Fear of failure is like facing a bear in the woods. The best thing you can do is stand tall, make lots of noise and act like you’re not afraid. The bear will run away or fear will shrink.

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 Tom Scarda.

Tom Scarda is a Certified Franchise Expert (CFE). He was the number one franchisee of the year with his first franchise concept and failed miserably in his second franchise. The lessons learned from failure is what makes him such an expert. Tom is the author of several books including, The Magic of Choosing Uncertainty: How to Manage Change, Embrace Fear and Live a Fulfilled Life.

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 came from a blue collar, civil service family in Brooklyn, NY. Most kids growing up are told to get a good education so you can get a great job and be happy. I was told to make sure I get a job with good benefits with pension. I did that. I became a New York Subway Train Conductor when I was 23-years old. My parents were very proud of me.

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?

I will start by sharing that when I was a young subway worker an old timer approached me in the lunchroom. It was a Sunday evening. My Italian family were home having a big macaroni and meatball dinner. I was eating a bagel with cream cheese in the dark, dank dimly lit crew room. I had a frown on my face. The veteran Transit worker said, “Hey kid, don’t be down, this is a great job. You will always have a shirt on your back. It won’t be a silk shirt but at least you’ll have a shirt.” I stared blankly and thought, really? That’s the goal here? A mediocre life?

I looked around and my bosses were not wearing the metaphorical silk shirts. But I realized business owners were. In that moment I decided that I was going to be an entrepreneur.

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 learned that leaders are humble. There was a major watermain rupture in Manhattan on a Friday. It flooded an underground subway station almost to the ceiling. The Senior Vice-president stated in a press conference that the station will be opened for Monday morning rush hour. The reporters mocked him. It can’t be done, they muttered.

At 5 am that Monday a reporter went to the station to see how far the crew got with the clean up. The station was totally clean and one of the only people on the platform was the Senior VP in jeans and a tee shirt sweeping the platform. A leader leads from the front.

A personal trait that I possess is empathy. I never assume staff will do something that I would not do.

I also believe in giving people ownership and responsibility. Staff will live up to the assignment that you give them if they trust you.

I am also not afraid to take risks. But that is what we are taking about today, So let’s get into it.

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?

Humans are taught to fear loss. We grow up being told to not lose our books, our candy, our money. We are judged by how much we accumulate in life. The more toys, the more successful someone appears. That drives us. If we were to loss that stuff, then we are a failure. No one wants that.

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

Being afraid of failing holds some one back from being their best. They never get the opportunity to be who they could have been. By doing that, it’s like giving God or their creator the finger. It’s like saying, yea, thanks for the gift of being able to sing. But, I’m scared to get on the stage so I’ll just do this job that I hate instead. This screws the rest of the world. We never get to enjoy what they should have created.

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

If someone embraces the possibility of failure, they get to enjoy self-satisfaction that most humans never achieve. If Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or Steve Jobs stopped because of the fear of failure, what would life look like today? If you try and fail, you learn. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. I suggest looking at failure as a learning experience. A hands-on MBA.

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 failed in my second franchise. I bought a concept called Super Suppers. It was a place where people came and made meals in bulk using our recipes and ingredients. Take them home and freeze the dinners. On days when you’re busy, put it in the oven and have a home cooked meal made with your own hands in 30 minutes. In 2006, The New York Times said we were changing the America eats like McDonald’s and Swanson TV dinners did 50 years earlier. Two years later we were out of business and lost almost our entire life savings.

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?

As my failed franchise was going down the tubes, I was crying. Now, I count it as a blessing. As I coach people through investing in a franchise, I have a level of credibility which translates into trust because I have been there. I really did it. I did not read about it a book. Actually, I wrote a book about the failure called, Franchise Savvy. My advice to people looking for a franchise is to not become infatuated with a business idea. Do deep research and an in-depth business plan on paper.

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.

Fear of failure is like facing a bear in the woods. The best thing you can do is stand tall, make lots of noise and act like you’re not afraid. The bear will run away or fear will shrink.

I don’t have five steps to be free of failure. Again, one cannot become free of failure. What you can do is embrace it. Fear of failure is the same as any fear. Fear of flying, heights, bugs, etc. It’s usually a learned response. To get past FOF you must submerge yourself in that fear. But start with baby steps. I will use fear of flying as an example. First, when you break it down, it’s not flying that freaks you out. It’s really not being in control. Not being able to get off the plane in midflight. You’re stuck.

When you read up on flight safety you quickly realize that statistically, it’s much safer than an automobile. You will learn that a plane in flight is like a boat on the water. Turbulence is like hitting waves on the water. The plane is bouncing along. If you read up on flight more, you will find out that if the engines fail on a jumbo jet, that jet can coast for 100 miles. If it were to happen, the plane would not fall out of the sky. Understand flight. Knowledge will give you power.

Once you gain understanding around flying, take a few trips to the airport. Just drive around the parking lot and go home. The following week, go in and watch planes gracefully take off and land. Over and over again and there’s never an issue. Maybe now, plane a trip. Look at flight options online. Sometimes you can find out what type of plane you will be on. If so, do research on that aircraft and its safety record. Then take that vacation.

Of course, you don’t have to do any of this. Just don’t fly. And , just be ok with the fact that you will probably never see the wonders of the world such as the Pyramids, the great wall of China, the Freedom tower in New York City or the town your grandparents grew up in on another continent.

You may respond and say, that is ok. Seeing those things is not important to me. And so there it is, the key to getting past the fear of failure or any other fear. You must have a “why.” If you do not have an emotional, compelling reason to make a change, change will not happen.

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?

Yes, I agree with Aristotle. The one way he is referring to is to embrace it and move through it.

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. 🙂

My movement would be based in using the word yes more often. What people realize after doing something they feared is that it was nothing to fear. It was all in their head. Usually, even if you didn’t like doing the thing you feared after you did it, you can probably look back at it and say, Ah, I did it and no one died.

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 would love to have breakfast with many different business leaders to understand how they overcame challenges. We learn from the war stories. The person who comes to mind as I sit here is Sir Richard Branson. I personally identify with him and his personality.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I have several main platforms I use. The are:

Website: https://tomscarda.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tom.franchoice

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/the_franchise_academy/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheFranchiseAcademy

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/findafranchise/

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.