Google IO Ignite – Shiny Pessimism | Tim Ferriss

in case you just came in you’re in the middle of an ignite session we’ve got nine speakers we just had our third talk all the talks are the same in that they’re five minutes 20 slides 15 seconds of slides and the speakers have no control and our next speaker is a control freak and not used to this please meet Tim Ferriss he’s the author of the 4-hour workweek and he’s here to talk about practical pessimism all right guys this is not meant to be depressing it’s meant to be practical I changed my topic a bit so hopefully at least perhaps one or two percent of you will find this useful do a little dance all right so this is a photograph of lost lanius and Argentina where I went skiing with two close friends one of whom recently died of pancreatic cancer he was in his early 30s the same day I received an email notifying me that the ten-year-old daughter of a close friend had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and this was very recent and this catalysed produced a profound sense of urgency and me to do bigger and better things in my life and to test new directions before some undefined point in the future so I want to talk about the most effective pair of productivity techniques that I’ve come across since 2004 that have helped me up to this point test the uncommon despite the fear of ridicule criticism failure and so forth and both techniques I cheated a bit with the format some things will repeat are borrowed from stoicism which was a school of philosophy from the Hellenistic period used by a lot of the greco-roman educated elite including Emperor’s and military and statesmen the first is called negative visualization and it’s all related to the basic assumption that defining your fears instead of your goals is a key to doing anything uncommon anything big negative visualization is what I would call preparation in practice pessimism and that is defining an excruciating detail the worst-case scenarios so as an anecdote in 2004 I was working 14 hours a day in my own company trapped in a beast of my own design and knew that I had to take a two to four week retreat to either streamline the business and extricate myself or shut it down because there are issues with exit options I didn’t do that for six months because I was running an endless loop of what-if scenarios what if I missed a notification with the IRS what if we lost the biggest customer we have and therefore had problems a B and C problem is those fears weren’t actionable just like poorly defined goals aren’t actionable then I came across to the writings of Seneca Lucius Seneca who was an advisor to the emperor in his day in Rome also what you might consider the most successful investment banker and playwright at the time in Rome and I performed an exercise that he suggested which was taking out a piece of paper in my case an eight and a half by 11 sheet one evening and detailing in the first column all the terrible things the worst case scenarios that can happen if I did when I was considering which was this this retreat for you it might be a change of job it might be proposing a new project it might be ending a relationship could be any number of things all of the negative things that could happen second column all of the things that I could do to minimize the likelihood of those things happening and then the last column were all the line by line actions I could take to get back to where I was then to RIA teve the status quo so to speak maybe getting back into the industry that you would leave to start your own startup whatever that might be and in that instant I saw that on a scale of 0 to 10 10 being most impactful I was looking at a unlikely transient pane of about two and a potential life-changing permanent change of 10 and I took the trip I took the trip and that’s why the book happened that’s why the world championships and tango happened everything that brought me to stand here today I can trace back to that one evening that one extra sighs so let’s move to practice the second piece the second technique is rehearsing the worst case scenarios Seneca would put it thus set aside a number of days each month where you are satisfied with the cheapest and scant issed of fare meaning food the roughest of dress all the while asking yourself is this the condition I feared what you’re doing is exposing yourself to negative emotions like fear embarrassment lack of finances so that you’re inoculated when you later have to make hard decisions ask for hard things or reject refuse things so you can act despite these emotions Cato who was viewed as Seneca as the perfect stoic wore darker clothing than his expected light purple didn’t go with the tunic he was very out of style in his day and he did so that he would learn to be ashamed of only the things that were truly shameful and to ignore the millions of things that men would otherwise have low opinions of so it’s very important that you practice your worst case scenario what you’ll find is that many of the fears you have are based on undervaluing the things that are easily obtainable so those are two techniques that have resulted in the greatest gains all of the in common all the big things I’ve been able to do and I would encourage you before trying to define your goals to focus on defining your fears thank you very much you