Once upon a time, I lived in an apartment building for about 4 years. It was a great building: the location was good, the rent was reasonable, and the room had an amazing view of the lake!
If there was one thing that I thought was amiss about that building, though, it would be that the shower water was way too cold during the winter. It wasn’t that much of an issue anyway…it only happened during the winter, and a cold shower never killed anyone, right? So, I just kinda dealt with it for almost half a decade.
Well, I recently happened to run into the new tenant who moved into my old apartment. I asked him what he thought of the apartment. You know what he told me?
“It’s a great room but the shower water was a bit too cold when I moved in, so I asked the manager about it and he fixed it right up.”
Wait, what? You can do that!?!?
Sometimes you just gotta ask for stuff
I met my wife around the same time I was working one of my first jobs out of college. Back then we were just dating, and we wanted to take a 3-week vacation to her hometown in China. Problem was, my company didn’t typically allow more than 2 weeks off at a time.
I asked my boss about it. I explained to him how this was an important trip for me and my future wife. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I happened to be a top performer at the company. His response?
“Well, we don’t typically allow more than two weeks off at a time, but I’ll see what I can do.”
Several days later, I asked him about it again. He told me that he ran it by his boss, and that he got the approval for me to take a 3-week vacation to China.
Sometimes, you just gotta ask for the stuff that you want.
But then, somehow I ended up dead
When I was young and looking for love, my friends would always encourage me to just go up and talk to the women that I liked. They always meant well, but a lot of what they said only made me feel worse. For example, they’d say…
“Steve! Just go up and talk to her. What’s the worst that could happen?”
…and I’d just be like—you want to talk about the worst that could happen?! I don’t know about the worst that might realistically happen, but the worst that could happen? That’s a different story. Here’s the worst that could happen:
- I ask her out. She laughs in my face. Then…
- …she tells her friends. They all laugh at me. Then…
- …word spreads to everyone I know and they all laugh at me. Then…
…somehow I end up dead in a gutter because everyone hates me because I tried to talk to a woman that I liked. Hey, you didn’t ask what would realistically happen. You asked what could happen, and my mind turns out to be very imaginative in that regard.
Okay, give me a second to regain my composure…
Alright, I’m good now.
What’s the worst that might realistically happen?
As much as I can, I’ve tried to shift my mind from thinking in terms of “What’s the worst that could happen?” and started thinking in terms of “What’s the worst that might realistically happen?” Here’s what that looks like.
Back when I lived in my old apartment, what’s the worst that could happen if I asked the manager about the cold water. Well, he might get mad at me. He might raise my rent in retaliation. Or, if he really felt like it, he could even have me evicted on the spot!
Was that possible? Theoretically…yes. Realistically…no.
What’s the worst that might realistically happen? Well, he knows I’m a good tenant. I’ve lived there for a while, I get along with my neighbors, and I always pay my rent on time. So, if I happened to tell him that the water is a bit too cold and asked if it could be fixed, he could have me evicted, but then he’d lose a great tenant. More realistically, he’d just say “yes” if it were possible or “sorry” if it were not possible.
In fact, that’s exactly what happened when the next person moved into the apartment.
The same thing applied to asking out women that I liked. My mind was good at making up extreme examples of what could happen if I tried to talk to her and failed. But what might realistically happen? Well, if she weren’t interested then she’d probably turn me down. Simple as that.
And if all else fails, do this
Okay, confession time. As much as I can, I try to shift my thinking from the worst that could happen to the worst that might realistically happen or—better yet—what’s the best that could happen if I succeeded?
I’m not always the best at this. Especially when I’m trying something new for the first time.
Earlier this week, I paid a tutor to teach me Chinese for an hour. I had never done something like that before. My brain naturally decided to be a jerk and tell me all the things that could possibly go wrong with hiring a tutor. How did I get my brain to shut up? I didn’t.
Instead, I realized that I’d never feel “ready” to hire a tutor, so I did it anyway.
In my experience, once you try doing what scares you for the first time, your brain tends to finally shut up. Even if you fail! This is because you’ve finally proven through firsthand experience that stepping out of your comfort zone and asking out a woman on a date (or doing whatever else that scares you) won’t somehow end up with you dead in a gutter.
Sometimes you’ll just never feel ready to do what scares you. There’s a few things you can do to help you move towards feeling more ready (such as using my ABC Confidence Principle). After a certain baseline level of preparation, though, you’re ready. Even if you don’t feel ready.
I believe in you!