Am I Too Scared To Start Things? (i.e. How to Avoid Failure)

NOT into reading? LISTEN to the audio version instead! (Or listen to me narrate along as you read the text below. Best of both worlds? #AudioBlog)

Confession: I almost didn’t publish this website.

I was…uncomfortable? Nervous? Scared? Not sure.

Yeah, I’ve done thousands of hours of live broadcasts (without a script or teleprompter), traveled solo internationally (in underdeveloped countries), effortlessly befriended strangers (and “famous” people), made risky career moves (with no safety net in place), performed comedy (both on stage and as an actress), shared personal anecdotes from my life online (and sometimes in major publications), revealed feelings while in a state of vulnerability (only to face silence), admitted to my Pakistani mother that I *gasp* wear shirts without sleeves…

But… starting a blog? Sorry, I’d rather jump out of a plane (with a parachute, of course.)

I wasn’t sure why this seemingly simple venture was so anxiety-inducing. I mean, I had wanted to do it – why so anxious? (And yes, that last phrase is absolutely intended to be read in ‘Joker’ voice.) Eventually, the inner journalist in me started asking questions:

INNER VOICE: Are you afraid people won’t care, SK?

SK: Hmm. Maybe? But…what does ‘care’ really even mean? Also. I know my mom cares. So I have one fan. (Hi mom!)

INNER VOICE: Are you worried the posts won’t be good?

SK: Hmm. Maybe? I mean, I have perfectionist tendencies, which I need to learn to get over. Then again, on other days I am quite Kanye about my own talents. 

INNER VOICE: Are you concerned about mean comments?

SK: No. BUT…that’s also because I have the option to disable the comment section (loopholes!)

INNER VOICE: So then what?

SK: I don’t know.

Well. I didn’t know until…I came across a Stephen King quote as I was struggling to decide on my first blog post topic (the quote was featured in an Enterpreneur.com article about 10 authors who had built empires. I was reading it as part of my “I’m procrastinating but really I’m kind of doing work” answer to writer’s block. Thanks, Google!)

Yeah, a guy whose made millions by instilling fear in readers explained what instilled fear in him.

And his scariest thing was? The moment just before you start.

Wait. Wasn’t I in that moment right now?

Stephen King and I are the same! (And no, not just because we both share ‘SK’ as our initials!)

I started thinking more about this quote, this idea. Maybe I saw this quote for a reason? Is this a sign? Is this the thing I’m supposed to write about first? (For those who don’t know me in real life: I live for signs. If you want to manipulate me, you should probably just present something to me in ‘sign’ form.)

Why is the scariest moment just before you start something?

What makes starting so terrifying?

Well. Where our fears and anxieties stem from is an idea I’ve actually been exploring over the last year (I’ve had a lot of time to think. I started semi-quarantining a year before COVID was even a thing. Basically just #writerlife. Or…#girlfindingherselflife?)

In my opinion, anything that creates an inner conflict can, at the core of it, be connected back to identity. Something about this issue (whatever it is) that you’re dealing with in that moment somehow challenges your sense of self.

INNER VOICE: Okay SK, then in this instance, this situation we are dealing with, how would starting a blog challenge your identity?

SK: Well, I don’t professionally identify as a blogger.

INNER VOICE: Would launching a blog be your new profession?

SK: No.

INNER VOICE: Okay. So then it doesn’t challenge your identity. You’re still someone in the entertainment industry who happens to now have a blog.

SK: Ugh. Why are you so good at this?! [pause] Okay. Well. What if I can’t complete it? Then what? I failed. And I don’t like failing. And I don’t identify myself as a quitter.

INNER VOICE: Is there a specific completion in mind? An end destination?

SK: No.

INNER VOICE: What does completing this blog mean?

SK: I don’t know. There is no completion, I guess. It’s over whenever I say it’s over?

INNER VOICE: So you want to be in a casual relationship with your blog?

SK: Wait, what?

INNER VOICE: Casual. Not serious. Not committed. Not marriage material.

SK: Well, no. I don’t want to casually date my blog?

INNER VOICE: Do you want to seriously date your blog?

SK: I don’t want to date my blog, brain.

INNER VOICE: This is a metaphor.

SK: I know, I’m being a brat.

INNER VOICE: (*sternly*) What do you want from this blog, SK?

SK: (*defeated*) I don’t know. [pause] (*she gets excited*) Wait! That’s the answer!

And that was when I had the epiphany. The reason that the scariest moment is the moment right before you start something is because that is the *moment* where you have to DEFINE what you’re doing – you have to set a goal and make a decision. Stephen King was totally on to something.

Think about it. I wasn’t ready to launch the blog because I hadn’t really set an intention – other than I wanted to share humorous, yet insightful thoughts in my journey of self-exploration (with the hope it might help others find themselves too. Or well, minimally entertain you. Or just help you pass time since there’s nothing left for you to watch on Amazon/Hulu/Netflix/HBO.) I didn’t decide what that process would look like for me. I was avoiding the decision-making altogether.

But why would making that decision be so scary, so anxiety-inducing?

Because goal-setting is a commitment. And when you commit to a desired outcome, you open yourself up to possible failure. And for a once-overachieving millennial like myself, the idea of failure – in any aspect – seems like the end of the world. Picking the hazelnut latte and then not liking it? A FAILURE. Picking a boyfriend and not liking it? Also a failure. If you never start, you can’t fail, can you? Which, in a way, just means….you’re winning! (See how spun that? PR agencies looking for a temporary hire, call me.)

All jokes aside, perhaps the key to success is A) not attaching your identity to achievement and B) embracing the idea that failure is a possibility, and that it’s not the end of the world if you start something but don’t reach your desired outcome. Then you have the freedom to try, without the fear of failure – because failure is almost expected.

Maybe if you expect failure, then reaching your goal is just a bonus? (Wait, would it make my life easier if I attached my sense of self, my identity to failing instead of achievement? Would I try and fail more? Would I then get upset if I attained success?!? Okay I need to stop thinking otherwise this blog will never get posted.)

So. I guess I just need to set a goal for this blog. Am I just committed to having a blog? Would that just mean I succeed as long as I always renew the domain name? (That seems too easy.) What about the actual writing? Isn’t that the purpose? Connecting with the reader? Using my life experiences to present larger truths?

Or maybe – the goal is bigger than the writing itself. Maybe the goal is to be comfortable with the epiphany I just had a moment ago – this reality that, in any endeavor you embark on in life, failure is a possibility. And you can do the work and strive to attain your desired objective, but even if you do come up short, knowing you’ll still be okay and that no effort is ever wasted (at least that’s what my mom tells me.)

Basically…it’s about the journey, not the destination.

That being said, we can’t tangibly measure progress towards that goal, so…hmm. I’ll commit to a weekly post through 2020. Quarantine life is likely continuing for a while, which means my epiphanies and observations won’t be ending anytime soon. (And given that it’s the COVID era, blogging is like a safe way of hanging out with my friends without having to wear a mask. Albeit a one-way conversation we could also just have over the phone…but BETTER because I can “talk” to more friends at once. It’s an efficiency thing, really.)

Okay so yeah, I guess I figured it out. I almost didn’t launch the site not because I didn’t want to have a blog or put my thoughts out there, but rather, I was just…scared to start. In a way, stumbling upon this Stephen King quote – “The scariest moment is always just before you start” – gave me confidence; I realized I wasn’t alone in my creative worries. So thanks Stephen, if you happen to be reading this. Usually you’re instilling fear. This time you helped me conquer mine.

Recommended Listening: Eminem’s Not Afraid

We’ll walk this road together, through the storm

Whatever weather, cold or warm

Just letting you know that, you’re not alone

Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road

(Yes, every blog post will end with a recommended track that is lyrically appropriate. A soundtrack to my 2020? Sure. Enjoy. See you next week. — 💜SK)

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CONTINUE THE JOURNEY? READ BLOG POST #2: Was I Friendzoned for Having Black Friends?

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Email Samia Khan directly!

  1. Danny Boy

    Always a pleasure to follow and love your humor!! (Making mental note of using signs to manipulate Samia 😏)

    You’re the best!! 😃😬😃

  2. Farah

    I’ve been having this dilemma myself of starting a blog or other writing project. I created a tinyletter account but only three of my friends signed up, so I haven’t sent anything!

    Thanks for putting yourself out there and sharing your feelings on failure. This really resonated with me!

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