The Bullsh*t that is Irrational Fears

TL;DR What we label as irrational fears outside of clinically-defined phobias are often grounded in reality, and are actually quite rational.

I see what’s labeled “rational” fears as ones that are preventable through doctrine or education: these aren’t necessarily “rational” fears as “preventable harm”. Since these are preventable, we can reason ourselves through scenarios.

We can learn from watching others make mistakes and avoid making the same mistakes, as the lessons are linear and transferable: hot stove burns skin, whether your skin or my skin. We can use logic or reasonable routines to overcome most of Fears of Certain Outcomes, including bracing ourselves for an airplane taking off just as the question, “Have I Turned Off The Stove” enters our minds.

(By the way, I never have the fear of forgetting to turn off stoves, because I rarely ever turn on stoves, because I don’t like/know how to cook.)

Right after I lost the thrill for Uncertain Outcomes, when the world was full of wonder and peril, and when curiosity fueled both flames of knowledge and potential for self-destruction, I developed Fear of Uncertain Outcomes.

Fears of Uncertain Outcomes are the fears that permeate my mind. For me, these are the fears that really matter, because Fears of Uncertain Outcomes are constant and are grounded in reality. In fact I think these are the true “rational” fears.

Fear of Uncertain Outcomes are labeled “irrational” fears only because we cannot prevent what we dread through education or preparation: We cannot control Fears of Uncertain Outcomes by manipulating our environment. We cannot engineer away Fears of Uncertain Outcomes by logic and reason our intellect has developed.

This is no longer “hot stove burns skin, whether your skin or my skin” — no longer “If… Then.”

This is non linear, not always correlative, too many confounding factors and spurious results.

We are entering “If… Maybe” territory.

Fears of Uncertain Outcomes come from seeing bad things happen to good people and seeing good things happen to bad people, from suspecting that no one can – or will – remember you long after you die when enough generations have passed, from wondering whether anything you do truly matters, from realizing that no matter how you hold onto “love” you may lose “love” (worse yet — lose love to heinous harm and death itself).

Fears of Uncertain Outcomes are rational exercises in futility. These fears are grounded in reality, maybe not always from immediate life experience (thank goodness) but certainly from seeing these uncertain outcomes manifest in others’ lives and in society at large.

Fears of Uncertain Outcomes have endured civilizations, evidenced by ancient and recent rituals and rites aimed to neutralize disturbances or turn god’/s’ favors one way or another. We gain strange comfort in believing we are doing something to steer what was never in our reins/reigns.

Sometimes I wonder if passion and inspiration are truly the drivers of what great innovation and discoveries men have made — or whether Fear of Uncertain Outcomes is the true driver. Do I really want to change the world, or am I afraid of not making a big enough ripple, that my existence stops mattering too quickly?

I can’t be sure that my name won’t fade beyond 3 generations of my own immediate family, I expect to be forgotten by the time my familial title becomes “great, great grandmother”. I don’t pull the same rank as mortals whose names are immortalized by their contribution to mankind, nor does my luck/determination/pedigree/resourcefulness/ambition rise to such level.

But even geniuses and (im)mortals have their existence reduced to a label or a type of contribution — what they produced or created. We rarely go beyond who they are as human beings, because we don’t have time to get to know every single one of these “important beings”. Our physical and virtual vessels of information are already overflowing and each generation brings new important beings into history…. there is just no time to not reduce each person to the “one or two” important thing(s) s/he did.

Then should I go through life not doing, because no matter what I do, I can never secure a relevance to my existence? Should I go through life not loving, because no matter how I try, I can never prevent loss? Should I not bother aiming anywhere, because nowhere can be far or high enough to guarantee the multidimensional immortality that I crave?

No.

Because I am a fool.

I know all this is not going to matter in the end. I expect to be forgotten as a matter of natural course. I understand all that I love, I will lose, even if I get to be lucky enough to be lost (die) first.

Every step I take through Fear of Uncertain Outcomes is a choice of courage. This is the only real choice I get to make.

I go through life tallying these choices of courage: these are the only “real” things I get to take with me when passing from life…. and I hate leaving empty-handed.

What I Learned in a Year

Practice Makes Progress, Not “Perfection”.
Mistakes are the Perfection.
Climbing back up after falling is Perfection.

There Are Multiple Ways to Solve a (Boulder) Problem.

Strength is Important and Technique Matters:
Work Hard AND Work Smart.

The kitchen counter and
under the desk come in handy
for some exercises.
As do monkey bars at the park.

After facing and working through my fear of heights
I am better at facing and working through my fear of heights.

Advice for Young People

For young adults and high school students especially, I’d want to drill into your consciousness the habit of “knowing how much your time is worth.”

Even though you may not yet have credit cards or financial assets, you own THE asset that can only be traded or optimized but never returned once you lose it: TIME.

Thus, focus on mastering how you use your time, how you prioritize tasks, how you make decisions that will either improve your reduce your effectiveness over time.

Truly understand what “productivity” means, and difference between working hard and working smart.

Successful people DO BOTH: they work HARD *and* they work SMART).

Understand that we work on “value traded per unit time.”

Education gives most of us an increase in value (skills, knowledge) we can trade in the same unit of time versus if we are un-educated or under-educated. If you can earn $100/hour, you are earning your life an extra hour you can use, than if you can earn $50/hour to create the same amount of fiscal value to your financial balance sheet — to make the same $100, you can spend either 1 hour at $100/hr or 2 hours at $50/hour.

However, something like an education takes TIME to vest, which means you can’t see the results right away, until you have invested significant time and resources (effort) acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to allow you to compete for jobs. This is why education is a long term investment: even though up front it looks like we are losing money (especially if we’re in debt), statistically over time we increase our earning power per unit time. However — pay attention to the prevailing job market as well — in some cases employers will justify hiring entry level degrees over masters or doctorate degrees if they feel they can save more money by training a person.

Understand that wealthy people leverage time to keep their resources and to build their resources. Money compounded over TIME builds wealth; at some point the capital is enough to remain untouched while interests build and compounds over time (then the investor lives off this dividend or interest, leaving the capital as their golden goose to keep laying dividend eggs).

Entrepreneurs outsource and delegate and hire, so that other people do certain tasks to free up entrepreneurs’ TIME for the most important priorities. One of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs like myself face, is our capacity to delegate and whether we have the capital to maximize usage of our time. If we don’t have the capital to hire or outsource, we end up doing everything ourselves, thereby burning ourselves out.

If you are an entrepreneur and you appear to be less and less time-effective (productive), usually this is a good indicator that you need to bite the bullet and outsource some tasks that do not absolutely require your insight and talent. Get a virtual assistant or hire someone else to administer your website or find a person to code while you work on building strategy and investment capital.

Understand that being smart means you know how to use time efficiently, and being wise means you know what is supposed to be the most important use of your time: the most important relationships in your life, and the time you invest in yourself / personal growth.