Yes, He Invented FOMO

Patrick McGinnis sat down with The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk in the latest episode of “At Home With The Creative Coalition,” a podcast featuring unplugged and uncensored conversations with today’s biggest stars. In the newest episode, McGinnis opens up about how he came to coin the term “FOMO” and how it evolves, making it into the dictionary, his advice for how to budget your time as an entrepreneur, and much more. Highlights below.

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Highlights from “At Home With The Creative Coalition” featuring Patrick McGinnis —

On coining the term “FOMO”: 
“So, I was in New York right before school and I was living on 16th Street on the West Side on 9/11. And I actually had taken my GMAT on the 10th… and I woke up the next morning and then 9/11 happened. And I thought, you know, the world would never be the same. And, I sort of was like, ‘You’ve got to live for every moment, you never know what’s going to happen.’ And when I got to Harvard Business School that fall… You know, I’m from Maine, I’m from a small town – I’d never met anybody who had been able to do these kinds of things and go to Harvard Business School, you know, that just wasn’t in the life plan. I sort of surprised myself to go there. And it was the most choice-rich environment I’d ever lived in in terms of opportunities for jobs, but also for fun and parties and trips, and just for a million different things. It was like the world was your oyster. And I, having lived through 9/11 and seeing it with my own eyes, I wanted to do everything and didn’t want to waste a minute. But the problem, of course, is that I soon found out that I was feeling a lot of anxiety. I couldn’t possibly do it all. It was stressful, I was all over the place. And I realized that it wasn’t just me, everybody was like that. And so I started calling that ‘FOMO.’ I’d see people at, like, seven parties on a Friday night, and I’d be like, ‘Do you have FOMO? What’s going on with you?’ So I wrote an article in our school newspaper, a satirical article called ’Social Theory at HBS: McGinnis’ two FOs’ about FOMO and another term I came up with called FOBO or ‘Fear of a Better Option.’ It came out on May 10, 2004. It was the first time FOMO was used anywhere. And then 10 years later, unbeknownst to me, it made it to the dictionary.”

On his first entrepreneurial experience after the collapse of AIG: 
“I was so scared! One of my really good friends – when AIG blew up, I was completely lost – and he said, ‘Why don’t you come to San Francisco?’ He was starting a company. And he said, ‘I’m going to give you some shares, I want you to help me meet customers.’ And it was a company working with beauty influencers and other types of influencers on YouTube and this was the year 2011… Super new. We would meet with cosmetics companies, because, you know, I have good connections and could get us meetings with senior people at, like, Estee Lauder. And they’d be like, ‘Yeah, we don’t think we want to have a YouTube presence. We don’t see the point of beauty on YouTube.’ Now it sounds crazy, right? But we had a meeting with a friend of mine from college who was at Smirnoff, and we did a deal where we got YouTube channels to promote a video they had made promoting Smirnoff. And we did a $25,000 initial deal, and I’d never sold anything in my life, so it was this experience of, number one, having ownership in the company. I really felt much more committed than I did when I worked for some big company. And then I got a share of whatever I created. And what’s crazy, though, the part of this that’s kind of nuts is that business didn’t really go anywhere. I didn’t become a millionaire, I became a thousand-aire, a few thousand-aire. But my friend, he ended up starting a company called IPSY, which has become the largest beauty subscription company, and I invested in that because I had learned so much that I said, ‘I think it’s a good idea, I’m going to invest,’ and now that company does over a billion dollars in revenue, so that was my gateway into all this stuff.”

On how FOMO changes over time: 
“It changes over life. By the way, that’s a great question. I did a lot of work on this to understand this over time, and primary research, talking to psychologists but also to individuals. The way FOMO works is – what drives FOMO, if we look at the definition, it’s an anxiety that’s driven by the perception that there’s something better out there than what we’re doing right now. I did this call-in radio show on WNYC, and people called in and they said, ‘My baby has FOMO.’ Try putting a baby to bed. Try putting a small child to bed. And, they want to be there because when you’re young, everything is new and exciting and you want to do everything. And so it’s a very valid thing that small children, they don’t want to be excluded from opportunities to do things. In fact, the more we grow up and have more independence to choose things for ourselves, we have higher FOMO. And that really peaks in your 20s, because another part of FOMO is reference anxiety, it’s comparing yourself with other people… In high school, you’re more alike than different. When you’re in your 20s, people start kind of diverging on their own path and you have a lot of opportunities. What happens in your 30s and 40s, of course, is you’ve lived a lot, you kind of have a lot of life experience. Well, there’s a party this weekend, but ‘I know what a party is,’ you know, it’s not new to me. And you’re also busy and tired and you don’t have the energy, so that really recedes in those years. But what happens is, as you get closer to the end of your life, you start to realize, like, ‘I’m not going to be here forever, I’m not going to be healthy forever.’ Also, maybe I retired, I have more time on my hands, and now I have grandkids and they’re running around and I want to be there. Older people have this huge surge in FOMO, because they’re like, ‘I’ve got to live every moment to its fullest, I’m going to make the most of life because I recognize that life doesn’t go on forever.’” 


More about “At Home With The Creative Coalition”
Hosted by The Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk, “At Home With The Creative Coalition” brings listeners intimate portraits, key moments of discovery, and “art and soul” conversations with iconic entertainment industry personalities from the big screen to the boardroom, from L.A. to D.C. Listen now at

Upcoming guests include Justin Bartha (“The Hangover,” “National Treasure”), Kerry Ehrin (“The Morning Show”), Evan Handler (“And Just Like That…,” “Californication”), New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Isaacs (“Compromising Positions”), Ken Olin (“This is Us,” “Thirtysomething”), Joe Pantoliano (“The Sopranos,” “The Matrix”), Yolonda Ross (“The Chi”), Reid Scott (“Echo”).

Previous guests include Jason Alexander (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Shiri Appleby (“UnREAL”), David Alan Basche (“The Exes”), Asante Blackk (“This Is Us”), Carly Chaikin (“Mr. Robot”), Wilson Cruz (“Star Trek: Discovery”), Alan Cumming (“Schmigadoon!, “The Good Wife”), Ethan Cutkosky (“Shameless”), The Creative Coalition President and actor Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary”), Lea DeLaria (“Orange Is the New Black”), Griffin Dunne (“This Is Us”), Michael Fishman (“Roseanne,” “The Conners”), Jim Gaffigan (“The Jim Gaffigan Show”), Willie Garson (“And Just Like That…”), Judy Gold (“The Other F Word”), Nicholas Gonzalez (“The Good Doctor”), Clark Gregg (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Tony Hale (“Veep,” “Arrested Development”), Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Middle”), Jon Huertas (“This Is Us”), Jason Isaacs (“Star Trek: Discovery,” “Harry Potter”), Richard Kind (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Chad Lowe (“Supergirl”), Aasif Mandvi (“The Daily Show”), Rachel Mason (“Circus of Books”), Marlee Matlin (“CODA”), AnnaLynne McCord (“Let’s Get Physical”), Eric McCormack (“Will and Grace”), Wendi McLendon-Covey (“The Goldbergs”), Katherine McNamara (“Shadowhunters”), Marta Milans (“Shazam!”), Rob Morrow (“Billions”), Kathy Najimy (“Younger”), Haley Joel Osment (“Future Man,” “Entourage”), Bill Prady (“The Big Bang Theory”), Jessica Queller (“Supergirl”), Anthony Rapp (“Star Trek: Discovery”), Mona Scott-Young (“Love & Hip Hop”), Alena Smith (“Dickinson”), Julie Taymor (“The Lion King”), Krista Vernoff (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Matt Walsh (“Veep”), Alfre Woodard (“Clemency,” “Luke Cage”), Constance Zimmer (“Good Trouble”), and David Zucker (“Airplane!,” “Scary Movie”). 

More about The Creative Coalition
The Creative Coalition is the premier nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community. Founded in 1989 by prominent members of the creative community, The Creative Coalition is dedicated to educating, mobilizing, and activating its members on issues of public importance. Actor Tim Daly serves as the organization’s President. The Creative Coalition also creates award-winning public service campaigns including #RightToBearArts to promote the efficacy of the arts. The Creative Coalition harnesses the unique platforms of the arts community and entertainment industry to make positive impacts on social welfare issues. For more information, visit