Risk taking pays off
(c) Flickr user en-shahdi
Over the last few days I’ve met a bunch of people: fellow entrepreneurs, engineers that were teammates at prior companies, people trying to decide on the next step of their careers and we talked about risk taking.
In every conversation, there was a big decision to make, and it almost universally struck me how most of us are naturally wired to avoid risk taking. An anthropologist may have a historical explanation, probably something to do with surviving.
Thing is, this survival paradigm does not serve you well to make smart decisions. If you are part of the tech industry in the US, there is no scarcity of jobs, or of capital, or of ideas. There is an abundance of each of these.
Under these conditions, avoiding risk robs us of the opportunity of reaping rich rewards: financial rewards, fulfillment rewards, career growth rewards.
When I was first considering leaving a well paid job to start Ringio, I sought out a business coach and shared my fears with him.
Me: What if I fail? What if my business doesn’t work out?
Coach: What if you fail, Sam? (typical coaching answer FTW Will you live under a bridge?
Me: Don’t be so drastic… I guess we’ll have a place to live.
Coach: Oh…so you mean your kids will have to walk around naked because you won’t be able to clothe them?
Me: LOL… no, I guess they can always get the hand me downs from their cousins.
Coach: Ah, I see. They won’t be able to go to college.
Me: Now that you put it so bluntly, all those things are very remote possibilities.
The thing to realize is that, unless you’re a fool, some part of your hind brain is already working overtime to keep you from undue risk taking. If you want to reap the rewards in your professional life that you’re capable of unlocking, you have to use your frontal cortex to keep your fears in check, and force yourself out of your comfort zone… in other words:
Take more risks.