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The Fear Tax

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Are you paying a 'fear tax?'

I ran across this term in a blog post by Seth Godin. Seth defines a 'fear tax' as a circumstance in which we sacrifice significant time and/or money doing things that are supposedly protecting us from something we fear, when in fact they're not protecting us, just wasting our resources and even leading to more anxiety.

What stood out to me in Seth's blog was his reference to MBAs:

"A lot of entrepreneurs get an MBA because they are afraid to go out into the world without one. They are seeking the reassurance a credential will bring them, even though the cost is huge and there's no data to indicate that they'll be more successful as an entrepreneur as a result."

(I wholeheartedly agree with Seth here - see my story about Emily from our bike trip in France.)

This 'fear tax' idea can apply in many areas of life. 

With investing, for instance, a lot of people do not learn to invest their own money - instead handing it over to an 'expert' to manage - because they are afraid of making a bad investment decision and losing money. The irony is that they end up losing more money 'playing it safe' than if they had learned to invest, started small, and just gotten out there and learned how to do it. They pay a fear tax. The tragic truth here is that most people don't discover the amount of the fear tax they paid for this decision until late in life, and the stakes are high.

Take a moment and ask yourself - are you paying a fear tax? In regards to your career, your relationships, your goals, your finances, anywhere? What are you doing to 'play it safe?' Re-examine whether or not playing it safe is actually likely to help you in the long term, or just putting off a hard decision.

Fear is ultimately what stands between you and greatness, between you and your purpose. Don't let it win!

Original publish date: August 17, 2010

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