Anthony Scaramucci: How entrepreneurs can manage fear in times of crisis

What's the worst thing that could happen, and can you live with that?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: To speak with absolute veracity to future entrepreneurs, current entrepreneurs or potential ones, what you have to know about your life is if you're going to be an entrepreneur you have to accept that some of your success or failure is providential. There's only so many things that are inside your control.

CHRISTINE ROMANS: The Coronavirus pandemic has tanked the global economy with unprecedented speed. Millions out of work, markets plunging, business slammed to a screeching halt

VARIOUS SPEAKERS: U.S. markets tumbled Friday because of concerns of the outbreak…The Dow Jones Industrial average closed down nearly…Wall Street ending one of the worst weeks of trading since the financial crisis in 2008.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: You can work hard, you can build a nice relationship network, you can sell good products but you have to have the right environment to work inside of and some of that's beyond your control. We can't predict terrorist attacks like 9/11 or debacles like the WorldCom accounting disaster, the Enron accounting disaster of '01 to '03. The 2008 global financial crisis. None of these things we can predict, and so you have to live your life recognizing that a sense of your life is out of control. That's hard for the average person but that's par for the course for the entrepreneur.

ELON MUSK: The odds of coming into the rocket business not knowing anything about rockets, not having ever built anything, I mean I would have to be insane if I thought the odds were in my favor.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Running a business the first thing you have to do is you have to drop your ego and your self-identity of whatever it is you think about yourself. And so there was great sadness that I had while my business was failing because my self-pity was, at a scale of one to ten, it was at a 16. And what was the self-pity? 'My god, I went to Harvard Law School. I should be doing way better than I'm doing and my business is failing and woe is me, woe is me.' So the first thing you have to do is you have to drop all of your self-pity and you have to accept your journey in life.

The second thing you have to do is you have to stop comparing yourself to everybody else. I think that is a huge, dangerous thing that business leaders do and even competitive athletes do. And then once you're able to do both of those things then your mind clears up. And once your mind clears up and you start to accept that there are so many things about the next forward steps of your life that are uncertain no matter what you do. No matter how brilliant you are, you could still fail and you're comfortable with that then you finally have made it as an entrepreneur because at the end of the day Steve Jobs has his set of failures. People don't remember this about Bill Gates but his first operating system failed. He had to go to digital research in Seattle and buy that and change it from DR-DOS to MS-DOS, and so every great entrepreneur, if they are being honest with you, will tell you about disastrous things that happened to them.

Michael Dell's notebooks, we're talking about this Galaxy 7 catching on fire. In 1993, Michael Dell's notebooks were catching on fire, bursting into flames and his stock went from 41 to 7 and he had to re-create the entire business right there. And so every entrepreneur will tell you when they're going through crisis: number one, clear your mind, accept whatever the possibly outcome will be and then the steps that you have to take are non-fear based and that's the biggest, biggest problem for people because we all have these fears.

You have to remember you're in a 100,000 year old piece of machinery that hasn't had any real major evolution in the last 100,000 years. So your personage, you're the same person that was walking around in ancient Rome, so you're filled with all these primordial instincts. You've got to dial down your fear-based instincts and you've got to focus on being aggressive in a time of crisis. Because if you don't do that you have a very high likelihood of failure. You have to say to yourself 'What is the worst that could possibly happen?' And then 'Xan I live with what is the worst that could possibly happen?' I've got buddies of mine I graduated from law school with and they went on to investment banking. And the worst thing that could have ever happened to them is any scintilla of failure. Any scintilla of failure. And so therefore they're not going to take any risk and they're going to stay in this little bubble of what I would call the establishment complacency. And I've got friends of mine that are like okay, I'm going to try this thing. They failed two or three times in different businesses and now they're very successful. And so you have to ask yourself, self-diagnostically, what is the worst thing that could possibly happen and can I live with the worst thing that could possibly happen?

I'm comfortable walking into the cocktail party and saying 'Yes, I am a middle aged has been. I happen to suck as an entrepreneur.' I'm also comfortable walking into the party saying that 'You know what, I tried my hardest and for me it was the journey that was way more important to me than the destination or the status related to whatever the positive outcome is.' You've got to have a thick skin and you have to steel yourself for whatever's going to be out there that could be potentially against you. And so, for me, those are two big lessons I share with people. Drop the elitism, try to get out into the public and understand what is going on in society—that will make you a better person and more prepared. And number two, if people are railing against you or saying nasty things what other people think of you is none of your business. Who cares? Just go out and live your life and do what you think makes sense for yourself.

The world has completely changed with Big Think and all these other social media websites and Facebook and Twitter. You better get out there and define yourself before other people define you. So you've got to accept yourself. You've got to recognize that—be self-aware. Okay, you're really not that important. Let me give you the news flash. And the universe doesn't care if you're successful or not. And so you shouldn't either. You should just follow your journey, but if you're an entrepreneur you've got to be bold and you've got to think very, very big. Otherwise, what are you doing it for?

Have you ever been to a Donald Trump rally?

MALE: Only the Trump campaign understands how popular Donald Trump is and what his path to reelection might be.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Have you ever been to a Bernie Sanders rally?

CROWD: Singing.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI: Let me tell you something. We can sit in a salon like this and we can self-talk to each other and we can insulate ourselves with what we think are the right ideas or the best ideas, but the average person is hurting out there. And so they're looking for something more disruptive or something more change oriented. So if you are a media personality or you're a CEO and people are telling you you have to be more of a media personality, you better be authentic.

  • Anthony Scaramucci isn't afraid to admit his failures as an entrepreneur. The founder and managing partner of investment firm SkyBridge Capital says it's the journey that matters, and that being an entrepreneur means accepting that some things, including successes and failures, are out of your control.
  • A hard but necessary question that entrepreneurs have to ask themselves is if they can live with the worst case scenario.
  • In a time of crisis, Scaramucci's advice is to clear your mind, accept all possible outcomes, and to dial down fear-based instincts so that you focus on being aggressive in business.

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Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
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The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source:

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source:

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

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The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

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