Fear of Missing Out

If your entrepreneurial ambitions conflict with your personal needs, do this.

Posted Sep 26, 2017

Morra Aarons-Mele is many things: Entrepreneur, blogger, PsychologyToday contributor, and now, the author of a new book, Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home). We first met when doing a podcast on how the fear of flying impacts business people who are comfortable only when in control. 

As we attempt to achieve our goals, feelings can sometimes get in the way. If we look at the hype, it might appear that successful entrepreneurs relish every moment of the chase. Does that make sense? Can the person who presents herself as an extrovert, basking in the glory of the spotlight, be the same person who closets herself in an office writing code, developing an app, or fine-tuning the structure of a business? Aarons-Mele pulls back the curtain—both about herself and others—to reveal that some of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs are drained to the core by public appearances and even by ordinary social encounters. To survive, many, she says, excuse themselves and hide where no one is likely to search them out: In the bathroom.

Aarons-Mele has done ambitious introverts a great service—the freedom to accept both the need to achieve and the need to recharge. Though a business needs the free publicity it gets from "being out there," the qualities that lead introverts to create unique businesses are drained by media exposure when one's real self is cast aside in favor of an invented public persona.

Apparently, there are a few people who can nurture both a public and a private persona. Though he has retired from "Regis and Kathie Lee," and "Regis and Kelly," you probably have seen what a great showman Regis Philbin is. After an appearance on his show, I was shocked to see him change when the cameras turned off. Regis, in private moments, showed characteristics I never expected: Deep, inward-looking thinking, comparatively introvertedness, and—I even wondered—shy? I was impressed by what a real person—not just a TV personality—he was in private. 

But, for most people, the qualities that allowed them to create a business are not the qualities needed to publicize it. They may not even be the qualities needed to run a business. Aarons-Mele says a shocking number of creative entrepreneurs find dealing with other people draining rather than invigorating.

Aarons-Mele's new book is, as she says, a roadmap to help creative individuals navigate toward their goals in spite of the fact that they would rather be at home. If you find being "out there" is draining, this book can help. It focuses in particular on how to handle FOMO: the fear of missing out. Though being "out there" is draining, the fear of missing out (or being overtaken by others) can push introverted entrepreneurs to stay out there, and when overwhelmed, to seek emergency isolation in the bathroom.

As I was reading her book, I was reminded of my first flight as an airline captain under the supervision of a Flight Check Captain. He told me, "Your number-one job as captain is to never get overloaded. An overloaded captain is not a safe captain."

Like Morra Aarons-Mele does in this book, he gave me tips on how to notice when you're overloaded and how to shed some of the load. "Don't juggle tasks or multitask. Turn over the extra work to the copilot. The plane is always moving forward. You need to always have your mind ahead of where the plane is. If you are behind, ask Air Traffic Control to give you a vector or even to put you into a holding pattern until you catch up. You never want to get stressed wishing you had more fuel to deal with en route weather delays. It costs the airline money, but load extra fuel on every flight as a cushion until you are comfortable without it." 

When stress levels rise, performance rises. But only up to a point. Thereafter, performance declines. And, as performance declines, so does our ability to recognize the decline. The trick we all need to learn to navigate the peak.