Overcome Your Fears to Make Smarter Decisions – Net Worth: $145K (RecoveringCubicleGuy)

Overcome Your Fears to Make Smarter Decisions

Many people struggle to make major career, personal, or other decisions and one of the primary causes of this indecision is fear. I believe that most of us spend lots of time finding reasons to be afraid of our choices. We often take the safer, more conservative route because the certainty is more palatable than the fear of the unknown involved in the riskier choice. If you can recognize fear, understand where it’s coming from, and think rationally about your choices without allowing fear to affect your decision-making process, you will liberate yourself to make decisions that make you happy instead of making decisions that don’t make you afraid. If you want to move past your fear, read on. Jim Koch’s story of founding Boston Beer Company (best known for brewing Sam Adams) offers a guide for how to understand your fears before putting them aside.

If you haven’t listened to How I Built This, an NPR podcast hosted by Guy Raz where he interviews entrepreneurs and founders, check it out. In an October 2016 episode, Raz had Koch on the show and the two spent the first segment of the show talking about Koch’s background.

After graduating from Harvard as an undergrad, Koch spent several years as an Outward Bound instructor for 3 years before returning to Harvard to enroll in an MBA-JD program. After earning his graduate degrees in business and law, he worked for six years as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). On the show, Raz asks Koch why he left his high-paying job at one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world, and Koch describes it simply:

I asked myself “Do I want to do this the rest of my life?” and the answer came back “No.” And the next sort of corollary to that was if I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life, I probably don’t want to do it tomorrow.

Later in the show, Raz revisits the topic. He asks Koch to describe his rationale for leaving BCG and founding a craft beer company at a time when the craft beer industry didn’t exist. Koch provides a framework that is powerful for anyone considering a major life or career change:

[I left BCG] because staying there was very risky. Leaving it was not risky. And it’s the difference in life between things that are scary and things that are dangerous. And there are plenty of things that are scary but aren’t dangerous. And there are things that are dangerous but not scary. And those are the things that get you…staying at BCG was dangerous but not scary and the danger there [was] continuing to do something that didn’t make me happy and getting to 65 and looking back and going “Oh my god, I wasted my life.” That is risk. That is danger.

Koch believes that it’s important to distinguish between scary and dangerous because things that are scary but not dangerous present an opportunity while things that are dangerous but not scary present a massive risk. He provides an example from his Outward Bound days as well:

  • Scary but Not Dangerous: Rappelling over a cliff. The rope holding you is designed to hold the weight of a car, so the actual risk of falling is extremely low.
  • Dangerous but Not Scary: Walking across a 35-degree angle snowfield on a May afternoon. It’s not scary, but it’s extremely dangerous because the snow is melting and the possibility of an avalanche is quite high.

Because I work as a consultant and therefore I’m only capable of explaining concepts with the help of a 2×2 grid, I plotted Koch’s scary/dangerous examples below:


If you’re considering a major career, relationship, or other life decision, try plotting your options on the grid above. Keep in mind that not all options will fall in Koch’s two quadrants. Things that are Not Scary or Dangerous are typically low-risk and many people do these things (e.g., eat healthy and work out regularly) while things that are Scary and Dangerous are high-risk and probably apply more to adventure junkies or extreme sports athletes (e.g., base jumping).

When you plot your options, try to avoid those that are Dangerous but Not Scary. These are the hidden risks lying under the surface, like wasting your life working at a job you don’t like or staying in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy just because it’s comfortable.

For me, purchasing our first investment property was Scary but Not Dangerous. It took me a few months to move past the fear involved, and during the process I had several moments of pause where I let fear control my emotions. However, thinking back to Koch’s examples helped me put the fears to rest and continue to pursue our real estate investment.

What decisions are you pondering? What are your Dangerous but Not Scary and Scary but Not Dangerous options? Leave a comment or shoot us a note – we would love to hear what you’re working on and the choices you’re considering.

Net Worth Update: Going forward, I’ll be including the value of our real estate investment in my net worth (at an estimated market value). My current net worth is $145K, which includes my share of our real estate firm (roughly $33K). While this is up from my last post ($140K), I should point out that I get reimbursed for business travel expenses before my credit card bill is due, which can sometimes inflate my net worth in the short term.

Posted by RecoveringCubicleGuy