"F-E-A-R has two meanings: 'Forget Everything and Run' or 'Face Everything and Rise.' The choice is yours." -Zig Ziglar
When I was still acting and living in LA, I remember sitting in my apartment, cursor hovering over the “send” button, unable to pull the trigger on sending an email that was riddled with fear.
(What is it about seemingly innocent emails that can make them so scary to send?)
Minutes later, on the phone with a good friend, we walked through what has now become a go-to strategy I use when facing a scary step outside my comfort zone.
There was a time I used this so much, my girlfriend would simply text me "WTWTCH?" whenever I was questioning a step I needed to take.
No, this isn't the acronym for a strange, religious LA cult, rather a mnemonic device to help me remember “What’s the worst that can happen?”
I'd call my friend and together we'd go to the absolute worst that could happen if I took whatever step I was scared of.
The possible humiliation, rejection, getting fired, being blacklisted from the industry, ending up homeless…whatever it was, we shined a light on it.
We didn’t stop there. We’d go through each worst-case scenario and assess how likely it was to happen in the real world.
That’s the funny thing about fear...sometimes, just by pulling it out of the dark and seeing it for what it is, we realize it’s not a monster, just a t-shirt hanging in our closet.
We treated those fears with respect, though, and would ask, "What would you do if it actually happened?" Then, we'd outline a plan of action.
Suddenly, my fears weren't so scary and many of them didn’t seem that probable. Looking back, some of them were pretty ridiculous (but had felt damn real at the time).
While this might seem like a pessimistic approach, it worked. We can’t always positive our way through everything and sometimes we shouldn’t.
In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant shares, “Negative thoughts can direct our attention to potential problems, and the absence of those thoughts predicts a failure to take preventative and corrective actions.”
Pessimists rejoice, there’s a positive side to your negative thinking (wink).
In all seriousness, this isn’t carte blanche to be a Negative Nelly. There is still a massive amount of research behind the power of positivity. But, negativity doesn’t have to be all “bad”, and when used correctly, can act as a tool to help us see potential pitfalls and prevent problems.
So, if you’re facing a step in your business or life that is feeling a little scary, take a page from my acting days and ask yourself, "WTWTCH?"
You won't be alone if you do. Turns out, Tim Ferriss employs a very similar method and uses it monthly to look at the steps he’s considering, only he calls it “fear-setting".
Ferriss takes the WTWTCH steps and adds a very beneficial question, “What’s the cost of not taking this step?” (Watch Tim Ferriss explain "fear-setting" in a great Ted talk here.)
It's easy to get wrapped up in the fear of taking a daunting step and miss the reality of what might happen if we don’t take action.
What happens when you put this all together?
WTWTCH + "Fear-Setting" For Success
- Get clear. What is the step you want to take?
- Shine a light on your fear. What is the absolute, worst case scenario that could happen if you take this step? Go there. This is your permission slip to be a worry monger.
- Reality check. Go through each of the worst cases and reality check them. How likely are they to happen in the real world?
- Problem solve. Plan out a course of action for each of the worst cases. What would you do if they happened?
- No regrets. Take a look at that step you’re considering. What happens if you do nothing? What’s the downside if you don't take action?
- Take action. Unless you’ve uncovered a very real-life, negative consequence with no solution, take action knowing you have a plan in place if shit hits the fan.
For those of you who are stalling and hanging out inside your comfort zone, I hope “WTWTCH?” will help mobilize your fear. Give it a go, what's the worst that can happen?
Wishing you your version of success,
P.S. Know someone else who might like this blog post? I’d be ever so grateful if you shared this with them!