Ep633: Michele Wucker – Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs

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Quick take

BIO: Strategist, speaker, and author Michele Wucker coined the term “gray rhino” as a call to take a fresh look at how we respond to obvious, probable, impactful risks.

STORY: Michele hated being a pre-med and psychology student, but she kept at it because she believed it was the safest path for her.

LEARNING: Don’t ignore the signs telling you that something is wrong. Build your self-awareness.


“When you’re tired, and you’re just not feeling like yourself, that’s a really great signal that something is wrong.”

Michele Wucker


Guest profile

Strategist, speaker, and author Michele Wucker coined the term “gray rhino” as a call to take a fresh look at how we respond to obvious, probable, impactful risks. The metaphor and framework have shaped business and investment strategies and made headlines in more than 35 languages and 70 countries. Michele founded the Chicago-based advisory firm Gray Rhino & Company and is a former media and think tank executive. Her four books include the influential global bestseller The Gray Rhino and the sequel, You Are What You Risk.

Worst investment ever

Michele decided to join college as a pre-med, psychology, and French major. She believed this was the best choice and what was expected of her. But Michele hated the psychology and chemistry classes. However, Michele had this idea in her head that she’d be a psychiatrist, so she kept pushing.

It took Michele way too long to realize that she was investing her time, energy, and intellect into something that wouldn’t work out. It took many more experiences of investing her time, energy, and emotions into other people’s expectations or into what Michele thought was the safest and least risky path for her to chase her true dreams. Eventually, she quit med school and became a Policy Studies major.

Lessons learned

  • Understand how to recognize the signs warning you that something is wrong.
  • Be aware of what you give to the world and what sustains you.
  • Always analyze risks, possible responses, what makes you comfortable or not and what gives you an increased sense of control.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • Awareness allows you to identify what isn’t for you quickly.
  • Don’t wait to find the thing you like because that may or may not be in front of you. But if you find what you don’t like, use that as an impetus to move you to the next thing.

Actionable advice

Identify the stresses and what triggers them. Then identify what makes you feel better or more comfortable.

Michele’s recommendations

Michele recommends her blog, The Horn, which talks about global issues and how to respond to them. She also recommends the Gray Rhino blog, which includes her thoughts about behavioral responses to risk.

No.1 goal for the next 12 months

Michele’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to rearrange her life so she can be based more in Chicago. This will help her reduce the number of plane trips she makes and, as a result, reduce her carbon footprint and the toll on her health.

Parting words


“Your worst mistakes will get you to where you want to go. So don’t beat yourself up for them. But while you’re in them, learn that lesson faster so you can get to where you want to go faster.”

Michele Wucker


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risks by doing big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. And that mission has led me to create the become a better investor community where you get access to the tools you need to create, grow and protect your wealth. Just go to my worst investment ever.com right now to claim your spot. Fellow risk takers this is your worst podcast hosts Andrew Stotz, from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guests Michele Wucker. Michele, are you ready to join the mission?

Michele Wucker 00:45
I am ready to join the mission.

Andrew Stotz 00:48
I'm excited to have you on and let me introduce you to the audience. Michelle, strategist, speaker and author Michele Wucker coined the term gray Rhino as a call to take a fresh look and how we respond to obvious probable, impactful risks. The metaphor and framework have shaped business and investment strategies and made headlines in more than 35 languages and 70 countries. Michelle founded the Chicago based advisory firm, gray Rhino and company and is a former media and think tank executive. Her four books include the influential global bestseller, The grey Rhino, and the sequel, you are what you risk. Michele, take a minute and tell us about the unique value that you bring to this wonderful world.

Michele Wucker 01:40
Well, I'm obsessed with risk, obviously. And my superpower is really connecting things from different angles, showing how they all come together and create something that's it's bigger than the sum of the parts. I've been called an economist, historian, sociologist, anthropologist, of a whole bunch of other things, and none of them are completely not true, but none of them is completely true either is that I just can't look at something just from one angle, I need all of the angles. And I feel like you get a much clearer picture when you bring those together.

Andrew Stotz 02:19
And Gosh, darn it, you're just a nice person, too. We were introduced by from Chris stout, who is a mutual friend Chris was on the podcast episode 573. And it just happened to be that you were in Bangkok for a period of time. And so it was a wonderful time that we had together where we had a dinner with my mom on the river at the Shangri La Hotel. It was fantastic. And it was great getting to know you. And then we had that nice walk around looking around the streets of Bangkok. So, you know, I really enjoyed that.

Michele Wucker 02:53
I did too. And you know, the funny thing is, I remember the river was at record highs. And I was in Europe about a month later in Belgium and looking at the rivers were at record lows. And that contrast really struck me but I had the best time and I have to say Thai iced tea ice cream is my new obsession. I've got to figure out someplace that makes it here in Chicago because it's awesome.

Andrew Stotz 03:20
Yeah. And that layout they have at the Shangri La there is amazing buffet and they do all of their homemade ice cream. So yeah, it's amazing. So that was a great time. I know my mom enjoyed it. She had some good wine and good ice cream as I was telling you before we turn on the mic, or the recorder is all mom needs is some good ice cream, some good wine and nowadays good sourdough bread.

Michele Wucker 03:44
She's awesome. And she started out and a good son.

Andrew Stotz 03:47
Yeah, I do my best. I'm wanting to ask a question. You know, I read through the gray Rhino and really enjoyed it. But one of the things I've been trying to reconcile and I want your help in doing this is that I was taught by this man, Dr. W. Edwards Deming when I was a young guy and I went to his seminars, and he talked to me about something that made a lot of sense, which was like a production process. And let's just say in my case, for my coffee business, we feel bags of coffee bags with coffee to let's say 100 grams. And we track that and measure that. And we can see that, let's just imagine that the power goes out. Okay, there's a bag 50% For now, and then we have to throw it out or whatever happens, let's say or, you know, let's say we have another event where three people on our team were sick. It's a very rare event. And therefore we just couldn't hit the targets. And so he called those special special outcomes are special occurrences and, or special causes and then and then he talked about how majority of what you're seeing coming out of a production process is yeah, one or two is going to be over 100 grand So one or two is going to be under of these bags as they're coming out of this process. But he did talk about, you know, at what point do you say, okay, true bags coming out underweight? Is that a worry? Or is it three? Or is it four? Is it five? Well, once it gets to the C six, maybe that is something that is, you know, telling us something. So I wanted to think about where how you think about gray Rhino, coming from kind of, let's say, an industrial engineering perspective? And how do I not overreact to all the different outcomes that are coming out of this? And how do I not under react to the important, you know, gray rhinos that are coming out of this system? I've been, I've been thinking about this question, since we met, you know, in Bangkok?

Michele Wucker 05:47
A couple of months already. But you know, it's a great question. And I've gotten a version of it. From some of the workshops that I've done, one guy asked, you know, what, if, you know, it seems like it's going to happen, and then it doesn't. And he actually suggested we might call it a limping hippo. Sort of like a fake threat. And it's complicated because it with gray rhinos, you know, something big is coming at you, you know that if you don't do something about it, it's going to be a problem. But the outcomes, not certain, because it depends on how you respond to it. Hmm. And what people love to do is identify risks and all these top risks list. For a while I was pulling some of them together and creating a composite. And I stopped doing it because every year there are more and more and more and more in foreigners that this is an exercise in futility. But so in an industrial situation, you know that there are certain things that are going to crop up from time to time. And what you really want to do is, once you've made that list, look at your responses and how well equipped you are. And you know how far off and how many bags that are off the wait, depends on you know who your customers are, depends on what inspections, things like that, I mean for your customers a little bit over is probably what they would prefer, they're probably not going to check. And for you, if you get too many of them that are too much over then obviously you're losing some money on that. And then with the personnel problem. I think that that's a problem that a lot of businesses have really wrestled with the last couple of years for the obvious reason. And the answer to that is, is really a redundancy, it's allowing a little more slack in the system. Over the past couple of decades, people become so used to you know, just in time and the squeezing the most out of everybody. And we've learned that if you are just keeping the minimum amount of inventory, and there's a big demand you're going to lose. So there's a risk of too much and too little, the risk really has two sides to it. And similarly with the staff, we've also learned that people are more productive when they're not overworked. So if you can come up with a situation where you've got a little bit more flexibility in your staffing, where everybody's you don't assume that everybody is pushed to the edge, because they're going to be quote, unquote, more productive, that you're, they're actually not going to be more productive, a lot of them are just going to be going through the motions. So make sure that workers are not overstretched. And then make sure that you've got enough that they can come in as reserves, right. So each one of those little possible threats is something that you can come up with a response to. But it's interesting, if you focus so much on the little tiny things all around you and all the risks, you can just crumble because it's just too much. So a lot of gray Rhino theory is really about prioritizing things, the things that are running fastest that you the things that are closest with the biggest impact and the things that you've got the power to do something about to sort of turn in their path instead of just getting out of the way.

Andrew Stotz 09:27
The other thing I was thinking about this morning was how when I was in university, let's say go back to 1989 When I graduated from Cal State Long Beach, and I remember getting into debates with people and in university about government debt. And how and I remember when they had the commission I forgot who was the leader of the commission now Simpson, but there was a congressional commission to say that, you know, government debt got out of control and I felt like That was a gray Rhino coming running right at us, like, you know, if you just keep running a country into debt, the inevitability of, you know, problems is just growing. Well, what a fool I was, because here we are with 32 or $31 trillion in debt, and everything's okay. And how do you, you know, and so if I was thinking back then I may have been saying, gray, Rhino, gray Rhino coming, you know, this is big. But the outcome didn't turn out, as I expected, for whatever reasons, you know, there's a lot of technical things about it. But I'm just curious, like, when I looked back, was I a fool? Was I being? Was I being misled? Was I overreacting? And how do I put that in the framework of how you think about things?

Michele Wucker 10:50
So again, it goes back to the response. And, you know, there's been there have been some bumps along the road, certainly when, you know, when both parties in the US Congress couldn't agree on raising the debt ceiling, and, you know, every time they come to blows, you see stocks fall and, and, you know, you've there are times when it's pushed interest rates up. And so there, there have been certain consequences. And there are two ways that policymakers can respond and investors in return. And that is, you know, to find a way to clean up the problem by, you know, government spending being much more efficient, and contributing to more productivity. And that includes not what we might typically think of as government spending as Treasury spending. But also what the Fed is doing, even though the Fed is supposedly independent, from the treasury, the you know, boosting up their balance sheet, the way they have been pumping money into lots of parts of the economy that aren't necessarily the most productive. In fact, I'd say the opposite. And so what we've seen at different stages, is people kicking the can down the road. And I think a lot of people in the markets are finally saying this is that what is that the chickens are coming home to roost? Yep. And so you're seeing interest rates going up again. And that's going to start pushing government debts and zombie companies and all sorts of things into very difficult positions. And I, you know, the question of too much debt is what it really is about is how much more you're paying in interest than the economy is growing. So if you are taking on debt, and it's going to productive things that grow the economy, even more than whatever the interest rate is, then you know, over time, the debt is going to fall, and things are going to be fine. You can carry it much more easily. When the opposite is true, which is I think, what a lot of us are looking at now, it becomes very, very challenging, because you've got a bunch of different gray rhinos running right at each other, you know, bang.

Andrew Stotz 13:10
So it makes me think maybe, okay, I had a, I had the foresight to look 30 years in the future, maybe

Michele Wucker 13:19
what I'm looking at it along along the way. And, you know, it's funny, people are really obsessed with making risks list, as I said, but also with predictions. And the sort of game is, you predict something, and if it doesn't happen, you know, because people recognize that and did the right thing. People will say, Ah, you're a Cassandra boohoo on you, it never came to happen, even if that event never came about. And the reason is, because people did something to get it out of the way, then people aren't paying enough attention to that, that sort of exchange that feedback mechanism. And we don't praise people enough when they prevent a disaster from happening. And we do often praise them if they're just kicking, kicking it down the road. And so all of the sort of reward and incentive systems are quite off.

Andrew Stotz 14:14
Yeah, yeah. Well, before we get into the big question of the podcasts, maybe you could just tell the listeners what it is that they would get, when they go and read you are what you risk. We'll have links to that in the show notes and everything. But I just was curious if you could summarize why they should read it, what they're going to get from him.

Michele Wucker 14:36
Well, what it's really an extension of the gray Rhino. The gray rhino is about when you see a big scary thing coming at you. Are you one of the people who deals with it or not, and what makes the difference. And when I thought about that, it seemed like the story was very different at different stages of when these crises were unfolding, that some people would be doing eyeing some people would be kind of muddling single, yeah, there's a problem. But here's 1000 reasons why we can't deal with it. Some of them might actually be diagnosing, okay, what does it take to fix it? Who's going to do it? Are there solutions? How do we get there, some of them are creating a sense of urgency. Some of them wait until there's just a sense of panic. And then you've got the action. And also the follow up, because it's not just to act because you have to make sure that what you're doing is doing what you want. And so that's how the gray Rhino unfolds, it's really focused on the events and the dynamics of the event themselves. And you are what you risk flips it. And it looks at the people who are responding to the risks, the citizens, the organizations, the policymakers, the societies. And I realized just how many things go into why you respond the way you do. You know why there's some people who've got a, you know, a personality and a background and habits that make it more likely that they're going to respond to the gray Rhino. And there are other people who don't. So these three things come together and what I call a risk fingerprint. And if you look at the metaphor of a real fingerprint, you know, I just came back to the US from Seoul last week and put my fingers on the biometric little, little glass things in them in the immigration that took an imprint of my finger. And the imprint, said, Okay, this is Michelle, this is who this is, is a unique identifier. And I'm interested in what, what, what created that. So if you look at your finger, there's really three parts to your fingerprint. There's the worlds and the arches and the loops. They're all genetically determined, you can't you can't change that part of it. And that's like your innate personality, or if you're a business that you know, you're your mission, or as a country, a lot of the values that you have. So the second part is think about, you cut your finger with a knife, that's going to leave a scar, which indelibly changes, the risk fingerprint. And in real life, you think about say you you're cooking, and you cut your finger with a knife and it you know, it bleeds you stick a bandaid on or maybe you even have to go to the emergency room get stitches. Some people will combine that experience with their innate personality and say, I did it was no big deal. I'm going to be a sushi chef. And other people will say, that was horrible. Don't give me anything more dangerous than a sports. I want a plastic spork. So those two are things that you don't have a lot of control over that, you know, the experiences that happened to you from the outside or, you know, if you take a risk and it goes well, or it doesn't follow through sheer luck, not from what you went and put into it. The third part is what you can change. So people who do a lot of manual labor have calluses, so their fingerprint is going to be much less distinct. And also people use too much shea butter, a little, you know, it'd be nice and soft, but it'd be really good players, bait guitar players. Exactly. And that's the environment, the habits, the people around you, and above all, the self awareness. And that's what really you are, what your risk is about. It's a self awareness of what you bring to those gray Rhino events and how you can optimize your processes, your habits, your environment, the people around you, you know, what you decide to have for lunch, to make smarter decisions when you are taking risks?

Andrew Stotz 18:40
So powerful. And you know, I think the takeaway for all of us, you know, is that when we understand ourselves and what's driving us, we make better decisions. And one of the funny things Michelle was about my mother coming to Thailand and said, all of my life, I never really ate like, I don't know, clams or shellfish so much. I did. I do eat fish, and I do eat shrimp and stuff. And I never really ate much shellfish. And then my mom came, we were just talking one day, and we were talking about how my dad and my two sisters got hepatitis, from shellfish. And we were living in Connecticut at the time, and I was, you know, a very young kid, maybe, I don't know, five, six years old, or whatever that was, and they were quarantined in their rooms and mom had to prepare everything, but we couldn't have contact with them or whatever. And, and I realized like, Okay, that was that knife cut on the finger that you described like that was something that happened in my life that really shaped the way I looked at something. And I didn't even know I didn't even remember any of that until we had this discussion. And then you're like, Man, you really are sure by your experiences unless you become aware of them, and you decide, okay, I'm going to change the way I think about this. And, you know, that's one of the things that I think about when you were just explaining that

Michele Wucker 20:14
it's true. And you can, you know, you can do things you can, you know, only go to the super high end restaurants now I'm, I'm in favor of that, you know, even the low end ones, where you know, the chef real well, and you, and you trust them, you know, you can do things that you know, will make you more comfortable. And that's true of any risk, whether it's investing or careers, people have different things that make them comfortable. One of the biggest things is knowledge, you read everything you can about Pepsi and seafood and things like that, get, you know, bring a surgeon to dinner with your doctor to dinner and have an epi pen or whatever, you can create an environment that creates a sort of like a safety net, and a backdrop, which, which also helps. And it's different for different people. There's also people who just go barreling into things and don't look twice, they've got a different set of things, they don't need to be more comfortable with just doing stuff. They need people to encourage them to take a deep breath. You know, when I was writing you out your wrist, I put out a query on Facebook to my friends, and I said, What's the biggest risk you've ever taken? And one of my college friends sends me a note, he says, seriously, you're asking me, and you know, he used to we remember him going and doing all sorts of, you know, adventure, climbing and, you know, falling off of cliffs, and you know, suing really powerful people and, and doing all of these sorts of things. And you know, his nickname was random terror in college, because he just lived, and it was great. But, you know, sometimes you need someone to pull you back. And then some people are more shrinking violets, and they need people to pull them forward. And it depends on different parts of your life. For example, I mean, a lot of my friends and my dad always says, Oh, I could never do what you do. I could never be an entrepreneur, that seems so risky. And I'm like, you know, having four kids on a teacher's salary. I could never do that. But I also look at it, you know, say crossing jaywalking, like, I hate jaywalking, unless the streets really empty. And so there'll be oftentimes going to be friends who want to go ahead and jaywalk, and I'm holding back. I'm really scared, like, you guys go on either side. So if the cars come in, and they'll hit you first, instead of me. So there are different things in your life, you know, your your you have different risk preferences for different types of risks, you know, health, safety, safety, safety, finance, career, ethics, relationships all all around, it's not the same throughout your life.

Andrew Stotz 22:51
Yeah, well, we'll have links to that in the show notes. So make sure you check it out. Well, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment, thinking it will be tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to and then tell us your story.

Michele Wucker 23:09
Well, you know, I was trying to come up with a good financial thing, and just just couldn't, and I went all the way back to my first semester of college. Now, when I was a kid, I would see a prick of blood and pass out cold for something happened, like five years old, and several times after that. And, you know, that should have been an indicator. But at the time, the things that you were supposed to do if you were smart, and ambitious and motivated, whether you'd be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer, or I think at the other time marketing, I don't know, when he was the 80s. I was a big thing. When I was in high school. I think we were around at the same time. And I decided I was going to I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to be a psychiatrist. I'd done a summer as a candy striper, a volunteer at the local Veterans Hospital, which was mainly a psychiatric hospital. So I was the assistant to a psychologist there. And he would go with him on rounds. And sometimes patients would come in and I would be there. And in hindsight, I'm a little doubtful about the ethics of it, because the whole idea was like, you know, if there's a nice, pretty young, high school girl that maybe the patients are going to be home or it didn't work out that way. Sometimes I remember once there's a patient who threw a chair across the room at me, but I was really interested in psychology. And I can also see this hierarchy. It's like, you know, you have the social workers who got kicked around, and then you have the psychologist to didn't get kicked around as much. Then you have the psychiatrists at the top. I'm like, Okay, doctor, psychiatry. These interests all kind of come together. So I was going to go to college and be a pre med and psychology and French major. And I got there And I just I hated the psychology classes. And then as far as pre med, I was taking a chemistry lab course where it was all Murphy's Law, everything that could go wrong did there was one, the gravimetric chloride experience where my crucible busted out the bottom and my sample was all over the flask and I got 35 out of 100 at possible points. And I just hated it. And I hated the chemistry and I hate that. But, you know, I had this idea in my head, did it, I'm going to be psychiatrists. And it took me way too long to realize that I was investing my time and my energy and my intellect into something that I should have realized was not going to work out, you know, when I thought about bleeding, but you know, when I think about passing out when I see blood, but I figured, oh, doctors just get over that. I remember being in the in the freshman psychology lab, it was a big auditorium class, and there was a scene on film with this guy, it was about mind over body, this guy in India, taking a bicycle spoke and putting it through one cheek and it coming out the other cheek guy fell right down on the floor, I passed on so many scary movies, I can't even begin to tell you. So that alone should have told me maybe being a pre med major was not the best idea. You know, eventually I thought better. But I became a Policy Studies major and moved on. But you know, I look back at that. i A lot of young people asked me to mentor them, I talk about that and talk about really understanding what you want to do, right and weighing that against other people's expectations. Right. And for me, it's actually very interesting. There's a lot of psychology in both you are what you risk and the gray Rhino. So I've been able to come back around to that part that I was really interested in. And the other thing that happened was I spent the summer in Europe when I was 16. When I graduate, actually, I was almost 16 When I graduate high school. So just spend a month in Germany on an exchange program, and a month in Belgium with with family. And I came back and I was like, Oh, I love to travel. And I'm good at languages. And yet I was talking about this career in the pre med and then Medical School and the residency. And that was not going to compute, either. But I had this idea in my head about what I was supposed to do. And throughout the rest of my life, it took many more experiences of investing my time and energy and emotions into other people's expection expectations or into what I thought was the safest and least risky path, and not realizing that I was just putting myself in the path of a giant Rhino. Charging

Andrew Stotz 27:54
you, and how would you? How would you summarize the lessons that you learned from this?

Michele Wucker 28:01
I think it goes down actually to self awareness, which is something I talk about all the time when it comes to risk, but really understand how to recognize the warning signals if you're not happy. And you know this, it took several times to relearn this lesson. I remember finishing graduate school. And I was working at Dow Jones writing about emerging emerging markets debt trading. And I was trying to write my first book and I had this relationship that was in its final stages and you know, very sort of, you know, high maintenance boyfriend and all of this and I was commuting from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Jersey City was all of this stuff, and I look back. How are you doing that not collapsing? Yeah. And which is now totally obvious to me. But there was one day where I just I didn't cry for 10 years, you know, after a close friend was murdered. I just like after that I just didn't cry. I started crying and had no idea why. And looking back it's it's completely obvious but you know, when you're when your body is sending you signals when you're tired when you're just not feeling like yourself, that's a really great signal that something is wrong or when you're working 14 hour days because you're trying to avoid avoid other parts of your life that's a signal that something is wrong and so the lessons really be aware of what what you're giving to the world what sustains you and I think those two are inseparable took me too long to figure that out. And it's, you know, be aware of the signals that something is not right when your friends are telling you Hello. You know, don't say that significant other. Gee, that job is so stressful. Why don't you do something else? You know, just not let Listening. And it just took, you know, it took health scares and all sorts of things throughout my life, to finally put myself first and to realize that by doing that by saying, Okay, I'm scheduling time today for a walk in the park along Lake Michigan with my super cute Pitbull. That is what's going to give me the energy that I need to be creative, to analyze things to pull together, all of these different pieces of information, and to help other people to do a better job of dealing with risk in the world.

Andrew Stotz 30:36
Maybe I'll summarize a few things I took away. You know, one of the things that there's lots of parallels in our lives. I mean, one of the things is I went into university thinking I was going to study psychology, and I was just so unimpressed. And I like there was a textbook, and it was a teacher up there reading. And I was like, This just doesn't feel right. '' And what I wrote down while you were talking is, you know, what you find out by doing a lot of different things is what you don't like. And it's hard to determine what you do like, I mean, there's a million different things you could do out there. It takes us time to figure out. So I think the lesson that I take from what you said is, when you have awareness, you can more quickly identify, hey, this isn't for me. And I think that's a great lesson for those people who are listening. And in that situation where they are trying to do what they think is the right thing, and it doesn't feel right. But you know, let's try Well, you know, trying is part of growing up and learning. But eventually, you know, you'll identify the things that you don't like. And also I always say, don't wait to find the thing that you do like because that may or may not be right there in front of you. But if you find what you don't like, use that as an impetus to move you to the next thing. The next thing I thought about was I also I had a pretty, pretty awful relationship, my first relationship, which as someone said, you know, what do you see in this woman and I said, she has the one thing that I just makes makes me, you know, just love her. And you know, and they were like, well, what's that I said, she likes me. Because I didn't, I couldn't even imagine that a woman would even you know, be interested in me at when I was that, you know when I was younger. And but any anyways, we lived in Oakland, she was going to Berkeley, I was barely surviving, you know, and, and then we broke up. And I remember just doing a lot of work, I had three different jobs going. And I had to stay in university. So I was going to Laney College there in Oakland, and trying to keep up credit. So I didn't have to pay back my student loans. And six months of that, and a friend of mine came to pick me up and I was going to move down to Los Angeles, and we packed up everything and got in this u haul behind the car. And then as we drove out of Oakland, I just started sobbing, you know, and you just realized, like, the crap that I was going through and how I was holding it together by just keeping so busy that I wasn't willing or able to really deal with it. And you know, and then it all, you know, busted loose. So for those people that are in a situation where it is really painful right now where you're at, you know, it may be time to make that move. And when you make that move, you may have you are going to have a higher level of awareness. And when that awareness comes, it also can come with a flood of tears. So those are some of the things that I take away from your story. Anything you would add to that?

Michele Wucker 33:41
Oh, absolutely. Well, you know, the thing about when I just started crying for no reason, that's for quote unquote, no reason. And you know, after graduate school, I did the sensible thing. And I found a cognitive behavioral therapist who could focus on stress management. And she had me do this exercise that I still recommend to people. And she said, in the morning, write down how stressed you are at lunch. Write down how stressed you are and what has happened, that makes you more or less stress and what you've done about it, and do the same thing at the end of the day. And do that every day. And I found that just the act of keeping track of that made me feel like I had more control over the situation. And eventually I figured out and got rid of the boyfriend and you know, eventually you went to a different job and eventually dumped all the jobs. But it's really true with risk. Actually, when you're looking at a situation in front of you. The very act of analyzing that risk and possible responses. And what makes you comfortable or not gives you an increased sense of control. And when psychologists look at risk perceptions, the more control you feel you have over a situation and the more knowledge you feel you have over it, the less risky and the less scary something seems to you. So when people talk about something being you know, riskier than something else, I was stopped at Mercy. You know, risk is like a room full of funhouse mirrors, you change a little thing, and it looks totally different. It's just like, you know, shorting this cat, or quantum physics is the very act of observing changes the nature of the situation. And that's what my therapist had me doing.

Andrew Stotz 35:41
So be aware and observe. So let's think about a young man or woman right now, in a somewhat similar situation where they're, there's there's slogging along in this, you know, thing that they're doing? And based on what you learned from this story that you've told us and what you continue to learn what what action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate?

Michele Wucker 36:06
Just start out and identify the stresses, identify the feelings, identify what, what triggers those feelings, and identify what makes you feel better, or more comfortable, you know, who are the kinds of people who make you feel better. And for me, it's interesting, actually, because my closest friends tend to be very supportive. And if I'm feeling down, they try to build me back up. But there are some friends I have, who similarly have this sense of always, it's, it's not enough. And I can talk to them. And when I say I'm really struggling with this thing, they'll talk that through with me, instead of just trying to I mean, they'll add some, you know, some some supportive stuff in there. But for me, the talking through what the problem is, what I'm doing what else I could do, that helps me I need that I also need the support from my wonderful, wonderful friends, I'm so lucky. But that's necessary, but not sufficient. I need the person who can be helped me be self critical. And also to figure out a way out of things.

Andrew Stotz 37:26
Great. And what's a resource you'd recommend for our listeners?

Michele Wucker 37:31
Well, there's a bunch of this up on my website, the gray rhino.com, it's actually got two parts. There's a blog called the horn that talks about some of these global things going on and how to respond. But there's another blog called migrate Rhino, which includes some of my thoughts about behavioral responses to risk, but also some guests posters and friends who work on on things I'm I'm also on LinkedIn, I love connecting with people, I have a newsletter that I'm always meaning to update more often than I do there. But if you come on LinkedIn, and paying say, hey, when's the next newsletter? That would be super helpful for me, but yeah, LinkedIn and the gray rhino.com. It's the gray Rhino with an A, but with an E will also get you there.

Andrew Stotz 38:16
Fantastic. We'll have links to that in the shownotes. So last question, what is your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Michele Wucker 38:26
Well, I'm rearranging my life to not have to say yes, as often to getting on planes. And I'm really got glad I got on that plane to Bangkok because I met you in person. And I just got back from Seoul and I had a really great trip to Europe. In October, I was able to say goodbye to my great aunt who's getting ready to leave us and it was really good. I think for my cousins that I was there she was that, you know, they were the people I stayed with when I was 16. And it really set the course of my life. Those are all great trips. But I'm trying to rearrange my life so that I'm doing a lot more focused on Chicago, and that I reduced the number of plane trips the number of carbon emissions and the toll on my health from all of that travel because it's not easy.

Andrew Stotz 39:16
So more walks with that cute Pitbull, pup,

Michele Wucker 39:21
silly billy. Oh, yeah.

Andrew Stotz 39:24
Fantastic. Well, listeners there you have it another story of laws to keep you winning. If you haven't yet become a gone join a become a better investor community, just go to my worst investment ever.com right now to claim your spot. As we conclude, Michelle, I want to thank you again for joining our mission and on behalf of East Arts Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Michele Wucker 39:53
You know, the worst thing the worst mistakes that you made, as Thomas Edison says are better Basically, things that you learned didn't work, and they're going to get you to where you want to go. So don't beat yourself up for them. But while you're in them, just be aware earlier so that you can get out earlier and you can learn that lesson faster and get where you want to go faster.

Andrew Stotz 40:18
Fantastic. Well, that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. Let's celebrate that today. We added one more person to our mission, in fact, a risk expert. And what is our mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives? This is your words podcast Roseanne was Dawn saying. I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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