Are you sabotaging your success by chickening out?


“Chicken!!”  Success requires courage.

If you’re like most adults, you can probably remember hearing that taunt sometime during your childhood. It usually was intended to push you into doing something you weren’t comfortable with.

Was this typically done from a position of snarkiness on the part of the chicken caller? Yes. Was it embarrassing? Yes. Was it inappropriate? Yes. And no.

If a classmate was trying to taunt you into doing something you felt was morally wrong or physically dangerous, then the comment was definitely inappropriate; think spray-painting a teacher’s car. On the other hand, if he or she was encouraging you to follow through on an uncomfortable task that would move you closer to a desired goal, then the comment could actually be construed as helpful; think of asking that really cute classmate out on a date.

As is often the case, any comment can have value, even if it sounds insulting at first. In this particular case, “Chicken!!” – whether you hear it as a child on a playground or say it to yourself as you birth a fabulous entrepreneurial venture – can serve to move you forward. The trick is to apply it wisely.

How exactly does a self-directed accusation of cowardice serve entrepreneurs? It helps keep you accountable for getting results because it:

Unfortunately, we all know from personal experience that great ideas sometimes turn out…not so great in the execution. So how do you effectively implement this smart-alecky accountabilitizer? (Yes, I know some people will claim that’s not a real word…but it is now.)


Accountability keeps you focused on results, not comfort.


Chicken Strategy #1: Do a gut check.

Sometimes your gut is smarter than your head. If you feel you’re chickening out of a task, perhaps your gut knows something you don’t and is trying to keep you from making a mistake.

As someone who’s gone most of her life barely realizing she has gut instincts, much less listening to them, I can attest that this is not necessarily an easy strategy. However, it’s definitely worth the effort. When I take the time to get centered and ask if I’m being prudent or cowardly, even I often get the right answer.

Chicken Strategy #2: Turn it over to someone who knows what she’s doing.

One of my own biggest reasons for hesitating to tackle a major task is that I can pretty well guarantee I’ll get sucked into a black hole of endless research and sub-optimal implementation, especially if it’s a topic about which I’m not naturally savvy. (Can you say “online marketing”?)

Entrepreneurs tend to be Lone Ranger types, often trying to go it alone. While this certainly keeps the reins in your hands, it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t know what to do with those reins.

In a case like this, you’ll actually create better results if you are brutally honest with yourself: Identify areas where you’re actively hurting your business, instead of growing it, by trying to muddle through on your own. Then suck it up, remember that you typically have to spend money (wisely) to make money, and hire an outstanding service provider to take that monkey off your back.

Chicken Strategy #3: Enlist an accountability partner.

If you’re smart about how you set up an accountability program, this strategy is pretty much a no-fail approach.

So what are the characteristics of a good accountability partner? It’s someone who:

Is it comfortable to be held accountable for your results? There’s an easy three-word answer to this question.

Are you kidding??

The whole point of working with an accountability partner is to ensure that you don’t weasel out of doing important work just because it’s uncomfortable. And when you do drop the ball now and again – which is inevitable – it’s embarrassing to be called on your non-performance.

(While I strongly believe in the value of appreciation, cheer-leading, and positive reinforcement, I’m aware that threat of public humiliation can also be a great motivator.)

I can, unfortunately, speak with great authority on this, because I have on occasion been the one dropping the ball and getting called on it. Since this is hard on my ego, I’m willing to put systems in place to keep me honest – and productive.

This system works beautifully in a work setting, and it has the added benefit of keeping you on track for commitments in your personal life, as well.

For example, I’m on the Board of Trustees for my church, and I’m lobbying hard for us to get in the habit of adding follow-up items to the monthly agenda. For example, last month Lance made one commitment, Robyn made two, and I made three. (What was I thinking??)

Although I have no doubt all three of us are sincere in wanting to move our church forward, each of us also has a family and job/business that require our attention. It would be the easiest thing in the world for these items to fall through the cracks and for everything to stay the same.

So, even though I’ve only checked off one-and-a-half items from my church To Do list, I’m asking for my fellow Board members to step in as accountability partners for me and each other. After all, if we’re going to put in the time, shouldn’t we also get the outcomes we say we’re committed to getting?


What other tools and strategies have you used to tame your inner chicken? Please let us know, because I’m convinced this is an ongoing challenge for entrepreneurs.

But maybe your chicken is definitely the Alpha partner in your relationship, which means there’s a lot of stuff that’s not getting done, even though it could propel you forward by leaps and bounds. If that’s the case, maybe we could brainstorm ideas about Chicken Taming 101.

Part of what I do for stuck entrepreneurs is show them how to tackle scary projects one baby step at a time, and then I goose them along – kindly but firmly– until the project is done and they’re basking in terrific results.

Is this something I can do for you? Probably…but we don’t yet know if we’d be a good fit for each other.

So I invite you to grab a spot on my calendar for a get-acquainted call so we can determine if we’d make a good chicken-taming team. Nobody will be committed to anything other than the call, so it’s a no-risk activity…even though it might feel a bit scary.

Go ahead: Show that chicken who’s boss. I dare you.

(BTW, thanks to Cody and Maureen for posting the image of the chicken butts in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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