Nov. 24, 2022

214 [BEST OF] Practical Decision Making with the Creator of The Terms FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and FOBO (Fear of a Better Option) Patrick McGinnis | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

214 [BEST OF] Practical Decision Making with the Creator of The Terms FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and FOBO (Fear of a Better Option) Patrick McGinnis | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Mahan Tavakoli speaks with Patrick McGinnis. Patrick coined the term FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and FOBO (Fear of a Better Option) while attending Harvard Business School. Patrick McGinnis is the author of two international bestsellers, including Fear of Missing Out: Practical Decision-Making in a World of Overwhelming Choice, and the host of the hit podcast FOMO Sapiens. In this conversation, Patrick McGinnis discusses why our need to be included can be overwhelming and what we can do to overcome it. He also talks about FOBO (Fear of a Better Option) and its adverse impacts on our mental health and the quality and speed of our decision-making. 


Some Highlights:

- Patrick McGinnis on what led him to write about “FOMO” and “FOBO” while attending Harvard Business School

- How FOMO or the fear of missing out can be beneficial and destructive at the same time

- Patrick McGinnis on controlling the negative consequences of the Fear of Missing Out

- The common triggers of FOMO and how to manage the triggers

- Patrick McGinnis on overcoming FOMO at work 

- Understanding the impact of the Fear of a Better Option (FOBO) on decision-making

- Patrick McGinnis on controlling the desire for optimization that leads to FOBO


Also mentioned in this episode:

- Carl Jung, psychiatrist, The wounded healer Archetype

- Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Leader

- Mahatma Gandhi, Leader of Indian Independence Movement

Books Mentioned:

- Fear of Missing Out: Practical Decision-Making in a World of Overwhelming Choice by Patrick McGinnis 

- System Failure by Joe Zieja

- Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind what Makes People Take a Chance on You by Carlye Adler and Suneel Gupta

- Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age by Bruce Feiler

- The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

- Flourish by Martin Seligman

- Lost in the Valley of Death: A Story of Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas by Harley Rustad

- The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self by Martha Beck

- Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive by Dorie Clark

- Ask for More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything by Alexandra Carter

- Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life by Luke Burgis

- The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari


Connect with Patrick McGinnis:

Patrick McGinnis on Podcast

Patrick McGinnis Website

Patrick McGinnis on LinkedIn

Patrick McGinnis on Instagram

Patrick McGinnis on Twitter


Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:

More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:


Mahan Tavakoli:

Welcome to partnering leadership. I am really excited this week to be welcoming Patrick McGinnis. Patrick is an author speaker, venture capitalist, expert entrepreneur, and host of a great podcast of his own. Additionally, Patrick is the person that originally coined the term FOMO fear of missing out, and FOBO fear of a better option.

He did this when he was attending Harvard business school back in 2003. Part of the irony is many people think that social media has contributed. To a sense of FOMO and FOBO and at the time Patrick was writing this- he was less than a mile away from Mark Zuckerberg who was founding Facebook. I really enjoyed the conversation with Patrick most specifically on how we can master decision-making queue. Powerful networks and build successful businesses tapping into and harnessing the power of FOMO for good. 

I also enjoy hearing from you. Keep your comments coming There's a microphone icon on Really enjoy getting those voicemails. Don't forget to follow the podcast on your favorite platform.

Tuesday conversations with magnificent change makers from the greater Washington DC DMV region, and then Thursday conversations with brilliant global thought leaders like Patrick McGinnis. Finally. Don't forget to leave a rating and review on apple podcasts and recently Spotify has also added ratings.

You can leave a rating there too. Those will help more people find and benefit from the conversations. Now here's my conversation with Patrick J McGinniss.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Patrick McGinnis. Welcome to partnering leadership. I am thrilled to have you in this conversation with me.

Patrick McGinnis: 

It's great to be here. Thank you for having me. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I'm really excited to talk about your book “Fear of Missing Out: Practical Decision-Making in a World of Overwhelming Choice”. But before we get to FOMO, FOBO, decision-making. We'd love to know a little bit Patrick, about whereabouts you grew up and how your upbringing impacted who you've become.

Patrick McGinnis: 

I grew up in a small town in the State of Maine. I called Sanford it's 20,000 people When I was growing up anyway, it's changed obviously like many places, but when I was growing up, it was a very middle-class low key. I would say a relatively inward-looking part of the earth and it was very safe. I would say it wasn't particularly relevant to be unconventional. So my brother and I were both reasonably unconventional and took a lot of guff for that. But it was a wonderful place to grow up and I still have very strong ties to the State of Maine. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Reasonably unconventional, you were drum major for your high school band.

Patrick McGinnis: 

Wait, how do you know that? Seriously? That's some deep research. Oh my goodness.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

But what I'm wondering about that though, Patrick is why were you kicked out for insubordination? What did you do?

Patrick McGinnis: 

Oh my goodness. Basically what happened was, I was a drum major. 'm telling you this is like Maine State marching band. Okay so, just imagine this is not like it was not like great music being made. It was not very professional. It was very high school-ish and very poor. And our band only had 30 people in it and it was like. We weren't very good, but I had wanted to be a drum major since I was a freshman in high school. My brother's girlfriend had been drum major. I went to drum major camp. I practiced really hard and I was named the drum major and I'm a very driven person. So when I was named, I was like, I'm going to be state champion. And that was my goal. And so I worked at, I used to have this mist that I would throw up in the air like 35 feet and then catch and spin me on my back. which is drum majors- anyway. So funny, basically I snuck off of the girl that I was dating in high school during the band competition, which was not expressed against the rules, but apparently, people got in trouble for that or something.

And I got yelled at by the teacher and I told them like, this is not fair what you're saying. You shouldn't treat us like we're in a prison. And then he fired me for insubordination, but then half the group walked and then all the teachers in the school got involved- it was very dramatic at the time. I remember I was in tears half of the day, cause I really loved marching band and it was classical hero's journey cause they came back and I won state champion. As a Nadia, I shouldn't even say this. We're going to get thrown in jail, but I ended up sneaking into the high school two years after I graduated, and taking my trophy home was a really big trophy and I want it. some people were like that story was long and boring and I apologize. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

No, No. I think, that story says also a lot about your drive and the fact that you don't let the external circumstances bring you down and keep you down. love it from there, why did you decide to go to Georgetown? Which I also love the school.

Patrick McGinnis: 

I knew I wanted to leave Maine. In fact, I had gone to summer camp the summer before college applications at Washington and Lee down in Virginia. And when I went there, I actually like really enjoyed it. But I remember thinking like, this is almost like studying abroad. The American south is so different for me. I remember at the time, now, it's incredible to look back on these things that how the world has changed. But like at the time they sold postal cards with postcards, with the Confederate flag on them, believe it or not like it was insane. and so don't think I want to go to WNL, but I did know I wanted to go to a big school. I've known of people going there from my town and there were one or two people in over the years. In my high school, not many people went away to college, but there's been one person that I had remembered when I was a little kid.

As I did research, I realized Georgetown had the most sort of the best sort of international studies and humanities and languages and all this stuff that kind of interested me in so I visited it and I liked it and I wanted to be in Washington. My plan was to work on Capitol hill. That was my dream in life. I applied early action and thankfully was admitted and it kind of all happened. I was very fortunate to get in and then get enough financial aid to attend.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Eventually went to New York into venture capital. Why did you decide to then go to business school?

Patrick McGinnis: 

I had never planned on going to business school. In fact, I remember thinking. First of all, I didn't really know anybody who went to business school, I guess it was like, not something that I was just acquainted with, especially the top business schools. And then I also thought this sounds terrible, but I think it's kinda true. I was like, business school just teaches you things that are obvious already. Do you know what I mean? It's like, everything you learned in business school is it's very helpful. And I think it's valuable, but it's not like you're learning like chemistry, right? It's like stuff. Its ways of thinking its mindset, its frameworks, but it's not like anything that you couldn't figure out on your own if you didn't read a couple of books and things.

So that was the way I thought about it, but everybody I knew was applying to business school and I felt like I should too. And so, I decided to take the GMAT and I actually looked at going to like econ programs and other things but I took the GMAT and I got a high score and so I was like guess I'm going to business school. Just following the crowd. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

We were briefly having a conversation about Luke Burgis and the mimetic desire, how the desires of people around us impact us a lot of times we want what they want, and in the business school that can often be the case too. 

it was in business school that you wrote the article that included the terms FOMO and FOBO what brought that about?

Patrick McGinnis: 

So I got to business school in the fall of 2002. And I was no longer the little small-town kid from Maine. I'd lived in New York City for four years. I had saved some money. I bought a car, my dream car which was a Saab. I don't ever need to buy another car because I lived my dream at the age of 26 by buying that Saab ‘93, which I'd coveted my entire life. 

But I had lived through 911 in New York. In fact, I took the GMAT the day of September 10th, 2001, and in fact, went out that night to celebrate with my friends in the village. And then the last thing I remember, we came out of this bar called Pramata on Lafayette street. And I pointed at the trade centers. I was like, I love this view of the trade center. I went home, went to bed, and the next morning they were attacked. 

So after that happened, I felt very, much like the world I knew- it would no longer be the same. And therefore, when I left New York and went to business school a year later I was like I need to take advantage of every opportunity as I'd never thought I'd go to Harvard business school. I didn't even know that it was a possibility for me. And I felt so lucky to have the opportunity that I just wanted to do everything. I felt carpe diem. Got to take advantage of these opportunities. I'll never have this again. And so my response was to do everything. I could try to do everything all the time, every party, every class, every lecture, every trip you name it. And I was constantly just overbooked and stressed out and sick and tired. and I realized you know, it'd be Friday night and I would have seven things to go to.


And I realized that was the culture of the school. And so I started referring to that overwhelmingness, that we all felt this FOMO -fear of missing out because we had all these great options, but we didn't actually enjoy having so many options. We felt oppressed. It's a very sort of like a high-class problem obviously. 

But I started calling that FOMO and I came up with another term FOBO fear of a better option, which was the idea that nobody ever committed to anything because they thought oh, there's got to be even something better coming around. It was really incredible. 

And this was pre-social media. At the time I was a student at HBS, Mark Zuckerberg was on the other side of the Charles River, embedding Facebook, believe it or not. I wrote an article right before I graduated to sort of just like remember this funny time because I thought oh well, this is over now I'm going back to the real world. And I wrote an article, a satirical article and humor section of the newspaper called Social Theory at HBS- McGinnis's is 2 FO's about FOMO and FOBO that's how it happened. May 10th, 2004.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And that's incredible how you were perceptive enough to see this on the Harvard business school campus, but it was also reflective of what was happening in the broader society. And even more so, as you said, with the Facebooks of the world that were, starting up there. Patrick, as we keep talking about FOMO and later on FOBO. What is your definition of the fear of missing out “FOMO”?

Patrick McGinnis: 

When I wrote the article, I never defined it. I just gave examples. And then when I wrote my book, I read many- it was probably like 30 articles in psychology journals about FOMO by people at PhDs and different things. It's mind-numbingly incredible to me. How much work has been done in the space. So I decided though that there was no consistent and uniform definition and so I defined it.

FOMO's two things. It's an anxiety caused by the perception often enhanced by social media that there's something better out there than what's happening right now, combined with the fear of being left out are the beneficial collective experience. 


Mahan Tavakoli: 

I wonder Patrick, my undergraduate degree was in human nutrition and I did some graduate work in it before going to business school. And when we think about diets, there are biological and evolutionary factors, why fats, salt, and sugar are appealing to humans. Those were needed early on.

However, at this point, partly because there is so much of it they've become counterproductive to human health and us over consuming on it. 

Is there a benefit to FOMO our fear of missing out that originally served a purpose and now it's gotten out of control?

Patrick McGinnis: 

There is and in fact, the word FOMO is new obviously, but the feelings that we have when we have FOMO are as old as we are because if you've ever read the book sapiens, for example, and when I read that book I thought it was really cool because it was for me very instructive about the fact that the earliest humans. We're very keenly aware of what they had, what they needed and didn't have what other people had. Because you needed to be in the information flow and also running a pack in order to survive in the early days of humanity. If you weren't part of the group, you might miss out on critical information about where there was shelter or food or water, or whatever that you needed. As a result, people did have an incredible fear of missing out that beneficial collective experience piece that I talked about was really critical to survival. 

But like you've just said with the sugar and the salt and the fat. Now we're confronted all day long with so much data about what we're missing out on what other people are doing, that it has become completely destructive and limiting on us. It's like classical, too much of a good thing is causing us incredible stress.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And that's why I wonder you mentioned there are big costs to FOMO mental health, financial productivity. But on the other hand, with respect to social media, we live in a world of attention economy where the platforms make their money primarily by having us feel like we are missing out on things and wanting to stay engaged. 

What can we do, to control that fear of missing out? Which is overtaking a lot of us, having negative consequences, whether it's to health or our financial well-being.

Patrick McGinnis: 

It's so true what you say. And in fact, the attention economy is this out-of-control train where we're constantly being prodded into checking our messages and the news and all these other things and posting and creating content and for what? 


I read this fascinating article in The Wall Street Journal about a guy who quit his job. He spent the last three years trying to become an influencer on different platforms. He's moved from YouTube to TikTok and all that sort of stuff. And it's not things unsuccessful. He has a pretty good following on TikTok 50,000 people. He's had a video that did 2 million views but at the sum total of his earnings today to $73 which is so sad that's awful.

I think it's important for us to recognize. I think two things in particular. Number one is that social media is not reality, it's a very disconnected version of reality. That tricks us into thinking it's real. And it can cause us to do and wanted things without questioning what we're seeing or what we're wanting, which is very negative. 

Number two is that I think validation that we get from these things is so damaging. Because again it's all in the ether, it's all fake. And the idea that you do something and also all of a sudden you're rewarded with likes what is that?. that's all external, right? like, I'm just as bad as anybody. I post things in, not like something too. But I think recognizing the forces at play, and the fact that we are being manipulated by these platforms is the first step to thinking back some of the control. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I use the analogy with respect to diet. It's a fact that I still love chocolate and sugar, but I understand the impact that it has. Therefore, the need for controlling it so it doesn't control me.

You also mentioned Michael Rogan the psychologist. His take on the impact of social media and this FOMO on us.


Patrick McGinnis:

I'm actually an investor in his company, believe it or not and he's an interesting guy because he's an entrepreneur now. But he started out, he got his Ph.D. in psychology and he really understands the sort of neurobiology of FOMO. And he also has been a practitioner of Buddhist meditation for more than 20 years.

What I like about Michael and his perspective and the reason why I interviewed him and put him in my book was that he got the clinical piece, but he's also got the sort of spiritual piece too. And nowadays, those aren't necessarily divorced. Psychologists will tell their patients to meditate because these are traditions that actually do work. 

I don't even know, like psychological drugs and Zoloft and stuff like in 3000 years ago. We have meditation and it worked so it's quite powerful. And so what he talks about, which I thought was super interesting. I just remember like the light went on in my head when we had this conversation. Is that when we feel FOMO, we are invested in a world that is fictional. That is our own creation in which we are telling a story. Most likely does not correspond to reality. Maybe there are some elements that would do, but in general, it does not correspond to reality. And the more time you spend in that world, the less connected you are to reality. And that's where the pathology begins, and that's why meditation is so great because meditation, moves you back into the world in which you actually live. And pulls you out of that headspace into a much more grounded place where you can better assess your feelings and better assess reality and fiction.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And that allows you to stay away from what you say Patrick is that perception can at these times be deception. And we have this referencing anxiety, whether it's with respect to Instagram and it's linked to anxiety and depression on teenage girls there, there's a lot of negative consequences of this FOMO. 

In addition to meditation, which is something that you talk about. What else can we do to minimize this reference anxiety and minimize the impact of always fearing missing out.

Patrick McGinnis: 

One of the things that triggers my FOMO, in particular, is LinkedIn. When I go on LinkedIn and by the way, I'm like the most promiscuous LinkedIn person ever. I think I have 18,000 followers. I don't know, I take everybody. 

But I also have a lot of friends who are on LinkedIn, who are Harvard MBA, who are doing really well. Classmates of mine, one guy, a COO of Dell, lots of entrepreneurs, and so on and so forth. Partners at every firm, you can imagine. 

It's amazing. You go on there and you're like, oh my goodness, I am a failure. I feel it all the time and it's very natural. It's not that I have some sort of issue. I'm very happy with what I've chosen. But first of all, I recognize no criticism on LinkedIn. But it's just, that LinkedIn's job is to make me want to apply for more jobs and get more training and all these sorts of things and that's okay because some of those are great things, but it's trying to motivate me to be better. And so that can make me feel worse sometimes.

Number two again, I see this person's achieved something. I have no idea if I'd even like that job, I probably couldn't get that job. The amount of work that went into getting the job, the amount of pain, the amount of sacrifice, like I never focused on those things. 

And so really getting into like, is this possible? Would I even like this, those kinds of things like really demystifying and taking the fear and the feelings away and just getting into the facts. And the other thing is you're feeling FOMO about 97 people. You're seeing what you could never do, all those things. 

So thinking critically about why you're feeling those feelings. Is the first part, the second part is if it doesn't feel good, don't use it. For example, there are certain people that just post on LinkedIn and I just can't take it. I cannot take your braggadocious. I don't even know, I just unfollowed. They don't know. I'm more chill and I just feel better about it. So  I do think that we oftentimes, become pawns in the game and if we exercise control and take back control, we can still use these tools, but have a much more healthy relationship.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Patrick, that's actually one of the things I love about you. It's your authenticity and the mental struggles that you also go through with respect to this fear of missing out. It's not that a lot of times whether it's authors or other thought leaders or influencers. They want to present it as if they have mastered things, just do what I have done to master it, rather than a challenge that you are also facing and something that we all need to face on an ongoing basis.

So I love your perspective, both it's helpful with respect to what we choose to pay attention to, and the fact that you yourself have to be mindful of that.

Patrick McGinnis: 

All the time. I always like to say, there's this great concept in the work of Carl Jung. I haven't actually read any Carl Jung, so I've found this out because I interviewed somebody and they told me about it. And then I went and read about it. It's called The Wounded Healer. And the wounded healer is this person who many people go into clinical psychology or therapy or things like that because they were beneficiaries of that kind of treatment when they were in their life when they had a rough spot. And they were, they recognize how valuable it was in their life. And they want to help other people with the same kinds of challenges. But they're only a few steps, ahead of the people that are helping. And so we call that the wounded healer. And so when it comes to these issues, I am definitely a wounded healer. I feel the feelings all the time.


But the difference now is, I'm super heightened aware of them. Because I always think to myself, if I can't fix this and how am I supposed to tell other people? And so, I really work to deal with them proactively. And I found that they are a managed. Sometimes they're not, by the way, it's on these, you just freak out and that's okay too. But I think it's just, being mindful and working through it and having a process. That's what you got to do. 

Mahan Tavakoli:

There's a lot of negative aspects to FOMO. Specifically, this heard FOMO but there are positive elements, aspirational FOMO also. In what cases and how can formal be used as a positive.

Patrick McGinnis:   

So in its core, FOMO is an incredible motivator. Now it can be a motivator to do things that are not healthy or good for you.  But it can also be a motivator to do great things. And for example, I remember a number of years ago, I was talking to a friend about the New York City marathon and I had FOMO and I decided to run the marathon. But in so many other times, you see somebody who lost weight, you go on a diet. You see somebody who is doing something professionally and you get excited and you want to go ahead and do that. You see somebody as a kid and you want to do, and there's a million different ways in which you can start to think about what you want to do. The key is of course, that we need to like any other type of form or we need to look at it critically. For example, if you want to do a marathon. You don't just go out and run a marathon the next day you try the 5k and the 10 learn whether you like to do that thing or not.

And so that's really I think, very important. You want to remove we talked about the narrative in your head it's not tied to reality. You want to connect reality and that narrative together by experiencing that thing. So maybe it's entrepreneurship, you don't just quit your job. You start working on something on the side. I attribute FOMO with a lot of the things that I've been able to achieve. I've had FOMO my whole life and I've always wanted it to be doing a million things and I want it to be the best and win and I'm very competitive. And I've mellowed out obviously over time. But I do know that, my FOMO is the reason why I get off the couch when other people are still sitting on there. So I do recognize that there's power in it.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So it can be used as a positive. As we're transitioning Patrick and a lot of organizations are going to somewhat hybrid work, more remote work at least than was the case pre-pandemic. 

How do you see FOMO playing out with respect to presence in the office interaction in meetings, those opportunities? How do you see the future of work as it relates to the fear of missing out?

Patrick McGinnis: 

It's so funny, you asked this. I don't know. Do you have like a spy that lives in my house? What I- because I don't think you know this but I just recorded a course that is actually out now, it dropped in January of 2022 called Overcoming FOMO in the Workplace and I did that with LinkedIn.

So it's part of their LinkedIn learning platform. And we talk about this issue and the thing about our lives now is that we think about these I just talked about with FOMO. We have people who are working remotely or working hybrid that feel concerned that because they're not in the office, they're going to be left out of opportunities and information flow. That may be true by the way but a lot of times that's all kind of an internal narrative that is self-inflicted. And so what I talk about in the course is how to overcome that. And it's a combination, some of the things we talked about today but I do think that like, right now in particular, we're in this very weird transition period where people don't really know the rules anymore. Everything has become a bit- the deck has been shuffled I guess. And so we need in that very sort of, ever-changing and confusing environment, we need to be able to have kind of a strong mindset. About how we can be successful and not spend all of our time worried. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Because that's gonna really impact again, the additional stress and anxiety people will face in this next, future of work. FOMO has a lot of negatives, potentially some positives. If channeled correctly. 

You also mentioned FOBO- fear of a better option. What is that?

Patrick McGinnis: 

FOBO is the other FO. I invented it at the same time, it didn't get as famous as FOMO. It's not in the dictionary. It has been in the New York Times. So hooray for you FOBO and some others, it was in the guardian and maybe one day we'll get it in the dictionary. But not yet.

It's so interesting- FOBO because- where the heck was I? I was somewhere yesterday or the day before. And I was somehow or another, it got somebody in knew me there and said, Hey everybody! Do you know Patrick inventor of FOMO which I'm always delighted to talk about, I never get sick of like people ask me, are you sick of talking about FOMO? No, not at all. I'm always delighted.

But FOBO I mentioned FOBO. And I explained it and the people all said Oh! that's what I have. I don't have FOMO, I have FOBO and I think that is the thing. It's that word, that really describes something that people don't have a word for because listen, a lot of people, they have FOMO. Sure, but you're busy, you're exhausted, you've lived life, you know what things are. So your FOMO tends to go up and down over time with your life and other things. 

FOBO on the other hand, we live in a world- as I say in the title of my book, "We live in a world of overwhelming choice" anything you want to do there's plenty of acceptable options. All of which are perfectly fine like you want to get Sweetgreen- love Sweetgreen. There's so many salads now, right? It used to be, there were like eight salads. Now I go to Sweetgreen and it's like, you're overwhelmed with choice. And frankly, I find it difficult to order now. 

And so that is what happens when you have FOBO- is that's when it becomes difficult to make a decision because there's so many options, you're waiting, looking for the perfect one. There is no perfect one. Nothing. There is no perfection in the world and you delayed decision-making. In hopes that you'll come to the easy choice, but you don't. And as a result, you just delay and delay and people do that all the time, and it's very damaging.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And this is a powerful concept Patrick, and I think it will make it to the dictionary. And if people fully understand it, it has even a bigger impact on their lives than FOMO. But in some respects, I think it runs a little counter to again, the Silicon Valley mantra of optimizing everything. Where we are celebrating people that optimize the hacking process of the optimization. I mean, everything is looking for the angle, the edge, and therefore being able to find the best way to do everything.

How can we put a control to that desire for optimization, which in many instances becomes FOBO and gets in a way?

Patrick McGinnis: 

It's such a relevant point and you're so right. And I just feel like you might be spying on me because I just read a book and I'm going to have these guys in my podcast. It's called System Failure, by a professor at Stanford or three professors at Stanford, including Rob Reisch and Jeremy Weinstein. I don't remember the name of the third gentleman.

They talk about this time, like how Silicon Valley used to solve important problems, and now it's basically solved like it, optimizes things that don't really do anything. There's a great example they give in the book of Soylent, the idea that eating is a waste of time. 

So now if you drink this drink Soylent, you have more time to work as a programmer. I don't even have to say, I don't have to tell you why that's ridiculous. And so I think that is so true about Silicon Valley, it fetishize is optimization and frankly it optimizes things that don't really matter. One thing to optimize cancer treatment sure, but if you're optimizing. I've been railing against this. There were like four grocers in my neighborhood that do 15 minute deliveries, one called joker, one called I don't even remember the name. They're all stupid. And I'm like why like billions of dollars going to solve a problem that I don't, I never needed to go see, it's just so ridiculous.

And that's what I think you're right. Optimization in the business context is stupid because I think the more your solution becomes about optimizing at those fringe, the actually less value you're really creating for anybody. 

The real value is created just this part. Getting over here, you're getting into the tail end of like the standard distribution.How do you create a lot of value there? I'd love to see some studies on that. I've not read them, but just like my intuition tells me that's not where the value happens because the market value is so small. When you get into that incremental optimization.

Number two is that from a personal perspective, optimization is actually, This is the part that makes me laugh. It's so ridiculous. And Barry Schwartz writes about this in “The Paradox of Choice”, so I love that book. Basically, people who really agonize and are optimizers over people who they call satisfies service, where people are like it's good enough I'll take it. Like the optimizer who was like, no, I must have the best actually does.

In the end, make a somewhat better decision, not like crazy, but it will be a better decision, but because they spent so much time analyzing all the other options when they do choose that thing, they're less happy with it because they're so focused on what they couldn't choose. 

And so, therefore, being an optimizer makes you less happy, which is so insane. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That is absolutely incredible. And while this podcast is on leadership, my wife and I, every once in a while, talk about how difficult it makes the dating process that people have to go through now. 

But within the organizational leadership examples, you also use Audi as an example of an organization that got stuck in fear of better option.

Patrick McGinnis: 

I love Audi. I want an Audi. I prefer Saab, but Yes I pick on them because I was talking to a friend of mine about FOBO. And the fact that if you have FOBO, it's really hard to be an innovator or a leader, right? Like you think about. Great leaders Gandhi, like Rosa Parks, just there's a million I could go on and on. They didn't sit there and they don't optimize, they weren't optimized. Rosa parks I'm just going to wait for the perfect day to not move on the bus or whatever. No, people they're decisive same with developing products. Especially startups, they can't like fidget and fuss. They have to move, that's just how innovation is done. in the obvious situation, like they basically started on an electric vehicle in 2009. Which was really early actually, before any of their competitors. But they kept on changing and changing and never stuck with anything. And we're trying something better and, oh my goodness. Let's do this or that to the point where they were the last ones basically to put a car out over 10 years later.

And so by the time they came out with a car. Tesla was already out with their, is and now Tesla is like a much larger company. Tesla is way bigger than Audi, even though they produce many fewer units. And so It's a FOBO it's like all of the inertia created by, organizational factors and building consensus is, I'm not saying you want to just do anything recklessly but that's why startups eat the lunch of incumbent companies that can't respond despite massively bigger R and D budgets at a place like Audi.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It's exactly a fear of making that decision and potential better decisions and better options rather than acting on it.


you also, had an episode. I love your podcast Patrick, and you've started doing some solo episodes. And some of your thoughts, one of my favorite books growing up was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I actually loved the movie too. I think both versions of the movie were in my view well done. You talk about it and it gave me a new perspective on. FOMO in our culture and how we communicate to our kids and society at large. Do you mind sharing some of your thoughts with respect to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

Patrick McGinnis: 

sure. Thank you for bringing it up. And yeah, so I love that movie as a kid. I actually haven't read the book, but growing up in, I guess the 1980s. I saw that movie so many times, I think it was probably an HBO. For those of you who weren't around, this is when you had 13 channels. I think Charlie chocolate factory played every day. And so it's, I know that movie inside and out. And I always remember, I went and saw it again recently with my niece. you know, You see it with new eyes, it's still like incredibly great film. but when you see It with a new perspective.


And at the end of the movie. charlie basically has this opportunity to sort of do something bad. Instilled some trade secrets from the chocolate factory, but he decides not to. And so as a result, Mr. Wonka who wants to retire and I don't know. Where he's going to go, but maybe in book two, they find out. He decides to give the Chocolate Factory to Charlie. And they're going in the elevator, the glass elevator. And Mr. Wonka turns to Charlie and says, " do you know what happened to the man who got everything he ever wanted?"

 And Charlie says "what?" And he says, " he lived happily ever after. " And so I remember at the time as was a child. I was like, oh, this is so sweet. Wow. That's so great. But yeah, Mr. Wonka you're so wise, right? I remember that line. And then as an adult, I started to think is that right though? Because Charlie's like 8, 9, 10 years old, maybe 11. I don't know. He's a kid. And it's like, what if he doesn't know what he wants? Nobody knows what they want. So the notion that you could, get what you want and live happily ever after is not- find me one person. And in fact, there's always these stories about the person who wins the lottery and it ends up like on skid row with a tattoo on their face, like killed their wife or whatever. So I just think it's a very unconstructive sort of mindset. And in fact, there is no happy ending.

 There's a guy named Bruce Feiler, who I've had on my podcast. He wrote this book called Life in Transitions, life you know is not a fairy tale or life is a fairy tale because there's not just the happy ending. There's also the big, bad wolf. It just made me think that maybe I'm just way overthinking it, but it really made me think that was not a helpful way of thinking about the world.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

It is. And one of the things I love about your perspectives on it is that a lot of how messages are communicated to us, whether as children, or even as adults, one of the things I've really enjoyed about content Patrick, and thinking more deeply about FOMO fear of missing out, and FOBO fear of a better option. Taking control to a certain extent, of our choices and being mindful of our choices. There are positives that can come from FOMO. If we are aware of why we are choosing what we're choosing. And then FOBO a lot of times, good enough is good enough. We need to be able to move on. 

 I'm curious Patrick, in addition to your own book, your own content and podcasts, are there any leadership resources you find yourself referring to any recent books? You've read that you're like, this is an absolute must read.

Patrick McGinnis: 

Oh, my goodness. There are too many. One of the best things about having a podcast is that they send you all the books, five books a week from authors. And so I get this kind of look at all of them. I don't have time to read them all, but I looked through them. 

 A couple of my favorites from the recent history that I really enjoyed. There's a really great book by Suneel Gupta called Backable. And if you don't know, Suneel, he's an entrepreneur. His brother Dr. Sanjay Gupta. So it's like an, a very impressive family. Suneel is, a really great guy. His book is so beautifully written and he just talks about how to create ideas that people want to invest in and believe in. I think that books was for me. I got a lot out of it. I really loved, I just mentioned it, but Life is in the Transitions by Bruce Feiler. Which is about people's major sort of car crashes in life, as is whirl like this would things went off the rails. And then, codify them and did like a regression analysis of like how people deal with challenges. It's a beautiful book and Bruce is amazing and he was on my podcast, you can listen to that as with Suneel. And then I love this book called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. That book, I love there's a book called Flourish by Martin Seligman that I really love. there's a book that just came out that I loved. it's not a business book, but it's called Lost in the Valley of Death. It's a travel book that I just I'm going to have him on the podcast. Martha Beck has an amazing book about integrity. She's wonderful, I interviewed her recently, so all of Dorie Clark's books are wonderful. She's been on the pod three times. Entrepreneurial You in particular, I really like of hers. 

 And there's a wonderful book. by classmate of mine. Like she's a year older than me, or two years older than me at Georgetown. Then she went to Columbia law school. It's called Ask for More by Alexandera Carter, it's about how to get more in negotiations. Typically targeted towards a female audience, but I read it. And Anybody who's afraid to ask for what they deserve should read that book, not just for women, for everybody. And I think that book is wonderful. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Those are outstanding recommendations, Patrick. And as you say, one of the reasons I love podcasting is it gets me to constantly read and grow. Because one of the things I believe is going to be a differentiator in the world ahead is the fact that we have to keep learning, unlearning, relearning. So really appreciate those thoughts and recommendations. 

Now you do have a lot of great resources of your own. What's the best way for the audience to find out more about your content, Patrick.

Patrick McGinnis: 

So the best place to go for everything is There you can connect into social. So if you're an Instagram person, it's @PatrickJMcGinnis, if it's Twitter @PJMcGinnis. I have LinkedIn on there, like very active on LinkedIn. So all those places, depending on what you'd like to do. 

And then you can also check out the podcast, FOMO sapiens. Find it wherever you find podcasts, or if you want to go and check out more about the show and learn about it. There's a website, 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Loved the podcast. Loved the book, Patrick, most especially. One of the things that I've appreciated is I saw you at a Georgetown Virtual Event. Pretty soon after the lockdowns, you were talking about FOMO connected with you afterwards. Had you hosted conversation at leadership, greater Washington. So I've had a chance in interacting with you. To see the genuine person that you are and your desire to make a difference in people's lives. And I appreciate that for me, that is just as important as the brilliance of the content. So I really appreciate your joining me in this conversation, Patrick McGinnis. 

Patrick McGinnis: 

Thank you so much.