Using Tim Ferris's Fear Setting Method
Is there anything you want to do that you’ve been putting off? Something that you would be so proud and/or relieved to accomplish, but that you don’t feel ready for?
You need to try out Tim Ferris’s Fear Setting Method. It’s kind of like goal setting inverted plus a pros and cons list. I just used it to accomplish something I’ve been afraid of for over a year and I couldn’t be more elated!
Here’s how you can use it, too.
Keep in mind that “Conquering fear equals defining fear.” -Tim Ferris
The point of the exercise is to get all the accurate facts. To remove all undefined fears, outline ways to fix what could go wrong if it does, and keep in mind all of the potential positive effects of finally doing the thing.
Here are the most important questions.
What is the actual worst thing that could happen?
How could you either prevent or prepare for and fix those things if they did happen?
What are some potential positive results of finally doing this thing?
Here's a quick walk through of how I used the Fear Setting Method to revamp my newsletter game.
For over a year now, I’ve known I needed to change how I do my newsletter. I needed a way to have a list for people who wanted updates about my books for the stories, and a list of people who wanted writing and publishing advice, and a list of people who want entrepreneurial and creativity motivation. I didn’t want to bore the one group with info for the other, but I didn’t think I had a way to segment my list in Mailchimp’s free version.
I wanted a way for people to choose from a couple of check box options which category of information they’d want, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it.
I also don’t love Wix’s welcome email options, but I couldn't figure out how to make an embedded Mailchimp signup form pretty, so I was stuck using Wix’s all over my website.
I ignored the problem for a while, pursuing other projects, and then when I paid a business coach for growth advice, the biggest thing on her list of things I should improve was my mailing list situation.
But google searches weren’t helpful and I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it for me.
About a year and a half went by, with me not even trying to get subscribers because I hadn’t figured out a way to organize them and be sure to only send them the right info. But I knew it was something I needed to tackle, and I finally decided to try this exercise.
1. What is the worst thing that could happen if I start sending out newsletters again without the ability to segment?
Wrong info to the wrong people: Fiction readers could see the non-fic information and be annoyed at seeing content they don’t want, and then decide to click out of the email, or unsubscribe
Loss of time for other projects: I’d have to be consistent about sending it out every month, which would take time away from other necessary tasks
Growth requiring a paid plan: I could get so many subscribers that I’d have to upgrade to a paid plan (No kidding, this was an actual concern)
2. How could I prevent these things or deal with them if they did happen?
Wrong info to wrong people: I could choose to set up three different subscription forms that go to different lists (one for entrepreneurial artist info in my footer and other appropriate places, one for fic on my books page, etc.) And send the same newsletter to each of them, just switching what info is at the top in between sending the to one group or the other. (Why haven’t I just been doing this for the past year and a half? If only I’d taken the time to write out my fears, this problem wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long)
Loss of valuable time for other projects: If it’s taking up too much time, I could choose to do an every other month or quarterly newsletter instead. Or I could focus on simplicity and value of content rather than prettiness. Give myself a strict time limit to prevent rereading copy a hundred times
Growth requiring a paid plan: First of all, this would be a fantastic problem to have! Why am I afraid of having so many subscribers that I’d have to upgrade to a paid plan? Because of the money? I had it in my head that once you passed 2k subscribers and were forced into the paid plan, that it started at $125/month. But guess what? Once you pass 2k, the plan goes to $30. Just $30. I’ve been terrified of $30 this whole time? And even once you get all the way up to 5k, more than double 2k, it’s only $50. And if I’m not making any money from offering my subscribers special value at that point, what am I even doing with my life? Nevertheless, there have been times in my life where a surprise $30 charge would have been devastating. But now, I can easily ensure that I have an extra $30 always sitting my business checking account to cover the horrible graduation past 2k subscribers whenever it happens to me. That will tide me over for a whole month to figure out how to cover the next month (good pressure to sell a product or service) or transfer to a different mail service provider, if I decide I want to by then. A decision I literally can’t make until I spend some time using Mailchimp again.
3. What are some clear benefits from taking action (starting the newsletter back up whether I can segment it or not) despite the potential problems?
Wrong info to wrong people: Some people will read it anyway, even if the info they want is further down. And some people will want the info at the top anyway. And if they signed up for one topic, some might discover that they’re interested in the other one, too, and they wouldn’t have known otherwise. Plus I’d have a newsletter going, which would be way better than no newsletter at all.
Loss of valuable time for other projects: If I can’t take a couple of hours a month to compile the most valuable content for my audience, then I’ll know wheth I should move to a less frequent newsletter, which I wouldn’t have confirmed without giving it a try. I’d be no worse off than before. Once again, actually better because a newsletter would exist.
Growth requiring a paid plan: A high subscriber count is more impressive to agents and publishers. People who like my stuff enough to subscribe will be more likely to buy my paid products and services, increasing my income. It would be validating. And it could make more than enough to pay for itself if I take care to be strategic and organized with it.
So obviously the benefits of starting my newsletter up again far outweigh the potential problems that could come with it. And the possible problems aren’t actually bad at all. Nothing like the impossible problems I’d imagined them to be in my head.
Here’s another question: What is it costing you to postpone action?
If I had kept up with my newsletter, I would be so much farther along than I am now. I could have thousands of subscribers and I could be making enough money from it to pay for it and have extra. And I might have developed a product or service under pressure to support the newsletter that I will either never make now or won’t make until much later.
If I keep avoiding it, that will just keep getting worse. I’ll be even further behind in a year from now and regretting it even more. It could be costing me an incredible amount of money. But I’ll never know how much I could have made from it and what other great connections and relationships I could have formed because I never tried.
I’m not making that mistake again!
Let me know in the comments what fears you’re going to define and whether your fears turned out to be right or wrong! If you’d like help going through this exercise, book a coaching call right now so I can help you before the fear comes crowding in again!
Don’t just think what a nice idea this is and that you’ll get around to it eventually. Take immediate action. If not me, email a friend about this challenge. Send them a link and challenge them to think about it, too, and make plans to discuss your fear setting with each other and keep each other accountable.
Don’t let this inspiration evaporate with time! Take action now.
Until next time, have fun making things happen!