One of the striking phenomena of our time is FOMO - the Fear Of Missing Out, the fear of missing out on something super important. FOMO probably grew where most of our fears are rooted: in the nutrient-rich humus of the lower levels of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, i.e. where it's all about bare survival, especially safety. This is where our brain still reliably sounds the same alarm bells today as it did in the good old Stone Age, so that we can stay alive as long as possible. Because, in case I miss something, danger is imminent: a sabre-toothed tiger from behind, a murderous club strike, lightning out of the blue. Alert! Save me, who can! - The Fear Of Missing Out as a safety shield for skin and hair.
What still promises security is to stay in the pack and at the same time keep an eye out for threats all around.
TOO LAZY TO READ ON? THEN LISTEN TO ME!
In the blogcast, I read this recent blog article to you. With emphasis, of course!
Nowadays, we often do this by scrolling through social media platforms in the hope of discovering all the affiliation codes and not missing anything so that we don't suddenly find ourselves outside the pack, which is now called a bubble or community. So we constantly tell each other and ourselves stories about how this belonging comes about and how we recognize the members of our pack. For example, by what we respect and what we ostracize, what we like or dislike, what we buy or don't buy. If you keep up with fashion, for example, you are sending a visible signal that you have overcome a positive FOMO hurdle. If you look like everyone else, you're in.
Language codes that are used in different milieus should also not be omitted under any circumstances. For example, if you don't start your pitch in the start-up scene with "... go... exactly ...", you can safely cancel your dream of becoming a unicorn. Just saying.
Better safe than sorry, so: FOMO. You know it, right?
I myself cultivate a special mutation of the FOMO virus, namely FOMI, the Fear Of Missing Information. As a hospitable host of this virus, the mere thought of not knowing, not understanding or even having overlooked something, especially in my special fields of work, leads to discomfort bordering on unbearable physical discomfort. Researchitis is a related symptom, bookshops are my pharmacies. That's why the shortest joke in the world is: Markus Gull walks past a bookshop. But ordering books is also easy for me, the incurable FOMI patient. Thanks to the second-hand book platforms that now work really well, I save money twice over. I save on buying books, and the parcel carrier saves the money for the gym.
To have or to appear?
The Fear Of Missing Out and the usual measures for coping with it often manifest themselves clearly and obviously in material things. What we do, what we buy, what and with whom we surround ourselves processes and sends signals in a circle of like-minded people. As long as no one is harmed in the process - so be it.
Increasingly, however, I am observing a variant of FOMO that we urgently need to talk about. It is rampant inside many, many - all too many - people, in countless companies, in our society as a whole, long unrecognized. But one day it will break out. This fear concerns the unlived life. Your unfortunately unfounded company, the foreign language you still haven't learned, the book you've never written, and so on and so forth. We tell ourselves well-known fairy tales about this, which begin with "Someday I'll..." or "Actually, I want to..." and all too often end with "Once upon a time...". You know that too? No wonder, most people (including yours truly) know it.
The way I see it, this danger is truly life-threatening. Because the inner FOMO has grown where we are rooted in ourselves, growing and thriving. If all goes well, we grow and thrive. Where the eternal light of our sense of existence glows. Where we can truly succeed - as people, as a company, as a species. We could succeed.
A few years ago, I heard a psychotherapist say: "People who suffer from panic attacks are usually those who are not living their lives." FOMO mutates into POMO, Panic Of Missing Out. Panic without a visible reason, because the danger lurks in the inner darkness. And when danger threatens, we all too easily fall into flight or fight mode. We take refuge in distraction, amusement, shopping, drugs, alcohol and chocolate ice cream, or we become irrepressibly angry at everything and everyone, most violently at ourselves.
We fight everything and everyone. Most of all ourselves.
FOMO - the Fear of Missing Out. What are we missing out on? Nothing less than our humanity.
FOMO - the Fear Of Melting Out. The ice block of unlived life melts inside us and seeps into us as poison, out of us, contaminating and poisoning our world, indeed: the whole world. Many cannot articulate this, but most can feel it.
The inner journey of a life lived, from the departure from the comfort zone, further through rough terrain towards one's destiny and finally back to the safe harbor as a transformed truer version of oneself, with the gift of knowledge gained as a gift for the benefit of all - that is what story really means. Universal: for each and every one of us, for our life chapters, for companies, for teams, for nations, cultures and communities. Many, most, it is to be feared, refuse to embark on this journey.
How did it get this far?
Well, I think it has a lot to do with the stories we tell ourselves, with the narratives of our culture, with the formative narratives in the Western world. One that comes to mind immediately is "happiness through material prosperity.
"There's nothing to say against prosperity, on the contrary. But prosperity should never be the real ending, or even the theme of the story, only the happy ending. Because after the happy ending, it's time to get down to business. After the happy ending, things get really serious. That's when we show whether and what we have learned or not, and what we do with it.
When King Arthur pulls the sword Excalibur out of the stone in the happy ending and is therefore king, we are happy for him and with him, but we know that FOMO & POMO are already lurking around the corner. Not even Merlin can protect him from that. Only Arthur himself can do this by accepting his call and, as king, bringing peace to a kingdom that has been plunged into chaos by war.
The same applies to all kingdoms - from your own private Little Kingdom to the narrative for cultures and nations. And it is even more true for the better story of a company. It is a better story than the one that is always about princely profits and royal market shares. It tells of the positive change brought about by the work of a team. Oh, this story is not just told, it is experienced authentically, both inside a company and in its external actions. This is the only way to make tight profits and splendid market shares meaningful beyond the pleasant subject matter. That's what companies are there for, isn't it? This is how meaning is created for all those who work in the company, as part of a valuable whole. This creates FOMO prophylaxis that can be experienced (almost) daily in their professional and working world.
The hidden poison of the Panic Of Missing Out - isn't this the same phenomenon that is screaming at us in our shaken, fragile democracies? We hear it as a creaking in the beams of our home where the wallpaper is on fire. We are frightened by the cries of hatred against ... yes, against whom? Against the others, whoever they are. In any case, this much is certain: the others are not us. They are not like us, they are different and therefore wrong, they are out of place. In this way, POMO is poisoning its way through the collective nervous system.
Is this panic of missing out not raging worldwide and structurally through politicians who ignore their reputation as world shapers, but misunderstand their mission and their value in the maximization of votes, much more: in the minimization of votes of all others, and thus artfully tine their own cards for the particular-egoism poker?
Is it any wonder that hatred, exclusion and degradation, including murder and manslaughter, are not and will not disappear from the skill set of the actors, but on the contrary, are increasingly taking on the apparently permissible tone?
We have long known that cultures are defined not only, but especially, by the greatest monstrosity that is still tolerated. The so-called shifting baselines - the changed reference points - in terms of salonability mark our chapters in human history. What can be heard here and now sounds like an alarm. It is no longer a question of a Fear Of Missing Out, we are already missing out on our humanity in fact and truth.
What can we do? How can we become strong?
The first thing to understand is that, one way or another, things only change when the story we tell ourselves about them changes. And because we know that every real story, whether archaic mythology, vital brand story, gripping blockbuster or the moving narrative of a society, is at its core about values, it is best to see where our values have slipped, lost their balance or even died. Some values have changed their meaning, some have lost their significance, some important values have been lost - out of sight, out of mind.
But beware! This is not about conjuring up the illusion of the good old days, which, on closer inspection, are above all old (although a recovery of respectful manners from the avalanche of nihilism would certainly be very useful). It is about a return to what we already knew. It is about rediscovering what is valuable and what this can mean in the here and now so that we can find effective, positive answers to the question: "What are we here for? What are we here for - as people, as a company, as a community?
To achieve this, we need nothing less than a revolutionary new story, the NEW STORY REVOLUTION - a new story that makes us strong as people, and therefore as a company and as a society. This New Story sets the final chord in the Anthropocene and sets the tone for the new age of the Humanocene.
This new story is necessary. It turns everything upside down, it sets everything right. It tells of what we are here for, we humans, as the only species that can create beauty, just like that - so that there is beauty. The only species that can create and heal - itself and others. And what's more: not only can it do all this, but it must do it so that it remains healthy in mind and body, because it thereby experiences meaning, or is shaken by the Fear Of Missing Out. This is the meaning of Purpose, Why and Meaning, as it is now officially referred to in the business context, and hopefully not unofficially as a marketing gag. This NEW STORY is the firewall that shields us from FOMO and POMO.
The new story revolves around a central and now revolutionary new value. It tells of harmony in solidarity, also of opposites, in a better future in which we inspire each other instead of fighting each other. It is about enabling rather than hindering, about listening, about tuning into each other, about cooperation, about mutual support, about understanding, about education as education of the heart.
In this future, we must no longer try in vain to plug the blazing FOMO, the vacuum of meaning within us, and above all in the so-called economy, in our companies and in our society, through careers, key figures and consumerism, i.e. through material growth for the sake of growth, through profit and profit by defeating, through the exploitation of resources. In this future, we will approach and engage with each other, but never, never with each other.
In this future, we begin the story of FOMO with the words: "Once upon a time ...", because each of us hears its call and accepts it - on a large or small scale, in the universal or private sphere. Most of us have heard it long ago anyway, many have listened away, some have ignored it, often it has simply been drowned out.
If you feel that a new story is needed for yourself, your profession, your company, your team or your brand, if you, like many others, are on the verge of transformation, you probably want the support of a mentor. And if you have the feeling that I could be that mentor for you, it would be an honor for me to accompany you with my New Story programs. You can find out more here, here or here.
In any case, this is inspiring FOMO and POMO therapy. Incidentally, I have long since come to terms with my FOMI, if not befriended it, at least since my grandmother, old Story Dudette, tipped a handsome therapy package next to my bed, on top of which was a book with the magical title: "New Story. New Glory."