21 / 04 / 2020

A Fable About FOMO (or How to Avoid Becoming Stuck by High Anxiety)

With acting, writing, producing and directorial credits, Mel Brooks did it all in 1977’s High Anxiety, unlike his character, Dr. Richard Thorndyke, who freezes due to fear in the film’s climax. It’s a lesson for entrepreneurs. If you aren’t careful, your desire to be everywhere at once can result in the inability to take any action at all.

Carey Smith | Founding Contrarian

Where I used to live, my drive to work often took me past flocks of Canada geese, sauntering around the manicured grounds of an automotive plant as if they owned the place. To my untrained eye, each looked exactly like the next — plump, dapper and totally self-assured. It made me wonder how a hunter with a taste for goose could ever make a choice.

What does this have to do with business? Well, I firmly believe that most important business lessons can be learned from fables, and, if I were a modern-day Aesop, I’d turn the hunter into a coyote and have that coyote go hungry because it couldn’t decide which goose to chase. The moral of The Coyote and the Geese? Don’t be done in by too many options. (This was less of a problem in Aesop’s time, I’m pretty sure.)

I got to thinking about this as I pondered the dilemma of so many entrepreneurs I’ve met who seem crippled by their desire to do everything right now and be everywhere at once. You could call it Analysis Paralysis, or FOMO, I guess. They’re afraid if they’re not on Amazon, not in Whole Foods, not at god-knows-where, they’ll be missing out on their main chance, and someone else will beat them to the punch bowl. Unfortunately, their fear can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy when they become so afraid of making the wrong move that they’re unable to move at all.

We launched Unorthodox Ventures because we knew we could offer not just money but considerable expertise. In our decades of experience, we’ve struggled and overcome, we’ve made mistakes, we’ve taken chances — and we’ve had great success. And those years have taught us what’s really important: It’s not being everywhere before you have the resources to handle it. And it’s sure as hell not being on Amazon.

What is important? Staying focused, building your brand, connecting with your customers and owning your market — and not least of all, enjoying the whole, exhilarating ride. Don’t keep looking over your shoulder for your competitors. If your product is good enough, they can’t touch you. If it’s really good, they don’t exist.

And if your product is not so good? Well, let’s just say your goose is probably cooked.