We humans can be fairly bad at taking risks.
That is to say, I find myself quite often taking risks that aren’t really risks at all, and therefore don’t really do anything to progress my life in some further direction.
Or worse, the risks I’m taking are sending me in entirely the wrong direction.
Each of us, as individuals, have very different skillsets, beliefs, backgrounds, and pursuits. We all have experienced the world from different perspectives, and each of those perspectives has contributed to who we are at any given moment.
The risks that we see other people taking are not necessarily the same risks that we should be taking, but far too often I see this habit of following the path of others and not actually being true to ourselves.
Breaking free of the habitual path starts with understanding this: The way you care for your convictions and core beliefs is directly related to the types of risks you are going to take.
On the first day of a new semester at college, my Professor wrote a single quote on the whiteboard for everyone to see. This was a math class, but the quote was from the famed philosopher and existentialist, Frederick Nietzsche. It has stayed with me all of these years later, and is important to recall now:
“A very popular error – having the courage of one’s convictions: Rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack upon one’s convictions.”
If we can become self-aware for just a moment, then we can recognize how we treat our convictions. From there, I believe, we can begin to take much better risks.
It is those people who recognize that their perspective is not the only valid or correct one that will also have the ability to take the appropriate risks that will set them towards further growth in life.
Someone who denies other perspectives outright, with no chance of considering their validity, will likely forever remain in their bubble of small successes. The defense of this person’s convictions is more important than finding truth in other convictions. This can be particularly dangerous to a person’s growth, especially if they believe that it is necessary for them to defend a reputation of perfection.
Leading a simple life, with socially-acceptable family values, religious beliefs, morals, and career goals allows for a person to meet that self-righteous reputation of perfection in ways that risk-takers are unable to.
Herman Melville puts this concept of a life with many simple successes pretty strongly in one of my favorite quotes I’ve come across;
“He who has never failed somewhere, that man cannot be great. Failure is the true test of greatness. And if it be said, that continual success is a proof that a man wisely knows his powers – it is only to be added, that, in that case, he knows them to be small.”
To take real risks is to do three things:
- Deny the desire to have a reputation of perfection and embrace your desire for individual growth.
- Admit you have weaknesses and seek them out in your convictions.
- Attack those weaknesses with your actions in order to build strength.
Risks have very little to do with what the people around you are doing, because their weaknesses are not your own.
If you are already a seasoned speaker, then giving a speech isn’t really much of a risk, even if the people around you applaud you for it. That’s a risk your audience could take to grow, but it doesn’t particularly help you learn a new language.
If you are already a great sky-diver, then jumping out of a plane in a controlled situation isn’t really a risk, even if I’m grasping onto you for dear life as we fall. That’s a risk I might be taking with you at that moment, but it won’t help you conquer your fear of water.
If you already understand fully what you believe about your religious texts, then telling someone what you believe won’t necessarily strengthen your beliefs. Perhaps listening to what they believe is a risk you could take to build up your faith within you, or at least help you understand how to serve that person better.
If you’re the best web developer in the world, then it’s not much a risk for you to do a few freelance jobs that’ll just get you by with enough to pay your bills. What if you took the risk of learning how to manage several web developers underneath you and operating a legit business?
Maybe you’ll fail if you try those things, but at least you’ll know a few new things about how to run a business, listen to people, swim, or speak a new language.
Take real risks.
Look for the ones deep inside your heart that will effect you in the greatest way and strengthen you where you are weak. You can and should applaud others for taking risks in their own lives, but their risks are not your own – they might not be enough to help you grow, or they might actually hurt your growth in other areas.
You are an individual, and you have the strength to accomplish so much as an individual when you are passionately pursuing what you can admit is a desire within you.
I read a great article on the subject of how the odds of success when taking risks are actually in our favor, and it had a wonderful conclusion that I’ll echo here (though you should read the article, too):
“The truth is, as Lao Tsu wrote two thousand years ago, “You are capable of more than you think.”
Fear regret more than failure – history has shown that we fail far more from timidity than we do from over daring. Or to quote a little Latin: Fortes fortuna adiuvat.”
“Fortune favors the bold.”