Ferriss had huge goals. He had big dreams.
And he was also afraid.
Success, especially when you're trying to achieve a huge goal, doesn't come easily. Often the things you most need to do if you want to be successful -- the things you must ask, say, try, and risk -- are also the scariest things you need to do.
That's why we often avoid thinking about things that scare us. And is why we often fail to do the things that scare us.
And is why we often fail to achieve the success we dream of.
So how do you get past the anxiety, worry, and fear, and actually do the things you need to do to be successful?
According to Ferriss, the first decision you need to make is that you will stop avoiding and start thinking -- hard -- about the things that scare you.
How? Follow Tim's "fear setting" process.
1. Write down what you're afraid of.
Name it. Don't let your fear be vague or nonspecific.
Write down exactly what you're afraid of.
2. Then create three subcategories below each fear you list.
Category 1: Define
Write down 10 or 20 of the worst possible outcomes that could result from doing what you're afraid of.
If you're afraid to start a business, write down 10 or 20 of the worst things you think could possibly happen. Losing money. Derailing your career. Embarrassing yourself in front of friends and family.
Whatever causes you to hesitate, whatever scares you, write it down.
Category 2: Prevent
Then determine what you could do to prevent each of those worst possible outcomes.
If you're afraid to start a business because you don't think you have the experience, consider bringing in a partner. If you're worried about having enough money to tide you over, create a plan that lets you keep your full-time job while you get started.
Category 3: Repair
Then determine what you will do if you are unable to prevent one of those "worst possible outcomes."
Maybe you'll create "eject" points along the way. Maybe you'll plan to pivot if certain things do or don't happen. Maybe you'll have alternate marketing plans ready to put in place.
Take the time to decide, ahead of time, what you will do if things don't turn out well.
That exercise will give you the confidence to know that if the worst does happen, you're ready.
3. Write down the benefits of succeeding (or even just trying) what you're afraid of.
What happens if you succeed? How will your life change if you successfully start a business?
And what happens if you simply try? How will your life change if you start working out? What happens if you try to write that book? What happens if you try to learn a new skill?
List the positives of simply trying.
Even if you don't reach your goal, still: You'll meet new people. You'll learn to push yourself. You'll get exposed to new ideas, new perspectives, and new opportunities.
In short, you'll learn -- not only about what you try, but also about yourself.
Which is reason enough to face your fears and try something new.
4. Write down the "cost of inaction."
Now list where you'll be if you don't try.
Maybe you'll still be working in a job you hate. Maybe you won't have the work-life balance you hope for. Maybe you'll still feel financially trapped.
Maybe you will simply regret never having tried.
As Ferriss asks, "What might your life look like in six months, 12 months, or three years? Any further out, it starts to seem intangible. Really get detailed: emotionally, financially, physically, whatever."
In short, just as you spent time clearly naming your fear, spend time clearly describing what your life might be like if you don't try to overcome that fear.
Granted, some of your fears will be realistic. And that's OK. "But you shouldn't conclude that," Ferriss says, "without first putting [your fears] under a microscope."
Name your fears. Then think critically about the worst that can happen. You'll soon realize that most fears -- and almost all worries -- are groundless. When risk is involved, it's easy to back away when you're stewing in a pot of vague, indefinite concerns.
But nothing I've ever tried has ever turned out as badly as I imagined it might -- and I've done some really stupid things.
Say you quit a full-time job and open a retail store. What is the worst possible outcome?
Your business could fail, your savings could evaporate, and your family could be out on the street, homeless, and destitute. Possible? Sure, but not at all likely. If your store struggles, you will go into Repair mode. You'll work even harder and adapt your business model -- and if that doesn't work, you'll shut it down and get a job.
Failure would hardly be ideal, but failure is something you and your family can overcome.
Don't let fear of the unknown control you. Determine the more likely "worst" things that can happen. Then create plans to deal with those possibilities.
By facing your fears, you can control your fears.
And don't forget: Success doesn't require a high IQ or some special intangible quality that you don't have. Successful people only become "special" after they succeed; before they put in all that time and effort, they were just like everyone else.
Tim Ferriss wasn't always Tim Ferriss. To start becoming the person he wanted to be, he faced his fears. He still faces his fears.
So can you.
And in the process, become the person you want to be.