Is FOMO (fear of missing out) causing you to take more risks – financial and otherwise – during the pandemic?

15 minute read

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Well, hello, podcast friends. I’m Laura Adams, your host and personal finance author, speaker and consumer advocate who’s been producing the money girl podcast since 2008. Thank you so much for downloading the show and spending a little time with me today. As the country continues struggling with the spread of Coronavirus. The desire to get back to normal and see your friends and family is understandable. I’m dealing with it.

Myself, there’s no denying that wearing a mask is critical, but it can also be unpleasant, especially during the hot, humid summer months. I think the combination of fewer restrictions, mask fatigue, and the desire to get out of your home can be deadly if you’re not extremely careful. Another underlying issue contributing to the pandemic is FOMO. Or the fear of missing out. When we get invited to a party or we see other people going out for drinks or to a restaurant.

We don’t want to be left out. I’ve had to turn down invitations that I really didn’t want to turn down, but I did so for my safety and everyone else’s safety. The pressure may cause you to take risks that you shouldn’t if you’re not making the best decisions. This week I interviewed Patrick McGinnis. He’s the author of fear of missing out practical decision making in a world of overwhelming choice.

He’s an International venture capitalist who also coined the term FOMO when he was a student at Harvard Business School, FOMO has since become a part of our cultural lexicon. And even added to the dictionary. Patrick has been featured in a lot of places the New York Times Politico, the Financial Times, The Guardian, Inc.

He even gave a popular TED talk in 2019. And I’ve had him on the show, I guess it was back in 2017. And on the mighty girl podcast this week, Patrick and I discuss the downsides and the upsides of experiencing FOMO. In light of the pandemic, we cover a variety of topics, including how the word FOMO originated, using creative ways to connect during the pandemic, how to make decisions with more confidence, who tends to have the most FOMO and the relationship of technology to FOMO, which I think is really interesting, and ultimately, some ways to overcome or better manage FOMO.

All right. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Patrick McGinnis. Patrick, it’s so great to have you back on the show. You’re based in New York City. Tell me what it’s like there right now. Things in New York are getting better were in phase two turn to phase three.

We’re leaving our houses with our masks on and I’m just glad the sun is shining. Thank you so much. So you’re obviously doing okay with everything. You know, what does the Korean team look like or what has it looked like for you and your work life?

Well, it was it’s I always talk about quarantine these days is something that felt like every week was completely different and yet every week was exactly the same. Because in the beginning, everything I was doing I cancelled actually all my work got cancelled literally everything I was doing and then over time, things shifted online, whether it was the the work I do overseas in Africa now.

I’m just doing it via zoom or my speaking, engagements have all moved online as well. So actually everything came back. And I’ve learned a lot about how to be far more digital than I was in the past. Yeah, absolutely. I agree. I think it’s forcing a lot of industries and people to be a little bit creative. And ultimately, I think it will help us in the long run when we have the option to be in person or online. I most definitely agree.

And I thought I would miss traveling a lot more than I do. And I do miss seeing people and I think it will be great to be able to do that again. But I will be much more mindful about what I take on in the future. So tell me about your latest book. FOMO. What what’s been the response to the book? Yeah, so fear of missing out practical decision making in a world of overwhelming choice, which was, I’ll tell you there was a point in the beginning of quarantine, where a lot of people were saying they didn’t have FOMO anymore, and I thought to myself, well, that’s good for them, but not great for somebody who’s coming out with a book on the topic.

However, what’s happened is people started to realize that they did have FOMO, they had probably more FOMO they’ve had in a long time, about big things in life, about figuring out, you know, sort of graduations and weddings and things like that, but also about trying to figure out how to live in a world where we spend much more time on our devices now. And so I think, actually, the whole point of the book is basically how to choose what you actually want and let go of the rest.

And right now, in a time like this, making smart decisions and making fast decisions is actually more important than it’s ever been. Yeah, so when we talk about FOMO fear of missing out, I kind of think of it like Stress, Stress can be good. Stress can be bad. FOMO can be good. FOMO can be bad. What do you think the upside of FOMO is? So you’re absolutely right. FOMO isn’t necessarily all bad.

You know when we think about FOMO sometimes either a lot of people think about it is kind of a funny thing, but the reality is there are bad aspects, mental health effects, productivity effects, financial effects.

But at the same time, FOMO is like that tap on our shoulder that the universe is telling us maybe you should think about doing this. Or maybe you should think about doing that. And if you feel FOMO about something continually, whether that’s going to a place on vacation, or starting a business or, or learning a language, maybe what you know, what you’re actually tapping into is something that you truly want to do. And so what I encourage people to do is that explore that don’t jump in full, full steam ahead, because you still don’t really know if you’re, if this thing lives up to what it looks like, right?

That’s the whole point of FOMO thing, something looks really good and it creates anxiety in you that you want to do it. But if you do your homework and try it out, dip a toe in the water and then like it then you can always do more of it. What do you think the trick is to make decisions more confidently and with more conviction.

That is absolutely the topic of the book and really what I’m trying to show people how to do is to make decisions not based on external stimuli, not based on being overwhelmed because so much of our decision making these days is is is undermined by the fact that there are so many options out there. And in fact, we just get overwhelmed.

And so first things first, you have to really tap into what are your core values and what is important to you. So, say you’re choosing between a bunch of jobs coming out of college, are you looking at changing jobs, all of those jobs are different. If you haven’t thought deeply about what you are trying to achieve and whether it’s in salary or lifestyle location, it can become very overwhelming. The second thing that’s really important is learning how to miss out on the rest.

When you choose just one thing, that means you cannot do all of the other things and as ambitious human beings, it is natural for us to want to hold lots of options, and then, you know, wait till the last minute to pick the perfect thing for us. But the problem with that is number one, you never choose anything and that creates stress in and of itself and number two is that maybe that the options that you think you’ll have in the future will disappear.

And any options that you think they’re out there that are better don’t actually exist. And so you need to get out of the speculation and get into the cold, hard facts about what’s available to you how it meets your objectives, and how you can move forward. Yeah, can you share maybe an example of something in your life where FOMO caused you to have to do some, some hard thinking about something? Absolutely. A great example for me is entrepreneurship. So I, anybody who read my first book, The 10% entrepreneur will remember that that I was I had a lot of entrepreneurship FOMO I actually really wanted to start a company, but I was afraid and it caused a lot of stress because I saw friends starting companies and doing really well and so I felt, I felt sort of insecure about that.

I felt disappointed in myself and I felt like I was missing out and I felt like somehow that I wasn’t sort of keeping up with my friends and it was just not a very happy feeling. And I always always feeling anxious about that. And so I decided eventually over time just to try out entrepreneurship part time. And the reason the book is called the 10% entrepreneurs because I started with 10% of my time and money, invest in companies becoming an advisor to companies starting companies basically finding different ways to become part of different businesses. And the great thing about that was I uncovered.

You know, when we have FOMO, there’s an information asymmetry between what gives us the FOMO. And then the reality of whether or not that actually lives up to what it looks like on the outside. And so as I did these things, I uncovered the reality I got rid of the information asymmetry, I found out how much I liked it. And now I do a lot of entrepreneurial activities. So it was a really powerful way for me to figure out how to work with my FOMO productively and make it into something positive.

Do you think that FOMO is more prevalent with certain personality types, maybe extroverts who get a lot of energy by being with people and socializing, versus introverts who, you know, maybe just prefer to stay home anyway? Yeah, there can be some of that, oh, FOMO is oftentimes thought of as a social thing. It’s sort of about parties and events.

But FOMO can really relate to anything that could relate to having a dog, it could relate to having kids and these are things that are universal experiences. I think that the big differences between people who have FOMO and people who don’t have FOMO are number one, definitely being a more ambitious and competitive person makes you more likely to feel these feelings.

Number two, the more you use technology, the more likely you are to feel this because our mobile phones and all of the devices that we deal with they are accelerants for FOMO because in order to have FOMO you have to be getting information about things that are out there, whether it’s opportunities or parties or whether you get it on LinkedIn when you see people getting promotions or you get it from Instagram or you hear about it from some other social site.

A lot of those things are the reasons why we have the word FOMO. Humans have wanted to do things and have things that they didn’t have since the beginning of time. So it’s part of the human experience. But it is technology that has definitely made this much more pervasive than it was before the internet and social media. Yeah. Do you think there are any technological tools that can help you overcome or better manage FOMO while you’re online?

Absolutely. And in fact, Google and Apple have developed suites of services, digital wellness, because they realize that, while it is good for them, for you to spend all your time on their devices, at some point, you’re going to actually their customers will become less healthy, less happy, and therefore they don’t want to cause damage to the people who use their products if they want to have a sustainable business.

So both of those companies have been working hard on creating tools. They’re not perfect, obviously, but I do think it’s a step forward, but the best news, which is kind of funny is a lot of the things that fix this are actually don’t cost anything and are very low tech. So something like never bringing your phone into your bedroom. Just you know a lot of people bring their phone into their bedroom because it’s an alarm clock, it is the Trojan horse.

We pick up our phones first thing in the morning, like 97% of 90% of people pick up their phones first thing in the morning, and that’s a terrible way to start your day. Also, one powerful way to manage your FOMO is to, for example, do some kind of mindfulness or meditation exercise, take a walk, meditate, pet, your dog, all those things actually low tech and free. So there’s, there’s a combination of technology and a combination of sort of traditional activities that will help you with some of those impulses.

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You actually coined the term FOMO How did that start?

So I listen, as you mentioned, extroverted people, I’m one of those. But when I took the Myers Briggs, I was like off the charts extrovert. And I also have always been super hyper-competitive. I will admit it, I’m working really hard not to be that person anymore, but it’s just inside of me. And so I was sort of a natural first person to have FOMO. But the thing that provoked it in me, and the way that it all happened was I was living in New York City. And I just got out of college, and I was working and 911 happened, and I was there living within a mile of the trade center. And it shocked me. And then right around that time, the tech boom, blew up, and I was doing venture capital. And so the combination of 911 and then the economy tanks. It was just a lot for me at that time. And it made me think that the world that I knew it was not stable and maybe would disappear, and therefore, I needed to really make a sort of everyday count and write around that.

That time I got into Harvard Business School and I headed up to Boston. And I saw that as the opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t come from a family where people go to Harvard Business School. I come from a small town in Maine. And so this was my big chance. And I decided I was going to make the most of it and do everything. And I had this kind of mindset of do everything all the time. And I tried to do everything all the time. And this was even before social media, but it didn’t matter because it was basically like I was living inside of LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook and Funny enough, Zuckerberg Mark Zuckerberg was about a mile from me, coming up with the first version of Facebook when I was when I was up in Cambridge. But I was so stressed out and trying to keep up with everything that I decided that I needed a word to describe these feelings, and I called it FOMO. And I wrote an article in our school newspaper way back in 2004, called social theory at HBS. McGinnis is two foes about FOMO and a related term called FOMO.

And that was the first time FOMO was used anywhere and then over time, it ended up getting pretty big. It’s in the dictionary if you Google it, there are 10 million hits. And it’s become kind of this global catchphrase that people use to describe their state of being. Yeah. Tell me about FOMO. What’s that one? So FOMO was the one that I thought was way worse at the time. And it started to get more, more traction, but it never was famous like FOMO. And it stands for fear of a better option.

And it’s that idea that when you’re making a decision and say you’re saving for a very kind of day to day decision, you’re going on to Netflix, and you’re going to pick a movie to watch. And there are 7000 movies on netflix, I looked it up.

And so you keep you keep scrolling and scrolling and you’re looking for the perfect show to watch. And it’s stressful and you’re looking for the best thing you can and you never find it and so you just kind of give up or you feel bad about what you choose because you think well, I’ll settle but there’s probably something better out there for me. And so that’s what Bobo is and it can get into dating.

It can get into job hunts. It can get into making business decisions, moving house, all of these areas when you have lots of acceptable options, and you’re not willing to, quote-unquote, settle, you can be very much prone to FOMO How do you think COVID and the quarantine have changed or maybe not changed? FOMO and FOMO. So it’s actually it’s been fascinating to watch this play out, because in the beginning, right before quarantine, there was this crazy FOMO time with people buying everything there was like panic shopping and toilet paper and all that sort of stuff. And that really felt like FOMO to me.

And then there were people who didn’t want to socially distance and they were going for their last spring break before the quarantine also massive FOMO. And then we got out of that moment. And we had this sort of deep period of self-reflection and disconnection in the beginning of the quarantine and people were cooking and watching all the movies and reading books and it was just very interesting connecting with people that hadn’t seen.

For years now, what’s gone on more recently, I think is that we are starting to see that FOMO has come back. People want to be out and about, they’re sick of staying home. And so, therefore, we’re seeing lack of social distancing. And that we also saw people that just they’re really anxious to get back to their normal lives and not miss out on the light they should be leading. On the other hand, photos, I think the reality is that the options available to us right now have declined substantially.

The economy is taking a beating. We can’t go to a lot of places we want to go. It’s like, do you want to go out on a Saturday Night Live, you’re pretty limited in your options. And so I think FOMO is raging back. And I think FOMO actually, is way down because there aren’t sort of better options out there. You kind of know you’re stuck. Yeah, right. Now, you’re also a podcast host. Tell me about FOMO Sapiens. And I love the name of the show, by the way. Thank you. Yeah.

So I mean, you know how it goes. I’d always thought it’d be fun to have podcasts, but I knew it was gonna be a lot of work. And I found that it is, but I really love it. So I put together this show called “homosapiens,” which is about how entrepreneurial leaders make decisions. And I’ve had really amazing guests on everybody from Andrew Yang who ran for president to like my kowski, the founder of Toms, to entrepreneurs behind companies like Zola and Luke’s lobster and hello fresh toothpaste and, and many others. I talk about politics and entrepreneurship and impact of the world.

And it’s just been a great experience in the show, after about a season doing it sort of independently. The dean of Harvard Business School heard about it and given the fact that they were they love the term FOMO there because it was invented at Harvard. I joined Harvard Business Review in the show’s distributed through there and we’re just we’ve been going ever since. Patrick, Where can the listeners catch up and connect with you? So the best place to find me is on my website, Patrick McGinnis calm and there you’ll find connections to my social circle.

On Instagram at Patrick J. McGinnis Twitter at PJ McGinnis, Facebook, LinkedIn. And then my my podcast is called FOMO Sapiens. And it’s available wherever you get podcasts and the book, fear of missing out practical decision making in a world of overwhelming choice. And the first book is the 10% entrepreneur, both available at good booksellers near you. And of course, Amazon. Thank you so much for coming on and talking about these topics. I think it will help people think about FOMO in a new way, hopefully a more, perhaps healthy way than they had before. I hope so. Thanks so much, Laura.

I really enjoyed speaking with Patrick and hope you’ll check out his new book if you or someone you know, could benefit from help making better decisions right now. If you have a money question or an idea for a future show topic, I would love to hear it. You can call in your question or comment. We’ve got a voicemail line you can leave your message at 302-364-0302.

Or you can email me by visiting my contact page at Laura D Adams comm That’s all for now I’ll talk to you next week. Until then, here’s to living a richer life. Money girl is produced by the audio wizard Steve Rickey Berg with editorial support from Karen Hertzberg. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, please rate and review it. You might also like the backlist episodes and show notes that are always available at quickanddirtytips.com.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the number of COVID-19 cases is surging in many states. More than two million people in the U.S. have contracted the virus and the death toll exceeds 120,000.

The desire to get back to normal and see your friends and family is understandable. And there’s no denying that wearing a mask is critical, but can be unpleasant, especially during the hot, humid summer months. The combination of fewer restrictions, mask fatigue, and the desire to get out of your home can be deadly if you’re not extremely careful.

Another underlying issue contributing to the spread of COVID-19 is FOMO – the fear of missing out. When we get invited to a party or see other people going out for drinks or to a restaurant, we don’t want to be left out. The pressure may cause you to take risks you shouldn’t.

I interviewed Patrick McGinnis, author of Fear of Missing Out: Practical Decision-Making in a World of Overwhelming ChoiceHe’s an international venture capitalist who coined the term FOMO when he was a student at Harvard Business School.

FOMO has since become a part of our cultural lexicon. It has even been added to the dictionary. Patrick has been featured in The New York Times, Politico, The Financial Times, The Guardian, and Inc, and gave a popular 2019 TED Talk.

On the Money Girl podcast, Patrick and I discuss the upsides and downsides of experiencing FOMO in light of the pandemic. We cover a variety of topics, including:

  • How the word FOMO originated
  • Using creative ways to connect during the pandemic
  • Making decisions with more confidence
  • Who tends to have the most FOMO
  • The relationship of technology to FOMO
  • Ways to overcome or better manage FOMO
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About the Author

Laura Adams, Quick and Dirty Tips

Laura Adams, Quick and Dirty Tips

Laura Adams is an award-winning author of multiple books, including Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. Her newest title, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love, is an Amazon No. 1 New Release. Laura’s been the writer and host of the popular Money Girl Podcast, a top weekly audio show in Apple Podcasts, since 2008. She’s a frequent source for the national media and has been featured on most major news outlets including NBC, CBS, ABC FOX, Bloomberg, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Money, Time, Kiplinger’s, USA Today, U.S News, Huffington Post, Marketplace, Forbes, Fortune, Consumer Reports, MSN, and many other radio, print, and online publications. Millions of readers and listeners benefit from her practical financial advice. Her mission is to empower consumers to live richer lives through her podcasting, speaking, spokesperson, teaching, and advocacy work. Laura received an MBA from the University of Florida. Visit LauraDAdams.com to learn more and connect with her.

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