July 27, 2010

You Could Be Dead

Yesterday I had the pleasure of (finally) meeting three people who have inspired me as a writer and entrepreneur for some time now – on a typical Monday afternoon in an apartment building hallway, waiting for the janitor to show up and let the cat in (long story), chocolate smoothies in hand, Colin Wright, Andi Norris, and Ashley Ambirge, in true ‘lifestyle design blogger’ fashion chatted about life, work, travel, and everything in between.

I’ve never been in a 90 degree hallway filled with half as much inspiration.

As we made our way to the local playground yelling things like “No cock” (that one’s for you, Adam Baker) – disturbing parents and children alike, Colin, in true Colin Wright fashion, said something that stuck with me then, and I’ve continued to think about over the past 24 hours.

If you know Colin at all, read his blog, or watch his videos, you’ve probably noticed an extremely relaxed aura about him – the same could be said for his two amigos Ashley and Andi. I asked Colin, as we sat in a cozy nook of park benches, how he managed to maintain that ‘calmness’ – in the midst of constant transition, moving from place to place, running a business, etc.

His answer? In short, was that he didn’t feel ‘held back’ by risks, he wasn’t afraid to take leaps of faith and try new things (and potentially fail) because he understood and embraced that, at the end of the day, the absolute worst thing that could happen was that he’d die trying.

I know, it sounds morbid, but stick with me here…

What’s the worst that could happen?

Recently I wrote about the importance of figuring out what you need – and how freeing that realization can be once you’ve come to terms with the fact that you really don’t need all that much to get by. What’s equally important, before you take any giant leaps of faith, is that you determine the worst possible outcome if you try and fail.

So let’s say you want to quit your job and start a business – you put in your notice, pack your things, and embark toward the life of an entrepreneur. After 3 months you have…

  • No clients
  • No money
  • A lot of bills to pay

So you have to call it quits – you’ve found yourself in a position that you HAVE to be making money – so what do you do? What’s the worst case scenario?

  • You move back home?
  • You wait tables or work retail to pay the bills
  • You save up money and continue pursuing your own thing on the side?

Yes, this might be less than ideal – but is it THAT bad? Are the potential outcomes so terrible that they’re holding you back from pursuing your dreams? Probably not.

The best usually comes from embracing the worst

Now, let’s circle back to Colin’s point. That, any situation you’re faced with could be worse – that you can either live a life of discontent, wishing and wonder what ‘could have been’, or you can die trying. It’s a very ‘extreme’ way of putting things, but it makes perfect sense. It makes those obstacles seem so much less significant.

We can all take a page out of Colin’s book.

Because things could be worse. There are a LOT of people that are in a situation right now that’s 1000% times worse than you and I.

If you’re reading this – you’re privileged in ways that you probably can’t fully comprehend (I know I don’t). You have opportunities ahead of you that other people would KILL for.

So think about it. What if you quit, move, and try something new? What if you fail? What if you succeed?

Maybe it’s time to take your own leap of faith…what’s the worst that could happen?

(Image c/o McFull)

Join the conversation! 34 Comments

  1. It's great to be reminded about the “worst case scenario” strategy for facing fear – usually it just uncovers a bunch of baseless worrying. Thanks for the reminder, it's what I needed tonight!

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  2. When you said “tonight” I had to look at my watch to make sure the entire day didn't pass me by already (forgot your on the other side of the world!) Overcoming our own fear and self-doubt is by far the most difficult thing we'll ever have to do. The mind has a funny way of convincing us that things are a lot more serious than they ACTUALLY are, eh?

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  3. I find that simple question, “What's the worst that could happen?” to be SO powerful, especially when taking a leap into the unknown. There have been so many things I've been too afraid of my whole life and this year is all about tackling them – and every time I get scared or try to talk myself out of it, I ask myself that question. What's the worst that could happen? And it always makes everything seem not so bad after all. :)

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  4. Yep…not always easy to ask yourself that question though, is it? We don't want to think about the worst, we want to focus on the best- nothing wrong with that – but embracing the potential worst case scenario is SO freeing – once you rationalize the potential worst case scenario, odds are your fears will subside because you're able to come to the realization that the 'worst' really isn't that bad, after all…and, as Colin threw at me yesterday, the absolute WORST is that you die trying – yeah that would kind of suck, but at least you'd have the comfort of knowing you gave it your all, right?

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  5. Glad you were as inspired as I was by meeting #the3some Matt.

    So many good ideas here, the big thing is – things could be a lot, lot worse. Enjoy life now.

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  6. Yeah buddy – good times were had by all, totally random, but I wouldn't have had it any other way and I'd expect nothing less from the three of them.

    Life is good – of course I'm stressed sometimes (more often than I should be) and think things are much worse than they actually are – so this 'embracing the worst case scenario' is a work in progress for me – I've by no means mastered the art of 'letting things roll off' but I'm getting there! Cheers!

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  7. A very Klingon mindset. I love it. :)

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  8. Haha YES! We've got a 'Klingon' reference and it's not even 9AM!

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  9. Crazy thing! I do this all the time! It really helps me deal with stress and really focus. I believe that when you make peace with the worst possible outcome you can focus on the problem and solve it.
    I am glad to read that other people thing like that too and I'm not crazy :)
    Awesome post!

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  10. Thanks Eliska…if you don't mind me asking, what steps do you go through when your coming to terms with the worst case scenario. Do you think about it? Write it out? Talk with others about it? I think that the biggest obstacle for many is defining and/or coming to terms with what that worst-case scenario really is…so it might help for others to hear how you deal with the stress…

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  11. Matt,

    This is a really interesting post. Cool that you got to hang with Colin. He's definitely a really interesting guy as I spent some time with him here in LA before the road trip started. Having actually lived the worst case scenario:

    -Running COMPLETELY out of money
    -moving back to my parents house (at age 31)
    -Getting an allowance

    I actually am grateful for the experience. Here's the thing. When you hit rock bottom, there's nowhere to go but up. You also have absolutely nothing to lose so bigger risks are just natural. If we end up somewhere in between it's likely we'll end up in our comfort zone and we don't push the limits of what's possible.

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  12. You are right, it could be worse – people (myself included) always forget about that.
    Our lifetime is soo limited, why waste it with worrying ?
    Just go out and get the things done, and if you fail, then change your approach.

    There's always a way !

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  13. I've been through similar things through this past year – quitting a job and moving here with less than $2,000 to my name, living in my in-laws basement, scrambling for work, finding a job, getting fired from said job, starting my own business, and here I am, one year later, with so much more (more means a lot of different things) under my belt than where I was only a year ago.

    As you said – at the bottom there is NOWHERE to go but up – I think a lot of folks never experience that 'rock bottom' point in their life or career path, so they fear it more than they should, because it's 'unknown' – You and I have been there, so it empowers us to do what we're doing moving forward. I'm not saying everyone needs to experience 'rock bottom' – but at least understanding and embracing what that could potentially be is SO important to getting where you want to go.

    I'll be sort of (not really) out your way in Palo Alto come October…you should just make the trip up! One of these days we'll get together and have a lot of good stuff to chat about, Srini.

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  14. What's the worst that could happen?

    - I fail and can't pay for childcare for my kids, so I *have to* stay home with them :)

    Luckily my wife has a job (though never 100% sure, since she's a music teacher and school boards are all about cutting the arts these days).

    Absolute worst case, I move my fam in with my parents, who would love to have their grandkids around.

    Not too bad.

    For me it's more about my wife's mentality toward striking out on my own, fulfilling her need for a sense of security.

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  15. It's easy to forget, I always forget – the mind has a way of making perception and reality. Perception is usually that the worst case scenario is a LOT worse than it is in reality, eh? Cheers buddy!

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  16. Once again a post of yours speaks to what I'm thinking. The pull to go out on my own has been getting stronger and stronger lately. I don't fear failure.
    What I don't mind saying is that I fear being able to find those who will jump on board and trust my work and creative mind.
    I'd be intrigued to hear from those who have families (with and without kids), how they've taken a risk.
    Thanks for continuing to provide thoughtful, inspiring words. Hope to talk more soon!

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  17. This is a lesson that I have learned over and over (and been trying to share over on my blog) for a while now. Perspective is SO important! There are very few situations where it absolutely couldn't be worse, so if nothing else, appreciate that what's happening isn't the worst possible thing. We worry so much about what could happen that we waste valuable time and energy. If we go for something and it doesn't work out, so what? At least we'll know we tried our hardest. Thanks for this reminder!

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  18. I've unfortunately spent the last week worrying about what I don't have. I needed to read this. Thanks again!

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  19. This is an excellent reminder! Every time I have embarked on some adventure, There was always a lull, a time when things were not quite right, but every time, they smoothed out, I adjusted and life was good again.

    We do have it good and anyone breathing and able to think has got to know that they have a chance!

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  20. You've done the hard part – determining what that worst-case-scenario is…mine is pretty similar (minus the kids), moving back home, working a less-than-stellar job. Yeah, it's not exactly my dream, but it's no exactly the sign of an epic failure either. When you rationalize it, as you have, the worst doesn't sound too bad…

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  21. You're not afraid of failing – that's saying a lot my friend. Most are terrified of it, I'm still pretty scared myself, not gonna' lie. I overwork the hell out of myself because I'm afraid things will dry up…but I have to tell myself that if I constantly think that way, I'm going to run myself ragged – I have to relax a bit and take things as they come. Life doesn't have to always be driven at 100mph. Going the speed limit IS ok.

    Mind if I ask where your fear of others 'jumping on board' comes from? What are you worried about in that sense? What kind of ideas are we talking about here? I'm no therapist (and I'm not trying to be) but I think there's a good conversation to be had here…

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  22. De nada. I needed this reminder myself yesterday – so kudos to Colin and the crew for providing me with a little much needed perspective. Everyone commenting here has it pretty good – maybe not ideal, but if you're here at all, you have a huge step up on the ladder from A LOT of people…easy to forget, important to remember. Thanks for coming by, Sam.

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  23. No problem Nicole – and if you ever want to chat about things, you know how to reach me :)

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  24. Everything in life has peaks and valleys, right? That's why I'm (admittedly) overworking myself right now, things are at a peak, but I have no doubt there will be valleys ahead – rather than fearing them, I choose to prepare for them and embrace the fact that things will always be up and down…Cheers!

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  25. Reminds me of a line from a Shania Twain song, “Up”: “It can only go up from here.”

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  26. Always a good question to ask buddy… Likewise, my favorite speech is from Steve Jobs where he says:

    “Rmembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrasment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the only way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

    Here is the video: http://blog.shanemac.me/steve-jobs-talking-to-c

    Rock on buddy.

    -Shane Mac

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  27. Just sent you a DM via Twitter. I'd love to expand on this conversation!

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  28. Good stuff man – saw this speech myself recently and loved it. Thanks for coming by Shane.

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  29. This is great! I just had the same convo with my husband and came to the conclusion that the absolute worst thing that could happen if I quit my job and go out on my own would be that a) he also loses his job and then b) we're forced to move in with either his parents (who live in the same city as us) or my parents (who live in another state). Really not a terrible scenario either way. Sometimes we all get so paralyzed by the fear of uncertainty that it's easy to just assume the worst and never do anything. I think by actually visualizing what your absolute “plan z” is helps to put your whole life back into focus. Thanks for the reminder!

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  30. Oh man, that was a fun time, Matt! Definitely the “No Cock!” bursts on the neighborhood playground was one of the amusing highlights of the afternoon. You just never know what to expect! After all, you could be dead. Might as well laugh and have fun while we're still here!

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  31. [...] you’re over-exaggerating the consequences of whatever risk you’re planning on taking [Matt Chevy wrote a great article on this yesterday]. You can combat this by doing a quick risk analysis on anything you want to do. A risk analysis [...]

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  32. We're fortunate to have a plan Z that isn't so bad…I'm sure there are some reading this who may not have family to move back home with…so maybe you don't have that – maybe you lose your job and have to wait tables to pay the bills – I'm speaking hypothetically but, the point is, your worst probably isn't nearly as bad as you're telling yourself it is. I needed that reminder this week and am happy to pass along that reminder to everyone here. Cheers!

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  33. Haha yes! I wouldn't have had our little gathering any other way (maybe a beer instead of a chocolate smoothie, haha) but I'd expect nothing less from those three amigos. Here's to enjoying, or trying to enjoy every moment we have here because someday, for each of us, it IS going to end (talk about an ultimatum).. :)

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  34. Leap … done. hey that was fun!

    Reply

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About Matt Cheuvront

I empower folks to do the work they want to do and live the life they want to live. Connect on Twitter or check out the work I'm doing at Proof.

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