'Nope', she said, 'I'm not doing it, too much could go wrong. It's not worth the risk. I'm not like you.'
Hmmm, one person's risk is another person's reward. It all depends on how you look at the outcome.
What was she worried about? Opening her home as an AirBnB host. It had seemed like a great idea to begin with - having international guests would fulfil her desire to know the world, while the income would be a welcome supplement to her mortgage repayments.
The trouble was that she talked about her plans to critical friends, who raised frightening spectres of All the Things That Could Go Wrong, from creepy stalkers to guests stealing stuff. Suddenly what had seemed like a great solution was fraught with danger, and in the face of their wotifs, her enthusiasm evaporated. It was time to put fear back in its box and remember why she started down this path in the first place.
You'll have heard of post-mortems, those investigations that takes place after a death to discover the cause, decide on any further action and then issue a death certificate. The process often takes place at work too, to look at what went wrong in a project, and what learnings might be applicable for next time. It's practising hindsight, and, while useful, it only happens after the fact.
American psychologist Gary Klein has described an alternative approach called a ‘pre-mortem’ that enables you to look ahead, to forecast what might go wrong and then to take steps to pre-empt those very issues. It's a process of prospective hindsight.
In my book A Bold Life, Victoria used a pre-mortem to prepare for her one year stint in a rural women's education programme in Cambodia. It involves thinking through a series of questions, recognising all the while that you can't know every answer.
So, I asked the prospective AirBnB host to imagine that in 12 months’ time, the year had been a complete failure, and then ask herself five questions.
1. What went wrong? (she made a long list, from lost keys and dodgy guests to flood and fire)
2. Which of these would have the greatest impact? (choose those)
3. Which are most likely? (choose again)
4. Which are out of my control? (eliminate these)
5. What can I do to solve the remaining problems? Some of the solutions were simple, such as keyless entry to the house via a pin pad, and close screening of guest reviews before accepting bookings.
She finally realised that while she could never cover all eventualities, there was really very little that she couldn't handle. Perhaps it was worth the risk after all. Encouraged, she returned to all the reasons why it would work and, having re-convinced herself, went off smiling to complete the paperwork.
Most of our fears shrink when, with a deep breath and a steady hand, we shine a light directly on them. So, what about you? Which of your fears would fall under scrutiny? Are you willing to find out?
P.S. My book, 'A Bold Life: How Baby Boomer Women are Reinventing Life Beyond Fifty' is about to go into its 3rd print run. If you have not yet got your own copy, or would like to purchase one for a friend, then email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get it to you pronto!