Fear is Fake News

after a several month hiatus i joined an episode of Everyone Hates Marketers.

when the show host asked my advice on handling fear, i said it’s fake news.

could this be true? maybe i misspoke.

here’s what i’m afraid of:

  • Fomo.com doesn’t achieve revenue goals and i look like a poser
  • i get prostate cancer, evidenced in my family lineage
  • moving to Austin, TX next year sucks and i hate it

what are you afraid of?


phobias aside, fear doesn’t stem from nothing. it’s actually a by-product of our decisions. if i DO this thing, i fear that thing will happen. if i do not do that thing, i fear something else.

to eliminate fear, then, we begin by analyzing our choices.

here are my pros and cons for moving from New York City to Austin.

i chose this example because it’s topical.

millennials move ~2x as often as other generations. in 2012 i moved from Atlanta to New York City, and within 3 years i moved to San Francisco, Dallas, then back to New York, visiting 20+ countries in between.

let’s break these down to form a central thesis.

save money

Texas is cheaper than New York. some folks live in Texas primarily for that reason.

i am not a particularly frugal person, and i dislike commiserating about stuff that’s “expensive” or “pricey.” recommend me somewhere to eat, travel, be entertained, learn, whatever, and i’ll work hard to make your suggestion a reality.

saving money, then, is not intrinsically a pro or a con. discussing resource constraints (victimhood, fixed mindset) is not part of my day, but i have a feeling many Texans opt into that culture. saving money has a price.


in New York you get “kill me now” bitter winters and in Texas you have “kill me now” summer scorchers.

i earned my PhD in heat while growing up in Georgia, so my first New York snow was a nice change of pace. i’ve since adopted affections for simple things like sitting on a park bench, however, and if you do this in Texas you get soaked.


New York City’s education system is horrendous so the fortunate kids go to private academies. because i prefer my future children to not be stuck-up, entitled, or awkward, the well-roundedness of a decent public school piques my interest.

but moving somewhere to secure a non-existent child’s education is a strange way to self-prophesy parenthood. i love my life enough as a dude with coffee and a laptop. i don’t endeavor to change diapers. i don’t have patience.

selfishness vs selflessness is the inflection point of parenthood.


what trend connects these pro and cons?

at face value, the process of articulating pros and cons helps determine which benefits matter most to you. but we can go a step further.

maintaining our weather example, it is not enough to prefer heat or cold because they are subjective. what is objective (always true) is that one can more easily add layers to increase warmth than remove layers to stay cool. put this way, less heat is superior no matter your personality.

regarding school systems, facing my fears about kids and personal freedoms is more important that what school i send them to. having a comfortable home and friend group is more valuable than the zip code in which that friend group lives.

this is what i meant by “fear is fake news.”

fear is a by-product of our decisions, yes, but specifically it’s a product of decisions about things we don’t understand.

an email marketer is afraid to click Send because they aren’t 100% certain there are no typos or broken links. a founder is afraid to fire someone because they don’t understand that person’s contribution to the organization.

but as we’ve seen, pros and cons aren’t sufficient to closing this knowledge gap.

becoming a rational player

it’s worth noting: concerns are different from fears; uncertainty is OK. but we tend to let concerns evolve into fears, and it should be the other way ’round.

he hasn’t called me back yet, maybe i didn’t get the job” becomes “i bombed the interview and probably won’t get the job. that explains why i haven’t been called back by the recruiter.”

changing our fear-mindset requires a new process:

  1. we’re all afraid of something
  2. in mere minutes we can articulate it (most people stop here)
  3. intellect exposes patterns underlying those articulations
  4. subjectivity gets replaced with objectivity
  5. what’s fear again?

fear is a unit of ignorance we refuse to explore and understand.

taking a second look

i’m not afraid of Texas. i just love New York, and have thrived here. thriving is rare, i am lucky, and i don’t want to jinx my luck. but we also make our own luck.

i don’t actually “fear” my ability to grow a business. i’m just annoyed at the tactical maneuvers required to achieve that growth. phone calls, more team hierarchy, recruiting… these are the barriers between Fomo’s current revenue and future revenue. not fear.

prostate cancer may indeed kill me, but i can better equip myself to handle it. i’m ignorant of leading treatments and success stories. i am unaware of the impact it could have on my lifestyle. my refusal to research cancer is the real cancer. not fear.


what are you afraid of? grab a pen and work through steps 1-4.

(no i do not have cancer, thank you for the texts and emails expressing concern)