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How To Vanquish Your Worst Case Scenario

So I was watching this show once where a bad guy grabbed a fat yellow highlighter, put it in his coat pocket, and started robbing a bank.  Everyone thought he had a gun, and not wanting to take chances, they did exactly as he said.

And the whole time I’m shouting at the screen “It’s just a highlighter!  Nothing’s going to happen!!  He’s a big fat liar!!!” 

(Yes, I talk to the TV sometimes.)

I’m reminded of this anytime someone starts describing their Worst Case Scenario to me.  We all have a Worst Case Scenario, one that keeps us from really branching out because we think it’s going to actually happen.  Maybe it’s that your business will fail.  That a client will yell at you and tell you your work is worthless.  That you won’t have enough money to pay your bills, that you’ll sink into paralyzing depression, and have to live on the street.

Worst Case Scenarios are scary – and that’s why they’re so powerful.  They boss us around because they know we’ll avoid the heck out of anything that might lead to them hurting us.  We don’t take risks.  We don’t stretch.  We don’t reach.

But here’s the thing – we rarely stop and actually LOOK AT the Worst Case Scenario. 

We don’t think it all the way through.  We stop short of pushing it up against a wall and looking it in the eye.  We just let it sit in the corner, a terrible looming spectre that keeps us from doing things we want to do.  We don’t want to face it as if it were a real possibility, so it lurks and terrorizes instead.

But if we DID examine it closer, we’d almost always find that it was just a guy with a highlighter in his pocket. 

And he would turn and flee if we called him out.

How do we call him out?

State exactly what the worst case scenario is, and then keep asking yourself the question:  “So what would happen then?”

For example:

Let’s say you’re afraid to raise your prices.

Why?  What would happen?  What exactly is the worst case scenario here?

I would lose all my current clients.

Okay, assuming that’s even true, what would happen then?

I wouldn’t make any money at all.

So what would happen then?

I would sit in my room and cry and feel like a failure.

So what would happen then?

I’d get together with my spouse/friend/mom and eat fudge and go over all my woes.

So what would happen then?

Well, they’d calm me down.  And they’d tell me to get new clients.

So what would happen then?

Well, I’d have to figure out a way to get new clients.

So what would happen then?

I guess I’d have to start marketing. 

So what would happen then?

Maybe I could call up the PTA at the local private school and see if I could donate to their spring auction in exchange for a spot in their weekly newsletter.


Do you see how we just went from “I’d lose all my clients and cry in my room feeling like a failure” to “I’d have to call my local PTA?”

The worst case scenario is not actually the end of your business.  It’s having to make a phone call.  And suddenly….the gun turns into a highlighter.  And the Worst Case Scenario runs away like the lying fraud he is.  And he takes Avoidance with him.  Good riddance!

None of us like thinking about the worst things ever.  But refusing to mentally entertain your Worst Case Scenario as a real possibility keeps you from walking through what would happen if it actually came to pass.  It prevents you from seeing that there are always options, the sun would rise the next day, and you’d figure something out.

I want you to sit down and look at what you’re most afraid of doing.  Right now.  What are you not doing because you’re afraid of it?  What freaks you out about it?  What would happen?  State it clearly.

Then keep asking yourself “So what would happen then?” until you see the highlighter.

It will happen.  Just keep asking.


P.S.  Worst Case Scenarios are holding creatives, artists, and businesspeople hostage everywhere – right now.  Please pass this post on!


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  1. Megan on May 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    thank you for this! made me realize it won’t be the end of the world (or my business) if I take a risk! 🙂

    • Jenika on May 24, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      Not the end indeed!!! 😀 My pleasure!

  2. amber on May 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    This is so fantastic on so many levels! Not only pertaining to photography, but to life in general. Please keep your psychology coming!! It is wonderful. 🙂

    • Jenika on May 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm


      Thanks Amber.

  3. Ginger_79 on May 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Read this post and your newsletter. Does this mean, it is not a good thing to be a complete control freak and drive everyone with you crazy until sitting at the right gate with two hours to kill??? 😉

    • Jenika on May 25, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      *sigh* apparently not 😉

  4. Allison on May 25, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    I practiced this today. Prepping for a shoot always gets my adrenaline moving and I get shaky and nervous for some reason. Once I’m there I’m fine, but all the way there (and several hours before) I have these fits of nervousness. So in the car today on my way to my interview, I thought, “Why am I getting all riled up about this? What’s the worst that could happen?” I answered myself nonchalantly, “She’ll hate me.” And then I shrugged. “Lots of people hate me. What’s one more?” Hahaha I don’t know how many people actually dislike me, but not caring if there was one more helped calm me down immediately. 🙂 Thanks again for great advice!

    • Jenika on May 25, 2012 at 11:47 pm

      LOL, I doubt very much that anyone hates you – BUT you did marvelously! That’s the perfect way to handle it, and I’m so glad it worked!

      Have a great weekend!!

  5. Lynn on May 30, 2012 at 3:25 am

    I did this exact exercise with my therapist in February when I was deciding to quit/retire from my previous 25 year career.

    My worst case scenario if I don’t “make it” with my photography biz? I’d have to go back to that career.

    A bit embarrassing? yes
    What i really want to do? no

    But does it equate to losing my house, getting a divorce, living in my parent’s basement (aka a van by the river)? Nope.

    So I took the leap. And even with all the stresses involved, I am so relaxed and relieved compared to living in a job that I loathed for the last 5 years, and one that i only kind of liked for the 10 years before that.

    • Jenika on May 30, 2012 at 3:27 am

      What a breath of fresh air to hear that Lynn – I’m so glad it helped and that the leap led to somewhere so much better! Thanks for sharing.

  6. lisa mancia on September 16, 2012 at 2:12 am

    I’am always thinking about bad things gonna happen. I will not fly because I think if I get on that plane it will crash. I will not ever go on a cruise I’am worried the ship will sink or flip from a huge wave. I have lived in Michigan all my life and now I do not want to drive in the winter because I’am afraid of slipping off the road. I want to quit my job so I don’t have to drive in it.

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