5am. I haven’t opened my eyes yet. Please God, if you are a good and decent god, make sure that when I open my eyes that Claudia is not in the bed next to me. I want her DOWNSTAIRS and making my coffee. This second. I don't care that she has Lyme Disease. Thank you God. In exchange, I will…I don’t know. We’ll work it out after my coffee. I'll make it good for you.
But…aside from that.
When I wake up I’m usually either in one of two states: scared or angry. Who am I angry at? It’s the first thing in the morning, for god’s sake. Why would I be angry? Because I think of the people who have done crappy things to me in the past. I can make a long list. I can make a thick scroll and read it at the town square.
Which is why I have to constantly practice the “crappy people” post. I’ve gotten good at it, but It’s a constant effort. So it usually takes me a few seconds to realize that its “not useful” for me to be angry at anyone first thing in the morning. That technique works.
The next thing I deal with, and I’m not just saying this, I deal with it every day, is being scared. The media is shouting: The world is over! The debt ceiling is going to fall on us and shatter! The Europe contagion is going to spread. Swine flu will turn into dog flu will turn to cat flu and infect everyone. What if the stock market goes to ZERO? What if something happens to my kids? Or, heaven forbid, to me! What if I die of a long, lingering painful disease when I’m older. What if I make a fool of myself...again... on TV. What if someone I want to like me, doesn’t like me. What if I don’t get done anything I want to get done? What if I have nothing to say to my therapist? What if I forget to answer the right emails? What if traffic on my blog is down? What if I make lots of mistakes in a row and go broke?
Here's a big trick to help with all of the above: What if the opposite happens. What if I don't go broke? What then? What if I make all my appointments? What will I do then? As soon as I feel a fear coming on, I fight it with the opposite thought. What if I get hit by a car today? Heck, what if I don't? TRAIN yourself every day, every minute, to always ask what happens if the opposite of your fears comes true. Chances are that's the outcome you need to prepare for. Although it's an easier outcome.
Fear is a drag and it hits many of us a lot of the time:
- - It stresses you out
- - Stress causes illness and early death
- - Fear negatively affects your relationships. It’s harder for people to love someone who is constantly afraid.
- - Fear will affect your job. When I was a venture capitalist I could literally smell fear on the entrepreneurs who walked through the door and were just a bit too desperate for money.
- - You can’t have new ideas if you’re afraid. Or, at least, it’s harder.
- - You can’t be yourself. When you were a little boy or girl, you weren’t afraid all the time. It’s not the real you to be afraid. It’s the not the real you to try to control everything and everyone else all the time.
We get afraid when we make choices. What if choose the wrong job? What if I choose the wrong girl? What if I choose the wrong business to start? Or the wrong stock to buy?
Wait a second…
That’s kind of funny. I just realized. I’ve done ALL of the above. Many many times. Who knows, I might even do most of them again.
Here’s, for example 16 out of the past 17 businesses I started have failed.
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Here’s a time I had right after I separated from my ex-wife.
I’ve made wrong choices with my kids.
I’ve made many wrong choices as an entrepreneur.
I’ve been embarrassed many times. Like at dinners where I said the wrong thing and everyone ended up disliking me. Or at parties where I maybe had a bit too much to drink. Or if I lent the wrong person money. Holy…I’ve made the wrong choices almost every single day of my life. What the heck happened?
And yet here I am. This moment I’m pretty happy. After all of that. All of that pain, fear, agony, crying, desperation, futility, embarrassment, shame – here I am writing to you. It’s not like I’m a super success. Mark Cuban is more successful than me. A lot of people are. Maybe most people are. It doesn’t matter.
But I’m here writing to you. Right now. All of those thousand choices that didn’t work out, didn’t matter after all. I’m right where I want to be. I even had to make Claudia HER coffee this morning. So God, that means the deal is OFF!
Does that mean no choice matters? Of course not. Don’t kill people if you can avoid it. Try not to harm people at all in fact. Then do the best you can to be happier. When you’re afraid, it’s harder to do the activities that will increase happiness: the Daily Practice, for instance, that I’ve outlined, is hard to do when you're afraid. Or the Nine Ways to Be More Creative.
The key is: everytime a fear comes up, TRAIN YOURSELF to immediately ask the opposite: what if it doesn't happen? Because 99% chance it won't. And then you can know that when it’s all said and done, maybe you’ll be sitting down at your computer. With a cup of coffee next to you. Writing to me.
Or something like that.
See Also, NINE WAYS TO FIGHT THE FEAR
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