Why are we so afraid of failure and settle for safety more than we’d like?


Recently a friend was over and told me he bought one (okay, 0,85) Bitcoin. He said he was fully aware he could lose money but he wanted to try this for 2 years and now it seems the time has come – and he bought it.

I’m mildly interested in the whole thing – and I did not buy one (or 0,01) Bitcoin. One of the reasons is that I (really) don’t like to lose money. This year I lost on a business venture 700 euros. (Although I’m not sure lost is a good word – as the whole thing created value just didn’t bring money). At the same time from my main income source I earned about 35% more than I expected before. Way more than 700 euro.
Still, losing 700 euros hurts me. Earning much more unexpectedly doesn’t make me particularly happy (it does a bit, though). I think sometimes about losing 700 but I don’t think about earning thousands more.

So I started to think a bit: why is it that we take failure so seriously?

Then the obvious answer occurred to me: because one failure is enough to have it all gone.
– Imagine you’re the best hunter of the world but you miss a shot – and get eaten by a lion.
– Or you always keep your anger at bay. Except once. And you spend the next 20 years in prison.
– You’re a really faithful partner – except once a year, when you fail to be that – and it ruins your relationship.
– you never drink and drive – except this one time when you kill yourself another 5 innocent people.
– etc.

It’s more important not to be unsuccessful than to be successful. (I read this somewhere, didn’t make it up.)

In our culture, where everyone aspires to be a magnate, celebrity, a really impactful person – with a perfect body and a huge TV at home, we must stress statistical bias: out of 10 Donald Trumps one become a billionaire and a US president, 3 die poor and sad and the rest end up being (relatively) average Donalds. With one of them eating 10 times a week in McDonald’s. (Sorry.)

I had a time in my life when I lived relatively dangerously. A bit more than usual alcohol, bicycling and little-to-no safety standards. I had two minor accidents. I didn’t keep it safe: and it allowed me to eliminate plenty of fear. But statistically, one-to-three out of 10 Daniels in parallel universes live with a serious injury or worse now.

Don’t get me wrong though: I’m still telling you to invest. I’m still pushing you to challenge yourself, push your boundaries and try certain new things.

1, understand why you (and everyone else) is so afraid of failure.
2, understand that many of your primal fears are not valid any more. You can stop caring about others’ opinions. Much more than 100, 200, 500, 10.000 years ago.
3, money is very different from health, relationship and the rest. You can lose money and not feel bad about it. It’s just a number, changing. Investments fail – even for the best investors. And it’s all right – as long as you don’t lose too much. (Buy 0,055 Bitcoin for 100 euro – and get done with it right away. It’s a way better strategy than always bitching about not being at the right moment at the right time.)
4, don’t worry to take any risks that don’t have long term negative effects. Tell your opinion to your friends. Wear that dress once. Publish that article. Go for that travel. Try to take that cool job. And make a rational, not an emotional distinction between what you should and should not be afraid of…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s