What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Fear is an almost entirely worthless emotion. We haven't had to run from lions or tigers, and we haven't been chased by bears, in a VERY long time.
And since our brains, the parts that trigger our fight or flight response, haven't had to deal with real fear in so long, we invent things to be afraid of. Things like public speaking, rejection, and failure.
When I look back at the weeks leading up to when I was fired on January 17, 2014, I remember the feelings of fear. My wife and I could see the writing on the wall, and we had a pretty good idea that the almighty ax of Corporate America was coming my way.
So, as any young couple would do, we panicked. We imagined the worst, and we let fear creep in in whopping amounts.
But lucky for us, I was reading Tim Ferriss' 4 Hour Workweek (4HWW). And in his book, there's a section about thinking about the worst that could happen if you left your job and set out on your entrepreneurial journey, but failed.
If you imagine the worst, and it isn't that bad, you know you can survive.
In today's world, when we don't have to worry about getting eaten by lions or mauled by bears, our brains find other things to do with this ancient emotion. We come up with things to be afraid of, even if those fears are unfounded.
But I'm not some fearless titan of entrepreneurship. I have fear all the time. I fear failing, losing all of my clients, making poor decisions… but I've gotten a modicum of a grip on my fear because of what I'm about to share with you.
What's the Worst That Could Happen?
As I just mentioned before, in the weeks leading up to when I was fired, I was working through 4HWW. There's a part of the book where Ferriss asks the reader to ask himself, “What's the worst that could happen?”
He asks us to consider the worst-case scenario. If we tried and failed, what would that look like?
My wife and I had very different answers to that question. But, with her permission, I've shared some of her “worst case scenario” thoughts below.
The Worst That Could Happen for Ashley:
Ashley's imagination may have gone a little wild with how she perceived things might go. Her worst case would be that she would (also) get fired from her job, we'd lose our house, and have to move back home and live with one of our parents.
The Worst That Could Happen for Me:
While I wouldn't say I was more “practical” than my wife, I would say that I saw things differently. Though we'd been dating when I got laid off and therefore she knew what it was like for me during that time, I felt like she'd been sheltered from a lot of the stress.
For me, the worst thing that could've happened was that my business idea(s) never took off. I worried that I wouldn't be able to make any money and that I'd feel and look like a complete and total and utter failure.
But after facing my imagined worst-case scenario, my thoughts afterward helped change my perspective. And, maybe they'll help you if you're right on the edge of “should I take the plunge?”
If you're thinking about taking the plunge, you should check out my next project!
Whenever I looked at the worst case, I suddenly felt liberated. I realized I was young and healthy, and if it came down to it, I could get a job at Lowe's or Home Depot hauling lumber or stocking shelves.
Would it be glamorous?
But, when I asked myself, “What's the worst that could happen?” I realized it wasn't the end of the world.
The Lessons I Learned
Going through this exercise of imagining the worst that could happen just days before I'd get fired helped Ashley and I learn a few hard lessons – lessons I hope will give you the same freedom they gave us.
The lessons are these (in no particular order):
- It's better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all.
- It's better to live a life of “oh wells” than a life of “what ifs” – Pat Flynn
- There's no better time than now to try something that might not work.
- Our imaginations create far worse scenarios than what will actually happen.
And the big lesson…
The worst case scenario really isn't all that bad.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you bad things don't happen. But, I will tell you most of the bad things you expect to happen won't. Our brains have developed to listen to our fears like our very survival might depend on it. However, today, those rational fears that led to a survival instinct have been replaced by irrational fears that should be ignored.
To my knowledge, nobody has died from speaking on stage or from getting rejected. If you can face the worst and survive, you can face anything.