“Without taking risks, you cannot make real gains, develop power, earn respect, or experience success.”
Dr. Alan Zimmerman
If you want more of anything in your life, you’ll have to leave your comfort zone and take a risk.
Perhaps you want a better relationship. You’ll have to take the risk of being more open and honest … and do some reading and take some classes on relationship building. That’s a risk. You may find out you have to change.
It’s like the husband and wife who were sitting on their porch watching the sunset, each sipping a glass of wine. After a while the wife said, “I love you so much. I don’t know how I could ever live without you.” The husband inquired, “Is that you talking? Or the wine?” She replied, “It’s me talking. TO the wine.”
Maybe you would like a different job with higher pay and more responsibility. Then you’ll have to do more than what you’re already doing … and you’ll have to do more than what you are getting paid for … in hope of somebody noticing your talent and rewarding you accordingly. But that’s also a risk. Your promotion may or may not come.
Nonetheless, all the progress you’ve ever made is the result of risks that you have taken. That’s why RISK TAKING is the FIFTH of the 12 keys I teach in my two-day program, “The Journey to the Extraordinary.” The next public offerings can be found here.
In fact, Ken Stewart wrote about that. He wrote, “One of my unspoken desires was to increase my willingness to take risks, especially with regard to what I do vocationally. After going through the “Journey”, I started to actively seek out speaking opportunities, which would be quite a stretch from my current position where I teach attorneys how to manage their email. Your strategies worked. I was given an amazing opportunity to speak and preach in a church setting, and I was able to use some of the things you taught at the “Journey.” It was an incredible experience … one I hope to repeat more and more in the future as I continue to get outside my comfort zone and take risks.”
If you’re not taking enough risks, you’re missing out on so much of the happiness and success you could have on the job and at home. So let me suggest a couple of risks you should be taking so you can become more skilled in this vital area.
1. Take the risk of engaging others.
Even though I know the truth and power of this first point, it never ceases to amaze me when I take this risk. It just happened to me again, a few days ago when I was speaking in London. Before the speaking engagement, however, I had lunch at the Royal Air Force Club and was seated with a distinguished looking, elderly gentleman in his late 80’s or early 90’s.
I could have assumed that this old man would have nothing of interest to share with me … which is all too easy to assume in today’s crazy busy world. I could have assumed that. I could have ignored him. I could have pretended I was too busy reading the paper to talk to him. Fortunately I didn’t do that because I was about to have an incredible encounter.
Even though I didn’t feel like taking the risk of engaging a stranger in conversation, my training reminded me that EVERYBODY has a story. If I would only take the time to express my interest and listen intently, most people will open up, share amazing things, and make my risk very rewarding.
So I introduced myself and asked the elderly gentleman, “What brings you to this place for lunch?” He introduced himself as Air Commodore Charles Clarke. Not knowing the British military hierarchy, I followed up asking what that meant and where he had served.
I did not expect the thrilling story he was about to share. But Commodore Clarke asked if I ever saw the Steve McQueen movie, “The Great Escape,” the true story of the POW attempted escape from the Nazi concentration camp known as Stalag Luft III in Poland. I replied, “Yes. It was a great movie.”
“Well,” he said, “I was in that camp. I was a part of that story.” And he began to tell me about the weeks of preparation and the underground tunnels they dug. And he shared the tragic ending … about how the escape failed in so many ways, how the runaways were captured by the Nazis, and how the Nazis then lined up dozens of POW’s and murdered them to “teach them a lesson.”
I sat there riveted … feeling honored to be in the presence of someone who had suffered so much and who had saved so many. I was humbled to think that I had almost dismissed this old man. And I was reminded that taking the risk of engaging others can be very rewarding … giving me both an education and a motivation.
What about you? Are you taking enough risks when it comes to connecting with others? Are you expressing enough interest in other people? And are you listening well enough so the other person feels safe enough to open up?
That’s one risk I urge you to take. And as you take more risks, do so with your eyes wide open.
2. Take risks, knowing that every risk is part danger and part opportunity.
For example, telling your spouse that you would like to see your relationship grow and improve is a risk. Your spouse might readily buy into your idea. That’s the opportunity part. But he or she might pull away. That’s the danger part.
Intelligent risk knows which is in greater supply … danger or opportunity. That’s why I would never suggest that you take a risk just for heck of it. That would be stupid. Your risks need to be backed up by your educated intuition that it will work out.
Without that danger-opportunity assessment, you might end up like Barbara Streisand. She asked, “Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain that he’s not the man she married?”
In his book “Fountains of Faith,” William Arthur Ward wrote the following about the danger and opportunity involved in every risk. He wrote:
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out for another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To play your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure …
… but risk must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
I agree with that. But I would add the following to his poem:
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing.
One may avoid some suffering and sorrow but one simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, live, and love.
Chained by one’s certitudes, one is a slave, one has fortified freedom.
Only the one who risks is truly FREE