The F-Word Everyone’s Scared Of

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?” —Seneca, philosopher

I grew up in an environment where it was the norm for people to complain about their jobs, their financial situations, their lives and everything in between.  In New York City, it’s almost a status symbol: the more stressful and time-consuming your job is, the more important you appear to others.  I was no less guilty of this when I was working from 7am to midnight at night as a senior analyst at one of the biggest, baddest companies in all the land. When I first started dating my now husband, I would get home late at night, call him up while he was sleeping and complain about how much my boss, clients, projects sucked.  He would reply that he’s been home since 5:30pm and watched several episodes of his favorite tv show, cooked dinner, and caught up on college football news. Clearly, his job was not as important as mine, I thought.

After we got married, and I had switched to two other companies after that, nothing changed in my demeanor.  Same crying and whining, different employers.  It came to the point I made myself so sick, I landed in the emergency room and running up $20,000 worth of medical bills.  He finally asked me if I hated it so much, why not quit?  He would be able to take care of us for the time being and give me some time to think about what I want to do. I think more importantly, he wanted to see me healthy and happy.  I made every excuse I could think of, but when it came down it, one thing was clear.  I was just freaking scared shitless.

Scared of what exactly?  I’m not sure.  What my parents might say?  Being broke? Being homeless?  Who knows.  But I was really effing terrified.  It took a leap of faith and finally deciding to pave a way of change to get out of the cyclical misery I put myself through.

I read this excerpt from The 4-Hour Workweek and found that Tim Ferriss was able to articulate something that I have been trying to articulate to others forever now, but not as eloquently.  It’s about that terrible F-word, FEAR and defining what that is.

…I realized it wouldn’t be that hard to get back to where I was, let alone survive.  None of these things would be fatal-not even close.  Mere panty pinches on the journey of life.

I realized that on a scale of 1-10, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4.  I believe this is true of most people…Keep in mind that this is the one-in-a-million disaster nightmares.  On the other hand, if I realized my best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario, it would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect.

In other words, I was risking an unlikely and temporary 3 or 4 for a probable and permanent 9 or 10, and I could easily recover baseline workaholic prison with a bit of extra work If I wanted to.  This all equated to a significant realization: There was practically no risk, only huge life-changing upside potential, and I could resume my previous course without any more effort than i was already putting forth.

And that is what we did almost exactly one year ago, when we decided we would take the risk of roughing it for a bit in order to set our sights on bigger and better things.  And the funny thing is, we never saw that 3 or 4 and have only seen increases in our quality of life and our happiness.  That nightmare never even came close to coming true.  Not yet, anyway.  But even if it does, that F-word is not going to get me again.

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