What Limitless Taught Me About The Fear Of Success

What Limitless Teaches You About The Fear Of SuccessWhen you are first starting out in internet marketing (or anything where the outcome is far from certain), you are told that fear is often holding you back – principally the fear of failure. I get this, you don’t want to spend a year of your life working on something only for it to come to nothing. Life’s too short as they say, we’re here for a good time not a long time etc.

But the fear of success is not really mentioned as a factor holding you back. Mainly because success often means that you have achieved your objectives which must be a good thing, no ? Well, not necessarily.

What Limitless Says About Success

I was watching the movie Limitless the other day and I think it highlighted the pitfalls of success and  explain why people may have a fear of success.

The idea behind Limitless is that the main character is a bit of a mess at the start – he’s a procrastinating wannabe author.

His appearance and lifestyle are becoming increasingly disheveled until he meets his ex brother in law. The ex bro offers him a drug which allows him to use 100% of his brain power as opposed the the 20% that we are supposed to use in reality.

This allows him to finish writing his book in one sitting.

He soon decides that playing the stock market is a better use of this increased brain power and he goes on to make a lot of money.

He starts hanging out with the rich, famous and beautiful people. He buys a multi-million dollar apartment. Life has changed and, for all intents and purposes, he is a success.

Things are going great for the hero but from there things start to go downhill.

He has problems with a Russian gangster and a mysterious, menacing looking stranger is following him around.

He gets noticed by a top financier who wants our hero to work for him.

He gets back with his girlfriend but she thinks he is different. She doesn’t trust him and is hesitant to resume the relationship.

He also discovers that the drug that is causing all his success could actually be harmful. He is so dependent on the drug that he carries it around with him at all times.

I won’t spoil the ending for you if you haven’t seen the film, but he has to put his life in danger and do unspeakable things to survive becoming successful.

And in the end, he has sort of come to terms with his new life and seems to have even greater goals ahead of him – in other words more success.

His girlfriend has even come to terms with the new person that he has become and is complicit in what he has to do to maintain his success.

Limitless and the fear of success

The Pitfalls Of Success : A Morality Tale

Limitless is a modern morality tale in the tradition of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the Portrait of Dorian Gray. In fact, it’s a mish-mash of the two in my opinion. Not as good as these two novels or films as it basically skims over the protagonists sentiments to keep the story pacy and action packed.

In other words the action is all external when it could have been more insightful to the viewer to see more of the action going on inside his soul.

But that’s just glossed over since the real intention of the movie is to be a action thriller genre movie.

Movie Fear Of Success And Internet Marketing Reality

So what does it actually tell us about success and the fear of success ?

Success means change – you are becoming and become a different person based on your success. This might mean doing different work, socializing with different people, living in a different country or thinking in a different way.

Indeed, desiring some of these things may have influenced you to reach out for success in the first place.

But in the back of your mind, after you’ve stopped worrying about failing and seen it as just a stepping stone to success, you probably wonder if you will truly be happy when you have met one of the goals that you set to consider yourself successful.

In the movie, the hero doesn’t actually think this but his life is far from happy even though he is apparently successful. As already mentioned, he meets people that want to kill him.

In short the movie is saying be careful what you wish for.

Now I don’t think you will meet many people that want to kill you in Internet Marketing but you may wonder if you would be truly happy working from home in your pajamas (as the much over used internet marketing catchphrase goes). Will you be lonely ? Will you miss your friends ? Will you become a recluse ?

Or maybe you fear that the responsibilities that come with success may overwhelm you and make you do things that you aren’t comfortable with. Perhaps you’ve agreed to coach people on how to set up a blog, make a youtube video or write sales copy.

These tasks could be lucrative but you don’t want to be abused by people that expected better results from your advice (often misguidedly).  Or maybe there is such demand for your services that you end up working 12 hour days or 7 days a week. You may be successfully making money but at what cost to your work/life balance ?

In the movie, the hero has to do all sorts of things to attain a drug to maintain his performance. The drug is actually a metaphor for what people have to do to be successful.

So it is saying that successful people have to take enormous risks and get plenty of often unwanted attention if they are successful. They may even have to harm their health to achieve the success they desire.

Epilogue (a la Police Squad :) )

These are fears that you may have if you are successful but ultimately they are just fears of change and  the unknown. A way round this is to study the people that you want to become.

Modeling other successful people is certainly a great way to achieve success but it can also foretell what your life may be like when you achieve something similar.

Read biographies of people that you aspire to become. Think about the challenges they faced and how they got around them. Would you like to face those problems ? Would you rise to the challenges they faced ?

If you are being taught by someone, ask them what they have to do day to day to remain successful. Ask them what they did to initially attain the success. Ask them how they spend their time as a successful person ? Would that lifestyle suit you ?

You will never get the full picture but it may prepare you for what lies ahead. The pitfalls of failure and success.

5 Responses to “What Limitless Taught Me About The Fear Of Success”

  • Daniel Carton on May 16, 2012

    Hey Adrian,

    Great post. You described the subject very well, I especially liked the phrase where you said, we’re here for a good time not a long time, :)

    I totally agree when you said that people can be afraid of the change that can come from success, and it is totally true.

    Well written,
    Daniel Carton

  • Kevin on May 17, 2012

    Love the movie Limitless. After watching it I not only wished for a pill to make me super smart, I wanted to start wearing a suit 24/7.

    I’ve spent most of my adult life not afraid of success… in fact I’d love to be more successful than I am right now. I’ve been afraid of the work that it would take to make myself successful. From day 1 I’ve known there are no “quick fixes” and overnight riches.

    I wish we could all be lazy. In fact, I fully intend to be as lazy as possible while doing this. But I’m also putting in consistent daily work. Hopefully that’s what it takes to get where I want to be.

    • admin on May 17, 2012

      Hey Kevin,

      Interesting comment…I don’t think successful people are lazy. I think the term lazy is thrown around too much in internet marketing probably because it is quite an emotive word. Even the guy who calls himself the lazy marketer works pretty hard as far as I can see. If only it was that easy…but then everybody would be doing it :)

  • Noel Cunningham on May 17, 2012

    Hey Adrian,

    I gonna look that movie up after reading your post – sounds like quite a journey that character goes on… I hope none of us get hooked on any crazy drugs as we climb the IM ladder!

    Well written post and get where your coming from with. Nice job.


    • admin on May 18, 2012

      For a real world perspective on being an entrepreneur read Felix Dennis’s How to Get Rich. Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll quite literally…..he also talks about the pitfalls and the sacrifices that he had to make. Of course he was a magazine publisher which is a little different to IM but you can certainly learn from the book.

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