We all know the word.
It causes some of us to cringe when it’s used in our presence. For others, giddy excitement. I even know someone who won’t so much as utter it because of its implications.
That four letter word is RISK.
The other night, I was having a text conversation with my good friend, Sheila, about a risk I’d recently taken in contacting an old flame. I mentioned I was terribly nervous about the meeting, as it was my fault for the separation and has been nearly five years since we’ve spoken. I was unprepared for the whomper she’d unload on me.
S: Take one guess as to one of the most important 4-letter words. One hint: you’re taking one on this week.
N: Oh, right… RISK. I’m going to break out in hives, for sure, Sheila.
S: Nuh-uh. Those Rs help us figure things out and figure out what we’re made of, even when we end a sentence with a preposition.
Sheila has a way with ripping off the bandage without it being painful. And, she is completely on target. Risk is what makes us, what breaks us, and what causes us to make it again even when we know it may break again. We encounter risk in business, in our relationships, in our friendships, in our quests for personal growth, and in a great old board game for world domination.
True risk forces us to sort through the web of shadow games and illusions our minds have created in a feeble attempt to keep us from reaching our highest potential. It is no small feat to confront this labyrinth; I’ve often compared it to walking amongst the mirrors in a carnival fun house. Every time we see ourselves, the image is tweaked–– shorter, taller, fatter, zig-zagged–– and when faced with our reflections in the infinity mirrors, we aren’t sure which “us” is the real one! Thanks, subconscious.
Would the real me please take a step forward?
There are innumerable books written on the subject of risk-taking. I am certain many are wonderful and helpful. Recently, however, I’ve decided to forego the self-help aisle at the book store and have gone more for the rip-the-bandage-off-the-boo-boo approach. The way I see it, when we’re holding back from taking a risk, we need to get to the absolute core of that trepidation. In my case, it’s usually rooted in my own fun-house-mirror-mind. Does that sound familiar to you?
We’ve all had moments of trauma, of rejection, of failure. We’ve all had great things happen to us, as well. It’s part of the human condition that our minds focus on the bad things in order to “protect” us from being hurt in the future. “Hey, this didn’t turn out so well last time; are you sure you want to do this to us again?” Rip off the bandage, folks.
You’ve probably asked yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen if I just don’t risk it?” YOU WON’T EVER DO IT. That’s the worst that could happen, and that’s pretty bad, if you ask me. Stagnation is ugly and causes pond scum. Don’t be pond scum.
The next time you find yourself vacillating between action and inaction, ask yourself these questions:
1. Is this situation reminiscent of another that had a less than favorable outcome?
2. If so, what is different this time? me? the circumstances? the people in the situation?
3. Is my head going to explode into confetti streamers and saw dust if I do this and fail?
4. Will I be upset with myself if I don’t take this risk?
5. What things will I gain by taking this risk and succeeding? Self-esteem? Notoriety in business? A stronger friendship/relationship?
6. What things can I learn by taking this risk and failing? Will I be better equipped to try it again? Will it build tenacity?
Though there are many colorful four-letter words in our language, the most vibrant is quite possibly RISK. Let’s start with these:
1. Not getting along with a friend? Call them up and meet for coffee and a chat to clear the air.
2. Unsure about a business idea you have and how it’ll be received? Go for broke, and pitch it to a trusted mentor!
3. Missing a lost love and wondering if a connection is still there? Throw caution (and perhaps sanity and reason) to the wind and have them over for tea.
The point is, we cannot possibly live a meaningful, self-fulfilled life without taking risks. Who do you know who’ve taken risks and found success? Look carefully at their lives; you’ll see successes, but you’ll also see a bunch of old bandages and miserable failings in their wake.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to put on the tea.