Charles Dow used to counsel that no individual should ever be promoted if they hadn’t made a large error at some point. Phil Fisher used to insist only in investing in those stocks that had management teams willing to make big mistakes. If they didn’t make mistakes, they wouldn’t also take the risks required for success. Is this the essence of success? How does a corporate management team, upon the fruition of such errors, survive being “stopped out” of their positions in today’s hair twitch paradigm? Is being expropriated from your career rather than your capital not the bigger risk today? And thus can it only be stocks with founder, family or veto shareholdings that make for truly great growth stocks today? Should not Tim Cook undertake an LBO with the Qataris?
They’re not the same.
Risk is all around us. When we encounter potential points of failure, we’re face to face with risk. And nothing courts risk more than art, the desire to do something for the first time–to make a difference.
Fear is a natural reaction to risk. While risk is real and external, fear exists only in our imagination. Fear is the workout we give ourselves imagining what will happen if things don’t work out.
And worry? Worry is the hard work of actively (and mentally) working against the fear. Worry is our effort to imagine every possible way to avoid the outcome that is causing us fear, and failing that, to survive the thing that we fear if it comes to fruition.
If you’ve persuaded yourself that risk is sufficient cause for fear, and that fear is sufficient cause for worry, you’re in for some long nights and soon you’ll abandon your art out of exhaustion. On the other hand, you can choose to see the three as completely separate phenomena, and realize that it’s possible to have risk (a good thing) without debilitating fear or its best friend, obsessive worry.
Separate first, eliminate false causation, then go ahead and do your best work.