Some Perspectives on Risk Taking

Brock had always struggled with risk taking, and his inability to take risks was affecting his career. His personal goal for the next year was to improve upon his risk taking. But first, he felt he needed to understand why he was so reluctant to be more adventuresome. He decided to speak with his Aunt Linda who was the real risk taker in the family.

Brock:   I’ve often heard you talk about when you decided to quit your job and start your own company. Weren’t you scared to leave a high-paying job?

Linda:    Here’s a lesson on risk I want to share with you. Risk is a matter of perspective about what is important to you. I hated my job, so the thought of the money I might lose wasn’t as important as my own happiness. Staying in my current job at the time was actually more risky because I was risking having the life I wanted to live.

Brock:   Wow! I never considered risk that way. I don’t think you were married at the time. Did that make the risk you took easier for you?

Linda:    Good question. Actually, being single made it easier to devote fulltime to my business. But I had no safety net. Your grandparents weren’t in a position to help me if I failed. Later on when I decided to expand the business, I was married and had two children. And here’s the second lesson: Taking on risk is a family decision and requires everyone to accept and value the challenges and opportunities coming from the risk.

Brock:   I admire your risk approach, but how did you know the risk would work out?

Linda:    You’ll never know. That’s why it’s a risk. But the third lesson I want to share with you is this: A risk assessment is more of an assessment of your self-confidence than the risk itself. Ask yourself: “How often have I failed?” If the answer is not often then why do you think you will fail this time if you use your usual approaches?

Brock:   I find that very reassuring, thanks. But I’m comfortable with what I’m doing. I don’t know why my boss thinks I need to be more of a risk taker.

Linda:    Throughout your life, you will reach a point where you need to make a trade-off between comfort and risk. That’s the fourth lesson. You can stay with comfort, but that’s very boring. You will find that your tolerance for risk will increase as your comfort level becomes tiresome. There will probably be 4-5 moments like that in your career.

Brock:   I can see that happening. Any final thoughts on risk?

Linda:    Just one and that’s the fifth lesson. The level of risk depends on who you trust. Do you trust your current employer to always look out for you or do you trust yourself. A lot of employees found out the hard way that employers couldn’t be trusted during the Great Recession.

Brock:   I must say, you’ve given me a completely different insight on risk.

Linda:    Well, what risk are you going to try out?

Brock:   I’m going to buy an engagement ring. It’s time!

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“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot

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