Don’t Let Fear Make Decisions

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A little over four months ago, I left a comfortable, well-paying job that I was quite competent in doing, for the unpredictable, self-employed route of professional blogger. Professional blogging is a lot like many professional sports, you have a handful of rockstar performers getting a ton of headlines, a ton of money and you have the rest squeaking by. Check out this Fortune piece, dated 1998, on #100 ranked tennis player Jack Waite. He’s the 100th best tennis player in the world and his take home page, after expenses and taxes, was less than three thousand dollars. That’s rough.

So, was I destined to be a rockstar or would I be content as one of the rest? I, of course, thought I was going to be a rockstar. As my wife says jokingly, and often, I probably would do well to sell off some of my self-confidence (she used another word) for my sake and hers. Despite the long odds, I left my job, and the predictability and the comfort, and haven’t looked back. When I left, I was scared. I was really really really scared.

To give you an idea of how scared, it was a lot like when I climbed up the two and a half story ladder to inspect our roof after it was replaced. In the case of the roof, I really had no choice. There’s no way in the world we were going to spend four grand on a roof and not inspect it with our own eyes (I did and the roof was as expected) but in climbing up that roof I learned one thing: things are never as bad as you think they are. As I climbed the ladder, I quickly realized that the most unstable point was about the middle. Once I got past the middle, the roof helped stabilize the ladder and it stopped bowing and shaking as much. Fear sharpened my senses, made me more cautious, but it didn’t change my decision. That’s what fear should do.

So, here I was leaving a job that I liked in order to do a job that I also liked, but one that lacked as much predictability and comfortability, if that’s a word (it’s not). I was so afraid of pulling the trigger, despite all the signs saying it could be possible, that I just put off thinking about leaving for at least six months. My wife and I talked about it off and on and she was supportive, but it took an epiphany before I could think about it rationally.

I realized I was more afraid of working the next forty years of my life and wondering “what if?” than I was of blogging full-time and failing. Then I used my fear of failure to hone in on a plan that would, at the very least, give me confidence that everything is progressing as it should be.

So how are things four months later? I love it but it’s still scary. There’s a certain bit of comfort in taking direction from someone else. If your boss tells you to do this and it’s the wrong thing (wrong as in bad decision, not ethically wrong), then the responsibility and the blame falls on your boss’ shoulders. If you are the boss, the burden is on you not to mention the burden of figuring out what it is you’re supposed to do. That freedom is very exciting but also very demanding.

I’d also like to thank all the folks who read this site regularly. It is because of you that I was even able to have a decision four months ago and you all keep me honest. Much thanks. Please continue to email me with comments, questions, sites you’ve found interesting, articles you thought I should check out, anything in the world, I’ll read it and try to get back to you.

So moral of the story, fear isn’t a reason not to do something or not to consider something. This blogging thing may not work out in the end but at least I’ll have tried, right?

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “Don’t Let Fear Make Decisions”

  1. James says:

    awesome post. No one ever became great by letting fear control their lives.

  2. Go for it Dude, and don’t look back. Regret nothing. You should be very proud of your decision. Keep it up and good luck.

  3. Amen brother! Not to get all sappy, but that’s the beauty of America – you have endless opportunities! (*tear)

  4. savvy says:

    Great post. .I still haven’t reached the point where I’ve lost the fear of changing careers. However, I do make a concerted effort to conquer other fears.

  5. As Steve Pavlina says “Whatever you fear, you must face”. It’s good that you took the route. I took a similar route (not a problogger, but left a job) 5 years ago and besides the many hard moments I don’t regret.

  6. Ben says:

    Jim, I admire you for taking the leap. You’re a great example for the rest of us cubicle dwellers!

  7. Christian PF says:

    Go for it!! I just left the corporate world too for web-work. It is scary but I really believe it is going to pay off handsomely!! Fear is given way to much respect!

  8. M says:

    I just quit my job of the last 5+ years for the same reason. The thought of going through one more project was worse than going onto something new. That doesn’t mean that my current directionless state is any less scary though. Thanks for the reaffirming and hopeful article.

  9. Emily says:

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for sharing with us your story!

    Recently, I face the same situation you had four months ago! Instead of me quitting the job and becoming a full-time blogger, my newly wedded husband wants to follow his dream to be a professional blogger! Your feedback on this will be highly appreciated!


  10. roger warde says:

    Be careful where you practice the “don’t be afraid to get towed” theorem. In places like NYC a ticket and tow can run close to $400. I had a friend with a commercial vehicle get towed on Water Street in downtown Manhattan and he was towed with one of the larger tow trucks and his bill came out to nearly $800.

  11. Kara Mellett says:

    Hey Jim,

    Wow, powerful story.

    Recently, I just experienced a similar situation. I do think that the themes you have hit on keep people from making the plunge into things they really love. The unpredictability and uncertainty of the unknown are major detractors to long-term happiness.

    And, I totally agree… at least you tried – no matter what.


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