Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Fear of Having Missed Out

The condition known as Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is widely talked about in popular culture. We sometime take action because we fear that inaction will result in lost opportunities.

There's one similar condition that I've struggled with: Fear of Having Missed Out. It's a combination of regret, envy, and hindsight. The inevitable question of "What if?" surfaces when I contemplate events where I experience FOHMO.

When I read about amazing adventures, accomplishments, and vision of others, FOHMO sometimes kicks in. I'm nearing my fifties, and sometimes I feel that my lifelong accomplishments are lilliputian compared to amazing thought leaders, artists, and people who inspire. Some of the FOHMO pangs are self-inflicted: the more I become interested in the works of these action heroes, it's easier to compare my output to those who have written several amazing books, given compelling TED talks, composed amazing music, galvanized communities, and made a dent in the universe.

Perhaps I've spent earlier lifetime in a state of having undefined purpose, having minimal drive, or allowing others to shape my vision and goals. Whenever I read interviews with interesting musicians in Keyboard or Electronic Musician magazines, I felt simultaneously interested and envious: learning how they got things done was inspiring, but I also felt, "Why can't it be me?" It didn't help that I failed to do the work and neglected to polish my craft. Thinking that great ideas that percorated in my head would inherently and naturally generate interest--without making a splash in the canvas--is not the road to success. It's hard to make a stand while sitting on my ass.

Witnessing, and being influenced by, the positive ethics of the younger generation has also flared the FOHMO. Encountering and working alongside passionate and driven people who refuse to believe in limitations provided a stark dissonance with what I believed to be how things should be done. Instead of striving to receive permission, these provocative change agents sought to make things happen: whereas I was conditioned not to rock the boat and obey the superiors, the folks who actually got shit done took more risks, flipped the middle finger to the old way of doing things, and questioned the establishment. They formed organizations to build infrastructure to provide African villages with clean water, helped create and spur social media, smashed the outdated notion of command-and-control in the corporate world (thank you Switch & Shift, Fast Company, Seth Godin, Hugh MacLeod, and many others), built a community for thousands of thought leaders and difference makers (much love to World Domination Summit), and spread their ideas to the masses.

So why do I still experience FOHMO at times? Perhaps becoming immersed with lifelong learning tribes, and sometimes crossing paths with these thought leaders (which is possible thanks to the powers of socal media), made it very tempting to compare apples to pomegranates. But it's time that I give myself credit for what I have accomplished already and the transformations that have taken place. I, too, have learned to reject the cynical masses and the doom crew. I've enthusiastically flipped the bird to the command-and-control culture that expects me to act sheeplike and seek permission before I create anything. I've started ignoring and stopped validating those who feel that being special is reserved for a chosen few. I've stopped being scared to fail. I helped curate communities and encourage dialogue at work and home. I'm a fucking unicorn and I can make amazing shit happen.

Instead of feeling envy and insignificant when I read about accomplishments of others in Portland Monthly, New York Times, Monocle, or other publications, I want to feel inspiration and motivation. Whenever I attend talks and presentations given by amazing thought leaders, I want to learn from them, and use their energy to fuel my drive towards one of my life goals: presenting a TEDx talk. I may still feel FOHMO periodically, but if I can redirect those feelings towards working on my craft (may it be writing, creating music, giving talks, being a rock star to rock stars, encouraging others to share stories with powerful presentations, cultivating culture in the workplace, or nurturing tribes), I see a powerful and compelling future--one without regrets--on my road to awesome.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, you are amazing. I am constantly impressed with the energy with which you embrace your life. That being said, everyone's life is different, and sometimes it's hard to remember that fact when the media/society highlights all those supercool mainstreamers. But you and I are not mainstreamers. :)

    As humans we are here on earth to learn the beauty in the unique differentia of, well, everything. Yes, we can relate a little easier when it's something we are familiar with, but where's the fun in that? Take a deep breath, unicorn, and feel good knowing you are perfectly YOU.