I spent the evening roller skating with my wife and kids. We were invited to a youth group rental of the roller skating rink, so we decided it would be fun for our 4 year old. It was a cheap way to spend the evening, as he had his own skates. The entire cost of the evening was the rental of skates for us. Great fun was had by all, including entertainment provided by yours truly. The whole thing got me thinking of the cost of not trying, the topic for today’s post.
Weighing the Cost of Not Trying
You see, I never really learned how to skate as a child. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been. The last time I went was closer to 25 years ago than 15. I’m practically clueless, simply walking most of the time at the beginning of the night. Thankfully, after an hour or so of watching my wife skate circles around me I started to get the hang of it. Several of our friends who were in attendance commented that I was “Brave to come”. Another person commented that my wife must have had to “cajole me to come”. Neither were really the truth. I had considered the cost of not trying.
What if I Fail?
Often times when we face a new challenge the first thing we think of is, “What if I fail?” That fear of failure keeps us from taking the next step and trying new things. More ideas fail simply from lack of starting than from being bad ideas. I wrote the other week that failure and hardship are very helpful in getting ahead. They provide lessons learned to adjust your life. They can help you keep going when things get tough by reminding you how good you have it. Obviously these things have value. I also pointed out that no one remembers your failures except you anyway. As such if you think things through the cost of failure is relatively minimal. Even then it might be a positive occurrence. What we didn’t pursue in that discussion is the cost of not trying.
Failing to Start is Failing
When we are afraid to start, what exactly are we afraid of? If you don’t start haven’t you failed already? So on some level you’ve already obtained the first level of cost by not trying, and thus not taking the first step. However, there is also a separate cost, the opportunity cost of not trying. In my roller skating example, sure I could have stayed home or watched from the sidelines. I would have avoided a few minutes of friends and family marveling at a 35 year old who can not roller skate. A minimal cost if there ever was one since I’m sure even a year from now most of them will have forgotten. But what did I gain? I managed to learn how to skate. So the next time we go I can help my 4 year old to improve his skating abilities. I also managed to have fun with my child, whereas had I sat on the sidelines staring at the rink I would probably just have been bored and annoyed. That would have been the cost of not trying, and it was far worse than if I tried and failed to skate.
Financial Pursuits Failure Costs can be Mitigated
The same goes for your financial situation. Too often we do not pursue side hustles or activities because we’re afraid to step outside our comfort zone. We fear that we will fail. Now sure, you do not want to up and quit your job to start a side hustle from scratch. Burning your existing income sources is probably not a good idea. Also, you don’t want to invest your entire nest egg on an untested idea. But, most ideas require neither you to quit your day job or for you to invest every dime you’ve ever made. Usually the cost is more in time to get the idea off the ground or fear of failure. Typically neither of these outweigh the cost of not trying a well thought out idea.
The Plan does not need to be Perfect
The second thing that tends to stop people is they want the perfect plan to avoid the possibility of failure. They get analysis paralysis and never start. Again it’s the same situation. You should have a reasonable plan going into something, but no plan will ever cover every eventuality or situation. Those eventualities however are usually less severe than the cost of not trying. Take your idea and map out a general direction of where you want to go. Figure out the first few steps of how you will get there. If you’re concerned about failure define some points where you will reevaluate the situation and consider pulling out. I.E define your exit plan. Then execute. No matter how hard you try to plan, a new venture is not going to progress how you foresee, as such over planning is just a waste of time. After the first few weeks or month the plan will go out the window and a new plan will need to be formed. Need proof of that, read articles on corporate history. Almost every major company in existence has had to pivot from their original plan in some way. It might be that they change their marketing plan, design, or in some cases they have changed the focus of the entire company. The point is they got started and then adjusted as they went. If it works for them it can work for you. So just do it already!
Do you have anything you’ve avoided starting for fear of failing or lack of the perfect plan?