How to Quell The Fear of What If

I’ve been following Tim Ferriss for quite some time, long enough that I don’t even remember when I read his first book, The Four Hour Work Week. All I know is that I’ve read all of his books, read a bunch of his blog posts, and listened to most of his podcast episodes.

To say that I’m a fan and student of Tim would be an understatement.

Tim and I, circa 2013

In his most recent TED Talk, Tim shared an exercise that he does at least once a quarter, sometimes once a month. He revealed the steps he took to conquer the fear that his company would implode without him working there for 14 hours a day. The fact that he was this close to committing suicide in college probably didn’t help, either.

I’ve always been consumed by my fears

I made the decision to leave a steady paycheck earlier this year. Although I didn’t go through the exact steps of fear-setting that Tim outlined in his talk, I underwent my own gut-wrenching process. I debated internally long and hard for a good two years. The debates were constant tugs-of-war in my head, pulling me between being fiscally responsible and taking a risk of living life on my terms.

I was miserable at my job, thinking about calling it quits almost everyday. But the fear of not having a paycheck dominated the misery. It was slowly taking over my life, but I knew deep down inside that I really didn’t have a choice.

I needed to step away.
Taiwan 2017

Six months into my new life, I’m still only in the beginning stages of truly learning about myself, healing mentally, and getting in better shape physically. It’s a long process. Life changing if done right. Life shattering if done wrong. Given the stakes, I’m pretty sure I prefer to do it right.

I know in my heart that I made the right move, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still fear everyday. I fear that I’m damaged goods. I fear that if I ever wanted to go back and apply for another traditional office job, this resumé gap, not to mention any Google search leading to my Medium account, would deter potential employers. I fear that every single project I work on will blow up in my face. I fear that I will drain my savings account faster than I expected. I fear that I will end up disappointing my family, not being able to provide for them as much as I used to. I fear this. I fear that. I fear everything.

Then I remember that I didn’t quit on a whim. I saved enough money for this exact purpose. I have two very employable degrees, a solid skill set, a decent network, and a loving family. I work hard every single day. I will not be starving on the street any time soon.

I take a deep breath. The fear subsides.

Until it comes back again tomorrow.

The truth is, fear never really goes away. It is deceptive. It sits in the back of my mind patiently, waiting for a chance attack at any instant, during any momentary bout of weakness. But the more I acknowledge its presence and not try to constantly fight against it, the quieter it gets.

And that’s all I can ask for.