quit my job to study philosophy, psychology, and theology. I used to act as a PR for a high-profile government counselor in France. I am a knowledge-oriented person. I love to unveil causes and track their effects, as I think they hold the key to our future success and failure, both in our private and professional lives.
  2. Resilience: I have always believed in the utter benevolence of Life. Behind the hardships, life teaches us so we can discover our true self and thrive. I am an orphan. My father died when I was 10 and my mother passed away two years later. Existence itself carried me and became my parent. Yogis call this “the left hand of God.” The left hand of God slapped me and hugged me a lot (laughs).
  3. Selflessness: This trait is an acquired taste, especially in the age of social media, but I do not regret it. I strive to cultivate selflessness even more. Selflessness does not mean letting everyone walk all over you. In fact, the exact opposite. Someone who is selfless serves values, not people. Values (causes) give clarity, strong personal and professional ethics-backbone-, and freedom from others’ agenda, the mark of leaders.

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?

Because the risk of failing is real for 2 reasons: First, the world does not revolve around your desires. Others have desires which will compete with yours, whether on purpose or unintendedly. Since the world does not revolve around your desires, which is a fact-otherwise everyone would be pleasing you and the sun would shine only when you want it to-, the question of your worthiness comes into play. What makes your desire worthier than the desire of your neighbor, colleague, boss, or relative? Here’s a tough question worthy of long and serious thinking.

Second, your desires may not be yours. Usually, desires come from witnessing someone doing something we deem impressive. Then, the idea of replicating or possessing what we’ve observed ceases us. So, the origin of desire is imitation which immediately raises the issue of borrowed knowledge vs authenticity. Unless you lack moral sense and your ethics are twisted, no one wants to be an imposter.

Considering what’s above, fear of failure is justified, don’t you think? Fear of failure is a reality check and being aware of “our” fears is proof of intelligence because now, you can think about what you need to know not to fail, and how to catch the world’s attention with ideas that are your own!

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

Experiencing fear of failure means you fear getting something other than what you want. Buddhist philosophy defines failure as “union with the undesired.” No one wants that. So, getting what you don’t want affects your peace of mind and gets you into trouble, creates problems in your social life.

Problems are inertia, the opposite of growth. Inertia is a force contrary to change, movement and exploration. So, fear of failure also prevents learning and leadership, since leadership comes from expertise, matured experience. When you are trapped in problems and cannot make progress, your self-esteem levels go down.

Also, unchecked fear of failure causes us to make wrong decisions in our careers, destabilizing our finances and our family life. Fear of failure must be taken seriously. When unchecked, its effects over your inner and outer life are infectious.

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

Contrary to the common belief, fear of failure is necessary and healthy because it prompts you to assess your potential. Provided you keep up with your project, you’ll get clarity about what can and cannot be accomplished yet. So, fear of failure is step one.

Acknowledging fear of failure makes you realistic while pointing to something positive: you are evolving! With novelty comes potential for growth, which always happens in noticeable increments.

New experiences are life-affirming because of the knowledge they contain. Seeking exposure to novelty is one marker of creativity in the Big 5 Personality Test. For creatives, the shiny object syndrome does not exist.

Novelty stimulates creativity, and intelligence.

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 battled with these issues for a while. I had many 9–5 which I found tasteless. Then I wanted to pursue academia (there are a lot of brilliant academics in my family, mostly scientists). Eventually, I got accepted in PhD programs in philosophy and literature in New York, Montreal, and France, but couldn’t fit in: polymaths need focus, but also freedom to pursue their intellectual and creative interests. The academic mindset is traditional.

There’s a lot of marketing around polymaths, but not everyone understands what a polymath is. Polymaths have intuitive knowledge. They are gifted at certain things naturally which is challenging for other people-who don’t understand giftedness, ignore it, or try to normalize it.

Intuitive knowledge is also challenging for polymaths themselves; they battle with imposture because they do not have a traditional background. So, in the grand scheme of normalized things, modern polymaths fail and fear failure a lot. Because they are misunderstood, a lot of them are cornered into inauthenticity hoping to live a “normal” life. That’s a shame, because over time, inauthenticity lowers self-esteem and destroys creative vibrancy.

When I dropped out from academia, I felt like a failure until my perspective changed. This was the opportunity to do something new, unconventional, and unique.

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?

New York consoled me! This city is amazing for creatives who are ready to focus. In my opinion, New York is the boss of human affairs (laughs) so I created my own magazine, not knowing how it would unfold but I did not want to ask permission to be myself anymore. I started Revue {R} alone, on a dime during the pandemic in 2019. I knew I’d face challenges because of the very concept of this review. I wanted this magazine to be a place for deep thinkers and lofty creators to express their creative vibrancy without being pressured into conformism, a place to go bold.

I also designed a coaching program to help poets and artists fight fear of failure, The Polymath©. My take on this is, the more polymaths come out, the better for culture. I wrote a tiny book–an introduction– about polymaths taking over culture: The Poetical Manifesto.

Revue {R} started out with a few clicks from family and friends in 2019 and hit + 26K visits in June 2022. Considering we are a niche, our evolution is impressive. We are a team now; a co-editor-in-chief for the arts, a savvy recruiter, and a patron.

What I did is create proof of what I excel at. The intellect thrives on proof and will free your mind from fear of failure with proof you are walking the talk. So, go BOLD, and of course, stop asking permission. While others can and will certainly help you achieve your vision, no one has the authority to grant you permission to be yourself.

Don’t be afraid of complexity because life is utterly simple.

What complicates our lives is lack of (self-)knowledge, bad decisions, which peak into personal and professional crises, and reinforce ignorance and fear of failure.

Sharpen your mind. Learn to focus. Find that one thing in which you excel, and let your other talents be cooperative components.

Unworthiness and imitation amplify fear of failure. Get rid of them.

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. Be selfless.

I know being selfless is difficult in the age of social media when everyone gets attention for anything, but if you want to be free from fear of failure–which is rooted in the fear of being judged, people-pleasing so you can be validated–you have to learn to be selfless. To mature, genius needs freedom and being a people pleaser or being afraid of scrutiny is not going to help you channel genius.

So how do you become selfless? Find a problem which needs to be fixed and fix it. The magic in that approach is easy to understand: problems are universally unwanted. Setting out to fix a problem, you are not only finding a solution to a personal conundrum, you are also helping others who share the same negative experience find a way out. I know: being selfless is the new cool.

2. Strive to be knowledgeable. Persist.

Learn from valid sources only. Knowledge preserves and gives certainty while experience will give you authority. The wind may blow in various directions, but your job is to make sure your solutions stand the test of time. To come up with such a determination, you need to be knowledge-oriented and not constantly ask “what’s in there for me?”

3. Be authentic: Know your values.

Determine your values and stick to them. Fear of failure impairs learning and leadership. Let your values guide your actions. Never compromise. Mediocrity reinforces fear. Refuse it and stay positive.

4. Be ethical: Assess your relationships.

Another cause for failure is unconscious partnerships. Choose your partners wisely. Strive to bond with people who share your values in life and business.

5. Find your mentor: Be teachable.

Forget the common belief in the self-made man. No one is self-made on Earth. Success or failure is the outcome of interactions with people and ideas forming defining or breaking moments in one’s life. A mentor, someone experienced and accomplished in what you are trying to do IS a valid source. Mentors will help you get clarity, stay focused, and be inspired. The perfect recipe to combat fear of failure.

Apply what your mentor tells you, otherwise you will not make progress and fear will keep taking over you. Yes, the internet is flooded with information about what you want to accomplish. You can go about it alone or rely on the experience and perspective of a mentor, a huge life hack.

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 love this quote. Aristotle is one of the fathers of Western philosophy but he also established the laws of poetry, ethics, and tragedy.

If you observe any tragedy, whether it is a recent movie, a masterpiece from Ancient Greece or Rome, or the drama in your life, you’ll realize when things go sour. Drama happens as a culmination of inauthenticity.

Did you compromise, somehow? Have you neglected a pledge to yourself or your community, and subsequently formed a partnership with your nemesis, a charming stranger with a secret agenda?

Once/If you have, opportunities to fail are endless. Do not expect others to be truthful when you’ve betrayed yourself! Inauthenticity is self-betrayal: it will yield chaos in your life, intricate situations requiring strong emotional involvement (“catharsis”) which will wear you down.

In Greek and Roman tragedy, what brings victory is moral duty, in other words, choosing to serve existential values instead of oneself. The self wants tiny rewards of safety, not conducive with exploration, persistence, growth, and change.

I hardly use the word “success” in my practice. I train poets and artists to triumph, plain and simple. You can never doubt a triumph. It is obvious to everyone watching, but most importantly, to yourself. Also, triumph creates leaders.

Knowing what you stand for and sticking to it is key to triumph as it will grant you with vision, ethics, inner strength, and wisdom. You will become your own champion and the champion of like-minded/like-hearted people who need inspiration, a great reward in itself.

Value mining should be taught at school, early in life. My life took a whole new turn when I decided to introspect myself, to think long and hard before I act. In my experience, the only way to triumph is self-knowledge.

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 wrote a book about it in The Poetical Manifesto. I want fans, followers, and conformists to realize Van Gogh died poor and miserable and schizophrenic while he is considered a genius now, is successful, making millions. I want people to ask themselves who’s spending that money now. Certainly not him. I want people to think long and hard about celebrity vs recognition.

I want fans and followers to picture themselves becoming Da Vinci or William Blake and walk that talk. I want people to understand why Jack Kerouac, Jim Morrison, Dylan Thomas, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and Amos Lemon Burkhart are lost forever, and why they should have lived longer.

I want them to think about what it means to “love” a creator of culture for his body, her voice, their genius without being interested in them as a person; without wanting to learn from them. Poets and artists are precious because they carry the emotional weight of the world, but it is also what ultimately destroys them.

I want people to acknowledge artists and poets are teachers, not objects deprived of humanity. They teach subtle truths about existence and there’s no teacher without a student.

I want people to think about the life and death of Bowie. Did Bowie’s worship make a god out of him, or make him more vulnerable, addicted and eventually precipitated his disappearance? What’s a world without Bowie? I want people to watch out what they’ll do with the next one provided another Bowie shows up. Our lives are limited editions.

Finally, I want artists and poets to take responsibility for their own evolution, stop chasing thrills and catharsis only to meet their nemesis. I want them to last, although what I want doesn’t really matter. They matter.

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 guess everybody wants to talk to Oprah. It’s not quite the wealth for me. I saw her conversation with Viola Davis, which was intimate, heart-felt. A lot of us wonder how she gets celebrities to talk like that. In my opinion, she sees the human behind them. I have a lot of respect for that.

That said, what I really want is to read David Duchovny’s PhD thesis on poetry, so we get to talk over café-croissants.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I co-founded a counseling agency with awarded artist Maria Linares Freire who is also passionate about these questions. You can find us here: You’ll find links to Revue {R}évolution and The Poetical Manifesto there as well. You can even book a call with us 😉

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), Media Journalist, #1 Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), media journalist, #1 best-selling author, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.  He coaches cancer survivors to overcome obstacles, gain clarity, and attract media attention by sharing their superpower through inspiring stories that make a difference. He inspires them to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. 

    Savio has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and 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.