Rugby player turned entrepreneur Clyde Rathbone shares his take on fear of failure, the journey to co-founding letter writing platform Karma and why we should care about gratitude.


1. Why did you start Karma and how has it evolved since then?

My brother and I founded Karma because we believe that it is an attempt to solve one of the greatest challenges facing humanity – that being an inability for people to leverage the good they do in the world because it is not knowable to others. To achieve our mission we’re creating a community that values expressing and sharing gratitude.

2. You’re refreshingly candid in your writing about the experience of being a founder and entrepreneur. What has the start-up journey taught you about both gratitude and fear?

It’s taught me that fear can be incredibly valuable – that I would never want to be completely rid of it because it so often highlights the things we must face in order to live a full life. Working on Karma has taught me that gratitude can be a kind of superpower – the one virtue from which all others stem.

3. In one of your blogs, you write that ‘Karma has helped the art of gratitude find a home on the internet.’ Why does gratitude matter?

It matters because we live in a world that often blinds us to the astonishing privilege and opportunity presented to us everyday. Practising gratitude helps us meditate on what really matters in life, which then helps us think about the kinds of lives we want to have and why.

4. What’s been your biggest fear of failure moment since founding Karma?

I can’t think of a single acute episode of fear but I have a near constant background fear that I’m not doing enough to realise Karma’s potential. I haven’t decided if this fear is healthy or not, perhaps the poison is in the dose.

5. Did you ever experience the fear of failure when playing for Australia?

All the time. When you’re young and inside the bubble of professional sport it’s easy to value the wrong things. When you think you have a lot to lose because you have a big house, a sports car and a suit of sponsors you consider these things as they relate to maintaining your performance. Add the public pressure to win and ‘failure’ seems catastrophic.

6. What strategies did you use to move through it?

As a rugby player I managed stress by doing more. More training, more intensity, more of whatever I thought would mitigate failure – this is a very aggressive attitude towards failure. Now I see failure and success as two sides of the same coin – and I’m grateful for both sides.

7. How has your relationship with ‘failure’ changed? What have you learnt along the way?

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to maintain (at least for the most part) a sense of perspective by zooming out and connecting with reality. The reality that we are all part of a spectacular cosmic mystery and that chaos and change are here to be embraced.

8. What are your top tips for practicing gratitude daily?

I really think it helps to connect with three things. The miracle of our existence – each of us is unfathomably lucky just to have a ticket to the show, whatever it turns out to be. Our mortality – thinking about death is a great prelude to the reality of our lives in the present. Discipline – gratitude is no different from any other habit in that it requires work to embed itself.


Hear more from Clyde Rathbone when he joins us at the Fear of Failure Forum: Gratitude edition feat. Karma on Thursday, 20 July. Get your tickets here.