FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.

Due to the always connected nature of this world, we now have an entire generation growing up amidst the fear of missing out.

This is the reason, why we are glued to our Twitter or Facebook or SnapChat feed.

We can always argue that this has been the case for decades and has only amplified due to the explosion & the variety of the number of channels that are now available. We, as humans are hardwired to try and stay in touch with our friends, family and society as such.

When I was growing up, we were glued to the comic books, the TV sets and the generation before was glued to the newspapers and so on.

The fear of missing out is not a new phenomenon and is a fundamental characteristic of human beings, and one that has helped us survive over the millennia. So, I don’t think FOMO hurts us much.

We will get habituated to this ever-connected world, learn the skills to develop deep focus and life will go on.

While we learn to do so, we are in the purgatory where it is extremely painful to see people who are unable to function due to FOMO and are constantly trying to stay in touch (unfortunately more virtually than physically) and hence are missing out so much that is happening around us.

This fear of missing out about what is happening elsewhere and not bothering about what is happening around us will hurt us in the short term, till we are able to learn to deal with this.

What this does is provides entrepreneurs the opportunity to create products and services that can actually help people be aware of what is happening in and around them, in addition to what is happening in their virtual worlds.

There is another kind of fear that I want to talk about: FOSO.

FOSO – Fear of Standing Out

The fear of standing out is a much deeper fear. This has been around for as long as we have been around as well.

This is a much more fundamental fear – the fear of exclusion and the not belonging to the norm.

This is the fear that makes us send our kids to school when we know that the entire schooling system is broken and doesn’t help our kids.

This is the fear that makes us take up a job even when we know that it is something that we will actively resent instead of doing something that we are passionate about.

This is the fear that led Copernicus to not share his discovery with the world.

This is the feat that leads to the emperor being naked and no one wanting to confront him.

This is the fear that every entrepreneur faces in his or her life.

This is the fear that drives potential creatives and artists and entrepreneurs to never explore the possibilities and potential.

This is the fear that entrepreneurs and innovators and creatives also face when they start out on their journey.

So, what is different? How do the overcome the fear? They don’t.

Most of them are still afraid of going out and making a fool of themselves.

Most of them are still nervous when they go out and give their best.

Some of these attempts work and they see a lot of success. They are talked about, shared and become part of the folklore.

Most of these attempts fail and they are quickly forgotten.

This ability to do it in spite of the fear is what makes these people great and succeed.

With the internet breaking boundaries, we have the opportunity to not only stand out but also blend in. There are 100’s of 1000’s of small niche communities that we can be a part of to get the sense of belonging in our lives and hence unshackle us from the fear of being ridiculed and laughed at in a different aspect of our lives.

We are living in the age where being different is being celebrated and if you are not only different but also find a way to be remarkable in your own way, you can actually create and lead the tribe.

Why should entrepreneurs care about FOSO

If you are an entrepreneur, an artist or a creative, you need to care about this fear of standing out, not just in yourself but in your teams as well.

I know a lot of entrepreneurs who could do so much better if only they could foster an environment where their teams can actually speak up without worrying about being ridiculed or standing out.

This would not only allow your business to flourish but also allow your team members to enjoy what they are doing, thereby making your business a happy place to be.

Another thing that entrepreneurs can benefit a lot from is if their teams are open and honest about sharing their opinions directly to the entrepreneurs.

I have been in situations where the someone in the team realises that what the entrepreneurs is attempting has a flaw but doesn’t bring it up because of FOSO.

If I could measure the amount of damage this one act of FOSO brings to corporates, I am sure it will be in the billions of dollars.

We as entrepreneurs, need to encourage our teams to tell us when they see us as naked, without having any FOSO.

How to address FOSO in our business

It is one thing to tell that we need to encourage our teams to speak up and not be afraid of FOSO and a totally different thing to be able to pull it off.

Here are some suggestions that I think could work:

Anonymous Feedback:

For a lot of people, this process starts with baby steps. As an entrepreneur, you could have a FOSO box, a literal box, where your team members can drop off their ideas, suggestions and criticisms in a safe and anonymous background. I would personally prefer not to do this, but for a lot of people this is a good start.

FOSO Meet-ups:

As entrepreneurs, you can institute a monthly meet-up of your teams, which you could call FOSO meetups where you start the meeting by acknowledging your FOSO and encouraging your teams to share their opinions and beat FOSO. If you want, you could start with something personal and then move to professional topics, once you have been able to establish trust amongst the team.

The next step is to allow the team members to set up a FOSO meetup whenever they think that they have something that they want to share but are afraid due to FOSO.

Defining these meetings as FOSO meetings in a way addresses the fear as everyone is aware of what to expect and no one criticises the person who is standing up, however silly or wrong they might be.

Reward People who stand out:

Nothing motivates or reinforces behaviour more than rewards (maybe punishment does, but that is for another day). If you are able to recognise people who stand out, not just by their actions but also through their thoughts, you start to reinforce this behaviour and slowly this becomes your culture.

This one thing alone can have a significant influence on the success of your business.