5 Tips For Calculating And Taking More Risks
Risk means being exposed to a bad outcome. How many of us would actively seek that out? Or actively avoid it? The entire $1.1 trillion (yes, trillion) insurance industry is based on this premise. And that’s in the U.S. alone.
There is a paradox in the modern American dream. We are raised to believe in freedom and the pursuit of happiness, but a strong desire for security keeps us bound to habits and traditional responses.
The rub is that the choices that keep us in a perceived safe zone are often limiting. We are naturally attuned to protect ourselves. Caution becomes the norm.
Nevertheless, the unhappiest people I know are not the risk-takers.
“Only a mediocre person is always at his best.”
Let’s face it. Life is a gamble and refusing to take some risk is a surefire recipe for regrets. So get your calculators out and summon a seed of courage to read on…
1. Accept That Risk Is Everywhere
One of the benefits of working out of a tech incubator space is being surrounded by the hustle. This is in stark contrast to my former corporate life where employees were generally rewarded for avoiding risks.
At the same time, when I was rising through the ranks, my boss would annually remind me that I needed to take more risks. So which is it?
My sense from being on both sides of the coin is that risk is everywhere. Yes, people are rewarded for being conservative. Yes, people are rewarded for taking chances. Every act is a risk even when you think you’re avoiding it.
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
2. Set A Goal
There’s an old adage that you can’t score if you don’t have a goal. Whenever I “tried” to be a risk taker, my more conservative side roared back. Reflecting back on it today, I think it was because I was trying to be riskier for the sake of fulfilling some objective on paper.
This is not a right intention.
The question is not whether we can take risks or not – we absolutely can, both ways. No question. The question is are we “ready”? Have we sufficiently challenged the reasons why we have avoided risks in the past? Have we fully recognized the real benefits of taking risks? Have we reconciled that these benefits can be realized by us?
Therefore, be specific when it comes to zeroing in on a goal. Here’s a template to get you started: I want to take more risks in _________ by _________ for _________.
There can be a tendency to have a negative bias against risk. The remedy here is to take a small risk every day. Related or unrelated to your goal.
Now I hear you – the perceived backlash of risk can feel very real. Perceptions defeat reality in many cases. This is where an outside mentor can come in very handy.
When I challenged one of my mentees to tell me about what happens when she says what’s on her mind in a meeting, she hesitated. It actually turned out well. The issue was more that she felt she wasn’t that “kind” of person who would talk like “that”.
So my suggestion here is to reframe what “kind” of person takes risks. Start small:
- Smile consciously to three strangers today.
- Ask for discount on the next item you buy.
- Share your goals with a stranger – or may we suggest a mentor?
4. Fail Fast
I remember this term being thrown around a lot in corporate, but never quite understood what it meant until I became immersed in the startup world. Whereas big companies often use it as a backstop to justify poor performance, stealth entrepreneurs know that it means not thinking too much about the small things.
The truth is that most situations are recoverable. You can always go back to the old way. Spilled milk can be wiped up.
Fail fast, learn faster.
5. Measure The Gains
Whether big or small, every time you take a risk, take a minute to reflect on what you gained. And I’ll be real with you – the losses may be big. In my weaker moments, I wonder where I would be if I had “just stuck with” my last corporate gig. I wouldn’t be walking home to save $2.75 subway fare, that’s for sure.
But I also wouldn’t be connected with the next generation of leaders: redeeming my past experiences, sharing best practices, and taking care of others. I’d say that’s worth it.
“Life is full of risks anyway; why not take them?”