A few years ago I was sitting in my flat in London watching Ladies of London with some friends that lived in my neighborhood. I had just moved from California to the UK and it was fun to watch as these women ran around my new home city. My friends and I would drink wine and take notes on new restaurants to try and things to see.
The first season ended and I didn’t think much about the show again.
Fast forward another year and I had just left my job without a concrete plan (definitely not a move I’d advise). I wanted to take my background in finance and marketing and freelance for small businesses.
The problem was, I was living in the UK, where I didn’t have a strong network. And, I was impatient. I wanted to start working with clients immediately.
One rainy evening I was home alone and decided to turn on season 2 of Ladies of London. As I was watching one episode, I occurred to me that a lot of the women on the show ran their own small businesses. And one in particular — a yoga instructor and author in the wellness space — seemed really interesting.
By the time the show ended, I decided that I was going to work with her. She was going to be my first client. Decision made.
Now all I needed to do was figure out how to contact her, send her an email that she would want to respond to, convince her to meet with me, and present a compelling idea.
I sent off my intro and waited.
Fast forward 3 years and I supported her as she built not one, but two businesses. I helped her re-brand, worked on her messaging so that the people who followed her would really hear what she was saying, and wrote thousands of words of copy for her. (And that’s us in photo above).
All from one decision.
While this was a bold move for me, it’s not my general M.O. I have a tendency to stick within my comfort zone and not do things that scare me. I sometimes need a big push to get me to make a big decision.
Here is by far the best piece of advice I’ve heard to help when you’re facing a decision — big or small.
Is it scary or is it dangerous?
I was listening to the podcast How I Built This when I first heard this brilliant of advice. Jim Koch, was being interviewed about his experience leaving consulting and starting Boston Beer Company.
The way he broke down his thought process made me stop and rewind that part of the interview at least five times. Here’s how he made the decision to try something new:
“It’s the difference in life between things that are scary and things that are dangerous. There are plenty of things that are scary but aren’t dangerous. And there are things that are dangerous, but not scary. Those are the things that get you.”
He then goes on to explain this concept with rock-climbing. Rappeling down a cliff may be scary, but if you’re properly hooked in with belay ropes, they can hold a car. Walking off that cliff is scary but it’s not dangerous.
Going on a walk down a hill in the snow on a bright blue sunny day in May isn’t scary. But it is dangerous. Because as it gets warmer, snow is melting, your chance for an avalanche increases.
“In my situation, staying at BCG was dangerous but not scary. The danger there — the risk of it — was continuing to do something that didn’t make me happy and getting to 65 and go, “Oh my God. I wasted my life.” That is risk. That is danger.”
I love that this advice doesn’t have to relate only to entrepreneurs. If there’s something — anything — that you want to do and you’re nervous about it, I think this advice can give you some much-needed perspective.
Whether that’s changing careers, going after a promotion, investing in yourself and your education. All of those things can be scary, but odds are they won’t be dangerous.
In last week’s newsletter, when I shared the career pivot I had when we moved to London. I was so surprised by the responses I received back. So many people reached out saying they were at a decision point career-wise or life-wise and didn’t know what direction to go. Someone even shared that they were paralyzed by the choices in front of them.
I totally get that. Taking chances and making choices big or small can feel paralyzing. Though I’ve made drastic decisions in the past, I still struggle with wanting to retreat into my comfort zone. To delay scary decisions by remaining completely undecided about what I want.
But here’s what’s easy to remember in hindsight, but hard to remember in the present: finding the courage to take those chances can change everything. Is the choice in front of you scary or dangerous?
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