The Pressure To Succeed

Abhishek Lahoti
3 min readMar 23, 2023

Admitting you’re wrong is a tough but useful skill. As you grow yourself, finding and owning your mistakes is a key part of growing and learning. Admitting when you’re wrong about your kid, however, is a much harder trick to learn. Something primal tells you that, as a parent, you know best (even when in contention with your partner).

I had just such an experience last week. My wife and I were discussing something all parents discuss: the future of our child. I asked her what I thought was a simple question regarding our child’s career prospects (a completely rational thing to consider for a 4mo old). When we discussed it more, I came to the realisation that I had a proclivity to place an a lot of pressure on “being a success”. Any future that involved a lower drive to flourish left me feeling a pang of disappointment.

While that might seem innocuous at first, I had to stop and wonder why all this made me uneasy. As with many things in my life, it stemmed from being the child of immigrants in a small town in Ohio. When I was younger, it was drilled into me that education and drive were my only routes to success. That there were a few fields to pursue, and all others would leave you poor and wanting more. That a non-successful endeavour would be a regret.

(In truth, much of this was unsaid, so I cannot blame anyone, especially my parents, for how I chose to perceive these ideas. Their determination to succeed gave us a strong foundation from which to build our lives.)

As I dwelled on this during the day, I noticed that this pervaded heavily in my own career. The endeavour to strive and succeed made me fearful of opportunities where prosperity was not assured. Joining lifestyle companies, smaller start-ups or academic institutions scared me. Even entrepreneurship, the backbone of the industry I work in, made me consider the caution more than the opportunity. Coupled with the pressure to succeed was root of the problem: a fear of failure.

Fear of failure can erode in every setting. In work, this fear of failure stops innovation and creativity. The pressure to succeed can invoke a “pleasing” attitude which defers conflict and change as “someone else’s problem”. “Staying in your lane” means goals can be met, but rarely exceeded. In work, as in life, we need to be reminded to take risks and embrace failure as much as we embrace success.

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As I grow into my own parenting style, I enjoy noticing where these father-daughter interactions overlap with the rest of my world. I know from reflecting on personal and professional experiences that the most I can do is guide my daughter on how to conquer that fear of failure. I will most likely slip up and add undue pressure to her later in life, but she needs to be allowed to challenge it and keep me in my place. In the end, a parent has to worry less about their child’s success and more about their happiness.

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Abhishek Lahoti

Head of Platform @ Highland Europe, advisor of startups, new father, and perpetual confused person trying to make sense of life