At TED 2017, popular entrepreneur and strategist Tim Ferriss shared a moment when he contemplated suicide. A history of mental illness within his family as well as extreme behavior had pushed him to the brink. As many have shared, intense mania and deep depressions can affect even the brightest entrepreneurs.

His saving grace? Stoicism, the classic system that helps you focus on what you can control versus what you cannot. (For more on Stoicism, check out my favorite audiobook this year, Ryan Holiday's The Daily Stoic.)


During his talk, Ferriss shared one huge takeaway from Stoicism that has not only calmed his anxiety, but helped him make stronger business and personal decisions. He calls it "Fear Setting".

First, break down the worse case scenarios in three steps called Define, Prevent and Repair.

1. Define a bad thing that can happen as a result of your decision

2. Write down what action you can take to prevent that bad thing from happening in the first place

3. Lastly, determine what you can to do repair the situation if that bad thing happens anyway

For instance, you are afraid to leave your comfortable job. A bad thing is that your next paycheck doesn't come for a long time. You can prevent that by seeing if you can go from full-time to part-time, retaining some of your security. And, if you needed to repair the situation, you could just get another job.

Second, determine what might be the benefit of a partial or full success. Ferriss recommends doing the emotional, physical and financial possibilities, breaking them down into six months, one year and three years. You may realize that the benefits far outweigh the potential challenges.

Ferriss speaks from experience: The exercise helped him essentially leave his profitable startup to start what would eventually become his landmark best-seller, The Four-Hour Work Week. The success part also helped him realize that the worst case scenario wasn't if he took the risk of a life change, but if he didn't change his life - as the road he was on would be much less fulfilling months and years from now.

What change are you afraid to initiate? Inspired by Stoicism, Ferriss' Fear Setting could help you figure out why and how valid those fears really are.

Published on: Apr 25, 2017