FOMO

We live in an age of acronyms. I guess they are a form of shorthand. LOL, YOLO, DIY, IMHO, SMH, MTFBWY, FUTAB and ROTFL. If you guessed them all correctly you are in the mainstream of cool. And for those of us who are a bit more advanced in years, here’s the translation in order – Laughing Out Loud (LOL); You Only Live Once (YOLO); Do It Yourself (DIY); In My Humble Opinion (IMHO); Shaking My Head (SMH); May the Force Be With You (MTFBWY); Feet Up, Take a Break (FUTAB), and Rolling On the Floor Laughing (ROTFL).

There’s another acronym I’d like to explore today – FOMO. Give up? It’s the Fear of Missing Out and it can be deadly for entrepreneurs. One of the best examples of the FOMO concept is the crypto currency craze and more specifically, Bitcoin. It’s not important to understand the basics of Bitcoin. What’s more instructive is to understand what has happened in the marketplace. On August 15, 2010, the value of one Bitcoin was $.07. By August 1, 2015, the value of one Bitcoin had risen to $283.04. On November 9, 2016, right after the Presidential election, the value of one Bitcoin had increased to $726.36. On August 1, 2017, a single Bitcoin was worth $2,787.85. By December 20, 2017, the “value” had jumped to $18,486.51, and by February 4, 2018, the value had plummeted back to $8,922.61. Riding a roller coaster at Cedar Point would be considered like a leisurely stroll in the park compared to the volatility of Bitcoin.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of individuals who have jumped into Bitcoin worldwide. Some have used their life savings to buy a stake. Many think they are investing. Most hear the siren song of making a quick buck without truly understanding the risk profile or even the basics of how a crypto currency functions. What drove some people to plunk down $18,486.51 for a single Bitcoin on December 20, 2017, and within 46 days, see their position shrink to $8,922.61? When examining the case studies, it’s apparent that many people were motivated by the Fear of Missing Out.

FOMO is dangerous because it’s an emotional reaction. We work hard to build our businesses, and much of our success comes from analyzing data and making decisions based upon fact – even when it comes to understanding consumer sentiment (which may be emotional in itself). FOMO is impulsive in nature and flies in the face of logical decision making. We face this dilemma every day in one of our business units that is focused on acquiring market-rate apartments across the country. Apartment investments have been hot for the past few years and the fundamentals have been strong. As a result, prices have been driven higher and returns are lower. Press releases abound announcing acquisition after acquisition. It’s easy to feel the pressure to adjust our investment thesis to keep up the pace of our own acquisition initiative. But experience has taught us to resist this temptation.

The first step in avoiding the pitfalls of FOMO is recognizing our susceptibility to it in the first place. This can happen if we have a clear set of standards that guide our approach to the manner in which we operate. Without these standards we are very vulnerable to being tugged or pulled to follow whatever hot trend happens to emerge at the moment. With standards, we can test against that trend to see if there is alignment. If there’s not, we must have the discipline to resist pursuing it.

The second step is to carefully analyze the risks associated with pursuing the trend. This should be a rigorous exercise that identifies all the possible ways things could go wrong and what sort of impact would be felt. Take Bitcoin for example. I’m positive that many Bitcoin buyers have done no risk analysis and really believe they are “investing.” In reality they are just gambling. It’s one thing to speculate with money that one can afford to lose. It’s another thing to put half your life savings on Red 32.

Finally, FOMO can be avoided when we eliminate the emotion of envy. I doubt many Bitcoin investors believe they have been driven by envy. But when they see others “making” huge amounts of money on their Bitcoin “investments” they want to get in on the action. When I was 10 and another kid had ice cream, I wanted ice cream too. I secretly envied the other kid with the cone. FOMO to some extent is the same thing. When others are doing well, let’s rejoice in their good fortune without having any feelings that we are somewhat inferior if we don’t experience the same good fortune.

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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.