Dear Ash,

My parents are on my case because they say I lack ambition. My girlfriend says the same thing. They think I’m afraid of success and not living up to my potential. Is there such a thing?



Success can be defined as achieving something that was desired, planned or attempted. Loosely speaking, you are successful when your dreams come true. What those dreams are is subjective; to some, it means having the fastest car, to others it means having the best looking women, and to a small minority, it means making the world around you a better place. Ambition and personal goals aside, success is generally desired but hardly accomplished. Why?

5 factors that lead to fear

1- Lack of focus
People generally fall under two main categories: those who excel at one thing and others who are good at many things. I do not believe that there are people who simply aren’t good at anything. That is ridiculous — life is full of glamorous and not-so glamorous tasks, and there are bound to be people that excel at one or the other.

To those who fall in the first category — everyone has strength, or as Plato would say, a comparative advantage. Yet few of us capitalize on this strength. Many people make it big by pursuing the right major in school, excelling at that one job or even going into the right professional sport. In any of these scenarios, the key to success is focusing on that one thing, understanding what the success variables are and dedicating yourself. If you are an athlete, you should have a parameter of behavior that you must not violate. The same applies to businesspeople.

Conversely, some people are gifted at many things but fail to focus on one course of action. They allocate their resources to lots of different areas but fail to make any real waves in any one domain. To these people, I recommend focusing on one area at a time. This area has to be the one where your existing skill set would allow you to take off; something that can help you achieve your future goals and something that advances your positioning in the greater picture. The greater picture is your dream — the one thing that once accomplished, makes you successful in the eyes of the most important judge: yourself.

2- Failure of taking proper action
Some people do not lack focus; they dedicate themselves to a goal but fail to take the proper action to execute. The example is that of a guitarist who practices every day but only gets worse. After all, you need sound technical know-how and a good framework in order to practice. Diving in headfirst will make you suffer from tunnel vision and crash and burn, or worse, never take off.

Pressure — pushing down on me…

3- Fear of pressure

Pressure works in two ways. First, many suffer from stage fright. They freeze in interviews, performances and speeches, but it can be corrected with training, practice and concentration. Admittedly, not everyone is suited to be the lead guitarist; some are better off shunning the spotlight and playing rhythm guitar. AC/DC’s Malcolm and Angus Young are the perfect guitarist duo: Angus thrives in the spotlight while Malcolm makes sure they look and sound good.

Pressure can also affect you indirectly and in the long-term, cause you to fear success. If you succeed, the stakes are sure to increase, as will the pressure. After all, if you play enough times at the amateur level, you should eventually turn pro. But what if the added intensity scares you? That is what separates the leaders from the followers: leaders assess and sometimes take on that additional risk, followers do not even bother to assess the risk.

4- Reaching a certain comfort level

Another reality is that not everyone wishes to lead. Some view their job and profession as a means of paying the bills. World domination, or betterment, is not a big concern for them. There is nothing wrong with this. After all, you cannot build your empire by yourself; you need men and women by your side. You need to listen to others and you need others to listen to you. In this case, the person is not afraid of success, but rather has a different definition of the term.

5- Too much negativity
When everything is said and done, the key is to have a positive outlook on life, be it with business, matters of the heart, or your health. After all, psychology has a lot to do with your physical and social reality. If you perceive life with a favorable light, then favorable things will likely occur. If misery is the name of the game, then you will one day be looking down a long, dark tunnel.

Try to enjoy the ride, whichever direction you choose.

Ash Karbasfrooshan is also the author of Course To Success, available at