It’s Good to be Scared


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What scares you?

My biggest fear is poverty.

When I was nine years old, my father’s business burned to the ground. He spent the next 18 months in court fighting insurance companies. Eventually he ran out of money for legal fees and the insurance companies essentially won.

Somehow, my Dad was able to keep us in our home, but it wasn’t easy. On many occasions we’d see real estate agents walking around our property, showing it off to interested buyers. The problem was, we weren’t selling. At least, not willingly. Our house had been through several near-foreclosure emergencies, which put all eleven of us living in our home, on a knife’s edge.

I suppose that fear of poverty has been following me since I was nine years old.

That fear drove me to go to college. I had no business going to college. My family couldn’t afford college tuition. So, I worked as a janitor during my college years and used that money to pay my tuition.

That fear drove me to become a CPA,  a two-year commitment to intense study, in order to successfully complete a 22-hour, three day exam (at the time, in 1986, it was a 22-hour exam). Studying to become a CPA, I reasoned, would help me to become more expert in money and finance and also help me make more money.

That fear drove me to go to graduate school at night for a Master’s Degree in Taxation. It took me three years, going to night school two days a week. I felt that getting an M.S. in Taxation would help me become a Virtuoso in taxes and enable me to make more money for me and my growing family.

That fear drove me to become a Certified Financial Planner, once again, so I could become more savvy with money and, once again, to help me hone my Virtuoso skills.

Most importantly, that fear drove me to devote five years to studying the daily habits of 361 rich people and poor people. This has become my Opus X, or highest achievement in life, all thanks to fear.

As I sit here writing these words, I find myself grateful for my fear of poverty. That fear lead me to the Rich Habits and opened my eyes to the Poor Habits.

For the first time in my life, I now know what to do and what not to do.

I am not one of the millionaires in my study yet, but I can tell you this – I am most definitely no longer one of the poor people in my study.

Successful people use fear as fuel to supercharge everything they do. Unsuccessful people get used by fear. They give into their fears, preventing them from making moves that could one day improve their lives.

Fear can either act as a springboard to great achievement, or it can become an anchor, pulling you down into the abyss of failure and poverty.

Use fear. Don’t get used by fear. Never let fear be an anchor.

The only thing to you should truly fear, is giving into it.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. Thanks for sharing your story Tom. It’s uncanny how similar our stories are. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college so I worked 2-3 jobs at night and weekends to get my BBA in accountancy. I sat for and passed the CPA exam in 1985 and became certified in 1987. I also got my Master’s in Taxation in 1989 going to school at night while working for a Big 8 accounting firm (at the time). In 2001, I became certified as a financial planner (CFP). Motivating me was never to be poor (my parents weren’t poor, but were hard working auto factory workers raising six kids) and to never be a slave to a job I didn’t like so I could walk away and still make the mortgage payment. That’s what I teach my kids-work hard now to give yourself options, especially the option to walk away from a job you don’t like, and not worry about having to make the rent.

    • Wow Sam. You’re right. Very similar paths, you and I. I started grad school while at Arthur Andersen and finished while working as a Tax Manager at the headquarters of a multi-national cement manufacturer. Thought my path was Tax Director at some big company, but they didn’t happen. So much has to go right oftentimes, in order for success to visit you. The key is to keep trying and put yourself in positions in which you create the opportunity for good luck (Opportunity Luck) to occur.

  2. Fear is certainly motivating me, that is for sure! Whenever I see one of the downtrodden I immediately think of how that could be me.

  3. Lisa Schreiber says:

    This is a great reframing of how fear ususally affects people, and how we can use it to empower us rather than weaken us. With so much fear being weaponized in our country these days, this message is especially important!

  4. Great story here Tom and thank you for sharing. Of
    Interest i am also reading a book by Tilman Fertita. Your excellent point here echoes a point he made as well: There is a paddle for every bottom so have some fear.

  5. Hi Tom, I am one of the “The Saver-Investor Path” multimillionaire you have so clearly explained in your past posts. Fear of poverty was definitely one of my driver to save and invest. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and insight.

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