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INVESTORS’ CORNER: The power of pessimism

Are you putting off a big decision or a big life change because you are afraid of what could happen? There is incredible power in defining and getting clear about the worst-case scenario, the nightmare that you’re too afraid to look square in the eyes.

The point is this: We often avoid taking action because of our fear of an unknown but terrifying set of events or circumstances. Define this nightmare scenario, live it in your mind, or even test it in real life. You may find that you could probably figure out a way to survive, if not thrive, even in this worst-case scenario.

I often joke with my wife and say, “Well, you like camping, don’t you? Worst case if this whole real estate investing were to completely implode, at least we’ve got our tent.” That of course wouldn’t be pleasant, but it brings lightness and freedom to my current endeavors by imagining us surviving even with a total outward failure.

Many people stay in jobs, circumstances, or even relationships that are stifling, miserable, or boring. Why do they stay? Security? Comfort? Health insurance?

Are you giving up a potentially amazing future by staying on a path that is reasonable, socially acceptable, and the normal way of doing things?

I’m not saying it’s right to stay or to go, but you owe it to yourself to explore and imagine what life would really be like if you took that leap. Instead of saying, “If only …” or “I would, but I can’t because …,” try imagining how you could succeed if you did try.

Optimism doesn’t require foolishly believing everything will turn out OK. Optimism is looking the difficult reality squarely in the face, and then using your fortitude and imagination to find a way to shape reality to your liking.

When I’ve done this imagination exercise in my own life, I’ve come to the incredible conclusion that inaction – staying in my current, safe, comfortable path – is riskier than taking the leap.

The nightmare scenario might be painful, uncomfortable, and embarrassing, but I could survive. The upside of taking action, however, was so amazing, life changing, and liberating that the risk of staying in a stifling present was not even an option.

So what about you? Are you willing to do the difficult self-analysis of examining your current situation compared with your possible futures? Define the nightmare, and then make a choice with open eyes.

Chad Carson is a member of Metrolina REIA (, which provides education, mentoring and networking for real estate investing in the Charlotte region.  Chad also writes about real estate, money, and life at


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