What is “fear of failure”?

I had a friend in college (I’ll call John) who would shoot hoops, play golf, or play table tennis with anyone at any time. But he would never play anything else. He wouldn’t play touch football, softball, bridge, or even shoot a game of pool. I could never understand it until I finally figured it out: he wouldn’t play anything unless he knew that he would win. How sad, I thought. 

I just realized (to my horror) that years later, I am just like him. I don’t push boundaries like I used to. I don’t call on that extra customer, volunteer for that project, or apply to programs like yc if I think there is any chance I won’t win. There’s always a reason: the software is missing too much, the demo sucks, there are 14 other things that have to be done first,… You get the picture. 

I never thought of this as “fear of failure”. I just got so used to succeeding in everything I did that I didn’t want to do anything else where I didn’t succeed. I became John without even realizing it. 

I’ve got to change this stinkin’ thinkin’. A good failure would probably do me good. Or maybe I should just try something I would have never imagined a month ago.