Be Courageous

Went out to The Oasis outside of Austin, Texas for a cocktail and sunset. Took this photo when we arrived.

View from The Oasis

A photo posted by Jeff Carter (@pointsnfigures) on


We were having cocktails with friends of my wife. In our discussion, one of the people we were talking to said, “You know, one thing I wish I would have done when I was younger was be more courageous. I believe everyone should find their inner courage and take the risk to lead their own life.”

Wow.  There is a lot to unpack in that statement.

One of the things that I never realized until later in life is how scary actual freedom is.  Our Constitution protects the people from government so we are free.  Yet, when confronted with that freedom, people get scared.  They make excuses.  They shy away from the fear.  They try to get others to make rules and regulations to make their fear go away.

Politicians are masters at dealing in fear and using it to persuade people.  Over and over, they use false dichotomies of choice based on fear.  Either you hate or love something-no middle ground.

People ask me if trading and investing my own money gives me stress.  Meh, maybe.  But, I have worked without a net since I was 24.  I think that the question they are really asking is how do I do it without being fearful?  Tougher question with a significantly tougher answer.

Fear has a way of persisting until you confront it.

When I was touring Facebook’s office the other day, many of the posters they had plastered on the wall were designed to get employees to confront and get over their fears.  Did they have a fear of making a mistake?  Facebook doesn’t give a shit.  They’d rather see you try and make the mistake.  The company culture is about going for it.  The stock price shows it.  When it was negative post IPO, think they worried about their fear?
FB Chart

FB data by YCharts

Much of our educational system is fear based.  Part of growing up in your 20s is unlearning some of that and getting over the fear that teachers instilled.  Instead of teaching students how to deal with and take calculated risks, they teach to avoid them entirely.

There are times to be cautious.  For example, if you know that statistically something adverse is more likely to happen if you do Choice A versus Choice B, might be better to do Choice B.  But, sometimes, it’s just fear without any real statistics behind it.

Learning about fear was one of the things that I took from my MBA at Chicago Booth.  Fear is an extremely powerful emotion and one that we wrestle with in everything.  My friend Professor Michael Gibbs wrote a theory on hiring called, The Risky Hire.  When you break the decision trees down, much if the thought behind the safe decision is based on fear.

Free unfettered markets are a manifestation of fear, with some greed tossed in.  They are totally messy.  They aren’t pretty to watch.   It’s like watching the sausage get made in the back of a restaurant.  But, they set the table better than anything.

The alternative is showing up to dinner, having the table set, the menu planned and everything set.  You don’t have a choice. If you like what’s being served, that’s fine for awhile.  But, it can get boring.  If you don’t like what’s being served, you have to wait it out and go hungry.  If you try to buck the system and figure out how to eat on your own, you are in trouble.  The people that prepared, chose and set the dinner will be offended.  The people you are eating with will be offended too.

But, the misfits and dreamers get over their fears and buck the system.  They are courageous, and make their own feast.

An aside, one political party has a freer electoral process than the other one.  Can you figure out which one?

Who is trying to set the table for you?  What’s stopping you from being courageous?