Taylor Swift? How does she figure into this?

Its all about developing your FOMO radar

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This is an episode that summarizes the lessons learned from the following:

  • Wonder Woman, Not: Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes

  • FTX: The Backstory of What Really Happened

  • Venture Bros Gone Wild: The Story of Webvan

  • Surrendering to FOMO. Avoid situations where there is a rush to “get in” and little fear of failure. For this, you need to trigger not a reaction of excitement, but that primal reaction of “fear and threat.” Instead of thinking, “I better hurry to get in before I miss it,” try thinking, “Why is there all this pressure to rush into this?” Use the fear-threat emotion to develop and refine your FOMO Radar.

Surrendering to FOMO is one of the Seven Deadly Stupidities.

Fear of Missing Out is to blame for many failures, including Theranos and FTX. The lesson here is not that either company was a fraud, but rather why so many otherwise smart, certifiably accomplished, and wealthy people fell for it. 

FOMO creates big-time decision-making problems. Do you want to be the one who passed up investing $100 in the next Google or Facebook? Of course not, especially when that $100 could turn into $1 million in a few years.

When you feel the peer or other pressure to “get on the bandwagon,” be like Apple scientist Gassee. Develop FOMO radar. Look for it, sense it, and know it is happening. Then, as fast as you can, run the other way.

If you are building a new product or service, slow down, consolidate your gains, and make sure your foundation is rock solid. If you are rushing to beat a competitor to market, remember there will be more competitors coming soon, and you may have already lost the race. Pivot to a direction where there is more space to freely roam or align with an organization that has resources you don’t so you can stick it out and not be looking over your shoulder every day.

Stay away from the impulsive behavior of Webvan’s investors. Initially, the Webvan investors were thoughtful and rigorous in their thinking about bringing a potentially revolutionary service to market. They shifted to impulsive, and almost panic-like, thinking as they poured money into a failing business. This is classic FOMO-driven behavior.

I’m sure you have heard this before: If it’s too good to be true, it’s not. Collectively, billions of dollars were lost as a result of new and fantastic promises made by SBF in a nascent industry where there were few rules and minimal oversight. Nobody paid attention to understanding that FTX was intimately linked to Alameda. It took a day or two for the new bankruptcy management team to describe FTX as an entity that shuffled assets from fiduciary accounts at FTX over to the Alameda trading operation.

This is a type of FOMO I call the “Pied-Piper Effect.” SBF and Holmes were young, smart, and persuasive. They both claimed to be breaking new ground and changing the world.

These should be the first triggers of your FOMO radar. “We are doing something that has never been done before!” Zig when others zag. When others are emphatic and so sure of themselves, this should be a trigger to pop up the FOMO radar. Once activated, your radar should transforms your attitude from exuberance to skepticism.  

In the aftermath of the FTX debacle, it came to light that none other than musical artist Taylor Swift turned down a $100 million promotional deal from FTX. She and her team asked a few diligence questions about the nature of crypto and of FTX’s treatment of securities laws. She passed on the deal. She did not surrender to FOMO and follow the Pied Piper but went against the grain and asked a few of the right questions.

Taylor Swift is a mega rockstar and global phenomenon like few others. But to me, she is an example of somebody with excellent FOMO radar.


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