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How to stop fear from driving your decision-making process

At its worst, fear can be debilitating. At its best, it can be a powerful signal that lead to better decisions.

How to stop fear from driving your decision-making process
[Photo: amygdala_imagery/Getty Images]

When I turned down a role at McKinsey & Company to start Flyhomes with my cofounder Steve Lane, I confronted a looming fear of failure. I asked myself, what if I fail as an entrepreneur and derail my career trajectory? I knew there were no guarantees.

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At the time, my wife and I had a young daughter and wanted another child (not a good time to consider a bold career move). We toiled over the decision and imagined all the worst-case scenarios, but I ultimately went for it.

This is because we were able to analyze the risk with what I now call “The Fear Less Framework.” This framework allowed me to distill my fears, and as a result, I was able to see my concern for what they are: legitimate, likely, fabled, or null. I was then able to remain true to my goals and make an objective—not a fear-driven—decision. Here are the six questions that I asked myself.

1. What are all of the potential risks of my decision?

Before starting my own company, I walked through all of the worst-case scenarios. Listing my fears helped me understand the risks of my decision and ensured that I operated without unspoken fear hiding in the shadows. In addition to my fears, I also wrote all of what I perceived to be risks with starting Flyhomes. I asked myself, what are the worst possible things that could happen? I wrote down everything I could think of, even if they were far-fetched.

I wrote, “I lose the opportunity of my dream job and fall behind in my career,” and “If I compromise my ability to keep my kids in a good school district, they won’t get the best education.” Sure, these fears are a bit of a stretch, but acknowledging even fantastical fears by bringing them into broad daylight allowed me to take away some of their power.

2. What values can I associate with those fears?

Once I had my list of fears and risks, I assigned tangible and intangible value to each item. In other words, how “okay” will I be if those scenarios occur? Can I survive them?

For example, “I’d be okay if I have to take a significant pay cut for the first three years I’m in business,” or “Being able to take at least one long vacation per year with my family is a must.” I discovered that while I was worrying about many different things at once, they all carried varying degrees of risks.

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3. Which risks can you solve for?

Of the fears included in your list, you will discover that some reveal your nonnegotiables but you can solve others. When I chose to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, my wife and I agreed that the worst thing that could happen is that we’d have to move our kids out of our home and away from a good school district. That’s a nonnegotiable for us, so we solved that problem. We had a home in a neighborhood with a good school district and decided to convert part of our home to an Airbnb to help pay the mortgage. That single solution created a tremendous amount of relief for both of us and freed me up to develop Flyhomes with Steve.

4. Now, what are all of the potential gains?

On the flip side, what is the best-case scenario? How likely is it that these best-case scenarios occur? Give yourself the freedom to imagine a glorious future, and have some fun while you’re at it. Write all the desirable outcomes that could happen if you take the risk now that you’ve processed your fears.

5. What values can I associate with those gains?

Similar to how you associated tangible and intangible value to your fears, do the same with potential gains. For example, “Building a company that has a positive impact on people’s lives is my dream,” or “I could be limitlessly happy leading my own team and helping customers find homes for their families.” The more specific, the better.

6. Lastly, have I considered the opportunity cost of my decision?

What if you don’t say “yes” to the decision you’re considering? Contemplating the opportunity cost of a decision, which is what you could miss out on, can help you figure out possible regrets.

If Steve and I didn’t start our own company, part of the opportunity cost would be forgoing the chance to help customers achieve home ownership in competitive markets and influence the careers of Flyhomes team members.

What would your world look like if you take the safer road? On the other end of the spectrum, what could it look like if you don’t?

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When you quantify risk and break down fear into manageable parts, you can release yourself of worry and execute with the best possible outcomes in mind. It’s such a better way to tap into decision-making—because whatever choice you make, you know that it’s not coming from a place of fear.


Tushar Garg is the CEO and Cofounder of Flyhomes 

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