Estimated Lesson Time: 3 minutes
In the movie Parenthood, Gil (played by Steve Martin), with an obvious feeling of stress and frustration, comments on how chaotic his life is. His grandmother of advancing years begins to tell a story of how when she was younger, she loved the roller coaster because it goes up and down and was both frightening and exciting at the same time, whereas most other girls liked the merry-go-round that just goes round and round. Her point was clear: living the safe life without risk leads to a dull life without reward. It is the risk-takers that live their dreams and achieve success.
We have already seen that safety and security are right below physiological needs on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to this need theory, the need for safety and security is greater than just about all of our other needs, including the desire for greatness or self-actualization. This means we generally avoid risk to protect our level of security. This avoidance of risk is a major limiting factor in one’s achievement of success.
Risk itself has many levels. For example, risking your money on a game of blackjack is not as wise as, say, risking your money on a carefully thought out business plan. The key is not avoiding risk, but limiting risk through careful thought and preparation. This is also known as taking calculated risks. Risk also comes in many forms. The world is full of brave and honorable public servants like police men and women, firefighters, and those in the military who will risk their lives for others in a heartbeat but would not even consider investing a few hundred dollars in a start-up business. If you consider yourself a risk-taker, ask yourself, are these risks you take bringing you any closer to your idea of success?
Here are some suggestions for taking more calculated, limited risks:
- Have confidence. Taking risks has to do with having confidence—knowing that no matter what the outcome, you will be fine.
- Desire greatness. You may live a fine life full of security, but is that all you really want?
- Do your homework. Get all the facts to minimize the risk. The more you know, the less risky a situation becomes. Information allows you to walk away from situations that are too risky and gives you the confidence to take more calculated risks.
- Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? Put things in perspective. Asking someone out on a date can lead to temporary embarrassment at worst but can result in a lifetime of love and happiness. If that is not a risk worth taking, I do not know what is.
- Start small. Risk does not have to be an all or nothing situation. For example, one does not have to quit one’s current job to start a side business. This can be done on a small scale, say one hour a day.
- Have a backup plan. What if the chance you take does not turn out in your favor? Minimize the risk by having a backup plan.
- Use “other people’s money.” When taking financial risks, the money you risk certainly does not have to be your own. By using other people’s money, you are exchanging financial risk with other types of risk, like reputation.
Do you want to spend your life going around in circles, or do you want the excitement and thrill of the roller coaster? Each of us is capable of so much more than we actually do. It is those who take the risks in life that realize their full potential.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)