Fear & the Little Old Man
Greetings. This is Carl and you are listening to Behavior Gap Radio. I am on a trip, a business trip to India. On my way, I had a all day layover in Singapore. I left the airport and went to visit some of the communities in the city on a recommendation from a good friend of mine. I went and visited what was referred to as the Arab Quarter, Chinatown and Little India. In the Little India, I had an amazing conversation outside a Hindu temple.
I don’t know much about the Hindu religion, but I was blown away by the warmth, and energy, and light at the Hindu temple. It was described to me as a Southern India Hindu temple. Again, I’m not exactly sure what that means exactly, but that was how it was described to me. I went in and I was just blown away by the energy there and all the things going on. It was amazing. I was trying to figure it out and super curious.
I was trying to find somebody who could explain it to me, so I went over to the security guard. I said, “Is there anybody here that could explain to me any of this?” He said, “No, no, no. There’s no one like that here.” I started walking. He said, “Hey, come here.” He said, “There’s a little old man sitting outside in a chair. Go to him. He will teach you.” Of course I thought, now, this is getting good. Right? There’s a little old man outside in a chair. He will teach me so I went. I found the little old man and, indeed, he was there sitting outside the door.
I remember him actually when I came in. I was taking my shoes off and he looked at me kind of funny. Well, he didn’t look at me kind of funny. He looked at my feet kind of funny. I realized when I got inside that I still have my socks on and nobody else had their socks on. Not only was I supposed to take my shoes off, I was supposed to take my socks off, too.
Anyway, I go out to talk to the little old man. It was amazing. He took time to teach me about all the symbolism, and the beliefs, and what people were doing, and the offerings of milk, and honey, and yogurt, and rose water, and what they each meant, and all of these things. One thing that stuck out to me in our probably 30 to 45 minute conversation was this emphasis that he placed on the role of fear and getting rid of fear. He made it sound like that was one of the ultimate goals, at least in his interpretation. Again, I’m trying to be careful here because I don’t know much about the religion. I just know that this little old man at the Hindu temple in Singapore really emphasized that day to me that fear is something we need to learn to live without. Fear and anxiety is something that we need to learn to live without. That it gets in the way of so many of our decisions. That living in the present moment …
In fact, he gave me this example. He said, “If you miss your flight and your boss is going to fire you, you can’t worry about that. You can’t be fearful about it because it will work out.” He said, “We don’t want to do it.” He was very clear about this. He said, “We don’t want to do it in an arrogant ‘I don’t care’ way. We do it more in, look, ‘I’ll do my best, and I’ll leave the rest to God.'” It was amazing.
What I walked away and the reason I wanted to share it on Behavior Gap Radio was what I walked away with was how often … We all hear this, right? Fear and greed, this twin, little mischievous, little characters in our financial lives, but how often our decisions around money are driven by fear, how often we’re worried about … Obviously there’s some legitimate worries. Still, I don’t know it does us any good to worry even if they’re legitimate. Often, our fears are not even rational or legitimate. They’re projections of something that may or may not happen in the future and often doesn’t happen in the future.
This role of making decisions out of fear, sorry, this role of fear in our lives and this goal of not making decisions out of fear … You may make the exact same decision but not making a decision out of fear was what I walked away with from my conversation with a little old man at the Hindu temple in Singapore. I hope that’s valuable to you.
You know what? I don’t need to say much more about how, or why, or what that means. I think we can all let that work in our own lives. I know, for me, it’s just valuable just to pause for a minute and think about fear and how often I let it drive my financial decisions and how often it’s turned out …
Geez, I got to make one more thing clear. I’m not saying kick fear in the teeth, right? Fear is a friend as Elizabeth Gilbert says, right? We can take fear on the trip, but he has to sit in the back seat. We just can’t let him drive. I think this was a really positive, powerful reminder to me: to not let fear drive when it comes to making financial decisions. I hope it helps you.