When you’re ready to take the next step in your life, whether that means starting a new business or applying for college. One force will block your path like a brick wall. That is fear.
It becomes nearly impossible to take a risk when the negative consequences of that choice swirl in your head: financial ruin, humiliation or the sting of failure. Our next guest is the author of Embracing Failure, Mat Pelletier, and he shows us how to shake off the paralyzing effects of fear and move towards what we want the most.
Mat Pelletier: My inspiration for the book. I’ve been blessed with a great deal of success with my life and career but to be honest, it’s had its ups and downs, mostly downs than ups. Like a lot of people’s lives, I come from very humble upbringing. I started with nothing and came a long way to where I’m sitting right now.
My struggles in life and business were vast at the beginning, the obstacles that I faced, I don’t really want others to repeat if possible. I always wanted more and was confused on why I never settled for the cards that I was handed. I was here, and how could I improve these situations that I was in? This book is not a biography about me by any means, but more of a how to book of how to get out of a situation and how to develop a better life for yourself.
Through the journey, I identified a lot of common denominators. The largest common denominator, biggest hurdle in life I found was the fear of failure. Fear of failure, it is the greatest motivational factor to why people do something or not do something.
What I did was I began to study, research, and read and interview, speak to young people and confirm what I already knew firsthand by living through it. It became very clear to me that I wanted to document my findings to my two young sons. I’m a father of a 15 and 17-year-old, two boys, and I wanted to spare them from much of the obstacles and hardships that I had so they could quickly and safely navigate them.
Ironically, when they were born, I wrote them letters. Just to tell them how I was feeling, you know, the inspiration, the motivation, the love, the joy that their lives had created. I wrote them letters, saved them and I gave them to them not that long ago so they could see and there were tools in there.
I wanted to document back then, this was 17 years ago. If anything were to happen to me, I want you to know, these are some of the things you’re going to face in life and through these letters was the concept of why not share these tools and strategies with the whole world. I want to do something greater than me, so I wrote this book.
There’s a process I define that will help you identify and navigate your way through fears of failures and create success that you succeed. I found everyone is afraid of the unknown. We all seek certainty and security, and that’s fine.
Often, it leads to a stagnant, unfulfilling life. Everyone must have goals and the purpose in their life. I’m convinced all these concepts, tools, and strategies that we developed in the book can and will make the next generation the greatest ever. Does that make sense?
How Fear Affects Us
Rae Williams: Tell me a little bit about fear and what it does to people and what happens if we don’t remove fear from our vocabulary.
Mat Pelletier: Sure. You know, a lot of the concepts in the book speak well to young or middle-aged people. There are so many negative factors and limiting beliefs everywhere. I mean, it seems like everywhere I go is negative factors and limiting beliefs and you know, without proper guidance, you could turn a potentially successful life into shit very easily with all of these negative limiting beliefs around it.
So when I was starting out as a young man, I always wished, if I only knew a way through all of these obstacles and hurdles. Why am I feeling so much fear, and why has it stricken me, and sometimes it’ll paralyze you. This book would have been the saving grace for me, this would have been my roadmap. I would have been able to shave significant years off of my time to where I am now.
Remember, hope is not a strategy. Strategies are strategies. This book is a road map with tools and strategies and funny stories that will entertain. If you seek more in life, this book’s a huge value, and it will entertain you as well, it’s a great call to action. Risk, fear, failure, sometimes you know, I found, you’re so much closer to your goals in life than you even know.
Most people shape their lives around avoiding failure, and that’s a big mistake. Setbacks, complications, disappointments, those are all routine factors and most people don’t know that. They think that when there’s a complication or disappointment or something goes wrong, they failed. Well, it was a small failure, but it’s your path. That’s the path. You have to fail, and you’ll find in life that people that are the most successful, their common detonator is they’ve had the most failures.
You know, people like Oprah Winfrey, Sylvester Stallone. I mean, you can go on and on. These people come from very dark, difficult upbringings. All we see today is wow, they’re so successful and they’re so beautiful and they’re handsome. Well, it wasn’t like that all the time.
What they should do is they should publicize their beginnings and so they could discuss that, say yeah, this was ugly, we had a lot of problems and a lot of things went wrong and I was a victim and I was enabled but it made me stronger. Those are some of the greatest examples in life of people who have lived through their failures and turned them into great successes.
The Two Mindsets
Rae Williams: One of the chapters, I think it’s your second chapter in the book is called “The Two Mindsets.” What are the two mindsets?
Mat Pelletier: I define the two mindsets as scarcity and abundance. The book works its way through building a foundation for people to build the resilience to get through life and to get to your goals much quicker.
Being able to identify the two mindsets is critical. So scarcity, if you have a scarcity mindset, essentially, you fear failure, you fear risk, you always play it safe, you have extreme frugality, you have a false sense of security, you lack confidence, you can’t make a connection between success and hard work.
Sometimes, any type of decision is difficult for a scarcity mindset. An abundant mindset, conversely, is they want more out of life, they seek higher meaning, they seek possibilities and solutions. They’re thrilled by new challenges, the perceive challenges as opportunities, you have to be able to acknowledge your mindset and others’ mindset.
You can’t let anything control you. That is a very important step on your journey.
Don’t Be an Enabler
Rae Williams: Where do enablers come into this, and how does that work? Tell us a little bit about that.
Mat Pelletier: All right, that’s a pretty large chapter. Enabler’s guide to failure is just sarcastic, a lot of the stuff in the book is sarcastic and funny and wise ass. You have to be able to identify an enabler, especially if you’re a young person or if you’re a vulnerable person.
Enablers are people who seek blame. They do not seek solutions. When something goes wrong, they’re always trying to find someone to attach the blame to or something to attach the blame to, other than themselves. This is a quick race to the bottom if that is your goal or guide. Everyone fails, enablers will keep you there permanent.
Some people do enable for the mind or the idea of protection or comfort, they think they’re helping you. But still, they are enabling.
It is good to comfort people and try to protect them, but you must know that that is enabling and that is a destructive power. Others seek verification of their own shortcomings in life, so if they have setbacks and then someone else has a setback. They will enable them and talk about their own shortcomings, and misery loves company.
That’s fine that misery loves company, but that certainly is not the path to success in any task that you’re trying to accomplish. How about the wealthy parents that are all over the news as of late, trying to buy their kids’ ways into college, you talk about super enabling. Why don’t they just try to help their kids get into college the same way the rest of all of us did? The way that my kids are trying to.
You know, buying your way in is hyper enabling. That’s all wrong, and it’s everywhere. As you can see from top to bottom. No one is entitled to anything, the sooner that you understand and accept that, the better off you will be. Essentially, excuses are lies, and enabling is super destructive, especially to young impressionable minds. Young people need encouragement, not excuses.
About Embracing Failure
Rae Williams: Tell us some of the examples of people who have gotten the most out of your ideas and the most out of just some of your stories.
Mat Pelletier: I’ll digress a little bit. We sent out the book to a lot of people to review in PDF fashion because the book hasn’t hit the bookstores yet. I’m getting a really wide, diverse group of people who have been reviewers for me that have enjoyed it because whether you’re 50 years old or you’re 18 years old. You’ve seen and heard all of these problems before.
It’s almost like a walk down memory lane for older people, and then for younger people, it’s a call to action and it’s a lot of direction and good positive influence of how I can navigate myself through life. I’ve spoken at a couple of colleges lately and high schools where we’ve floated the book to teachers and professors, they called me into speak, and I will tell you what, a lot of the younger people really don’t have direction. I can’t blame them. They are young people. They don’t know anything yet and that is okay.
I am just there to say, look it is okay. Young people don’t have all the answers. I ask my own son, he is 17. I say, “What do you want to do?” I already know what he is going say, “I don’t know.”
I said, “That is okay. You need to write down all of the things that you don’t want to do, what do you hate, and then cross them off.”
Eventually something will arrive and you’ll ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Am I good at this? What do I not want to do?” and we’ll find a target.
Older people look back at the book and say, “Oh yeah, no I made that mistake that sucked. If I only knew this then and I was able to outline it and define these goals and these enablers and come up with these conclusions quicker, my life would have been so much easier.”
But you know, it was never really defined. That is where the whole thing circles back to why I wrote the book. It was initially as a story that I was giving to my sons of how to get through life in case I wasn’t here when you are at your impressionable point in time. This is now in writing.
So if you ever want to know what I went through to get to here, this is the path and this is the route and this is the way out. So follow it and it will help you. It has an interesting range of people who have found solace with its message.
Fear through the Years
Rae Williams: You talked specifically about leaving this message for your sons, what would you say to them is probably the biggest fear that they would face in their lives as teenagers, and how they can overcome that?
Mat Pelletier: The fact that fear is present in life is uncomfortable and it’s uncertainty. So uncertainty is such a big thing. So for a young person, the fears are everything. It can be the fear of talking with a girl, it can be a fear of not getting the grades that you are hoping for, the fear of getting cut from sports team.
For a person in college, it could be fear of “I don’t really know what I want to do with my life. I don’t have a career choice. I need direction.”
Some of the fears that I have where I have no money when I was a young person at that age, I have no money. I am hungry and I am going to need a place to live and I don’t have those answers and I am 18 years old and when you are 18 years old, those are some pretty big questions to ask. You don’t have the skills developed yet to understand the situation you’re in.
So those are some of the fears, and I’ll tell you what, they can be crippling, and people generally base all of their decision-making paradigm around getting out of fear and finding ways around the fear.
Finding the path of least resistance and so defining all of these things as happening will help you find the tools in your ways out and I give you in the book tools and strategies to be able to identify the fear when it comes and how to get around it, how do develop through it. These fears, these setbacks will go away.
I had Crohn’s disease when I was young. So I was sick, sick, sick physically and mentally. So it was really difficult for me to deal with the mental sickness, the physical sickness and the whole thing and it took me the better part of my life.
I am 47 now, to figure out that this fear is crippling me and I am going to be okay. At the end of the day, you can’t let this fear make your decisions for you. You have to acknowledge the fear and say, “Hey look, let us write this down. These are my problems. These are my obstacles; these are my goals. We are going to make a road map to them.”
And in the book, it has all the tools and strategies that will help you get there and that is the problem with fear. People don’t identify it for what it really is.
Rae Williams: Let’s talk about the same kind of aspect of fear but with entrepreneurship because in your book you have a chapter called “Entrepreneurship 101.”
Mat Pelletier: If your goal is to be an entrepreneur, which I am an entrepreneur, I have been since I was 14 years old. I have been working for myself since I was 14, and I am still working for myself. So some of the requirements, these days entrepreneurship is a real buzz word that everybody wants.
Well, not everybody but there’s television shows, there’s reality shows on entrepreneurship. This and that, the other thing but a lot of things that they don’t touch upon that they really should a lot more are the requirements of being an entrepreneur.
Like integrity, great accounting skills, being very detail oriented, extremely organized, a willingness not to fail, not quit, but just adjust and press forward. Those aren’t sexy topics, you know?
But those are the ultimate requirements of being an entrepreneur. If you have that foundation, you are on your way to being a good entrepreneur and then once you identify those attributes then you could move on to, “Okay, what problem am I solving?” We talk about that in the book.
To be an entrepreneur, basically you are a problem solver. That’s all we all are. If you are a good business person, I ran a very successful company and in reality, all that we are is problem solvers. That’s all, we are excellent problem solvers. We enjoy solving problems, and that is what we do. So you have to find a problem that you want to solve. It can be as simple as that, and then you can ask yourself, “Am I good at this? Am I good at solving this problem?”
“Does it come easy?” and then very importantly, “Why am I doing this? Is this a greater reason than me? Is this a call to action? Are you going to help people?”
If you are going to solve a problem that is truly going to help people, and not just for money, you will find you will be much more successful at your business as being an entrepreneur. Money should not be the reason to be an entrepreneur. It should be an end result or a byproduct of your efforts.
Every time I go speak in front of young people, one of the first questions I ask them that I already know the answer is, “Okay, so what do you want to do with your life?” and that is the easiest question in the world for them to notanswer. Nobody knows what they want to do.
So I try to help them streamline down what you want to do by figuring out what things do you absolutely hate in life, what things do you not enjoy.
That whittles it down to something or a few things that you enjoy, and you’d probably be good at that. So doing your research when you do identify your target, doing your homework, and then most importantly is pulling the trigger.
A lot of people want to start a business or be an entrepreneur, and they study and they procrastinate and they go through the whole paralysis by analysis thing, and all they’re doing is trying to talk themselves out of something.
If you don’t pull the trigger and take action, nothing will ever happen in life. So you have to know, there’s going to come a time where you are going to pull the trigger and you might fail but if you’re prepared for that, it’s no big deal. We just make an adjustment and we try again. So that’s that.
A Challenge from Mat Pelletier
Rae Williams: If you could issue a challenge to people listening to you, to people who are going to read your book, what would that challenge be?
Mat Pelletier: If I could issue them a challenge, I would say, that is an interesting question actually. A challenge to them, I think a challenge would be to help other people with their fears and their adversity and their concerns about failure. The next time someone, and it is going to happen to you today or tomorrow, talks about a setback, something that’s went wrong—try not to enable them.
Try not to say, “Oh, I am so sorry to hear about that. Oh, this went wrong, that went wrong.”
Why don’t you try and help inspire them? Why don’t you try to help motivate them? You can comfort them by saying, “Okay, yeah. I am so sorry that this turn of events has happened to you” whether it is in your business or in your career or something has gone wrong—a parent passed, a grandparent, something terrible like that has occurred, you could comfort them, but in the end, you need to help them inspire and motivate and get back up and keep pressing forward.
Because that is the best way that person is going to be able to help someone else in society. So we need to really create good mental fortitude for everybody. So we’re all be able to help each other.
Developing good habits is a lifelong campaign and teaching people that there are no shortcuts in life. This is a campaign. You have to stay inspired and motivated. These are the path to success. There are no shortcuts. That is what I try to issue as a challenge to people, to start to think that way.
Rae Williams: How can people contact you if they are interested in learning more, just getting in touch?
Mat Pelletier: The book has my email address, which is and I check that email frequently. I talk about that in the book a little bit too. So if there is any way that you want to reach out to me, I can help with any topic. I’d be glad to get back to you.