John does a great job with these videos which are aimed at helping developers understand themselves, their motivations and their challenges. I highly recommend the series in general and this video in particular.
In this one he talks about his own fear of failure and relates a recent experience engaging in a contest with friends.
This is a topic I can certainly relate to.
For me fear of failure manifests itself in a tendency to over-prepare. When I speak at my user group (GGMUG), I'm so afraid of running out of material that I prepare and prepare to the point I invariably run way over time with my talk. Despite the fact that I know my talk will actually be better if I keep to the time limit, AND know that I tend to run over, I still sweat that I'll run out of material before I run out of time. My fear of failing actively degrades my performance.
With projects my fear manifests as a desire to plan everything to infinitesimal degrees of completeness in an attempt to avoid any possible failure. In addition to the impossibility of planning for every contingency, there is always the danger that I'll spend so much time preparing that there is no time left to actually do the project. Yikes.
My top goal for this year is to try to mitigate if not overcome this personality trait.
I'm not sure how successful I'll be, because fear of failure seems to be central to my makeup. I find it unthinkable and utterly terrifying to fail even on trivial projects or tasks. I recognize that this fear of failing actually makes me much, much more likely to fail. My challenge is to go from recognizing the problem, to remedying it.
Hopefully I'll learn to accept that I can fail without calamity, keep calm, and become more productive. If I can do that, I suspect my odds of actually failing will be lower.