In the year 2004, a student named Patrick J. McGinnis, when he was pursuing his MBA at the Harvard Business School came up with the term FOMO, when he wrote an article for the local student’s newspaper. Little did he know that a decade later that will go on to become a word for the urban dictionary. The urban dictionary defines FOMO as the “omnipresent anxiety brought all by our cognitive ability to recognize potential opportunities”. “Fear of missing out” sounds much easier. But in reality, what this means is that this anxiety that is produced by various options one is presented with causes you FOMO, it’s a noun that causes you anxiety and stress.
FOMO comes in many ways
Many of understand FOMO as perhaps that invite to the party of your friend’s that you didn’t get or the fact that your friends are going on a holiday and you are not invited. Or the fact that a friend of yours gets a job in a company that you had to work for. Or a family member who did not call you on the day of your birthday or something. The snapchat filters, Instagram feeds and Facebook notifications only add to this.
So, FOMO happens in many ways.
Drawing from my life when I was 11 years old, I was at DPS RK Puram, Delhi. One of my friend’s was talking about becoming a fighter pilot, I thought it was a great idea, so I enrolled myself a few years later at Rashtriya Indian Military college in Dehradun just because I thought I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Around the same time my parents moved to Africa and they took me on a holiday for the summer break to Nigeria, there I saw their expatriate lifestyle – the big houses, big cars, parties, lots of fun compared to my army school/military school where I had to carry bricks on my back and was physical grueling So, I decided I will no longer be in the army school, I blackmailed my father to get me out of the school and threatened him that if he didn’t get me out of the school, I would break my legs and become medically unfit. This is when I was 11 years old. So, unfortunately or fortunately he agreed to that and got me back to Africa. A few years later, I was finishing my high school in Africa and bunch of my classmates were writing this you know engineering school entrance exam, I said oh I must write the exams too and I wrote the exams. Unfortunately, or fortunately I got into the engineering school. After I finished under graduation, I found that my peer group were moving to US or Canada so I thought I should do myself a Canada or US, so I thought I should be in Canada or US. I got myself admitted in a grad school in Canada. Once I graduated, I got a job and I realized that all the smart ones were getting MBAs. And thought maybe I should get an MBA now, so I got myself into HBS. In 1998 when I got out of the Business School, technology was booming and that’s what I got into. After 4 years in technology the new thing was ‘Start-ups’, ‘Do your own thing’.
To overcome this FOMO, I moved to San Francisco and started my own start-up. As many of you read this, the obvious thought in your mind would be – ‘Oh how lucky’!! whereas in fact these were all influenced by FOMO. I was lucky, I was lucky that the opportunities I was presented with or the FOMO I had was relatively good things and I ended up in the right direction but that may not be true today, because today we all are inundated with social aspirations which are global. While technology has brought us closer, it also puts more under the microscope. I heard someone say “If it didn’t happen on instagram, then it didn’t happen; and that my friends is scary.”
The first thing in managing FOMO is to recognize that FOMO is real
You must value it and you must recognize it. So, how do you, how do you cope, how did I cope with all those decisions and what choices have I made after a certain part of my life, my second phase of my life, when I crossed 40 and I start reflecting my life, I started to relive & reboot. At that point of my life I realized that there were certain things that were important to me that I was not achieving or getting.
I had to force myself to introspect, develop self-awareness and define to myself what were a few things that were most important to me. I realized that family for me was important. I was working for multinationals, new start-ups & I was travelling a lot. I was spending 200 days in a year in hotels away & traveling. But I was away from my family, I was missing out on my daughter’s time and even time with my extended family.
What I am saying is that if you are thinking about how do you cope up with FOMO, you have to define your core morals & your core values. You have to understand your personal core values, core morals. Every living system, every organization or a group has core values. If you look at religion, Hinduism has core values like Dharma, Karma, Veda. Sikhism – Kirat karo (charity), do good work, Islam, Christianity, every religion has certain core values that they bring down their principles to. Corporates has core values. Look at big corporates like TATA, Apple, Google, they talk about innovation, they talk about truth, they talk about trying new things, they talk about simplicity, apple talks about simplicity as one of their core values. So, every organization or a system has a certain core value. Families have core values, for instance, having a meal together or like waking up at certain time, etc. Governments have core values they have constitutions. Countries have core values, they have constitutions. India has a constitution which we always go down as being a core value. So, the question is why are those core values? Because core values are helping in solve complex decisions for those organization. So, for individual for each one of you, you must think about what your personal core morals are or core values are. For me as I mentioned family was one, the second core value for me has been pursuit of knowledge, looking for the learning minds. The third is being honest to yourself, recognizing where you are and where you fell.
I moved back to India 8 years ago after being away for 30 years. I started this current company. I knew nothing about dentistry, I am not a dentist, I am an engineer by training. I have never worked in India. I came back after 30 years and I decided I want to be in healthcare because it is part of my core values. I want to be next to my family. I moved because of my parents and my wife’s parents so that my children could have grandparents. I wanted to focus on new innovation being in something new and I realized that healthcare India was not at the same level as I had seen in the west and within healthcare I wanted to choose dentistry because dentistry had certain aspects that were very very unique. 90% of Indians have Oral Disease so it’s a very wide spread issue and not many of think about it very hard. So, the core values of family, the core values of pursuit of knowledge and then recognizing that I am actually not a dentist and I don’t know enough about dentistry, I bought a team of people who could help me out in that area.
Think about FOMO, face it and use COMO to overcome it!!