The Value of Productive Paranoia

Before you buy a house, before you buy a car, before you start acquiring things, first put away enough savings so you could go a year without a job because you might have to.

I’m not sure productive paranoia is healthy entirely, in the sense that it can make you very much on edge, but it can be very productive.  So think about it this way:


Suppose you’re playing a game where are you going to get heads or tails, and tails is bad and heads is good.  And at some point you get six tails in a row and let’s suppose you’re going to get a heads at seven. But suppose that at the sixth one you’re out of money, you’re out of the game, it’s over.  It doesn’t matter that you’re going to get a heads at seven.  What productive paranoia means is to say "wait a minute, we have to always be building our setups such that we can absorb one, two, three, four, five, six, maybe seven, eight, or nine tails in a row because if we get knocked out at six it’s not going to matter that it’s going to get better at ten."

Before you buy a house, before you buy a car, before you start acquiring things, first put away enough savings so you could go a year without a job because you might have to.  And not only that, once you have it—protect it. That’s your reserve fund, that’s your shock absorber fund.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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