Worst Case Thinking

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” – Steve Jobs, 2005

Fear of failure can be either motivating, or perhaps paralzying depending on the situation and the person. However, there are definite benefits of contemplating the “worst case” scenario while considering personal and business decisions. Primarily, it is a great risk management tool. By contemplating the potential of a decision falling of the rails, it forces you to consider other options to lower the risk of that scenario actually occurring. Further, and perhaps more importantly, it puts your ‘important’ decisions in perspective. What’s stopping you from entering a new market segment? Calling that prospect? Starting your own business? In almost every situation, the worst case scenario won’t happen. Sure, some things are beyond your control, the economy, weather etc, however there are a lot of variables that you can control.

This process is called Negative Visualization, which you can read more about here. In a nutshell, negative visualization puts everything back in the proper perspective.

Steve’s Job’s 2005 Stanford Commencement speech should be (in my opinion) mandatory viewing for any business owner/entrepreneur. Contemplating the WORST case scenario should remove almost all barriers to personal and business success. Enjoy!

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