fear

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. -Eleanor Roosevelt

He who awaits much can expect little. -Gabriel García Márquez

This should be the first in a few posts about fear and its negative impact on life, and I’m particularly interested in fear in business models and intellectual property rights.

Fighting your fears can provide some of the greatest experiences in life as it certainly has for me. This makes sense if you recognize that change is the leading cause of fear. Change brings up thoughts of instability and uncertainty. Thanks to my parents and my choice of profession (as a software developer for financial companies), I’m comfortable with change, and actually almost uncomfortable if there isn’t change.

Now that I’ve entered the entrepreneurial world, volatility and change are ever more present factors in my life, and while I love it, there’s still a natural fear that registers probably from some primitive part of my brain. The better you are at recognizing your fears and dealing with them, the freer, more agile, and adept you’ll be in life, business, and everything else, and this will manifest itself in your financial situation as your financial picture is really a dollar-by-dollar snapshot of your real world life.

Change has been a good friend of mine throughout my life, and I have one experience that I’d like to share (and more that I’m eager to share in other posts). Of all of the choices I’ve had to make in life one of the hardest has been quitting my job at Citigroup years ago where I had worked as an intern through college and then full time after. I was a developer on one of its internal trading software suites, and had the privilege (in their eyes) of supporting my traders directly from the trade floor with a seat right next to them (constant noise and confusion is not a prime work environment for IT as cool as it might sound, although the constant and direct “client” contact was enormously beneficial). I had a great paying job with all the wage benefits of working in the financial industry, although without the horrible horrible working hours on the business side.

Quitting this job wasn’t an easy choice, and this is one of the few times when my parents didn’t understand my desire to quit such a “dream” job, buy a car, drive across the country, and move myself to California without a job already waiting for me. While I was raised on my parents’ values, baby boomers have a decidedly different view of the world than their kids (I’ve had some interesting discussions about their views of financial markets as compared to mine and even some of their parents’ views vs theirs, but that’s another post. Helping baby boomers is not the same as helping Gen X and Y simply because of the different life experiences and expectations). Of course, fear of change and instability was a driving factor in their concern that I shouldn’t quit and move to the opposite shore.

Right out of college I had what my parents, and even more so their parents, saw has the ultimate life goal – a stable wage paying job with a 401(k) that you can work at until you retire. I say, “BORING!” They say, “JACKPOT!” However, as everyone should know by now, pension funds don’t work (a 401(k) isn’t a pension fund, though) and are relics of a generation past, and corporations generally show more loyalty to the bottom line than their employees, so the expectation of giving decades of your life to one company is a simple myth because the “favor” won’t (and shouldn’t) be returned (The well being of your future should never be set by the time you spend waiting for that future, and time served shouldn’t correlate directly to compensation, but more toward value returned).

Eventually, I convinced my parents I was right. Although, maybe not fully convinced until I moved, found a much better job, and increased my enjoyment of life and my standard of living by folds. Still, all indications were that I should move and find something that better suited me. Staying at a job that was immensely boring, very constrained by bureaucratic barriers, and my own general mentality as an entrepreneur would never let me be happy there. Delaying the inevitable for the fear of losing money and phantom “job stability” did nothing for my mental and emotional health, nor my long term financial future.

So, finishing on a personal finance note, part of the reason for budgeting or tracking your finances is to create a map that helps uncover potential real life problems, but changing your budget won’t inherently change your life, and it won’t and can’t uncover deep rooted problems. This is why the overall plan is enormously more important than tracking your day-to-day habits. Setting goals that encompass more than your finances is key to proper financial planning because in the end, your financial picture is only a slim snapshot of your real world life.

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