One of the most pervasive yet irrational fears that virtually everyone shares is that of other people’s opinions. I certainly have suffered from it, and it was especially bad back in my youth.
Fear of what others might think should never guide your actions. The input of people we trust should inform our decisions; but fear of failing, and fear of looking silly or ridiculous, should not.
Now, I don’t mean that what other people think of you is not important. Indeed, maintaining a strong reputation is critical in real estate or any business — and in life in general.
But I can only wonder how many great ideas, businesses, inventions, or relationships never came to be because someone was too afraid of what others might think. The number is incalculable, and the world is a lesser place because of it.
The Best Advice I’ve Ever Gotten
I’ve become a big believer in using “systems,” not just in our business, but in life in general. For example, one system I employ is that everyday, I must either go to the gym or get dressed to work out. I don’t have to work out if I don’t feel up for it, but I do have to show up. Almost invariably, just taking the first step will get me to work out. (By the way, I shamelessly stole this technique from Scott Adams.)
But this philosophy goes deeper than just using systems to order your day or manage your business. “Systems” can be as simple as rules to live by — to alleviate fear or any other sort of bad habit. The best one I’ve heard is from Brian Tracy, from his book Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life:
“There is a rule that I have learned from experience: Never do or refrain from doing something because you are concerned about what people might think about you. The fact is that nobody is even thinking about you at all.”
We are all the heroes of our own stories. We often believe people are paying much more attention to us and our foibles (real or perceived) than they are.
I have paraphrased Tracy’s advise into this simple rule that I have pounded into my brain and systematized into my life as best as I can:
“If I want to do something, and the only reason that I would not is for fear of what others might think, I do it.”
Give yourself no outs. Give your mind no room to wander through the various disaster scenarios, which almost invariably will not come to pass. My dad once told me that “99 percent of what we worry about doesn’t happen.” And it’s true. Most of life’s true misfortunes blindside us. The endless worrying we do is pretty much just a waste of time. Again, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare or be cautious. Preparation and caution are very different from worrying.
If this rule isn’t enough in and of itself, follow Dale Carnegie’s advice in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Take a pen to pad and write down what the best and worst possible outcomes of taking a certain action might be. Then write down what you would do if the worst outcomes came to pass. Usually, when you write it all down and see that the worst case scenarios aren’t actually that bad, your fears diminish.
But returning to Brian Tracy’s advice, the key is to hammer this rule into your mindset. Eventually, it will become something close to second nature.
Putting it Into Practice
Take a common scenario: John is afraid to ask Jane out on a date (or vice versa). He lets his mind wander through a thousand different scenarios: “What if she rejects me?” “What will my friends think?” “What if I embarrass myself?”
Indeed, what if?
Your friends might talk about it for days to come. Someone might even make a snide remark. The horror!
Honestly, who cares?
Now maybe John shouldn’t ask Jane out. Maybe they just met and it would be inappropriate, at least at this time. Or perhaps they are work colleagues and it could cause all sorts of inter-office problems. Or maybe he’s married, in which case, why are you even thinking about this, John? Or maybe Jane is a bloodthirsty psychopath hellbent on John’s complete and total destruction. Those would all be good reasons not to make such a request. But fear of judgement should have nothing to do with it.
Let us turn to real estate. Should you jump into real estate investing full time? Well, there are reasons not to. Perhaps you don’t have enough savings right now and need to save up. Perhaps you have a baby on the way and it would be best to wait until things are more stable. Perhaps you just got a lucrative seven figure job offer. Those are good reasons to delay your decision or even turn to something else.
But if you really probe your own thoughts and feelings, you can usually parse out what the real motivation is behind your consternation. And quite often, you will find that such feelings result from fear of what others might think. Some might claim a fear of failure is also at play, but I would argue that those fears are mostly one in the same. The fear of failure is, for the most part, the fear of what others (and perhaps yourself) will think of you if you fail.
As Henry David Thoreau put it, most people “lead lives of quiet desperation.” People may judge you if you try, and also if you fail. So what? In all likelihood, their judgement is simply a rationalization of their own inaction. Deep down, they will envy you, even if you fail, because you tried and they did not.
So make it a rule. Make it a system to live by: Whenever there is something you want to do, if the only reason not to is the fear of what others might think, do it.
No other questions need be asked.
What advice do you live by? Drop me a line below!
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.