Ramona Quimby, Loaded Suitcases and the Fear of Success


My sweet sister gave my daughter and I a book the other day. One that I read with my own mother 30 years ago: Ramona and Her Mother. Warm and wonderful memories flooded back as I snuggled my girl into my lap as we read about the dated trials and tribulations of precocious and tenacious 7 ½ year old Ramona Quimby. I confess that I read on after my girl fell asleep last night…so tempting was it to relive that closeness I remembered with my own Mama.

Plot summary: Ramona wants desperately to be “her mother’s girl”. She feels misunderstood, awkward (she’s neither a cute toddler, nor a responsible adolescent) and threatens to run away. Her agreeable mother helps her pack her suitcase. She jams in Ramona’s stuffies, books, box of baby teeth, roller skates, and a myriad of other unnecessary things. When Ramona tries to lift the suitcase, it won’t budge.

"You tricked me!" cries Ramona. "You made the suitcase too heavy on purpose. You don't want me to run away!" Of course not, says her mother: "I couldn't get along without my Ramona."

Tears.

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Heavy suitcases that stop you from setting out on your journey.

Huh.

Let’s play with this metaphor, shall we?

I’m going to go ahead and assume that the destination of the journey is success. Just ‘cause.

Kind of exhilarating when you decide to set out down the road to success right? Exhilarating AND frightening. But more exhilarating than frightening, so you pack your suitcase and map the journey in your head. Ready, set and go…you grab the suitcase. It won’t budge. And let’s face it….you’re kind of relieved. You were sort of afraid to go down that road too.

Who made the suitcase so damned heavy? My best guess is those saboteurs/gremlins/trolls who want us to stay put. Exactly where we are. Nice and safe, cozy at home and watching So You Think You Can Dance and eating 7-layer dip. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

What did they jam in the suitcase to make it so heavy?

My best guess here is fear, but wasn’t sure so I checked with the fine folks in my twittoverse. I tweeted this question:

Why do you think people are afraid of success? ("success" being subjective - in business, a project, a product etc)?

Resoundingly, they thought that fear of success was in cahoots with other fears.

Let’s unpack the suitcase to see what we can see.

  • Fear of failure – This one is the yang to success’s yin. Failure is bad. And you just might fail if you set out to succeed. Best to stay put. (Suit)case closed.
  • Fear of change – Everything is going to change with success, right? And change is scary and hard to manage. Will your kids need to go to a private school once you’re successful? Can you still go to the store in your Birkenstocks without makeup? Heck, you might not even KNOW how much things are going to change, so….
  • Fear of the unknown – Will I need to hire staff? How many people? Will they be dependent on me to feed their families?
  • Fear of sacrifice – What is the COST of success? You’ve heard that Martha Stewart sleeps only four hours a night. You can’t do that!!! Will you ever get to see your family?
  • Fear of disappointment –What if after all this hard work and lack of sleep you FINALLY get there and you’re STILL not happy? What if success isn’t the answer?
  • Fear of disappointing others –Some people have come to love the lack of success in your life. They like it that way (you make them look richer, thinner and more put together). What if your success makes others uncomfortable?  Or what if others think you’re getting too big for your britches?
  • Fear of living up to the success – Once you GET the success, how can you ever keep it up? In her famous TED Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert acknowledges that the answer to “aren’t you afraid you’ll never be able to top [Eat, Pray, Love]?” is “yes”. And she’s goooooooooooooood. So how can YOU be expected to top YOUR success?
  • Fear of exposure – You’ll be in the crosshairs now of everyone’s rifle. Everyone will be watching you…waiting for you fumble.
  • Fear of scarcity – You only have one kick at the can, here, right? No room for mistakes…you’ll never get another shot at this.

No wonder you couldn’t lift this thing. Those are some pretty prolific saboteurs. They can jam a whole lotta trash into one Samsonite.

Whew.

Now, take a closer look at those piles and in the case. What else is going on? What other fears are lurking in there? Unpack those too. Get ‘em all out.

And now that you’ve unpacked every last fear from the suitcase and they’re sitting benignly in piles on top of your bed, what will you do?

Since I’ve been doing so well with guessing today, and I feel like I know you pretty well at this point, allow me to take one last guess. My guess is that GLORIOUS YOU does something like this:

  • You get really really clear about your destination: your vision of success. Crystal clear. Like down to the colour of your farmhouse in the Loire Valley. You know what you’re wearing to the awards ceremony in 2014 when you’re celebrated by your peers. You know what pieces of art will adorn your crisp boardroom walls.
  • You define your road map to success in your terms. Not Martha’s, nor Oprah’s. Yours. What you’re willing to say "no" to and what you’re willing to say "yes" to. Who gets to come along for the journey and who doesn’t.
  • You decide to take back your power from the saboteurs who are now nervously lurking in the corner. You decide to step strongly into your belief that you were put on this earth to create the work you do. And that you were put on this earth to succeed at creating the work you do.
  • You then grab the empty suitcase and revel in its lightness. There is much to see on your road to *enlightened* success…you’ll want the room to gather souvenirs.
  • You head out. Chest high, smile on your face. Passport at the ready.

Ramona was only 7 ½. Not quite ready to take on the world. But you are. And the world’s ready for you.

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