Why you should define your fears instead of your goals | Tim Ferriss
Why you should define your fears instead of your goals | Tim Ferriss
Note* If you need to find something in the video you missed or remembered, you can search for key terms down below by: Control + F Windows and Command + F Mac.
When commenting* Collaborating is amazing. Critical feedback is welcome. I am keeping it Good Vibes Only anything else will be deleted. Share The Love. No spam or personal branding!!!! Thank you. Let’s make some new ideas and have fun:)]
So, this happy pic of me was taken in 1999.
I was a senior in college,
and it was right after a dance practice.
I was really, really happy.
And I remember exactly where I was about a week and a half later.
I was sitting in the back of my used minivan
I was going to commit suicide.
I went from deciding to full-blown planning very quickly.
And I came this close to the edge of the precipice.
It’s the closest I’ve ever come.
And the only reason I took my finger off the trigger
was thanks to a few lucky coincidences.
that’s what scared me the most: the element of chance.
So I became very methodical about testing different ways
that I could manage my ups and downs,
which has proven to be a good investment. (Laughs)
Many normal people might have, say, six to 10 major depressive episodes
I have bipolar depression. It runs in my family.
I’ve had 50-plus at this point,
I’ve had a lot of at-bats,
many rounds in the ring with darkness,
So I thought rather than get up and give any type of recipe for success
I would share my recipe for avoiding self-destruction,
and certainly self-paralysis.
And the tool I’ve found which has proven to be the most reliable safety net
is actually the same tool
that has helped me to make my best business decisions.
You might think of Spock,
or it might conjure and image like this —
a cow standing in the rain.
It’s not sad. It’s not particularly happy.
It’s just an impassive creature taking whatever life sends its way.
You might not think of the ultimate competitor, say, Bill Belichick,
head coach of the New England Patriots,
who has the all-time NFL record for Super Bowl titles.
And stoicism has spread like wildfire in the top of the NFL ranks
as a means of mental toughness training in the last few years.
You might not think of the Founding Fathers —
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington
to name but three students of stoicism.
George Washington actually had a play about a Stoic —
this was “Cato, a Tragedy” —
performed for his troops at Valley Forge to keep them motivated.
So why would people of action focus so much on an ancient philosophy?
This seems very academic.
I would encourage you to think about stoicism a little bit differently,
as an operating system for thriving in high-stress environments,
for making better decisions.
So around 300 BC in Athens,
someone named Zeno of Citium taught many lectures
walking around a painted porch, a “stoa.”
That later became “stoicism.”
And in the Greco-Roman world,
people used stoicism as a comprehensive system
for doing many, many things.
But for our purposes, chief among them was training yourself
to separate what you can control from what you cannot control,
and then doing exercises to focus exclusively
This decreases emotional reactivity,
which can be a superpower.
Conversely, let’s say you’re a quarterback.
You miss a pass. You get furious with yourself.
That could cost you a game.
If you’re a CEO, and you fly off the handle at a very valued employee
because of a minor infraction,
that could cost you the employee.
If you’re a college student who, say, is in a downward spiral,
and you feel helpless and hopeless,
unabated, that could cost you your life.
So the stakes are very, very high.
And there are many tools in the toolkit to get you there.
I’m going to focus on one that completely changed my life in 2004.
It found me then because of two things:
a very close friend, young guy, my age, died of pancreatic cancer unexpectedly,
and then my girlfriend, who I thought I was going to marry, walked out.
She’d had enough, and she didn’t give me a Dear John letter,
but she did give me this,
I’m not making this up. I’ve kept it.
“Business hours are over at five o’clock.”
She gave this to me to put on my desk for personal health,
because at the time, I was working on my first real business.
I had no idea what I was doing. I was working 14-plus hour days,
I was using stimulants to get going.
I was using depressants to wind down and go to sleep.
I felt completely trapped.
I bought a book on simplicity to try to find answers.
And I did find a quote that made a big difference in my life,
which was, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality,”
who was a famous Stoic writer.
That took me to his letters,
which took me to the exercise,
which means the pre-meditation of evils.
this is visualizing the worst-case scenarios, in detail, that you fear,
preventing you from taking action,
so that you can take action to overcome that paralysis.
My problem was monkey mind — super loud, very incessant.
Just thinking my way through problems doesn’t work.
I needed to capture my thoughts on paper.
So I created a written exercise
that I called “fear-setting,” like goal-setting,
It consists of three pages.
The first page is right here.
This is whatever you fear,
whatever is causing you anxiety,
whatever you’re putting off.
It could be asking someone out,
asking for a promotion, quitting a job, starting a company.
For me, it was taking my first vacation in four years
and stepping away from my business for a month to go to London,
where I could stay in a friend’s room for free,
to either remove myself as a bottleneck in the business
In the first column, “Define,”
you’re writing down all of the worst things you can imagine happening
I won’t go through all of them, but I’ll give you two examples.
One was, I’ll go to London, it’ll be rainy, I’ll get depressed,
the whole thing will be a huge waste of time.
Number two, I’ll miss a letter from the IRS,
or raided or shut down or some such.
And then you go to the “Prevent” column.
In that column, you write down the answer to:
What could I do to prevent each of these bullets from happening,
or, at the very least, decrease the likelihood even a little bit?
So for getting depressed in London,
I could take a portable blue light with me
and use it for 15 minutes in the morning.
I knew that helped stave off depressive episodes.
For the IRS bit, I could change the mailing address on file with the IRS
so the paperwork would go to my accountant
instead of to my UPS address.
So if the worst-case scenarios happen,
what could you do to repair the damage even a little bit,
or who could you ask for help?
So in the first case, London,
well, I could fork over some money, fly to Spain, get some sun —
undo the damage, if I got into a funk.
In the case of missing a letter from the IRS,
I could call a friend who is a lawyer
or ask, say, a professor of law
what they would recommend,
who I should talk to, how had people handled this in the past.
So one question to keep in mind as you’re doing this first page is:
Has anyone else in the history of time
less intelligent or less driven
Chances are, the answer is “Yes.”
The second page is simple:
What might be the benefits of an attempt or a partial success?
You can see we’re playing up the fears
and really taking a conservative look at the upside.
So if you attempted whatever you’re considering,
might you build confidence, develop skills,
emotionally, financially, otherwise?
What might be the benefits of, say, a base hit?
Spend 10 to 15 minutes on this.
This might be the most important, so don’t skip it:
Humans are very good at considering what might go wrong
if we try something new, say, ask for a raise.
What we don’t often consider is the atrocious cost of the status quo —
So you should ask yourself,
if I avoid this action or decision
and actions and decisions like it,
what might my life look like in, say, six months, 12 months, three years?
Any further out, it starts to seem intangible.
And really get detailed — again, emotionally, financially,
And when I did this, it painted a terrifying picture.
my business was going to implode at any moment at all times,
My relationships were fraying or failing.
And I realized that inaction was no longer an option for me.
Those are the three pages. That’s it. That’s fear-setting.
And after this, I realized that on a scale of one to 10,
one being minimal impact, 10 being maximal impact,
if I took the trip, I was risking
a one to three of temporary and reversible pain
for an eight to 10 of positive, life-changing impact
that could be a semi-permanent.
None of the disasters came to pass.
There were some hiccups, sure.
I was able to extricate myself from the business.
I ended up extending that trip for a year and a half around the world,
and that became the basis for my first book,
that leads me here today.
And I can trace all of my biggest wins
and all of my biggest disasters averted
back to doing fear-setting
You’ll find that some of your fears are very well-founded.
But you shouldn’t conclude that
without first putting them under a microscope.
And it doesn’t make all the hard times, the hard choices, easy,
but it can make a lot of them easier.
I’d like to close with a profile of one of my favorite modern-day Stoics.
He is a four-time world champion in Olympic weightlifting,
He can still kick my ass and probably most asses in this room.
I spent a lot of time on his stoa, his porch,
asking life and training advice.
He was part of the Solidarity in Poland,
which was a nonviolent movement for social change
that was violently suppressed by the government.
He lost his career as a firefighter.
Then his mentor, a priest, was kidnapped, tortured, killed
He and his wife had to flee Poland, bounce from country to country
until they landed in the US with next to nothing,
He now lives in Woodside, California, in a very nice place,
and of the 10,000-plus people I’ve met in my life,
I would put him in the top 10,
in terms of success and happiness.
And there’s a punchline coming, so pay attention.
I sent him a text a few weeks ago,
asking him: Had he ever read any Stoic philosophy?
And he replied with two pages of text.
This is very unlike him. He is a terse dude.
And not only was he familiar with stoicism,
but he pointed out, for all of his most important decisions,
when he stood up for his principles and ethics,
how he had used stoicism and something akin to fear-setting,
And he closed with two things.
Number one: he couldn’t imagine any life more beautiful
And the last was his mantra, which he applies to everything,
and you can apply to everything:
“Easy choices, hard life.
Hard choices, easy life.”
what we most fear doing, asking, saying —
these are very often exactly what we most need to do.
And the biggest challenges and problems we face
will never be solved with comfortable conversations,
whether it’s in your own head or with other people.
So I encourage you to ask yourselves:
Where in your lives right now
might defining your fears be more important than defining your goals?
Keeping in mind all the while, the words of Seneca:
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”