Your Next Big Move Should Scare You
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Your Next Big Move Should Scare You

Your gut says no. Here’s why you shouldn’t always listen to it.

Tue, May 23, 2023 8:36amGrey Clock 4 min

Melissa Ben-Ishay was scared when she walked into the first commercial kitchen for baking her cupcakes. She was scared when a publisher proposed she write a cookbook. And she was terrified when the board of Baked by Melissa, the company that bears her name but had long been run by more-experienced executives, offered her the CEO role in 2019.

“It was nauseating and emotional, like in my throat,” she says. She put the “Rocky” theme on her headphones. She considered her blind spots, like her lack of finance knowledge. But she didn’t say no.

“That’s just not an option,” she says. “You have to do the things that are scary.”

Big moments and decisions in our lives can make our stomachs drop. Moving somewhere new, getting married, starting a family—if we’re sizing them up realistically, maybe we should be nervous. (Newborns are exhausting; being a manager is hard.) More than half of workers in a recent poll ranked starting a new job as scarier than skydiving or holding a snake.

Just trust your gut, everyone implores when you’re staring down a new opportunity. It takes effort to distinguish between normal jitters and the kind of fear that’s a real warning sign, though. And it’s more work still to convince yourself to just do it, even if you’re doing it scared.

First, take a breath, advises Luana Marques, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the author of a coming book about harnessing anxiety. Calm your nerves by meditating, taking a walk or talking to a friend. Then, with clearer eyes, ask yourself: If I said yes, would taking on the discomfort of a new thing get me closer to where I want to be in my career or relationships?

Often, the fear cloaking our big decisions is “an anxiety toward your dream life,” Marques says.

The tough parts

For years, when Jessica Lapp thought about having a baby, she mostly felt freaked out. The wedding photographer, now 29 years old, would scroll through motherhood accounts on Instagram, where new moms lamented having no time to sleep, exercise or shower.

“Why would you sign up for this?” she recalls thinking.

Still, she could envision having a family with her husband. She began to poke at her fear. Was she focusing on the short-term trials of having a baby and losing sight of the long-term joys of having a child?

Fear can even be helpful, she realised, steeling oneself for the tough parts: the colicky baby, the loneliness of those early months.

“It’s the best decision I ever made,” she told me from her home near Charlottesville, Va., while her 1-year-old, Evelyn, napped.

It’s human to overcomplicate the moments that matter, and that’s OK, says Oded Netzer, a Columbia Business School professor who studies the use of data in decision-making. Research from Netzer and co-authors finds that, when faced with a clear but important choice, we start weighing factors that don’t really matter to us, such as the layout of a potential new office or lunch options at the school your kid would attend if you moved. Doing that makes the decision harder for ourselves, but it matches the gravity of the situation.

Spiralling into our fear, he says, ultimately makes us more confident in our call because we’ve done our due diligence instead of blindly trusting our intuition.

Comfortable, miserable

Not choosing is making a choice, too. Many clients who come to Tega Edwin, a St. Louis-based career counsellor, have stayed in bad jobs for years, terrified they’ll fail or be equally miserable elsewhere. And sure, they might.

Avoiding the unknown, Edwin tells them, guarantees a bad outcome: the job you already know you hate.

“I’m going to be in the exact same circumstance and nothing would change,” Danny Thompson, a software engineer in the Dallas area, says he figured when sizing up whether to try martial arts classes.

After gaining pandemic pounds, he was nervous to don the tight shirts required for jiu jitsu, afraid to be out of breath. Yet he knew there was no way his health would improve if he didn’t go.

“Fifteen seconds in, I was exhausted,” he said of the first lesson. Slowly, he got better. He participated in his first competition this winter, still scared, and placed second in his weight class.

Danger ahead

Sometimes you shouldn’t trudge ahead. Anne Mamaghani, a user-experience consultant in San Jose, Calif., felt torn when a recruiter presented a job opportunity that would have brought her near family in Indiana, exposed her to a new industry and boosted her title. The thought of wresting her two children, ages 10 and 13, from their school and community felt awful, though.

The stakes seemed too high to simply forge on, as she’d done in other situations. After all, it was her family members who would pay the price for a wrong call. After a couple of weeks of considering, she told the recruiter no thanks.

Learning to navigate change can be like building a muscle. When Mark Smith moved to Toronto from Salt Lake City a few years ago with his family, panic hit him on the first day of his new job.

“I just started thinking, what have I done?” he says. It took anti anxiety medication, a visit from friends and several months before he felt confident in his new life. That time abroad did bring him closer to his wife and son, he says, and proved his own resilience.

Smith jumped at the chance when the family had an opportunity to move to Italy last year. This time, he says he felt no fear at all.

“A good life,” he says, “requires a few risks.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.

When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.

“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.

With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.

Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lotsdealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.

“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”

Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.

Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.

“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.

A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.

A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”

At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.

Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.

“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.

While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.

The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.

“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.

There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.

Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.

Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.

Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”

Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.

“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”

Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.

“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.

Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.

Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.

While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.

“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.

It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.

“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.


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