🧠 Use fear as your compass

The biggest challenge everyone on a non-traditional path faces is that there are too many options.

There’s an infinite number of skills I could learn, content I could produce, and projects I could launch.

This can be extremely paralysing.

How could you possibly ever pick the right option out of this infinite menu?

And even if you finally find the courage to pick something, you’ll usually quickly be distracted by the hundreds of shinier options out there.

Over the years, I’ve tested all kinds of systems to evaluate different options. I’ve tried to rate them based on parameters like possible ROI, success chances, and the work required.

But the big problem with all systems like this is that there are too many free parameters. There’s no canonical set of parameters or system how they should be weighted.

Hence even if you’re able identify one “best” option using a rating system, deep down you’ll always know that this is largely an arbitrary choice. You’ll have little conviction that you made the right choice. If you weighted the different parameters just a little differently, surely a different option would end up at the top. As a result, you’ll most likely be distracted by alternative options sooner or later.

So what’s a better system?


I’ve talked about this before in the context of content creation. I had noticed that there is almost a perfect correlation between my level of fear before a post goes live and how much it resonates with readers.

But only recently realized that fear is also a perfect compass in a much broader context.

Can’t decide what project to work on or what task to pick from your todo list?

Just ask yourself: What choice is the most scary? That is the one you need to prioritize.

Fear is a compass that helps you figure out what direction you should be moving in. It’s a signal that you’re onto something powerful and important.

Here’s why.

In today’s world, the hours you work don’t matter. What really counts are the results you’re able to deliver.

You can spend hundreds of hours reading Twitter threads, watching TikTok videos, and posting comments anonymously on HackerNews in order to learn how to raise funds for your startup.

Or you could spend 20 minutes taking the bus to a local VCs office and ask her what she thinks about your project and what you need to do to get it funded.

The second option is infinitely more scary. But it will also take only a fraction of the time and lead to 10x better results.

And any kind of success I had, was directly related to me doing something I was scared off.

  • I was scared to carve out my own path instead of pursuing a traditional career. (It didn’t paid off, with me earning enough to pay for my living expenses and being completely free to do whatever I want every day.)
  • I was scared to start sending a newsletter. (The newsletter is now read by 10k+ people every week, generated $50k+ in revenue so far, and lead to lots of great opportunities coming my way.)
  • I was scared to launch Product Explorer and for the first time charge money for something I’ve built. (The project generated tens of thousands in revenue for me.)
  • I was scared to tag Andrew Wilkinson in my tweet. (He retweeted it and this tripled the number of customers I had.)
  • I was scared to send a DM to Shaan Puri. (This lead to a shoutout in the My First Million podcast and dozens of sales.)

Whatever your goal is, there are always dozens of comfortable tasks that will make you feel like you’re making progress. And there’s the one big scary thing you can do that will actually move the needle.

You’ll always have tons of ideas for fun projects or pieces of content you could write. You’ll always be tempted to do more research and seek for that magical spark of inspiration.

But these are really just tricks your mind is playing to help you avoid any kind of emotionally difficult work.

On the one hand this sucks. The Resistance is real and a universal feature of human nature.

But on the other hand, this is also great news since we can use it to our advantage.

When there’s fear, there’s progress.

As soon as this becomes our mantra, the Resistance becomes our best friend. Instead of avoiding it, we start seeking out for it.

That’s the one big secret of that sets people who are getting results and people who spend all of their time procrastinating apart.

It’s what distinguishing live from dead players, people with high agency from those with without, people who get on the plane from those who don’t.

Written on April 27, 2022

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