My last newsletter was devoted to the youngins, and so this week, I’m passing the baton back to the elders to address a topic I get asked about all the time: How do you manage risk?
Or more specifically, how do you avoid letting the fear of losing what you have stop you from seeking what it is that you want?
Conventional wisdom holds that are our risk tolerance necessarily decreases with age, as we become settled in our ways, and have more accumulated stuff and status we cling to. We may have our ancestors to thank for this impulse.
Putting on my pseudo social scientist hat (cognitive bias is my hobby), neuroscience has found that loss aversion originates in some of the most primitive parts of the brain. It makes sense: If the cave dweller ventured out to increase their reserves of animal carcass, they stand to gain surplus. But if while out hunting, their stash was plundered by some Neanderthals, well, they starve to death. Failure to protect the downside had greater consequence than the upside of bounty.
Alas, times have changed, and while it’s a dog eat dog world out there, you probably have enough provisions to last the winter.
OK back to risk. I strongly believe that every crisis opens an aperture to a parallel universe of opportunity, and COVID-19 is no exception. In fact, it’s way more dangerous right now to stand in place, because the world is evolving and adapting all around you at breakneck pace. Metaphorically speaking, imagine standing on the edge of the ocean as the waves recede, and your feet sink into the sand as the water tries to gently dislodge you and pull you forward.
This newsletter is trying to get you to jump in and chase that wave.
So let’s get you out of your comfort zone by dispelling the top lies we tell ourselves when we hit 35 (heaven forbid!):
I need to wear a hoodie to launch a business: Mark Zuckerberg is the exception that proves the rule. The average age of a first -time founder is 40! Why? See the next point.
My mind is not as nimble as it once was: Yes, your processing speed slows down with age, BUT that’s more than overcompensated with better pattern recognition skills. You’ve seen it all, made every mistake, been humbled by divorce, weathered by illness, battered by recessions. You know what matters most, and what not to do. You make better decisions – you just need a few extra seconds to make them. That is OK. Your hit rate will more than compensate for the time delay.
I have kids now; I need to put them first: Ask yourself this: What wouldn’t I do for my kids? Nothing. There’s no more powerful motivational force in the world than fighting for your kids’ future, and that force is stronger than a 20-something who wants to flex on the Gram on a Blade to the Hamptons. Who cares about things? We can make do with less. But we can’t settle for anything less than what is best for our kids. I would happily sacrifice everything I have, including my health and my life, to give my kids every opportunity they deserve. I’m sure you feel the same way. So what is possibly more motivating? This is your greatest advantage.
I need safety and stability at this point in my life: This is the biggest myth of them all. Here’s the cold hard truth: You are NEVER safe. I’ve known people who dutifully worked at one place for 30 years only to be sent on their way with a watch and a pat on the back one Friday morning. The safest place is not a place at all, but a paradigm; if you never stop growing, you will always outrun any threat.
So at any age, at any stage, at any time, I say chuck it all and go for it. Your future just might depend on it.