I’ve been to a few places so far this year - in fact, as I write this, I’m in Sierra Leone. So far in 2019, I’ve also given talks in Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and Mexico. Yikes! It’s a lot, but it’s fun. It’s also gotten me started on random little habit: as I go from place to place, I open my talks (which are usually focused on 10% entrepreneurship) by asking,
Typically, the room falls silent - except for people like Usman Turey from The Gambia who already knew all about FOMO Sapiens and threw out a definition as quick as lightning. But that’s an anomaly. Typically, as I start to describe the meaning of the fear of missing out, people start nodding, taking pictures of the definition slide, and murmuring, “that’s me.” By any other name, the FOMO’s the same.
You might also remember my article from January, in which I waxed contemplative about my guide in Lalibela, Ethiopia, who had never heard of FOMO - but also couldn’t comprehend my explanation of its meaning and its role in popular culture. Neither he nor anyone in the community could relate to the concept. I should have had him call Usman!
In an article last year, I talked about how FOMO is fundamental to human psychology. I still believe that the human brain is wired for FOMO: it is a natural product of our biological system of rewards and socialization. Nevertheless, I’m increasingly becoming aware that, while we’ve all undoubtedly got the potential for FOMO, some populations seem much more prone to it than others- and some manage to avoid it almost completely.
To answer this for myself, I began to compare the diverse places I’ve visited and asked people about their FOMO experiences: their cultural values, economic conditions, climate, population density, and how good their barbecue is.
When I stepped back to assess the scene, some patterns began to emerge.
It’s important to remember that FOMO and FOBO arise when you’re in a position to compete with people over things that aren’t essential to your literal survival, or when you have so many choices to meet your needs that you find yourself overwhelmed. I bring this up because one of the best cures for FOMO is gratitude- an awareness of the good things you do have, including your possessions, your health, your friends and family, your talents and skills, your environment, and the ability to read things by brilliant guys like me whenever we want- see how humble and grateful I am?
FOMO can be a force for good if it motivates you to chase important things. When you feel FOMO, ask yourself: what is this telling me? If you can figure out the answer, do something with it!
Greetings from Sierra Leone!