Fear of Missing Out

I was 7 when I decided to play the piano. I fell in love with Beethoven’s Für Elise, so I wanted to play it myself. I was born to a middle-class family. My parents were not wealthy, but I was lucky enough to take piano lessons — as much as I want. However, as classes went by, my excitement wore off. Eventually, I got distracted.

Although the piano was the first musical instrument I wanted to play so badly, this story repeated countless times. Since then, I have played classical guitar, bass guitar, drums, side-blown flute, and keyboard. I even tried brutal vocals because I was so fond of death metal. I laugh at myself when I look back at the days I was trying to sing Down with the Sickness by Disturbed because I haven’t even done any vocals up until that point.

I am 30 now. Hard fact: I cannot play any musical instruments — not even to amuse myself. I have other priorities nowadays, so I don’t spend my time on any instruments anymore.

Artist: Gülfemin Buğu Tekcan — cosmodotart

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is the primary reason I cannot play any musical instruments today. I’m not suggesting that trying different instruments was particularly a useless practice. I’m just taking a good look at the past and thinking: If I kept playing one of them, I’d be able to make music today. That struck me hard.

This phenomenon is unfortunately not limited to childhood years. The main force behind it is fear, and that’s a human emotion we all have and experience. That’s why it’s so easy to get caught up in our lives. Choices and possibilities we could pursue are increasing every day. Although this seems like an advantage, it could lead us to distract our energy from what truly matters to us. Fear itself becomes a threat, trying to steal our focus frequently.

I found one thing that can help overcome FOMO: Sticking to what I have been doing. By persisting in what I’ve been doing, I free myself from the possible choices. Does playing guitar sound more fun? Just keep playing the piano. Will you be better off if you excel at Python programming language? Just keep using PHP — which is another programming language.

Some may argue that this is not productive at all, that it’s against gaining new knowledge, and could even lead the person to the sunk-cost fallacy (which would be another post’s topic). I disagree. If you answer YES to the questions below, you’re better off in the long run if you stick to what you’re doing now:

  1. Do you like what you’re doing? Sometimes you may get bored when learning or practicing a new skill. That’s completely fine. The better you get, the more you will enjoy it.

  2. Is what distracts you similar to what you’re already doing? If both of the instruments help you make music, it may be a better idea to keep playing what you’re already playing.

  3. Are you still far away from reaching the plateau? If you keep doing something long enough, you may come to a point where it becomes hard to make progress. If you reach the plateau on a specific skill (e.g., playing guitar), then you have meaningful knowledge on that vertical. It becomes much easier to expand your skillset horizontally (e.g., playing new instruments).

Let me know of your ways to avoid FOMO. Or if you embrace your fear, how does that work out for you?

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