Do you leave yourself margin should something go wrong? Do you strive for abundance knowing things will eventually make a turn for the worse?
Productive paranoia is the practice of doing something when your worried something negative could happen. The phrase was first introduced to me by Jim Collins as one of three attributes of high achievers (the other two were fanatical discipline & empirical creativity
"10xers differ from their less successful comparisons in how they maintain hypervigilance in good times as well as bad. Even in calm, clear, positive conditions, 10xers constantly considered the possibility that events could turn against them at any moment. Indeed, they believe that conditions will-absolutely, with 100 percent certainty-turn against them without warning, at some unpredictable point in time, at some highly inconvenient moment. And they’d better be prepared." - Jim Collins, Great By Choice (affiliate )
We can apply this in our lives in both small and big ways. And this application could prevent significant troubles. While this fruitful practice is simple to implement, it can cause inconvenience or extra work. Here are a few ways I intentionally inconvenience myself.
Apply Productive Paranoia To Small Things
In 2015, I ordered my $1,300 high-end laptop (affiliate )
. But, the reason I needed a laptop was partially due to my son spilling a glass of water on the one I had before I became a Freelancer. It turns out water and laptops don’t work well together, and the incident ruined it.
Now that I’ve got this expensive to replace computer, I behave differently around it when it comes to drinks. Usually, when I’m drinking my tea, I’ll keep it in my sealed Contigo Autoseal mug (affiliate )
. When I’m drinking from an open cup, I’ll set it on a separate platform, table, chair so if it should spill it wouldn’t spill over and ruin my computer.
Now when I’m at a coffee shop, I look around seeing numerous people with open drinks around their devices. All the potential spills! While people don’t usually spill their drinks, it does happen and I’d like to prevent that from ever happening to my devices.
Transporting The Practice Home
Before we bought our first home, we lived in a rental home with a basement. The stairs descended, and at the bottom, where it curved into the room, was a brick wall.
Our kids were 7, 5, 3, and 1 and if any of them got the locked door open and fell, they would tumble down the stairs into the bricks. If that happened, it’s likely they could have been seriously hurt.
We had recently bought a large screen TV, so I took the large box and placed it at the bottom of the stairs so should the kids tumble down, they’d be cushioned by the box filled with styrofoam instead of the hard brick wall.
A fearful worry simply acted upon for a positive improvement. When we do this, we not only feel better, we actually make life better and safer.
Big Picture Application
While this productive paranoia mentality is powerful with the small things, it also makes a huge difference with the big things.
As a freelancer, I’ve written a book
about how to apply productive paranoia for freelance success. When work
is good, it’s only a matter of time before it isn’t. When that happens, I want to make sure I’m as prepared as realistically as possible.
When You Face Worries Don't Stay There, Act On Them
What actions could you take to alleviate your worries and fears? What could you do to prevent failure and maximize success?
Along the way, we’ll come across worry and risk. Unfortunately, like facing a wild animal in real life, we’ll likely freeze or panic responding in the absolute worst way.
Instead, I find it’s best to accept the fear as a possibility and do something to prevent it, minimize it if it does happen, and have a plan to recover should that fateful day arrive. To do so requires deliberate planning and practice beforehand.