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Ask HN: How to become confident and take risks?
26 points by ye5o on Apr 13, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments
I am extremely risk averse. I haven't invested in stocks (except 401k) and lost all gains over the years. In general, I am highly skeptical of everything and don't take risks. How do I increase my risk apatite?

How do I become more confident? I lost almost all hair and I am only 5'5". It's not a good combo tbh. I feel people judge me more often than not. As soon as I realize, I am being judged or denied opportunity due to my looks, I lose confidence. How do I overcome this feeling?

Consider that risk aversion is not a bad trait — google “three fund portfolio” and the theory behind it. Stock speculation is time consuming and akin to betting. Know when to appreciate your aversion to risk.

Another way of phrasing self-confidence is “self-validating.” Social confidence is essentially not looking to others for validation. It starts with rewiring how you perceive the world (see: CBT). Isn’t it odd that you construct stories of your failure that link back to your physical attributes? What if you told different stories? This one is hard to grok until you start to realize how much your brain filters out information to fit your core beliefs about yourself. I didn’t believe this until I realized that my negative self stories kept popping up while talking to people with strabismus (eye misalignment). I was literally looking them in the damn wrong eye, and telling myself how disengaged they were and how uninteresting I was because they “weren’t looking at me.” Most of what we perceive is what we already believe. It is unnerving, but valuable to know.

You mention the word “feeling” a few times. Is this in reference to anxiety? We’re all templated to feel social anxiety, but some more than others — especially those running negative self-talk reels in their head. Try to first start seeing that anxiety when it happens, even if you can’t halt it. Foster the skill of emotional self-observation.

Just trying to offer some new starting points. No easy answers here. Try loving-kindness meditation for a start — you’re going to have to come to love and respect your 5’5 balding self in the end.

> I lost almost all hair and I am only 5'5".

I won't speak to your primary issue...but maybe the first "risk" you should take is getting hair plugs. Seriously. A friend of mine did that and the transformation in his appearance was night and day. If I ever start to lose my hair, i'm 100% doing that. It's not crazy expensive, and the results are incredible. I think a lot of men are for one reason or another shamed into not doing things like this, but I think that's silly. It's completely worth it. Let this be your first venture into unknown territory, and then maybe you'll gain some confidence to start taking risks in other areas.

Or... take the bolder move and conquer your emotions (shave it off) or be subservient to them. A weak man with hair is still a weak man.

A big part of becoming less risk adverse, and getting more confident, is having success to build upon as a reminder that while you won't always win, you won't always lose, and that's ok.

Specific to your problems, consider this:

1. Would you pay money to fix your problem? If so, consider taking that money, automating its investment into a 3 fund portfolio (do some Googling on Bogleheads and read 'A Random Walk Down Wallstreet' if you're skeptical), and forgetting about it for a few years. Check back in on it annually and see what you've learned. More importantly, even if you've lost money in an economy that looks like it may start cooling off, be ok with it. You're investing in the experience to prove to yourself the world won't end, not in an expected return. If you get a return, you'll have some success to get excited about and grow your investment.

2. I'm not super tall and started losing my hair in college. If you can get yourself to take the plunge and shave it all off, it can be one of the most empowering things you've ever done. There's a period where people you know get used to it, but then you'll find a lot of people have only ever known you with a shaved head. You'll inevitably get some positive interactions out of it and will stop worrying that people are looking at your hair loss.

And if you REALLY want to go all in, take the savings you get from investing in a good pair of electric clippers and never going to a barber again, and use that as your investment capital.

Find somebody confident you can relate to. Neil Patel on why he shaved his head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoqhUhDyE9w

The dude is more confident than Elon Musk. Unless you are a Thor you will always have some prejudice working against you. That some people had a better starting position than you means you will have to work harder and smarter than them. Every beginning feels crappy for everyone. Having a realistic goal and being gritty sure helps.

I was in the same situation some time back.

"Decided" it was time I must change myself.

Picked up "The Magic of Thinking Big". I get the general hate towards self-hep books, but in many cases they do create a positive future image and that is essential to take the next step.

Get an accountability buddy. Search reddit or discord for that. And go. Use the 5-second rule.

Go out in the morning sun. Take the unknown routes. Spark your creativity. Go out of your comfort zone once in a while.

It will take time but you'll eventually get better.

Spend $100 on a random stock. Learn, improve, adapt.

Make notes.

You do not need to prove anyone else. Make a commitment to yourself and stick to it.

I see two separate things here. One is aversion to risk and another is the perception that someone is denying something for a reason you don’t control.

They have to be handled and treated separately.

When talking about risk, we are usually afraid of the unknown. Let’s say you want to take a riskier approach with your investments. Start by understanding what could happen in a given scenario and where the risk could come from. In other words, risk aversion is usually remembering remedied by knowledge.

As for the other topic, it probably requires more work on your part to overcome it.

Even though there are all sorts of prejudice and judgement from other people there is nothing you can do since it might come from someone else.

The best path here, in my opinion, is to see what YOU can do and where YOU might be lacking.

Take responsibility for what happens to you and figure out how YOU can change the situation. A simple example would be of a person that “is denied” a job because lack of qualifications and blames the other because the person thinks it is some sort of prejudice.

It might be. But if you always assume that is the case there is nothing you can do other than complain and victimize yourself.

As soon as you start taking responsibility for everything that happens to your life, even things out of your control, you start to improve and things get better fast.

Good luck!

If it is risks with money that you want to take you have to accept losing money. Our attitudes to money run deep and I lost out on making a lot of money in crypto due to ‘fear of loss’. On the other hand risk aversion is what keeps the person with $1m from unnecessarily losing it all so there is a balance. You could use a context like “I’ll live in a shared house and save $1000 a month in rent and put that on the share market” to help justify risk, at worse you are swapping one dead money for another.

I also recommend letting go of regret in not investing if you have any. It’s not worth it; move on.

Also being risk averse is not a bad thing in itself by the way.

If you want to stay risk averse and have a chance of getting rich then skilling up and trying small “mvp” style projects is the way to go IMO.

I recommend the free stuff Amu Hoy puts out for a general idea but she leaves a lot of gaps so you’ll need the course. I’d of happily paid for that course but I don’t like waiting lists for stuff I want now so I just started taking action on a side project and learned from experience.

Become aware of your spotlight bias:

>The spotlight effect is the phenomenon in which people tend to believe they are being noticed more than they really are. Being that one is constantly in the center of one's own world, an accurate evaluation of how much one is noticed by others is uncommon. The reason behind the spotlight effect comes from the innate tendency to forget that although one is the center of one's own world, one is not the center of everyone else's. This tendency is especially prominent when one does something atypical.[1]

In other words, no one (save for your closest friends/family) cares more about you than you do. This is both terrifying but also extremely liberating.

Do you remember your friend's cringy rejection from 2 years ago? You probably can, but your friend might've mulled over it every day for the last 2 years.

Hope this helped.

You have to be in control. Have you ever played something like poker or blackjack, confident of your next move?

That's how proper risk taking should feel like. It should not feel like a gamble. It can fail but you should be confident that things will turn out well in the long run.

The key to this is to learn more. Learn about the environment. If you're investing in a business, learn the market, learn what they're doing, learn who the best player in that market is and what their unfair advantage is.

In fact, if you're investing, find the unfair advantage. Unfortunately, investing does involve a lot of research. The best stock investors I know will learn every company in the stock market by heart, pick out the best, and wait for the right moment.

Also don't be too worried about your looks. Josef Stalin was about your height, not very good looking, and he was able to intimidate soldiers bigger than him.

Cocaine would solve your current problem, but with the high probability of giving you an even worse problem.

Beyond drastically changing your brain chemistry, the way to solve your problems is the way all large problems are solved - break it up into small chunks. Start taking a little risk each day and slowly move on to bigger and bigger risks.

Action that goes against your current beliefs will help to instill new beliefs and overcome challenges.

So to answer "How to become confident and take risks?" - is to take risk without waiting to become confident first.

"True Power = Ability to Take Action" (Tony Robbins)

Start small, and do the opposite in small things, like food and clothes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SclV-UWM4Gw

I think the best approach is to make small reach goals. Try things just beyond your comfort zone.

When you do this, you train your mind that it was not so hard and you build confidence on each step.

Read the book Absinthe & Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously. It goes through how to intelligently take risks and why you would even want to.

Hit the gym. Increase Testosterone/DHT.

Don't fear failure, welcome it. You don't learn without failing. Exercise.

In essence do not avoid any risk (except accident), no matter what you will know the coming risk.

People know a kettle is hot when they touch the hot kettle with their hand and then they will not touch it again because they realized the hot kettle was hot.

How do you know risk will be right or wrong before you take it. you are doing just a guess

Skimming over these comments, I didn't see any answer that seemed like it would be helpful.

As someone who dropped out of college (gave up a full-ride) to startup a business (without a plan, customers, or much code) and 4 months runway in my bank account this is what I did:

-anchor myself to something much more extreme than my daily fears. My daily fears were running out of money and building a product that everyone would laugh at. So I would write down in my journal each day something even more extreme: "I am willing to die broke, alone, and hated in pursuit of {{YOUR_GOAL}}".

-Reframe the concept of risk via death, via sort of nihilistic perspective (e.g. in the grand scheme of the universe what you are doing whether you succeed or fail really won't matter). I would tell myself "There is no risk. One day I'll be dead". I think about death a lot and every time I see someone famous in the news I write their name down in a list as a reminder that we are all ticking time bombs.

-anchor myself to fearless people and ideas. Books I read: 50th Law by Robert Green, Moral Courage by Rushworth Kidder. People I like thinking about: MLK JR, Ghandi

-Be skeptical of your skepticism. doubt is in proportion to # of and magnitude of questions you ask about something. Become brutally skeptical of the safe thing you know deep down you should avoid. Will doing X really make me happy? Is X really the right thing to do? Perhaps everyone doing X is crazy. Would {{INSERT ROLE MODEL}} do X? Why does everyone actually do X? For more on this see Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

-Brainwash yourself via repetition. Cf. the familiarity bias. Your brain mistakes familiarity and ease of retrieval for truth. This is how cults make people feel that something is true by simply saying it 1000 times. Develop extreme faith and confidence in yourself by pure repetition. One tip is writing down a goal or affirmation 15 times a day. "I am a very attractive person" or "I am the most attractive person in my city. Everyone". Remember your brain perceives ease of retrieval as truth, and repetition improves ease of retrieval. Maybe combine this with some extreme-anchoring: "I could be the ugliest person in the world, and I could still win this opportunity through charm and persuasion". Or turn it into a positive: "This person WANTS to interact with me because they'll feel so attractive being around me".

- Anchor to other people who had the same issue that you think you do. Abe Lincoln considered himself to be ugly (and so did many other people in his time) (and he had a high pitched voice too) and he still went on to be president, and not only president, but one of the best presidents ever.

-Burn any bridges. When your back is against a corner, evolutionary instinct will kick in and give you a natural fire. For me this was dropping out of college.

-Ensure that the 5 people closest to you are risk takers and confident.

-Have a super intense goal that pretty much everyone in the world would think is impossible. "I will be the richest person in the world". "I will fix {{INDUSTRY_NAME}} by 2030". etc.

> "I feel people judge me more often than not"

IMO when you think about death alot and have a burning passion for your goal thoughts like these never even cross your mind.

For what it's worth I used to be very risk averse too. Would jump through any and all hoops society/school would set. Only invested in Total Market ETFs. Didn't want to start a company until I had 1.3m in the bank and was age 31 etc. Becoming courage was a very deliberate and continuous process I had to (and still) go through.

Go somewhere where you are a big fish.

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