Over seven years ago, I stared at my laptop screen, emitting a sound like “Aaauuughhh…”
Then I slid off my rolling chair, eased onto my apartment’s tan carpet floor, and curled into the fetal position.
It wasn’t because of a heart attack. Or receiving a disturbing email from a family member.
Instead, I had just gotten home and looked up the day’s profits from my advertising campaign. The one I’d prepared for months. The one I’d spent two weeks’ worth of pay on. At the time, I struggled to afford my rent and food. I needed that money.
Let’s rewind a few months…
In the fall of 2010, I hired a contractor to help me with an advertising campaign.
“I’m not as experienced buying ads as I am in copywriting, so I’ll work with someone,” I thought.
Smart business strategy?
Sometimes, yes. But in this case, I was scared. So instead of plowing through my fear, I threw money at the monster to placate it. Good idea? Bad? Let’s see…
The contractor charged into the project. Then he asked for more money. I clicked the PayPal button. He asked for more. I loved clicking the PayPal button. Every time, I felt a jolt of emotional relief, like applying a salve to an aching joint. That’s how I pretended to move the project forward without confronting the fear.
Every time I clicked that button, a subtle undercurrent of doubt flowed along with the relief…
Then the ad went out. After a long day at work, I scrambled home to see the results. The subtle doubt turned into panic as I stared at my computer screen. I realized I had flushed thousands of dollars and many weeks down the drain.
The contractor disappeared.
Since then, I’ve thought about that experience, to explore what lessons I could extract.
Here’s a common refrain: “You have to take risks to be successful.”
True. But you don’t have to take massive financial risks.
Many unsuccessful people back themselves into risking too much money.
Because they’re trying to replace emotional risk. They’re trying to quell fear and self-doubt instead of conquer them.
For instance, someone comes up with a product idea. He knows it will be a bestseller. So he creates a company… hires someone to design a brand… recruits a marketing team… places a large order with a manufacturer… all while staying in a safe emotional bubble…
… without ever walking up to just one person and trying to sell just one of his products.
Because that’s scary. It’s an emotional risk. Better to throw dollars at the monster, right?
Then, the product fails to sell. He goes bankrupt.
The monster’s hunger always wins.
You can’t bargain with fear. You can’t bribe it away.
The worst part is when the aspiring business owner becomes bitter. He blames luck. He blames… risk-taking.
Is he right?
Well, let’s see…
After the advertising failed to attract any customers, I could have claimed the contractor screwed me over. Or that I didn’t have enough money to take so many risks. Or that I couldn’t grow my business without venture capital.
Instead, I let out a sigh… and admitted I was scared. Instead of plowing through that fear head-on… instead of learning advertising strategies myself… I threw money at the monster. I risked money instead.
It felt so good to click that PayPal button. But the monster got hungrier…
Don’t replace emotional risk with financial risk.
Don’t throw money at fear.
Also… don’t get me wrong – hiring expert contractors can be a wonderful thing.
Today, I do zero advertising myself. The key difference is, I’m not patching over an emotional risk with a financial one. No more feeding the monster. Instead, I’m making an objective choice.
Are you spending money because you’re worried about doing something? Are you desperate to avoid its emotional pain?
If you’re farming out salesmanship because it scares you…
If you’re buying any kind of course promising “done-for-you” results…
If you’re partnering up with someone before you confirm it’s absolutely necessary…
Then, to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “… you might be replacing an emotional risk with a financial one.” You might be feeding the monster.
Face the pain or fear instead. Learn how to sell. Study and practice the new skill you need rather than forking over big bucks to someone else.
If you lose? What did you lose? Some time? Some peace of mind? Maybe. But you learned plenty – without spending a damn thing. Plus, you trained yourself to spend money only from a centered place.
Wear a seatbelt. Wear a condom – or insist on one. Those are positive examples of reducing risk. But don’t try to bribe fear to reduce emotional risk. Don’t feed the monster. It’ll grow hungrier.