When I was a pudgy 16-year-old I told my girlfriend that I would win a fight against this 6f10” athlete we both knew. I was completely un-self-aware of my weaknesses and full of entirely misplaced confidence. I thought I was the best and could do anything.
As I’ve gotten older I have become a little bit more sensible and a lot more conscious of my faults. But I have also got a lot more fearful.
Things that used to be exciting and easy now make me nervous. For instance driving. When I turned 17 I was so excited about learning to drive I couldn’t wait to start. I assumed I’d be great at it and very soon I was whizzing around music blasting terrifying my passengers. There was absolutely zero fear of crashing or breaking down or not knowing what I was doing.
But I haven’t driven in a few years and last month bought myself a car. My first drive in it was terrifying. I felt more nervous than I ever did before my first driving lesson.
Writing this blog is another example. When I started I didn’t know many other bloggers, I didn’t know how much competition there was and I didn’t know just how good quality the content out there already was.
I assumed I could make it work and that I’d learn how to be a good writer in the process. But now I know what I was up against! And even though this blog has become much more successful than I ever expected, I now get worried that my content isn’t good enough. And so my draft folder grows and more and more posts get thrown out for “not being good enough” or for “risking upsetting a few people”.
When I was broke, I didn’t fear being broke. Now I have money I fear losing it.
I’ve always known that there is a power to naivety. I would have started none of my businesses if I knew just how much work was involved. But I always thought that the flip-side of naive confidence was a sensible confidence. What I actually found was fear disguised as wisdom and self-awareness.
Unfortunately, I am never going to be that naive 17-year-old again. But perhaps I can cultivate some of his better traits. I have written before about how I regularly put myself in situations out of my comfort zone. That definitely helps and improves my ability and confidence at handling unexpected situations.
But that’s not the whole answer. So recently I have been trying something new. I have been purposely choosing not to deeply research stuff and not learn about what can go wrong. I am choosing ignorance.
Let me explain. When I travel to a new country I actively avoid looking up safety tips or the scams to watch out for. I have been scammed and I have had bad things happen. But every single time I have managed to deal with and it has helped me grow as a person. I’ve also had amazing things happen and met crazy brilliant people who I would never have if I was worried and playing it safe.
When I mull over a new business idea I spend a lot of time researching it and thinking about how I can make it work. But I’ll actively avoid looking into how much legal red-tape there is, or how competitive the competition is, or how many people have failed trying out a similar idea.
I really don’t need more excuses not to take action. Once I dive in I’ll quickly discover just how difficult it really is, but by then it’ll be too late. I’ll be committed, and I’ll make it work.
Because I’m a maths geek I’ll turn it into an equation. The sum benefit to my life of all the unexpected stuff (both good and bad) happening from my naivety would far outweigh the stress of worry and the gains from playing it safe and being sensible.
I’m not saying that ignoring safety and common sense is the perfect answer. Speeding or drinking and driving is obviously the wrong thing to do, especially as it puts other people in danger as much as me. But there’s a balance that I am trying to work out.
My most popular blog post is about starting an Amazon FBA business. And the most common email I get goes something like this:
I have been researching starting an Amazon FBA business for the last 18 months. But I’m worried that [Amazon might close my account]/[my supplier might rip me off]/[the ship with my stock on it will sink]/[that I might be doing some of the legal stuff wrong]/[the quote I’ve got is too expensive].
Dude. Stop researching it and give it a go. If you started 18-months ago you would have made mistakes, but you’d also know the answers to all those questions you’re asking and have an Amazon FBA business.
Being naive. Saying yes to scary things. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. These are all things I am working at.