Embracing Fear in 2023

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I was having a conversation with my wife this afternoon, and she was sharing with me how she had recently confronted an intense fear of hers, how pleasantly surprised she was by the outcome, and how much lighter she felt having faced the fear. It spawned an enjoyable dialogue about things we remember being afraid of, the moments we overcame those fears, and the experience on the other side. 

I recounted my first visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Southern California; I was an awkward sixth grader with a meticulously styled bull-cut (part straight down the middle), and I was convinced I would have no fear of getting on any rollercoaster. As I waited in line for Colossus, and the enormity of the coaster came closer and closer into view, my cool exterior started to crack. By the time we boarded the coaster, and the safety harness whooshed down and locked into place, I was in full-blown panic mode. During the slow, mechanical ascent, I was begging my parents to be reasonable adults and get us off this death trap… I may even have threatened to emancipate.

Mercifully, this article is not about my lifelong coaster phobia. Somewhere in the midst of that first swift and steep descent, my terror became euphoric, and to this day, it’s an experience and feeling I’ll never forget. After the few most adrenaline-filled minutes of my young life, I couldn’t wait to get off the ride so I could sprint to get back in line and do it all over again. After the fourth or fifth time, my dad enticed me with a churro, and we moved on to the next ride. I’ve since had many very memorable theme park experiences with friends and family, and to this day, will get on pretty much any rollercoaster, although, at 37, I now land more on the lightheaded side and less on the “let’s do it again” side. 

Fear confines us, and it’s supposed to. We have biologically hard-wired fears of things like predators and heights, and those are obviously good…. see a lion—walk slowly backward; cliff edge—don’t get too close. But so much of the fear we’re inundated with today is not helpful, innate fear. It’s harmful, conditioned fear. It keeps us confined, small, anxious, self-protective, angry, and reluctant to take positive steps toward our highest ideals. This type of fear is directly opposed to growing as a human and living a meaningful, fulfilled life, and it’s generally opposed to building wealth. 

I know many people who have talked for years about investing in real estate or starting that business. What prevents them is certainly not a lack of competence, opportunity, connections, or even familial support… it’s fear. I’ve known many who have made completely irrational investing and financial decisions out of fear (or greed, which is basically just a fear of future poverty).

As I slowly grow and mature as a human, I’m learning to become more comfortable with fear. To not instinctively run or distract from it, but to consider it, dissect it, see what it has to teach me, and then get curious about what might be on the other side. And then… ever so slowly, get on that rollercoaster. I mentioned Warren Buffett in my article last month, and I love this quote of his: Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. More often than not (I’m convinced it’s about 95/5) the outcomes we’re afraid of have very little basis in reality. I’m optimistic that 2023 will present colossus-like opportunities for each of us, in our individual worlds, and at PassiveInvesting.com. As a partner, fellow investor, and fellow human, I invite you to join me on the ride.