August 2008
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On risk, and the fear thereof….

I am going to address something I read in an online forum this morning. It was written by someone who read through my blog and posted a comment on it. I write this not as a slam on him/her, but because until quite recently, I thought the same thing.

The comment that the poster made (in part) was this “I’m risk averse, so quitting my job to do something harebrained is not an option for me.”

In response I said that “I am still at my job, but I am laying a foundation for my transition. By leveraging technology, it is easy to test the waters with minimal investment of time and money.”

But let me take this a step further…I ask you (the reader), in general, what is the absolute worst that can happen to you if things ever go wrong…seriously?

I have given this a lot of thought and I have come up with two core worst case scenarios:

Scenario #1: You are somehow incapacitated (medical issue, injury, accident, etc…) and cannot physically do anything.

Scenario #2: You are reasonably healthy, but BAD happens to you. I mean Job Bad, Country Song Bad (lose the wife, the kids, the trailer, the pickup, and yes, the dog).

In Scenario 1, this can happen to you regardless of income level, social status, or career aspirations. It sucks, but it happens every day and there is little you can do to prevent it. The fickle finger of fate is giving you the bird…But on the plus side, they have this handy little thing called insurance. I have mitigated this risk to the best of my ability by investing in short and long term disability insurance.

In Scenario 2, in the extreme form, I am homeless, penniless, alone.

But I am breathing, and I have a functional brain and two relatively strong hands. I will do what anyone does in a survival situation. I will take stock of my assets – physical and mental, and I will put them to work in best way I can to survive. Yes, it will be hard; yes it will be very painful. I will shake my fist at God and say “Why Me?”, but I will endure; just as humanity has done for thousands of years; just as people now are now surviving day to day. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

I approach Scenario 2 as the ultimate do-over, with the added benefit of life experience. In my younger days, I have waited tables, washed dishes, stocked inventory in a department store, and tutored in math and computer science. I have torn down both of our bathrooms (one literally down to the subfloor) and restored them nice and pretty. You cannot tell me that a person does not have at least one skill (other than their current occupation) that they can rely on if the s**t ever hit the fan.

Do this now, go to Google, and enter the following “+Skype +English” without the quotes (or Spanish, or Italian, or whatever your native language is).  There are people who will teach a language, or translate over the Internet full time or in their spare time, all you need is a computer (If you are reading this, I assume that you have one), Skype (free), an email address (free), and a paypal account (free). Opportunity is all around us if we open our eyes to it.

In addition to skills, what about a social network? What about friends, immediate family, church groups, charities? Yes, they exist in this day and age, but few people are truly hermits.

In my heart, I believe that at our core, we are a self reliant people. It is in our DNA. Not to wax on patriotic, but it is a lot of what makes us the envy of other countries. We seem to be at our best, when things are at their very worst.

So all that is left is the fear of risk, but let me ask you, what in life that is worthwhile has not come without risk (and overcoming the fear of it)? How did you feel when you proposed to your spouse (or when they proposed to you?) How did you feel when you sat down at the closing table to basically sign away your life to the bank to get your house? How did you feel in the job interview? Ok, so maybe you are reading this single, renting and jobless, but you get my point.

Ok this has gone way longer than I intended, and I am sure I am going to get a lot of comments, pro and con to my point of view (which I welcome!). The point of my post is this, once you see that it truly takes a lot to totally mess up your life, and if you shed that fear, it is a truly liberating experience.

I am not saying if you are unhappy at your job, jump ship immediately without a Plan B. What I am saying is that there is always a Plan B, and a Plan C, and a Plan D ad infinitum, and there always will be.


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